Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lesson #34: How Best to Recruit Employees For Your Startup

As a startup, odds are you will not be able to afford a dedicated HR person or 30% headhunter fees, and will most likely need to be doing the recruitment yourself.  In today's post, we will offer a few tips on how to find the right talent for your business, in a way that brings in the best candidates and reduces any distraction from your main business focus.

There are lots of different job posting sites out there, some are huge (e.g., Monster, Career Builder, Craig's List) and others are small (e.g., job boards for trade magazine sites).  Some offer national candidates, and others local candidates.  And, some are targeted to senior executives (e.g., The Ladders, Netshare, Execunet) and others for specific entry level jobs.  So, before randomly placing a job posting, figure out which audience is most relevant for your position. 

For example, I may go to Dice or CraigsList for technology developers, LinkedIn for mid-level managers and the Travel Industry Association website for national travel agents.  But, in most cases, I will first look for local job boards in your home city (e.g., Chicago Interactive Marketing Association for marketing people in Chicago), since I will not have budgets to relocate employees.  Unless national job boards are your only option, and then I will detail no relocation budget within the posting, so candidates know we cannot afford to relocate them or pay for their travel to interview with you.

And, let's not forget the power of working your network and word of mouth marketing via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or otherwise.  It is a lot better to find a "colleague of a colleague", with first hand references in place, than to start blind with a random candidate, where you can.  Frankly, sites like LinkedIn are my favorite recruiting sites, simply because I can learn a lot about the candidate, above and beyond their simple resume data.  How many connections do they have?  Who are those connections, and can they help me?  Do I have any overlapping connections that I can call as a reference?  Also, it provides really good insights to how socially engaged the candidate is and the types of connections they can bring to your business.

Once, you have identified where you want to be recruiting, now you need to figure out what your job posting should say to: (i) stand out from the thousands of other job postings a candidate may be looking at; and (ii) limit the clutter of resumes coming into your office, to simplify the screening process.   I would not be vague in your copy, and disclose as much as you can to ensure the reader knows all the plusses and minuses, so only the most interested will apply.  That means, disclose your company name (so they can research your business on your website) and disclose the specific salary range (so people desiring a salary above that range do not apply).  The only time you need to be more confidential in your posting, is when you don't want an existing staff member to know you are recruiting a replacement for their position, or if you are worried about a competitor learning you are hiring for certain skills.  But, as a rule, more disclosure is better than less for all involved.

Also, if there is specific information that would be useful to you in screening candidates, make sure you ask for such information to be provided in your posting.  For example, if you need a technologist with strong C# coding experience, make sure that is detailed as a requirement for all candidates, and that they need to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 for that skill in their cover letter.  If there are many skills that are required, and can easily be assessed by some simply Q&A, set up an online Q&A recruitment form on your website, so you don't have to waste time on the phone asking the same questions over and over again (since answers can easily be screened via the online responses).  I also think video can be a very effective tool to dig deeper than just a resume.  So, maybe set up your Q&A form with a video-based recruitment site, like Expressume, where you will get video responses to your questions, and can learn a lot more about the candidates' communication skills and personality fit in the process (again without wasting time on the phone).

The big picture point is:  waste as little time as possible in the minutia of recruitment, as that is time better spent on your business.  Put processes in place that allow for very efficient screening of candidates (e.g., detailed posting, Q&A forms, video responses), so only the most appropriate candidates apply, and they can easily be screened from there.  Then, once you find your favorite three candidates, now is where you dig in and spend quality time learning more about the candidate. 

Finding the right team members for your startup are critical for its success, so you have to invest the time here to get it right.  But, make sure that time is most efficiently spent (e.g., interviewing the best candidates, and not on preliminary screening of all that apply).  You never want to rush a hiring decision or take a marginal candidate just to fill a position, as long term, it will never work out for either party's long term interests.  And, it is a lot more expensive and time consuming to remove a poor performer down the road, than to get it right the first time.

In a following post, I will help you learn how best to screen a resume, so you are asking the right questions.

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb

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