Aug 31, 2020 by Brian Ma
This is part 1 of a 3 part series on how to build a recruiting machine. This first part will dig into the motivations for why it’s important to get really good at hiring plus writing your first job description, part 2 will address specific tactics on sourcing and interview loops, and part 3 will dig in how to close your candidates.
Hiring is a really complex topic because it really quickly dovetails into other HR best practices like firing, performance management, culture, etc. Hiring also is very different when you’re at different stages of the company (2 people, ~8 people, ~30 people, ~100 people, etc).
Since we typically work with earlier stage companies, I’m going to try to focus on the earlier stages and give a broad overview of things you need to think about right now versus things that while important, can wait until your company gets bigger. I’ll also try to breeze through the theory quickly, but focus mainly on actionable tactics.
Part 1 of this series will focus on (1) Why you should care and (2) Tips to draft your first job post. Later parts will get into sourcing, pipeline, and closing.
If you’re reading this guide, you probably already care, but lets cover this briefly. As a tech startup, people are going to be the majority of your costs as well as the biggest lever to your growth. In fast paced startups, ideas are plentiful, what matters is execution and a 10x team specifically honed to execute on your specific mission will outperform one that is haphazardly built.
As founders and execs, it will also quickly become the thing that you spend at least 20-30% of your time on consistently (and much higher allocations right after a fundraise), so you need to get good at it.
A couple more things to note:
Don’t be discouraged though, doing a great job with hiring will save you tons of headaches down the road. A well-built team will make executing, planning, navigating, fundraising, and even more hiring much easier in the future.
I’ve consistently run into very distinct stages that require different hiring strategies as the company has scaled. The reason this happens is because a person’s most efficient span of control (the number of people that report to you where you actually have some influence) is between 6-8. That means each power of ~7 is approximately a different stage of the company. I’ve outlined these stages in the table below as well as what makes the stages slightly different.
|Founder||1 to 3||At this early of a stage, you'll likely be missing some key expertise that you want another cofounder to fill.||This is the hardest. Think about it like dating - you want the perfect person and perfect people don't exist.|
|Pizza||3 to 10||Your team can be fed by 1 large pizza and maybe some sides.||Generally team was put together with time pressure and involves friends or 2nd degree referrals that are mostly generalists.|
|Small||10 to 35||There's now enough people to need more process, some management, etc. People start to not know what is all going on in the company.||Scaling process, kpis, goals, metrics becomes important because not everyone knows what is going on all the time. Management becomes a 'necessary evil' now to scale. Departmental silos start developing.|
|Medium||35 to 150||Likely Series B+ company now with growing revenues, many multiple hq's, remote workers, etc.||Culture becomes critical and should definitely be defined here if it wasn't done already before. This is something you didn't realize could kill your company when you started. Focus is almost exlusively on building a great exec team.|
|Large||150+||Likely Series C company - little HR things you didn't think matter now matter a lot. People join your company not because of you, but because of your company, vision, and mission.||HR issues become very real, you'll run into edge cases you've never run into before. If you don't have a head of HR from previous stage, really need one now.|
|Very Large||1000+||You're well on your way - lots of challenges ahead still cause it never gets easier, but congrats!||Surprisingly I've heard managing this stage is not too different than the previous. I've never been ceo of 1k headcount company, so you'll need advice from elsewhere when you get here|
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the pizza team and small company stages and things to look out for there. I’ll avoid the ‘how to find a cofounder’ discussions, or the ‘how to do executive hiring’ discussions and save those for a future writeup.
Let’s go back to the pizza team stage. You’re a rag-tag team of people that you generally mutually trust and are fairly competent, but oftentimes doing the job for the first time. In addition to executing, aligning on goals, etc, you need to start thinking about how to bring on your next ‘batch’ of colleagues. Here are the things to focus on to build a recruiting machine. Remember again, recruiting is sales.
The JD (job description) is really an exercise for you more than a useful tool for the candidate. It helps you understand what you’re looking for in a candidate and what a successful outcome looks like for the job. Don’t skimp on this step or you’ll quickly find out you’re getting lots of candidates that look reasonable, but you won’t have a good idea of what great looks like. Some tips:
A couple other important notes - early in a companies’ life you often don’t think about this but doing these will save you (a lot) of pain down the road.
Don’t slack on the job description or you’ll find yourself wasting time bringing in the wrong types of people in the first couple weeks, or worse yet end up hiring someone that doesn’t fit your needs and realized that it was your fault for not being prepared, not theirs. Once you have a well tested JD (job description), it’s time to move onto the meat of building a hiring machine: sourcing for candidates and running the interview process. Stay tuned, we’ll cover those in part 2.
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