Learn To Hire Well And You’ll Never Lose

Three Tips For Leaders Who Want To Up Their Recruiting Game

Show me the first 20 employees of a startup and I’ll tell you whether it’s going to be successful or not. In my mind there’s no greater indicator of success than the quality and characteristics of the individuals you’re able to bring on board. Success is a signal of two meaningful truths: you have the talent you need to execute your roadmap and A+ people have decided that you are worth working for. When I encounter founders who know how to hire, or founders who are self-aware enough to know it’s an area they want to get better at, it’s a huge plus in our investment decision.

So here are three tips for leaders who want to up their recruiting game:

  1. Know What Excellent Looks Like

It’s very hard to hire something if you don’t know what it looks like. If you’ve never worked alongside a stellar marketer I don’t expect you’ll know how to identify one, let alone attract them. Even worse you’ll probably fall victim to an ‘all hat, no cattle’ candidate who can talk a good game but has zero substance. This is true of every discipline whether it be product, engineering, sales and so on. You need to know what excellent looks like. So ahead of hiring, spend time with a few excellent people in their domains. Ask them what they look for when they hire and how they structure their interview processes. Calibrate well though, if you’re going to be hiring a SDR but are talking with a SVP Sales, make sure you’re asking her about junior folks.

2. Ask Candidates Who Reject You To Name Names

Ok I know this one sounds weird but it works. If you’ve built a rapport with someone but they turn you down because it’s not the right time for them to interview, or they are prioritizing something other than what your company can offer, insist they provide a name of someone else you should talk with about the role. I do this frequently and it has paid off multiple times. You get a warm intro to a candidate who is flattered to be told they are awesome. And it is a great way to expand beyond your own network.

This “strategy” started organically for me during my YouTube years. I was trying to recruit a product manager from Google to transfer over but he told me he’d actually already decided to leave the company to found a startup. After making a brief case that he should reconsider, I pivoted to “well, you’re still on the hook to solve my problem. Who should I talk to instead?” He introduced me to a colleague working in Google’s marketing team that he thought would be an excellent product manager if someone would give him the opportunity. I did and he was!

3. Sell Past The Close

Congrats, the candidate accepted your offer and is very excited to start. Just as soon as they tell their current manager. And let their spouse know about the decision. And takes two weeks off to clear their mind before a new job. Totally normal except every single one of these is an opportunity for them to reconsider and tell you that sorry, but they reconsidered. Managing through these events is essential and needs to be done in a manner that’s consistent with your culture, the candidate’s needs and your hiring practices so there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ answer here but some of the things I’ve advised people to do/seen done:

>> for the “telling the spouse/family” — record a Loom or something introducing yourself and the company for the candidate to play for their partner or family. Send them a bag of company schwag to give out. Buy them dinner because “good conversations should take place over good meals.”

>> for telling the current manager — stay in close contact and prepare the candidate for a counter-offer from their company. Get your investors/advisors to congratulate the candidate on accepting so that it increases their enthusiasm while also increasing the reputational cost of withdrawing. Invite them to a team happy hour or meeting the next day so that they can meet new teammates since they might start grieving the loss of their old ones.

>> for the “break” — let them be and actually restore themselves but figure out some way to get them a surprise schwag bag or gift while they’re vacationing. Give them a “fun” task if they want like telling you what home office/tech equipment they want and get it ordered for them so it shows up Day One. Start their salary/vesting on the first day of the vacation and then let them be off for two weeks (this is worth it in extreme cases where you are really worried about the gap between them accepting and starting).

There are lots of things you can do to up your game as a hiring leader. Making sure you’re great at this is one of the most important things you can do as a founder. Good luck!

And if you’re really committed: my friend Kenny Mendes is running the second cohort of a program aimed specifically at turning CEOs/Founders into amazing recruiters of talent. Space is limited and it starts Nov 1st so act now if you want to learn more.