What is the minimum viable process and tooling for successful founder-led recruiting? What should founders be doing in periods when they aren’t actively hiring, to help themselves later when they are? What are some effective ways for founders to talk about working at early stage companies?
In a recent group session with Heavybit members, the team at Kinkor Consulting, who’ve worked with clients such as Reddit, Sentry, and Netlify, shared how to fill your applicant funnel as a founder, track those applicants in a manageable way, and run an effective interview process in order to repeatedly fill your open reqs with the right people.
You can catch the presentation portion of the workshop below and read on for takeaways.
The Hiring Plan
When you’re determining your minimal viable process (MVP) for leading recruitment, it’s critical that you 1) let your business needs, which often gets lost at some point in the process, drive your hiring roadmap, and 2) allocate your recruiting resources properly.
Determining Your Business Needs
Your first step is to drill down into your business needs. If you’re a venture-backed startup, you most likely have milestones or things that need to happen before you can raise your next round of funding. Or maybe you’re working on growing your market share, so you have product goals. This should drive your hiring plan.
The critical next step from there is planning your workforce. Analyze your current internal workforce for productivity and skills. This step gets overlooked but, perhaps there are people already within the company that you could assign needs to, which then opens up hiring in a completely new area.
Work with your hiring managers and team leads to understand if they’re on track to meet their goals and identify their gaps and their team’s capabilities. Is this team going to meet its goals? Is it urgent? Is there something that we can do here right away? Oftentimes the easiest solution is reallocating existing talent.
If reallocating existing talent or developing internal trading problems isn’t possible, it’s time to start your search. But before you start searching for a full-time employee (FTE), consider: do we need help immediately? Or do we need someone permanent? There are interim firms for every single function within a company that can help you with your specific problem area so you can focus elsewhere.
Allocating Your Recruiting Resources
If you’ve already gone through the process of hiring, you most likely did some combination of working with an agency, potentially an RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) or consultancy, to hire an internal lead recruiter or bridge the interim gap of hiring in-house. There’s a time and a place for agencies.
Look at the role overall and how it’s going to help the company. You might do a few interviews only to realize you should be going in a different direction. If you hire somebody that’s hourly or internal, the meter’s running, you’re burning cash. And you may not even get a hire.
Agencies vs. RPOs vs. In-house Recruiters
Agencies are great for function-specific roles, they’re not great for general hiring needs. If you’re going to hire an account executive, look for a sales specific agency. What’s important is looking for an agency that has developed networks because they’re not only going to get you good candidates, they’re also going to give you good advice too.
If you’re looking at 4-10 hires over the next quarter, an RPO type service is going to be able to embed and get recruiters in immediately so you can start setting progress. And you can just turn them off in the end, once you’ve reached your goal. They also buy you the time and energy to find your own full-time recruiter in the meantime.
In-house recruiters are the most cost effective way of hiring if you have anywhere between 4-10 open reqs consistently. Treat your employer brand as another product that your company has, and think twice about hiring someone junior to lead the whole operation. A junior person can take care of a lot of the administrative burden, will learn as they go, and will be inexpensive.
But what you don’t spend in money, you’ll spend in time.
Get somebody with some experience that can optimize your talent function and can execute and can grow with the company.
With any recruiting professional that you work with, whether agency, RPO, in-house, be sure they’re an advocate of your employer brand. They know your company, they’ve pitched your values. You can’t tell the difference between them and your company. They really believe in your company. That’s going to go a long way with candidates, both attracting them and attracting the ones that are going to stay for a longer period of time.
Don’t Chase Unicorns
Don’t expect to find a CTO who’s also the best salesperson in the world. Look at what the market dictates and fill in your gaps appropriately with the best people that can be most effective. The longer you chase unicorns, the longer you’re just delaying the inevitable and the more money you’re spending.
The standard interview process for an early stage team will differ depending on how your team is structured and your bandwidth. But for the most part, a recruiter phone screen, that moves to a hiring manager phone screen, an onsite interview, and finally, offer, seems to work well.
This works especially well when you have that experienced recruiter or resource on the front end that can filter out all your inbound and outbound top of funnel efforts. If you don’t have that recruiting resource available, the interviewing and the screen falls on the hiring manager.
It’s important that there is some type of technical assessment that’s being done. When you’re early-stage and it’s mostly the founding or executive team that’s part of the onsite interview process, don’t make it time intensive. Candidates are getting picked up left and right. The more that you ask from a candidate, the more you’re going to lose them and the less you’re protecting your own team’s time.
It’s crucial that you assign somebody to monitor and execute all communication with your candidates. This is something that early-stage companies drop the ball on, and is one of the fastest ways to damage your employer brand. All the candidates need to be moved through the process quickly or declined by the end of each Friday. This is a non-negotiable.
Don’t ghost your candidates, especially mid-interview process. If a candidate has a bad experience and they’ve given the time to the company, but the company doesn’t respect theirs, they’re going to post a negative review online or tell their friends. On the flip side, if they have a good experience they’re going to advocate for your company. It influences your top of funnel and your company’s reputation as you continue to grow.
Time to Hire
On average, a lot of recruiting data shows that a company achieves one hire for every four onsite interviews, and that’s if the process is already nailed down. With that, you can make a rough estimate on how much recruiting time you yourself would spend and how much time a candidate is going to spend.
For example, you know you’re going to make one hire so it’s going to take you about four onsite interviews, and the time commitment is roughly five hours. To get there, you’re probably going to need at least eight hiring manager phone screens or some type of technical phone screen. And then to even get there, you’re going to need at least 16 recruiter phone screens at the beginning of the process.
It’s mission critical to define exactly what you need out of that role, make sure that you have team alignment from the very beginning, because the last thing that you want to do is get all the way to the onsite interview process, realize that there isn’t alignment, you need something new, and then have to go back to the beginning and start over.
If you’re organized, it’s much easier to stay aligned with your candidate pool, which enables you to be more responsive, more decisive, and ultimately create a much better candidate experience.
If you’re looking for free tools or to keep costs to a minimum:
are great places to begin tracking your candidates but they won’t necessarily maximize your productivity. They’re labor intensive and manual tools, with little automation. So only use them if you’re hiring for less than five roles, preferably ones that are evergreen, so you’re not needing to update a lot as you move through your hiring process.
Applicant Tracking Systems
Most of the free tools hit their limit at 3 roles so at some point you’re going to need something more robust to handle tracking, like an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). It’ll greatly reduce the administrative burden on your resources and set you up for long-term success in recruiting and growth. And when you start relying on metrics, it will be in-house and you’ll be able to pull data that shows how your recruiting function has grown and evolved.
Hopefully you’re posting a lot and getting traffic and responses but at some point it’s going to become critical that you get to a place where you can start to reach out and source new candidates. So where do those candidates come from?
That time period between when a candidate signs an offer and when they officially start is an absolutely critical part of the entire employee experience. There’s a lot of uncertainty around that time. Starting a new job is a big life change for a lot of people. Make sure that all of that excitement that you’ve built through that interview process and that offer, is something that carries through to a candidate’s first day.
After a candidate accepts your offer, send a congratulations email or video from the team. But make sure that you celebrate because it’s a big moment for your candidate and you as a company. Before their start date, make sure to send them a welcome email, no later than two business days before their start date.
On their first day, make sure that any meetings that they’re going to have to be a part of, those are already scheduled for them and include a brief Day 1 timeline when you send that welcome email. If there is HR or IT orientation, make sure to coordinate with whoever’s doing that. In the age of COVID, send everyone food and do a lunch meeting as a team.
By the end of the first week, make sure they’ve met with the hiring manager, the team and there’s an end of week check-in. The first week is when their excitement for the company is going to be at the highest. A really poor first day, week, onboarding experience can make or break it for the employee. They can and will leave after even week one or two, they’ll reach back out to companies they turned down.
As long as you keep in mind all of the above, you’re off to a good start. If you have any questions or are looking for help, reach out to the folks over at Kinkor Consulting, they work with high growth tech startups to develop end-to-end recruiting and retention strategies, as well as provide a full suite of remote RPO services. Best of luck!