Hiring for Startups 101 – filling the funnel


[This is the first post of the “Hiring for Startups 101” blog series]

I often hear from startups that they don’t see enough (quality) candidates for their open positions and most of the times this is largely due to their passive approach to filing the hiring funnel. Posting ads on Craiglist and other job boards makes sense but is usually not enough in a generally tight market for talent where the best people don’t even look for jobs. Here are a few ideas to pro-actively fill the top of the hiring funnel:

  • “Always be hiring”: take every and any opportunity to position your start-up as an interesting company to work for – be it at general networking events, presentations you give, or in media pieces.
  • Go where the potential candidates hang out: there are meet-ups for Ruby developers, interaction designers or PR and communications people. There is Startup Weekend, co-working spaces, local hackathons,…. You get the point.
  • Offer internships: offering internship positions is one of the best way to build a long-term funnel for any position and a great way to get to know quality candidates very early in their decision process for their future job.
  • Build up enough internal resources for talent acquisitions: finding great candidates is often all about hustling and you need the appropriate time and resources within your company to pro-actively identify candidates – think about an internal position within your start-up that does nothing else than focusing on identifying great potential candidates though web research (and check out how aggressively Google is using contractors to do that).
  • Use your own employees for referrals: many companies have traditionally leveraged their existing employees to identify suitable candidates but there are now many software tools (e.g. Nexi.me; Careerify; Entelo; TalentBin) available that make “social recruiting” less of an effort for your employees.
  • Recruiters: most of the time recruiters are too expensive for start-ups and should only be used for very crucial senior hires. But in case you hire a recruiter, go for a boutique firm that really understands startups and not necessarily the big brands in executive recruiting that might not give you the attention that you need. And look out for recruiters that have adopted their pricing to the financial abilities of start-ups and offer flat search fees (often below $10K per position).

Identifying great candidates and filling the top of the hiring funnel is mostly hustle – don’t wait for great candidates to come to you but use as many outreach strategies as possible to find them.

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  • Adam J. Epstein

    Love the Always Be Hiring Advice. I evaluate literally every person I meet as a potential employee. In the last month, I reverse pitched the Goldman Sachs wealth manager who was incredibly persistent in trying to close me (she is now in the final stages for a sales role here) and I pitched my IRS auditor on an accounting role 
    (after the audit was concluded)  – and he says he will reach out when his government contract ends in a few months.

  • http://twitter.com/bwertz Boris Wertz

    Great examples – well done!

  • http://twitter.com/AIESEC_Laurier AIESEC Laurier

    If you are looking for international grads for short term projects, check out AIESEC (aiesec.org). It’s definitely cheaper than going through a recruiter. As for why students would do something like this, they join AIESEC to get a global mindset while being able to sustain themselves. Win-win

  • http://www.ascendify.com/ Lauren Smith

    Great tips for any organization to follow — not just startups. 


  • http://twitter.com/hsambhi Harpaul Sambhi

    Thank you Boris for mentioning Careerify, I greatly appreciate it. Given that I have been in the recruitment space for a few years learning what both top companies and start-ups do, I would strongly consider building an internal network where you can quickly create awareness of opportunities in your company. I just did one recently and received a seven introductions to potential top candidates through clients (this is an amazing source since they can speak about your service/product), past candidates, investors, partners, and journalists. The big issue is creating awareness of opportunities as generally most people don’t actively monitor your website.

    I think another great source is always be listening within your market/geographic area. Often companies may be laying off developers (unfortunate example – RIM), or a recent M&A happened of a competitor or partner. These avenues are great as you can swoop in, find the best talent that may be vulnerable OR just exited with tremendous experience. For the latter, if you find those that just IPO’ed or came off of an exit, not only do they bring a wealth of experience that can supercharge your team, but they may be lenient in terms of compensation (may prefer more stock/equity over cash). 

    If anyone has issues sourcing talent or want to build a proper talent pipeline feel free to reach out to me. 

    Harpaul – CEO Careerify (@hsambhi:twitter )

  • http://twitter.com/bwertz Boris Wertz

    Great tips, Harpaul – and thanks for the offer, hope people take up on it.

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