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Startup Recruiting

We’ve made a lot of mistakes here.

First and foremost, think carefully about your contracts. We bought a seat of LinkedIn recruiter and after 4 months hit a dry spell and knew we wouldn’t be using it for the remaining 8 months (8/12 of > $10K) but the contract was structured such that even though we paid monthly, we couldn’t get out until the full year expired. Watch out for that. I was pretty disappointed in LinkedIn for not being more flexible and have decided not to take further business to them. There was absolutely zero human response that treated us like a respected business partner.

For some companies that are growing a lot over time and want to cultivate a network and build a hiring brand, LinkedIn is probably a useful tool. We didn’t hire anyone using the tool. I kind of want to stop using it altogether because I sense that it is mostly useful for creeping on people.

Before LinkedIn, we used Dice. I can’t say that Dice was any better. Our recruiter at that time had used it before and felt comfortable for whatever reason. My gut said: “I’m not on Dice, how are we going to find people like me on Dice?” and my gut was right.

But in either case, are you really going to find people you want to hire cold on the internet?
Maybe. We didn’t really…

A much better solution for us was to grow and cultivate our networks. I will mention Contactually in an upcoming CRM post, but it is also very useful for recruiting. It basically helps you make sure you keep in touch with your contacts.

We also used RecruiterBox for a while. It had some great features, like:

I liked RecruiterBox until they raised the fees. Nonetheless, it seemed to be a more agile and useful tool than any of the others. My sense is that the landscape is evolving.

That being said, email and spreadsheets are a great way to identify contacts, reach out to them and track progress througha hiring funnel.

Hopefully you’re doing something you are passionate about and your excitement comes through. That, by itself, will be awesome for candidates.

Recruiters

I have always had a little bit of disdain for recruiters. It seems to me like if we had better data and a decent algorithm, we could match people to positions in an automated way and bypass that step.

That was particularly true earlier in my career when a just out of college student would ask me if I knew “XML”. Sigh. So I’ve had some bad experiences with recruiters. Some are too pushy.
Others just don’t know what you want. If you are hiring a lot, it pays to find a firm or two that can get you a pipeline. Be sure that the pipeline of candidates isn’t a waste of your time though. One thing we did that helped here was to ask explicitly where each firm was sourcing from. That way, we could use firms with different approaches.

As an employer or an employee, anyone dealing with recruiters needs to make sure they understand the recruiter’s incentive structures - at least in principle - and weigh that as they digest the recruiter’s recommendations.

Ultimately, recruiting is a lot like sales. You need to find the right people and convince them that you are the right place for them.

Hiring

We were very careful to have non-technical, technical and in person discussions before making offers.

We were initially very predisposed to hiring full time employees. I thought that having an FTE would mean that a person was more invested in my company. Sometimes that may be true. We were investing a lot in them to train them. But some things that you can’t always predict in consuling are change and utilization. Turns out contractors are a really important balance for keeping utilization numbers high - because their utilization is always 100%. (You’re not paying them when they are not working)

Ultimately, we’re like a family. We hire people that fit.

We’ve also had to fire people and there were two main categories there:

Inclusiveness

At one point I think we could honestly say that we were doing an amazing job with inclusiveness.

As time has passed, we have become less awesomely diverse. I think this is something we just have to stick to and continually work on. Certainly tools like RecruiterBox don’t help but you can commit to measure and know. That helps to keep your eyes open.

One thing I will note: extra effort to hire early and hard from underrepresented groups helps to open the door to other individuals in those groups. So like we say with security in the dev cycle, “push left” - do it as early as you can and it will counteract some of the predominant trends toward white male dominated engineering startups.

I’m not satisfied with our results yet, but I’m committed to keep trying.

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