Launch Pad Blog


How to Recruit for your Start-up: Tips from RockIT's Cody Voellinger

by Cody Voellinger | Thursday, June 5th, 2014

As Featured on the RocketSpace blog:  Ground Support - Recruiting for your Start-up


Since most folks reading this probably aren't recruiters by day (although everyone at a small/ early-stage start-up should be recruiting within their network), let's start with the basics. 


What is recruiting?

Generally recruiting gets broken down into 2 big ideas: 1) Where do I find candidates? and 2) How do I engage and get people to join my company? While filling your funnel and employment branding are 2 core ideas, this talk focuses on The Recruiting Process, which will improve your candidate experience and conversion rates at each step.


Whose job is recruiting? (Assuming no dedicated recruiter)

Outreach - Everyone! The whole team should know the company story, vision, open positions and hiring goals. Referrals and company's community are the strongest tools at this stage.

Scheduling - Whoever has time to make this a priority. Founders sending mistyped confirmation emails at 2am from their iPhone doesn't make a positive first impression. 

Closing - 94% of Bay Area engineers surveyed said that the Hiring Manager was the most important person to meet during an interview process, see here. Let the CEO sell company vision and the hiring manager build the employee/ mentor relationship early. 


Why should we use an ATS? (Applicant Tracking System is a recruiting CRM)

Free candidates! An ATS powers your jobs page and promotes the jobs to a network of partners and job boards.

Be Data Driven- what are your conversion rates at each step? Which candidate source has the highest success rate? Where are your weak links? You can't examine data without tracking it. 

Follow-ups! The most common response to a recruiting message is "Thanks, but the timing isn't right." Find out when the timing might be better, and set a reminder. Create a recruiting machine.


What does our interview process say?

For an early stage company, this is the best representation of your company and what it is like to work there. You should represent yourself as: organized, team-oriented, and casual but challenging. 

Be organized, have a process, and be prepared to break it. You should have a standard method of evaluating candidates both technically and culturally. Then be flexible to accommodate the always-changing needs of a candidate.

Be transparent! If you like someone and think they could be a good fit, tell them! No need to play it casual and keep them guessing...that just makes the candidate unsure of how committed they want to be to you. In the survey mentioned earlier, 76% of engineers are most frustrated by vague/ no feedback in an interview process. 

Interviews are a 2-way street. Given the market, the candidate is evaluating your company just as much as you are evaluating him or her. Everyone involved in the process needs to be selling when applicable, so make sure your team can articulate why they love their job! (Specific examples/ stories generally work much better than broad statements).


Does time really kill deals?


As a start-up, your process should be shorter than 3 weeks, otherwise you are left choosing from a lower quality pool of "remaining" candidates, and you waste your team's time evaluating candidates who will drop out of your process before you can come to a decision. 

Survey again-

79% of candidates expect a process of 1-3 weeks.

47% will drop out if your process takes too long.

65% will drop out if they receive another offer (which happens when you take too long).

And of course, the psyche of delayed feedback...

Imagine you went on a date that you thought went great. You expect to get a call or text the next day. No text comes, it's ok, the other person must be busy. Then self-doubt creeps in. Then you invent reasons why it wasn't right for you anyways. By the time your date finally responds, you have already talked yourself out of it...

The same through process happens with job interviews! The candidate starts thinking "That other company told me at every stage that I would be a great addition to the team, then followed up with an offer. That seems like a start-up that knows what it wants and is prepared to be decisive. That's where I want to work."


How do I give an offer?

Find out what is important to the candidate! Some people care about salary, others title, others career growth and learning opportunities. Someone might care most about what time SCRUM meetings are. Don't make assumptions, make an offer based on a concrete discussion about motivations. 

Present ALL the details! Most start-ups boil their offer down to salary and stocks. How can anyone make an informed decision with just these two numbers? Don't forget to give the entire picture in terms of stocks- outstanding shares, strike price, funding status. And what about insurance, savings plans, lunches, commuter benefits, laptop, vacation policy, etc. These are an essential part of what your company has to offer, make sure they weigh into the decision.


This should get you thinking about how to be strategic with your recruiting and interview process. 

For any follow-up questions, feel free to contact or attend the next Ground Support with RockIT Recruiting.