It is no surprise that hiring is one of the top three topics on every founder’s mind, if not #1. Having the right team, after all, is a requirement for success. So founders spend countless hours and fray many nerves trying to build it. Putting together a core team worked out nicely, but now you’re struggling to find and hire the extended team you need to achieve your vision. Why?
Simply put, you may be advertising a job you’re not looking to fill. Many founders fall into one of two traps when looking for a new team member. They either include requirements that are not needed or they forget requirements that definitely are.
Start by asking yourself (and others) what results a new hire will be expected to contribute to your company and what skills support achieving that result? Specifically, consider the following:
Hard skills: These are the skills that enable your hire to start completing tasks right from the beginning. Does this require experience with a particular tech stack? What is the working language of your company and customers? While important, hard skills can be learned and improved along the way.
Soft skills: If hard skills are the building blocks of your startup team, then soft skills are the cement that holds it all together. Are you looking for a leader? A team member? A lone-wolf? Also consider that, a year from now, the role will have evolved. This is very common for new positions, doubly so in startups. In the end, it is soft skills that define whether or not someone will be able to grow and adapt along with your company.
Titles are tricky. They need to fit nicely into your organization, but still show up in the search results of your dream applicant. Prospective applicants will instantly evaluate the relevance of a role based on the title they see. For instance, reading Talent Acquisition Manager / Recruiter will cause many HR generalists to keep scrolling. Also keep in mind that, once someone has joined your team, it is difficult to take their title away. So think hard before you hand out those “Head ofs.”
So, you’ve created a job ad that excites relevant applicants and paints an accurate picture of what they can expect. Now, where do you find the right job seeker? Many go full speed ahead at this point, doing job advertising everywhere they can. But this blanket strategy usually has the same result: Wasting time, energy and money sorting through a sea of hopeful - but largely unsuitable - candidates.
But there are different ways to target the right candidates using the relevant channels. Each comes with pros and cons.
Pro: You’ll reach a broad range of people who are actively looking. By clicking the “apply” button, many are probably warm to your vision before even speaking with you.
Con: You might get bombarded with bad matches. This is especially true if you don’t pick the right board and can end in just a lot of wasted time and energy sorting through it all.
Dedicated startup job boards like Otta can put you in front of right job seekers who want to join an early stage venture. If you know that you will need multiple specialists like unity developers or machine learning experts, reach out to a university with a relevant program and flex your employer branding muscles there.
So take a moment to think about where you might find your perfect match. Then pick 1-3 dedicated job boards for each job ad and keep track of how they perform in your applicant tracking system.
Pro: You avoid the time and hassle of sorting through a sea of applicants and instead hand-pick who to approach. This is particularly useful for very senior or hard-to-fill roles.
Con: Talent is evenly distributed, but networks - like geography and LinkedIn - are clustered. While hiring in-network makes it easier to quickly find someone who is a culture-fit, it also tends to lead to sameness, groupthink and - in the end - poorer decision making.
Hiring for culture-add (instead of culture-fit) tackles these topics and is achieved through opening up hiring channels to a diverse audience. Hiring diverse teams has many benefits including ultimately helping to make your company more profitable. One way to widen your pool is to not restrict the countries in which you hire. You can use so-called employer of record (EOR) solutions like Lano and Remote to easily employ people from all over the world.
Another way to improve the odds of getting a culture-add hire is to avoid falling victim to unconscious biases. One of the mistakes founders make is favoring applicants with big names on their resume. Consider instituting a blind recruitment processes supported by tools like TestGorilla.
We are in a war for talent and most candidates’ opinions about positions or companies change during the recruitment process - 60% even drop out because of it. The candidate experience includes the job application form, the interview steps and partners, as well as the duration of the entire process.
Founders are wise to take a user-centric approach when developing a product. Similarly, the best new team members will come from building a candidate-centric hiring experience. All applicants are ambassadors who have the power to either help or hurt your employer branding. So treat all applicants with respect, including getting back to all of them - even the ones you decline.
Here are some easy ways to improve different parts of your candidate experience:
While assessments help you compare candidates, test skills and find out who might be the best hire for a role, they also give candidates the opportunity to compare you with other potential employers. Make sure the tasks are relevant to the outlined position and give candidates ample time to actually do the work you’re asking of them. Seven days is a good standard.
Include multiple team members in the hiring process. Candidates value the opportunity to meet potential new colleagues and your team will appreciate being involved in these decisions. Collect feedback from your team and save it in your applicant tracking system.
Similar to how you ask customers and users for feedback, ask your candidates too! Many applicant tracking systems can automatically collect feedback from candidates to give you insights into how they experienced the process and how you can make it better.
So you’ve done your homework and made sure that you are advertising the right role, in the right places and treating your candidates with the respect and attention they deserve. But your org chart still has plenty of empty boxes left?
What are you offering your candidates? This includes not only salary, benefits and perks, but also intangibles that connect with your ideal candidate (e.g. lots of impact and responsibility). It’s also worth comparing your offering to what your competitors are bringing to the table. Make sure your compensation package is truly competitive. Use benefits like an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or unlimited vacation days to stand out.
Get feedback from candidates and industry experts who can open your eyes to potential blindspots and opportunities to guide talent your way. This will help you uncover potential changes, both big and small, that can dramatically improve your chances of a successful hire.
You may also be interested in: Why Every Startup Founder Should Have a Coach
Similar to how tech products and marketing ads require a lot of testing to get them right, apply the same logic to your hiring practices and test different attributes such as job titles (e.g. Sales Manager vs Account Executive). Many roads lead to Rome. Similarly, there are many to get the candidates you want. If you keep trying, you’ll get there eventually.