I was recently asked by one of my VMS mentees for advice on recruiting. Before we could even have a meeting I ran across this Quora post published on Inc. as Most Startups Fail. Here’s What the Successful Ones Do Differently, sub-titled you need to start at the intersection of the where you believe the world is going and your innate unfair advantages. The reply to the question, What do successful startups do differently than ones that fail? is by Tim Chae, General Partner at 500 Startups.
What was most germane to recruiting came in the last paragraph:
I look at Founders as the greatest telltale sign of the startups ability to add talent (recruiting) and resources (fundraising, sales, etc.) down the road. Every successful startup requires both. While there are exceptions to the rule in everything, successful startups require addition of top tier talent and that oftentimes falls directly on the founders’ ability to recruit. I don’t care about the size of the founders’ direct network per se, but the bet I’d be making on these early stage companies when I’m looking to invest is in their ability to close “deals” when qualified prospects are introduced.
So how do you go about recruiting when there’s a war on engineering talent in every startup hub? Before we dive into that there’s one major question you need to answer: are you willing to have a distributed company, where talent may be operating remotely? Here and here are a couple of posts about distributed teams. The obvious benefit is it greatly expands your reach from local to national and secondarily may reduce your real estate costs.
Here’s a some tips from my extensive experience in recruiting for several startups:
- Study the entrepreneurial scene for companies that have just gone public or have been acquired. Engineers may be fully vested and looking for the next opportunity or not interested in working at the acquiring company. Local online business sites like Xconomy are a good source of local tech news.
- Post your positions at the careers offices at local universities
- Believe it or not, many millennials rely on Craigslist in their job searches, give it a try
- Create a hiring bonus plan for your venture so you expand from your network to the networks of all your staff
- Get your investors, board members, and advisors involved in your search
- Finally the best way to recruit is to be a highly visible company that’s in the news for its accomplishments. Thus I’d advise a traditional media relations and social media campaign to promote not your products so much as the company..
Depending on the level of skill and experience you need you might find what you are looking for at one of the many coding camps.
If all else fails there are hiring marketplaces like TripleByte as well as contingency and executive recruiters. The former take about 20% of the first year’s salary the latter more like 33%, so it’s expensive. But the bigger difference is you only pay the contingency fee if they succeed in filling your position. Executive search, also called retained search, typically requires a fee upfront, whether or not the search is successful.
Don’t ignore your web site, it’s likely going to be the first impression many candidates will get of your company after they learn of the opening. Out of date posts, poor design, and skimping on information about the founders and investors are all going to turn off candidates.
Finally, keep in mind that recruiting is a sales process: the most talented engineers, marketers, and sales people will have multiple opportunities. Communicate clearly why they should join your company. How will it change their lives for the better?