Not getting the candidates your startup wants? Here’s how to revamp your hiring process without bringing in a recruiter.
You put the job description up weeks ago, but all you’ve seen so far is a trickle of weak resumes.
You know you need to attract a great team to your company, but you can’t afford a dedicated HR team nor outsourced recruiters. And your efforts to bring in world-class candidates have failed.
What’s up? Let’s examine a few things you might be doing wrong while trying to hire the right people, and learn how to fix them.
1. You aren’t describing your company’s mission and culture
People who work in startups aren’t just taking a job. They’re also buying into the company’s mission and purpose. In the same way that founders can speak passionately to anyone who will listen, you must communicate your company’s passion to prospective employees.
Think beyond your mission statement. What’s the thing that makes you want to change the world? What do you say when you get excited and speak off-the-cuff about your company’s work?
This passion must come through in three places: the “about us” and “careers” section of your website, and in your job descriptions. Candidates start their research in these places.
Hint: company culture is not ping pong tables and beer. Those are great, but your culture is more about how you interact with each other; what you expect of each other; how people who join are going to fit in and succeed; and how you compensate and promote people.
It also helps to use these values in assessing candidates to ensure that the people you bring in will reinforce the culture rather than dilute it.
2. You aren’t telling candidates what’s in it for them
In every sales situation, you must describe the benefits of your solution before your prospect starts to pay attention. And you must do so in their language. We’ve all been there: being pitched something and all the pitch person does is describe why they’re so great. Blah, blah, blah.
Your job descriptions are just that: blah, blah, blah. They are probably filled with long bullet lists of requirements. They’re about what you want.
It might sound contradictory, but it is possible to tell the candidate why your company is great, and why you can be a great fit for them. It’s time to rethink that job description.
3. You aren’t using all of your networks
Most of the employees in early startups will come from yours and your other founders’ and employees’ networks. Why? Because of the power of the reference check. You or a first-degree contact can vouch for the candidate. You know how they work, about their ability to get stuff done, and how they adapt.
Just as important: the candidate can research you and your co-founders with their own network.
The best course of action is to use both real-world and online networks. Call, email and message your friends and ex-colleagues and let them know what you’re looking for. Share your listing on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
4. Your decision process is too long
Everything in a startup is new, right down to employment processes. While exciting, it can also make systems a little chaotic.
That chaos can lead to indecision in assessing candidates and making offers. Speed is crucial here, not only to gain and keep momentum in the hiring process, but also to keep the candidate from fielding multiple offers.
If you have a small team, you probably want many people to meet the candidate. That’s fine — just make it efficient, and make sure you gather feedback and make decisions right away.
Paul English, founder and former CTO of Kayak.com, had a seven-day rule: he wanted to make a job offer within seven days of becoming aware of a top candidate. You’ll want to aim for this kind of speed to sign top talent before your competitors have a chance.
5. You’re skipping “try before you buy” options
Internships and contract projects are fantastic ways to get work done while simultaneously attracting and vetting people. If you don’t have one, set up an internship program; but think of it as a recruiting project, not just a work/study program. (Click here to tweet this quote.) Make sure your interns get to do cool work and contribute. They will want to stick around, and even better — they’ll tell their friends.
Similarly, using contractors is a great way to find the experts you need. Some of those experts might want to join up for the long haul.
If your startup isn’t yet a hiring machine, look out for these five symptoms. Take care to turn them around one by one. You, too, can build a great team — one that will vault your startup to success.
Rob Kornblum is a veteran entrepreneur, executive, and a recovering venture capitalist who helps entrepreneurs start and grow successful new businesses. Get a FREE copy of Rob’s Insider’s Guide to Startup Funding here.