Note from Jimmy Hua:
This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to HOW TO: Recruit All-Star Employees on a Startup Budget
Alex Berg is the Chief Product Officer of Bonanza and Bags Bonanza. Bonanza is a marketplace focused on creating a browse-friendly experience that helps you discover unique items. Prior to Bonanza, Alex served in leadership positions with Wetpaint, Expedia, and Blue Nile.
At a startup it’s painfully hard to make time for recruiting. Any time not spent advancing the product feels like a distant secondary priority. However, getting the right team in place is the most important thing you can do to make your startup successful.
Your first few hires set the tone for your culture. What’s more, it’s often said that A-level hires get you more top quality hires in the long run. You don’t just need to make time for recruiting — you have to be great at it.
What follows are my tips and tricks for finding and closing all-star hires on a startup budget.
Do You Need a Recruiter?
While you’ll be tempted to outsource recruiting so you can focus on the product, recruiting starts and ends with you. No one can recruit harder than you. No one knows the right fit like you do. And no one can sell the opportunity like you can. Before you look for help, block out some time on your schedule and hit LinkedIn hard.
Get ready for an endless stream of coffees and lunches. Sound painful? It is. You have to do it anyway. What’s worse, many of these meetings won’t even lead directly to hires. They aren’t a complete waste of time however; karma has a good memory and the positive relationships you build now will pay off eventually.
Once you’ve exhausted the outer rings of your network, it’s time to get help. A great recruiter can be a tremendous asset. I look for folks who I can pay by the hour and offer them a nice cash incentive for a fast hire. Contingency recruiters, and their exorbitant fees, are a personal anathema of mine. Who has twenty grand to spend per hire?
Types of Recruiters
In my experience, recruiters come in three flavors: Lead generators (a.k.a. “sourcers”), Process Builders, and Closers. Very few people have all three of these skills. In fact, depending on your rate of growth, you probably only need a sourcer.
- Sourcers get you leads. To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, you want the good leads. A great sourcer has a knack for finding the hidden gems: Passive candidates. Top candidates aren’t typically combing Craigslist looking for their next gig and a good sourcer knows how to find them and open the door. Passive candidates are the hardest to close, but top talent is always worth it.
- Process builders have their place. If you’re expecting explosive growth, you will need someone to create job profiles, manage candidate flow, and wrangle schedules. However, process builders aren’t typically great sourcers. Get an intern to play coordinator and hire a sourcer instead. You’ll know a process builder by the bullets on their LinkedIn profile. A great process will make you feel organized, but it alone won’t get those all-star butts in your office.
- Closers are typically for executive hires and complex negotiations. Some recruiters will like to handle the negotiation for you and that’s tempting when you’re working nights and weekends. However, top talent is worth your personal time. You’re not just selling the role and package; you’re selling the vision and building a relationship in the process.
The Interview Process
Need more leads? Tap local professional associations or try hosting a meetup. My company recently hosted a meetup for Ruby developers. It cost us $200 in pizza but we had more than 40 developers right in our office. Thanks to several obnoxious “We’re Hiring” signs, I had six interviews scheduled in two days.
Interviewing can feel even more painful than generating leads. After all, now you’re tapping your team as well. However, the interviewing process is really where closing begins. And closing great hires requires a holistic approach in which you examine every aspect of the candidate experience.
Take a look at how your candidates flow through your interview process. Are your candidates greeted warmly and treated with respect? Is your office environment stimulating and welcoming? Talk to your team about how to close candidates, making sure they know that interviewing is about “buying” and “selling.” Have your team make sure candidates are appropriately handed off from interview to interview.
Finally, when your loop is over, make sure the hiring manager sees them out and lets them know precisely what’s next. The impression you make through the interview process can be the difference between getting that rock star software architect and another batch of painful first-round interviews.
Do you have a gap between interview rounds? Make it as short as possible and don’t go dark. At my previous company, we sent “swag” kits to hot candidates between rounds. It doesn’t cost much to toss some logo gear together. Include a note from the first few interviewers expressing excitement at the prospect of working together. The goal is getting your candidate feeling like they are already on the team.
In the end, you need to close and closing is an art. I don’t like making an offer without knowing it will be accepted. Understand your candidate’s hot buttons, if they have any special needs, and the role of their significant other in the decision. Here’s a quick list of the lengths I’ve gone to close all-star hires.
- Dinner with the spouse. Chances are that half your candidate’s decision resides with someone you likely haven’t even met. Why leave such a huge factor untouched? Tell your candidate you’d like to take them to dinner and be ready to sell. I’ve heard SOs ask some delightfully blunt questions.
- Special stipends. Sometimes candidates have special needs. One candidate I was interviewing had some special-needs pets. I tossed a small stipend on top of her offer that was specifically flagged for pet-related costs. Sure, I could have just raised the salary a bit, but I knew calling this out would have an emotional appeal. It let her know I was listening, it was a cinch to do, and most importantly it helped lock her down.
- Press kits. For some candidates, particularly those with SOs, I’ll mail a press kit to his or her house. Print out some screenshots of press coverage or some compelling aspects of your product and physically mail them out. Anyone can send an email. Getting something at home feels special and gets a tangible asset in front of the spouse. Spouses can justifiably be gun-shy of startups. Press kits can take the edge off and give you legitimacy.
A Key Example
Sometimes you have to go over the top. A few years ago I was recruiting an absolute star. I had tried to hire her once before, but was turned town. A year later it became clear she was ready for an offer and I wasn’t going to miss out. Learning from my first attempt, I wanted to make sure that I built some momentum and closed the spouse too. So I created a campaign.
First she received a swag kit and card. Three days later she received a printed press kit followed by a nice dinner. By the time she got the offer letter, with a unique extra or two, she was overwhelmed. She joked that she might have to get a restraining order … and then she promptly accepted.
While this may sound like a big investment it doesn’t need to be. All-star hires are worth their weight in gold and the time spent closing them is time saved in eliminating future interviews for you and your team. Think about the last time you were recruited heavily. It’s nice being wanted isn’t it?
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- Whom Should You Hire at a Startup? (Attitude Over Aptitude) (jimmyhua.com)