Recruitment is tough.
Good candidates are hard to find.
What does this tell you? Well, you can see it. Of all the candidates applying for your job, very few are the ones you are looking for and who seem to fail the interview.
I hear it all the time—and when I hear it, I hear a red flag. did you hear it?
“Applying to our job post.”
I mean, of course you need to put up some job posts so that people who are looking know you’re hiring—and you need to write a job anyway to get your team on the same page as that. What are you even looking for, but that’s not how your next fare is going to come through.
You don’t just put up a few job posts and hope that employee number four or six or eight walks through the door.
In the words of Billy Madison, “If your dog is lost, you don’t see it for an hour, then leave it. You get your ass out there, and you get that fucking dog!”
There is no substitute for consistent outbound effort by your own team – not a recruiter. You can hire recruiters – that’s fine. You only need to actively search for the best candidate by including those who are not searching.
When I started a company fifteen years ago, I used to post jobs everywhere, but the number of candidates who could be interviewed was not there. We seriously thought about lowering our standards so that we could bring in those first engineers into the company because we were lagging behind.
That’s when I met Max Ventilla, who was working on Aardvark at the time. It was a long time ago when they started AltSchool.
Max told me that he was interviewing at least five candidates daily for each position.
“Five candidates in a day?? How in the world do you find five people worth interviewing??
“Well, we get to at least 50.”
Boy, was I doing it wrong.
It was completely understandable. Of course this was going to reach 50 people a day given the response rate and basic aptitude questions, which would eliminate people from different stages in the funnel. Any reasonable funnel assumption will require that you have a lot of people at the top.
I went back to the office and spent a full two weeks doing nothing but reaching out to people in person—mostly people for a second level of connection. A lot of it went like this:
“Hey Bob, I see you’re engaged to Jane. We are recruiting a front end developer to be our fourth employee. Do you think Jane would be a good fit for this? The most important things to us are X, Y, and Z…”
That way we not only got a ton of warm introductions, but we also got some very candid feedback.
“She’s great, but she’ll thrive in a company with more structure. I don’t think being employee number four would be very appropriate for her.”
“She’s great and in fact, we just talked about how she wants to take on a leadership role – will that be available to her?”
Within two weeks, we had our first rental.
One of the ways to make this search easier is to delegate the name sourcing to someone else. You can ask an administrative person—perhaps outsourced—to begin collecting names and e-mails. You start with very general searches, like “give me all front-end developers with 5-10 years of professional experience in NYC” and then as you get the names and profiles back, you can ask for refinements.
“Really, give me only people who have at least a small company experience.”
“Get out anyone working in an agency right now.”
“Exclude anyone who’s been working freelance for more than three years because they probably don’t want to go back to a full-time commitment.”
You’d be surprised how some of the refinements are actually getting you a pretty good top-of-the-funnel list to start with.
Another way you should think about this outbound effort is to determine who is the best at a given position. If you outbound 500 people in your network, that’s a second level connection to the kind of person you want to hire and ask, “who is the best B2B salesperson you’ve worked with” eventually You’re going to run into some repeat names. It is perfect to talk to the people who deal with these mercenaries. Ask customers who sell them exceptionally well and who have built the best relationships.
Your outbound efforts should generate a target list of 10-25 people who are clearly standing above and shoulder to shoulder with the rest – as evidenced by the fact that you’re talking to so many people, That it is becoming clear what is even best.
If you’re only pulling in to hire “perfect” candidates who are inbound and not working hard, who are already happily in other positions, you won’t understand exactly what Is great.
Does all this take a long time? Yes. It takes a lot of time, not only from the founder, but also from other team members.
Is this absolutely necessary?
Only if you want to build a great team.