March 22, 2016

3 Things Startups Need to Know About Recruiting

Whether you are an early stage startup with zero recruiting infrastructure or you are a mid to late stage with a team of recruiters, we can all agree that the people you hire and how you attract top talent can make or break your organization. Even if you are not ready to build out a robust team of recruiters, there are some tips that will help you focus in on what really matters when looking for that next “perfect” candidate. Here are 3 things that come to mind for me when thinking about what really matters at the core of a successful recruiting strategy:

1. Have Cultural Clarity

Without clarity, a company can have a really hard time bringing its culture to life. Now, there are a lot of mixed thoughts around what culture truly means at a company or within an organization. To me, culture is the thing that defines you when someone goes to describe you. It is what you say you are as an organization to your spouse or best friend - whether you are embarrassed or proud of it.  

Culture is not categorizing candidates into buckets of similar people who already work at your company, but instead it is hiring people who fill the gaps in your company and “up your game” in expertise, humility and creativity. Having a great culture is having a team where all employees are unified under that one or many core values, which define what you stand for as one unit and as individuals. If you are not sure what those are yet, that is your Priority #1. 

Your company culture and values should be the things that everyone can agree on, and what has and will continue to make your business successful, the people who run it, and what is needed to sustain that.  A lot of companies start with this, but as they grow the people who created the culture and values now make up about 5% of the organization. What about the other 95% of the people who represent your company?  

This cultural evolution should have direction from the top for sure, but should also be a democracy where the rest of the company can give feedback to what they feel their culture is, and also what it means to them and what the course of its evolution looks like. They live it and breathe it every day, and should be the first place to start when keeping your culture and brand in check.  

When you have this alignment, it is a much easier story to tell to anyone you are trying to recruit. This is how you evolve that culture you have built in the right direction - by keeping true to your reality, understanding the perception, and thinking of your culture as evolving and not stagnant. Your employees are walking and talking banner ads, job boards and Facebook likes/unlikes. If they are not happy, then everyone will hear about it. So make sure to keep checking in with your team as it grows. Make sure the values you set up are still the driving force behind who you are and what your business is achieving, and that those pillars continue to adapt and change as your business and culture do.  

2. Recruiting is a Business Partner, Not a Department

Recruiting should always been seen as a partnership between business leaders and recruiting teams. Most of the recruiters I talk to or managed have worked for organizations where they are more of a department rather than a business partner. And that never seems to work, or back up Point #1 above.

If the perception of the recruiting function is that they are just order takers and job fillers, then there is a big gap in that function. Recruiting should be a strategic partnership between the business and the departments they support, and should be properly aligned to that company strategy, along with the senior leaders who run each separate business unit they support.

Understanding the department you are filling a role for has a large impact on the sourcing strategy for that role, the interview strategy, and most importantly the type of candidates you are putting into that role. If there are certain skill gaps on that team and the business unit needs to up their game on the expertise side or even diversity side, this is important for a recruiting team to know. And the only way to do that is to form great relationships between the recruiter and hiring manager.  

I have always encouraged my teams to do this and have seen the positive impact it makes - not only for a recruiter and the metrics they need to hit, but also for the business and the personal growth both recruiters and hiring managers can have when they understand each other's worlds a little better.  

Simple things such as having hiring managers invite your recruiters to sit in on their next team meetings or huddles can go a long way in forming a better relationship. This will help your recruiters understand how that team is run, what the leadership style looks like, and what they can use to describe the team environment from the inside out. Not only can this offer great insights to share with candidates, but it's also an enlightening moment for recruiters when they are able to see everything that happens on a day-to-day basis beyond the job description to pitch a role.

Another way to improve partnership is to make sure the hiring manager and their business unit understand how the recruiting team evaluates success when filling openings. I have communicated to some of my managers in the past what the entire lifecycle of the hiring process should look like, and what expectations they should have from myself and my team. This always creates a better understanding for not only how I will be supporting them, but also what it takes to find that perfect person they envision for the role. Once that tone is set, it is much easier to give candidate feedback and tweak the search openly as you go.  

3. Candidate Experience is Everything

I know there are a lot of hyper growth companies out there struggling with creating a great candidate experience because of the sheer volume and lack of internal resources they're dealing with. But there are some really small things you can do that can go a long way.

The experience a candidate has with your organization from the time of their first phone or email to the offer or rejection call is crucial for not only your recruiting organization, but the brand your company is creating as a whole. I have always said to the teams I managed that a candidate is a walking, talking job board for you. The experience they have with your company throughout the interview process is critical to not only how candidates will perceive your organization, but also how they will share and describe their experience to other potential candidates, customers and prospects.

There were a lot of people in the past I have said "no" to for a role who have made some of the best referrals back to my company, based on their great experience interviewing and going through the process. Some candidates may even turn into customers and decide to buy from your company based on their positive candidate experience. If you look like you have your act together on the front end, they you must be running a tight ship on the backend. 

Some tips on how to create a great candidate experience may be as simple as making sure you or any other interviewers are on time for the interview, and have done more than just glance at the candidate's resume or LinkedIn profile. You'll also want to set and follow through with your expectations on when candidates will hear about next steps or feedback in a timely manner. 

It is crucial to make sure there are multiple touchpoint along the way to make candidates feel like they have not been forgotten and that you are looking out for them still, even if you do not have any real information to share with them yet. Check out this blog to learn more about the value of a great candidate experience and what that looks like. 

These are just 3 of the many things I think everyone in recruiting at startups need to know. If and when you find yourself working on some ridiculous project with a ridiculous timeline, at ridiculous time of the night, it is important to have the right people sitting to the left and the right of you to help you succeed.

Everyone in an organization has the opportunity to make sure they are creating an excellent candidate experience and recruiting the best possible talent. Make sure you are taking the time to educate your employees on how they can support the company's recruiting efforts, and your recruiting engine will undoubtedly run itself the way you want it to.

Do you need help with training your hiring managers or recruiters with finding, attracting and recruiting top talent? Contact me here and let’s chat about how we can help.

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