Hiring people remains one of the biggest challenges and mysteries for startups. Since most CEOs and founders aren’t trained recruiters, they generally have very little idea about how to recruit properly. And because they’re so busy running their startups, they rarely invest enough time in the recruiting process.
Hiring at startups is extremely difficult
Even for startups that have tons of attention it’s hard. You absolutely need attention and buzz in order to hire. That’s why I advocate that startups turn themselves into recruiting magnets. I also believe that recruiting will evolve into something similar to inbound marketing. But sometimes you can’t build a magnet big enough and you have to go on the offensive.
Sourcing is an art and science unto itself. It’s a tricky, roll-up-the-sleeves and dive in kind of business. And unfortunately, too few startup CEOs and founders do it. But honestly, there’s no choice. If you’re running a startup and you’re not actively hunting for the best talent, you’re screwed.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Get a decent contact management system. Try something like Network Hippo or Gist. Or, stick with Excel. You could even build your own little database to handle the specifics of what you need.
- Use every service possible to find people. Start with the obvious ones: LinkedIn, Google and Twitter. Facebook might work too, although it’s a bit more closed. WeFollow and Twellow can come in handy too. Search for relevant keywords. Use Thesaurus.com if you need to find appropriate synonyms (although you should already know these.)
- View every profile and make snap decisions. Scan every result very quickly and make a snap judgment call as to whether you want to pursue a relationship or not. Remember: You might find someone that’s not a perfect fit to recruit but that’s likely going to know other interesting people. You’re not just looking for hires, you’re looking for connectors too. On LinkedIn, if you’re only 2-steps away from the person then ask the mutual friend to introduce you. (Quick tip: People occasionally put their email addresses in their LinkedIn profiles. If they do, send them an email.) From LinkedIn you’ll often find a blog, company site or Twitter account. Check those out too.
You’re making snap decisions because you don’t want to invest a ton of time analyzing each person’s profile and information. Use your best judgment and move on. Even if you reach out in some way and things don’t work out, that’s OK. What’s important is that you try.
- Follow people on Twitter. This is the lightest touchpoint you can create. I don’t think there’s any problem with being fairly liberal with who you follow. Check to see if they follow you back. Use a service like MutualTweeps.com to see who you know in common.
- Keep track of everything. This is absolutely essential to running a successful and ongoing recruiting process. Track things such as: where you found the person, what other profile information you gathered, did you follow them on Twitter, who you know in common, etc. All of those details are relevant, because ultimately over time you want to be ranking people by appropriate criteria for your startup and the positions you have available (now and in the future.)
- Follow up religiously. If you get a nibble from contacting someone, make sure you follow up instantly. Otherwise it’s just plain rude, and you can very easily damage your reputation. Remember: If you can’t hire the people you need there’s a very good chance you’ll fail.
- Keep connecting even if you’re not hiring them. I’m a big fan of building a network — not when you absolutely needed it yesterday — but for the future. So as you’re going through this exercise, reach out to people via DMs, messages, email, etc. and drive them to your Career page. But if it’s not immediately the right fit, feel free to connect with your growing network openly and regularly. Find out more about them. Get the information you need to help rank them internally, so you can assess whether or not they’re worth pursuing in the future.
- Ask for referrals. You can’t be shy when recruiting. Ask for referrals. Friends. Friends of friends. Ex-co workers. Ultimately you’re building your database. Without it you can’t source effectively.
- Rinse and repeat. You should be doing this every single day that you’re actively recruiting. And it should become a regular routine even when you’re not actively recruiting. I absolutely believe in the mantra, Always be recruiting. If you’re not, you’re going to lose out on people when you need them most.
I realize this might sound a bit cold and mechanical, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re trying to actively extend your network and make new friends, contacts, build relationships and ultimately (hopefully!) hire kick ass people. Who doesn’t want that? Some of the process might be a bit unfriendly sounding but without a good system in the background tracking everything for you it’s very difficult to stay on top of things. Imagine doing sales without a CRM tool. You might be able to pull it off at the very beginning but once you’ve got 1,000 customers and 50 new ones per day …
Recruiting at startups is about putting yourself in a position to attract the best. That starts by building the foundation, the magnet you need to attract and excite people about your company and job opportunities. But once that’s done if you sit back and wait you’re dead. So you have to source talent, source the best people, dig deep and look everywhere. The more aggressive you are at sourcing the better chance you’ll find the diamond in the rough, the person that’s sitting in a dead-end job but isn’t quite sure what to do. You’re the one that’s going to find that person, connect with them and pull them out of there.
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