Aside from building a strong team and product, recruiting top talent has become one of the biggest issues for startups. As Kinnek's CEO Karthik Sridharan recently explored with the Kinnek Community during this Q&A - and as tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist David Skok highlights below - recruiting is now the 3rd crucial startup skill. Here, David shares his own insights with fellow startups facing their own hiring dilemmas!
The Recruiting Funnel
Much like sales and marketing, recruiting is a funnel process that needs attention at the top (sourcing), middle (evaluating and selling) and down through closing. That’s in addition to a fourth phase: onboarding.
Top of the Funnel – Sourcing
The hardest part of recruiting is sourcing. Finding candidates who possess the right skills and talent used to be a lot easier using job postings and external recruiters.
Today, the chances of finding great developers, marketers, and executives that aren’t already working for another company are extremely low. Startups have to target passive candidates and go through a sales process to first generate a conversation then convince them to consider leaving current positions. As a result, here are some top tips for sourcing:
Hire a Full-Time Recruiter In-House
Bring on a full-time recruiter earlier than you might think you need to. A full-time recruiter will be able to spend the time needed on researching, sourcing, and selling your company to great candidates. They’re better positioned to take on the work of creating a great candidate experience i.e. managing the process itself, which includes scheduling, gathering feedback and getting back to candidates.
In addition to your team’s internal network, sourcing will also need to look elsewhere. LinkedIn is one of one of the most well-known resources, and is a good place to start. You can also look at blogs, conference speaker lists and if you’re looking for developers, try GitHub and StackOverflow.
Build an Effective Referral Program
Your employees are an often underutilized and very rich source for top talent. More than bonuses, I’ve found it to be most effective to put in place programs that keep referrals top of mind and build it into the culture – employees need to feel it’s just something they do. For more ideas, Lever outlines how to put your employee referral program into overdrive.
Build a Strong Brand
One of the most overlooked but important aspects of recruiting is building a brand that attracts the best talent. Ask yourself: why is it a great experience to work at your startup and how can you give candidates a true feel for that experience?
Think of ways to publicize your brand so when candidates go searching for information about your company they find videos, presentations or other assets that detail what it’s like to work at and be a part of your company. This article on LinkedIn pulls together advice from recruiting leaders from a range of top companies including Zappos, Glassdoor, Hootsuite, SpaceX and beyond.
Create a Solid Candidate Specification
It’s crucial to start the hiring process with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. A scorecard is an internal version of an outward job description and is a great way to make sure you’re very clear on what you’re looking for in a candidate. A scorecard includes:
Mission statement: Short summary of the role;
Specific outcomes: What will the candidate accomplish?
Core Competencies: What qualities should the individual possess to be a fit?
Middle of the Funnel - Selling and Evaluating
In today’s hiring environment, it’s important to develop a process to nurture passive candidates over time to get them to the point where they are willing to talk with you. Then as you move into the interview process, it’s important to strike the right balance of evaluating candidates and creating a great candidate experience during the interview process.
Use Modern Recruiting Tools
At some point, your pipeline of candidates becomes too large to manage via spreadsheets. At this point, it will be extremely helpful to have a good SaaS recruiting tool to manage the funnel.
Create a Structured Interview Process
A key part of the recruiting process is creating a structured approach that evaluates whether the candidate has the necessary skills and cultural fit to be a good hire. Investigate a data-centric approach to interviewing. Find the most effective process by first knowing what you’re looking for then tracking candidate data from start to finish.
Create a Phenomenal Candidate Experience
That means anybody who walks through the door of your company will become a promoter even if they are rejected.
Focus on the whole candidate experience from the very first time they visit your website, all the way through to delivering a decision. Be efficient and transparent; show the candidate you respect their time and energy.
You might also consider creating a simple survey to give candidates at the end of the interview process so you can identify weak points in your process and improve.
Don’t Skip Reference Checks!
Reference checks are critical to validating what you discovered during the interview process. It can be tempting to cut short the reference checking after a good interview.
End of Funnel - Closing and Onboarding
The bottom of the funnel is all about closing with candidates who’ve made it through the evaluation gauntlet. Here it’s important to think about what criteria a candidate will use to evaluate an offer. Top tips for closing and onboarding include:
1. Keep selling after the offer letter is signed: As Mark Suster points out, you enter the most vulnerable period right after a candidate signs your offer letter. That’s when their current employer, and any other firms they might be turning down, will use aggressive attempts to change the candidate’s mind.
2. Turn to your VC Team: Good board members can help with several aspects of executive recruiting such as organization design, executive job descriptions, compensation, help with sourcing and references, and help close executive candidates by championing your company. Your VCs are there to help you - use them!
3. Create an onboarding program: Once you’ve put this much energy into recruiting great candidates, it makes sense to invest the time to make them as productive as possible.