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How to Hire Startup Talent: Recruitment Process

For most startups designing a recruitment process isn’t really on top of the to-do list.

The recruitment process you use as a startup is often a result of:

  • What you used to do in your last (startup) role
  • Basic trial and error
  • Which tools you have available or recommended to you
  • Doing what everyone else is – i.e., using the same job boards, like the hub
  • Whichever tools and methods are cheapest

It is, however, rarely the result of sitting down and making a plan:

WHAT are we hoping to achieve? 

I.e., build a product / new functionality or achieving 100k $ MRR

HOW are we going to achieve it? 

I.e., hire an excellent PM, CTO, or a VP Sales, enter a new market, build partnerships, etc.

But how?

 By posting jobs on the hub? Reaching out to your (local) network? Referral fees for your team? Sourcing candidates yourself? Finding global candidates who might be willing to relocate? Hire remote resources or consultants?

You spend most of your time building an excellent funnel for your users and customers – are you doing the same for your candidates? Do you have a process in place for handling applications or candidates you reach out to? An ATS? How are you affected by GDPR?

WHY is this the right process (if you have one) or the right people to hire?

Do you need to hire a CTO or an Engineering Manager? Do you need  to hire an account executive or a VP sales? Are you building your first sales team in DK or i.e. London, Berlin, Amsterdam or somewhere else? And WHY would some roles make sense to hire yourself and others better to work with a recruitment agency?

Recruitment process

Building a recruitment process almost always makes sense – unless you plan on staying a (very) small team, you’re bound to hire people continuously for your startup.

It’s doesn’t have to be an elaborate or complex process – on the contrary, we recommend that you start as lean as possible. As you grow, you are likely to hire a mix of different people on all levels, perhaps in multiple locations. Things will become complicated, eventually.

When you start hiring the first people for your startup, it’s delightfully simple. Most entrepreneurs start with their network and speak to a limited amount of people, and it’s not that difficult to keep track of – any spreadsheet will do. But after a short amount of time that spreadsheet becomes a nightmare to maintain and update; candidates don’t get added, you get rejections and you forget that great candidate who would have been a perfect fit – and when you do remember he/she already moved on to something else. 

First things first – any recruitment process starts with an ATS (applicant tracking system), which enables you to keep track of candidates and open positions, metrics, and do a least some automation. It also helps you not to violate GDPR regulations. 

ATS vendors are abundant, and it sometimes can be difficult choosing the right one, not only now but also later. Most ATS vendors offer an entry-level product (occasionally free), which seems great – but once you start growing, you will have to keep using the same vendor, or do a complex and costly migration to something else. Hint – migration is a serious revenue stream for most ATS vendors.

Some of the ATS’s we recommend for startups would be (in no particular order):

Lever

Greenhouse

Breezy HR

They all have mail integration to Gmail/office 365, which means that all communication with candidates is automatically added to their profile, and they are all fairly easy to work.   

Several job boards have their own ATS built-in, although more often than not, they are pretty basic. 

Examples could be: 

thehub.dk (in the Nordics), which has a Trello like interface – it’s very basic, and you can’t create your flows, but it works, and it’s free.

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  • All your applications from thehub end here, and you can add your candidates
  • Candidates can add text, Linkedin link, upload CV, add contact details, etc.
  • Trello like interface – if your team already uses Trello, using thehub is very easy.

  • You can’t build your recruitment flows. There’s applied, shortlisted, interviews, hired to be rejected and rejected. That’s what you need, right? Not really – very quickly, you discover that it would be nice to split interviews into 1. and 2. interviews, add code challenge/case stage, etc. 
  • No notifications when team members make a note
  • No integration with your Gmail/Office 365

Linkedin Recruiter also has an ATS built-in. A friendly warning – Linkedin very quickly becomes very, very expensive as all communication on the platform is based on (expensive) in-mails. You can also forget about migrating your data to another ATS in a meaningful way.

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  • If you post jobs on Linkedin it’s straightforward to work with 
  • Incredibly rich data since everything is on Linkedin
  • Great filters for sourcing
  • Share information and candidates with colleagues

  • Everything is based on in-mails – if you reach out to candidates you’re not connected to, this fairly quickly becomes very, very expensive
  • No/poor integration to other ATS products
  • Support is terrible – Recruiter lite (100€ per user/month) support is non-existent, Recruiter Pro is eye-watering expensive and mostly an enterprise product
  • Migrating data a pain

Once you have decided on an ATS, make sure to create the right flows from the start, and set up as you prefer – including mail/calendar integration as this will help you automate and save data.

It’s a great idea to create a process, which you feel makes sense and is accepted by the hiring team. 

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How many interviews in total? And are they on site, zoom/call, or a mix?
  • Do you plan or using a scorecard? Have you decided which characteristics are the most important?
  • Who does the first interview?
  • Who does the second + additional interviews?
  • Have you decided on which questions to ask – and are you aligned as a team? 
  • Is there a case or a code challenge? When during the process, will you introduce it?
  • How do you present your team and organization? (we’ll do a separate post on the narrative, as it’s key to success)
  • Will there be a cognitive or personal test?
  • Are you taking references?

Once this is clear, it’s relatively straightforward to create a flow in your ATS, which will support your recruitment process/funnel seamlessly.

After that, all you have to do is post your job, and everything should be smooth sailing. Or?…

See Next  “How to Attract Candidates for your Startup”