Talent 101: Recruiting
Suggestions for Your Recruiting Process
It is easy to get caught up in growth for the sake of growth. Every time you seek a new team member, you should know why you want to add to the team (given that hiring is a company’s single greatest risk). What particular skills do you need? Who is this new team member going to work with? What sort of experience or soft skills does this person need?
Lack of Bandwidth
One good reason to search for talent is lack of bandwidth for existing priorities. It is ideal to identify this in advance based on a well-formed plan. Recruiting and interviewing take time, so if you are already understaffed for a project — it will be difficult to properly interview and select the right additions during the time of greatest need.
New projects often warrant additional staffing, but you should be careful to only select people who can also contribute to existing projects in case the new project is no longer needed. It is also hard to start new projects without having some pre-existing team members involved to influence the team’s culture and practices.
Having a short term need is not a good enough reason to make a hire.
All potential job openings should be evaluated in the context of the company’s long term interest. You do not want to hire for today, tomorrow or next week. You hire to find the best partners for years to come. A company cannot thrive with high turnover rates, so you must consider how a person will evolve and grow with the company as it grows.
Supply and Demand
A hiring process must involve knowledge of the current supply and demand in the market. For example, AI engineers are in high demand in the market right now and severely under-supplied so you must move faster with them and be a little more patient with an attitude of ‘I have so many options’. In order to understand where a recruit is coming from, you need to know what the market for that recruit is.
You want to strive to match market compensation practices, with a greater emphasis on equity than cash. For example, a Software Engineer’s salary at an entry level can be found in Wealthfront’s data, so you should budget roughly this for the role (though some of it will come as equity) and make sure you are prepared to spend that (plus healthcare and other benefits). You can also ask your investors who often have market compensation data available to help your analysis. You should also be prepared to check this number with other companies and with interviewees to make sure going into any full-fledged interview process that expectations are aligned.
A useful approach to recruiting is identifying the leading experts in the field you are hiring for.
Obviously you do not need to always hire the single leading expert, but asking them for advice about how to hire the right people and who they know who would make sense is often a good approach for sourcing candidates and informing the recruitment process. You can also pursue the experts as advisors for small equity positions to use their brand to attract other top talent who will be drawn to them.
It is crucial to craft a compelling, clear and concise job description. Potential candidates should be excited after reading it and know the exact details. This will be shared online, with recruiters, and with referral candidates. Refer to a sample job description here.
This section should be uplifting and inspiring, connecting the role to your vision.
This is the beginning 2–4 paragraphs of the job description (each with 2–4 sentences). The first paragraph should set the context for this role. The second paragraph should explain how much you value this position and how important it is to your team. The third paragraph should explain specific existing projects you work on that are relevant to the role (or how the role will need to introduce and lead new projects).
A series of bullet points outlining specific tasks, goals, and projects that the position entails. Be as concrete and particular as possible to give a potential candidate a clear sense of what they would do on day 1, day 30 and day 90, etc… Aim for 5–8.
A series of bullet points outlining specific absolute must-haves for the role, without which a candidate should not apply and will not be considered. Aim for 4–7.
A series of bullet points outlining specific extra skills or experiences a desirable candidate might have. Aim for 2–3. This section is optional. Also, include how to apply for the job at the end whether this section is present or not.
Most of the people you hire should be from your first, second and third degree networks. This means proactively communicating to your team, your team’s friends and family, and the circle beyond them about what you are doing, why it is important, and how they can help. References from within the network should be taken most seriously.
Whenever you are looking for candidates, the place to start is asking your teammates (by giving them a good job description) who they would recommend and getting them to ask their friends to get a pipeline of top talent.
An effective and fun way to motivate your team to search through their network, is to host a 30–45 minute Recruitathon competition, in which you score various sourcing/outreach actions and reward the top 3 teammates that got the highest scores. Send out an invite at a convenient time, invite people into a room with motivating music, explain or post the rules, and then start everyone at the same time (they can also work from their desk if preferred). The scores will come through your applicant tracking system (ATS) — Lever is a recommended choice, as teammates @mention the recruiter/hiring manager hosting the Recruitathon.
Example scoring: 1 point for connected on linkedin and dropped into ATS, 2 points for emailed directly or sent an InMail (through LinkedIn), and 3 points for scheduled a call or lunch.
Marketing should be network driven. The focus on sourcing should be introductions and recommendations. All teammates should be helping to post on Hacker News, social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Angellist and other blogs), and through alumni networks.
For certain roles, it may make sense to source through recruiters — given that you likely do not have the network for sourcing those roles. For engineering and design roles it is atypical to find high quality recruits through recruiters. However, there are recruiters dedicated to particular areas/fields, that can be helpful.