I recently started a startup. I have experience with hiring. I’ve refined job descriptions, designed technical interviews, discussed DEI tactics, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and done many other activities. One thing I had not done prior to my startup: implement an entire hiring process from scratch.
We started WaySync on March 28th and my #1 priority from the first day was hiring our founding team of engineers. By May 13th, we had signed 3 candidates. Here’s some thoughts after going through this experience.
Know what you’re looking for.
Invest time into writing a good job description. Clearly communicate what your company is trying to accomplish, the skills + qualities successful candidates should have, and what you offer candidates. Do it in a voice that is authentic to you instead of copying a generic, sterile template. The extra effort you spend here will pay dividends by aligning your team, delivering higher intent applicants, and providing a framework for the rest of your hiring process.
This last point is crucial. How can you effectively interview candidates without understanding what they need to accomplish and the skills necessary to do so? Use your job description as a blueprint for what your interviews should be evaluating. Design your interviews to produce clear signals on whether the candidates have the skills + qualities you decided on. Need someone who can deliver features with minimal guidance? Give them a vague use story and let them build. Do you need someone who can optimize your application’s performance? Give them an architecture + data and see what they come up with.
Always be selling.
I truly believe that interviewing is a two way street. Great candidates have a lot of options, so make sure you’re selling them on working with you. I highly recommend reflecting on what you have to offer and even including it explicitly in the job description. Do you offer top compensation, a noble mission, specific technologies, growth opportunities, etc? Tell candidates!
A great job description / outreach copy will get the conversation started, but you should also look at every other step in the process as opporunity to woo candidates. Do interviews with a friendly demeanor, give the candidate time to ask questions each session (make yourself available to answer additional questions), and pay attention to their questions to understand what their concerns are so you can directly address them. Above all else, treat candidates with kindness and respect. The goal is that even if they don’t receive an offer, they leave the process with a positive impression of the company.
Create an effective initial screening process.
One mistake I made was not having an effective screening call. 90% of candidates went on to additional (more costly) rounds. I don’t have any concrete advice here. I recently read the book Who. I really wish I had read it before I started hiring, I plan to utilize their top of funnel strategies next time.
Invest in your network.
I was fortunate enough to be able to recruit a former colleague. Working with someone day to day is pretty much the best signal you’re going to get when it comes to hiring. It can be really comforting to have a known quantity come in, especially with brand new teams. Make sure to consider how the role compares to the one you knew them in. For example, someone successful at a FAANG company won’t necessarily succeed at an early stage startup. Take a stroll through your LinkedIn connections and catch up with the talented folks you know, it’s worth it.
There are no shortcuts.
Put in the work. Reach out to a lot of candidates. Aggressively pursue new recruiting channels and strategies. You can do this.