You’ve got the foundation for your startup built, and pretty soon you’re going to need to hire some people. There’s no HR department to lean on, and so its on you to define the hiring process from end to end. This article is about a few of the many things to be thinking about as you’re rounding out your high level process. I’m hoping to write some additional articles diving into some of these topics.
First things first you need candidates to talk to! So how do you find people to talk to? The best candidates are going to come from your own network, otherwise you’re going to dive into the magic art of candidate sourcing. The very easiest way to source is to find and use recruiters. Going with a recruiter you can trust that you find through friends in your network is probably the best approach. Recruiters generally charge about 20-25% of the candidates starting salary. Some will be volume oriented (sending you tons of resumes/candidates to review) and others will bring more focus to your search. I’d recommend working with the latter, and spending some time on helping the recruiter to understand your business. If they can pitch the role and business to the candidate correctly, then you already know they’re somewhat interested when you get them on the phone.
If you’re sourcing yourself, there are a lot of services that you can lean on. A few are angellist, hired, vettery, underdog, interviewjet, and even linkedin. The way most of these work is that you are “pitching” candidates about your business and the opportunity around the role that you think they’d be a fit for. It’s a good idea to come up with an easy way to understand what the business does, its mission, and why the position would be exciting for them.
By now you’ve mutally agreed to have a phone call with the candidate. The point of this call is to assess if the candidate is going to be a fit for the role and your company. I’ve personally leaned on this call being more of a cultural “get to know” each other session, getting a sense of their technical depth through talking about some of their experiences, but not asking them to solve coding challenges at this stage. There will be another post on what type of questions you may want to ask, but the goal is to get the candidate excited about the business and role, and hoping to get them onsite.
evaluating tech skills
At this point you’re going to want to have a fleshed out idea around your process for evaluating technical skills. Are you going to give all candidates a homework? A whiteboarding interview onsite? A coderpad screen over the phone? Perhaps you could ask them for a sample of their open source code. There are pros/cons to these which I’ll discuss in another post, but the point here is that its important to understand how you’re evaluating candidates in and equal and non-biased way.
scheduling the onsite
At the scheduling stage, you need to determine which sample of people across the company should talk to your candidate. Even though its tempting to only have them talking to engineers about technical problems, I’ve found it important to get people from some other disciplines in the loop. Getting a sense of how the candidate is going to respond and work with others in the company is important.
You’re probably going to be the one to arrange the schedule, booking conference rooms, finding times that aren’t conflicting for your co-workers. Like most of this process, this is generally handled by recruiting teams at larger companies, but in a small startup this is all on you.
Before the candidate comes in, its a good idea to debrief the interview team about their background, expected seniority level, and topics for each interviewer to focus on. In a future post I’ll go into some details on how you can break down different categories for interviewers to focus on, and sample questions to ask within these.
At this point everyone should have a strong idea on whether or not they’d like to bring this candidate onto the team. If you have an applicant tracking system in place, it is best for everyone to input their feedback into the tool as soon as possible. This lets them give their input with a fresh memory of the interview, and ensures that the opinion isn’t biased. At a high level these systems can collect a “yes” or “no” as well as some detailed comments about what was discussed and how the candidate responded. Over time you can try to get more objective with this feedback and work your values into graded criteria.
A post huddle should be scheduled so that everyone can discuss their points on the candidate strengths, weaknesses, and whether they think they candidate would be a good fit. It can help if the hiring manager has already read and absorbed the feedback so that they can more easily facilitate this discussion. It’s usually not necessary for everyone to reiterate all of the feedback in the tool if the hiring manager can summarize and find the interesting points to raise with the group. At the end of the day, the hiring manager is responsible for making the decision whether to move forward, or not.
You’re now at the offer stage if you have decided to move forward, if not, you’ll have to inform them that it wasn’t a fit. The rejection email can be done over email and doesn’t necessarily need to provide details, in fact from a legal perspective it’s probably best not to. The letter should thank them for their time, going through the process, and potentially offer to revisit their application for other roles at a future date. If you’re moving forward it should be done over the phone. It’s more personal and gives the candidates some chances to ask questions about the comp, equity, or benefits. In a future post I’ll discuss how to think about the details of the offer so that it’s both compelling to the candidate but leaves some room for flexibility. If the candidate verbally accepts, congratulations, you can finally write up the offer formally and have both parties sign it.
These are just some of the things that you’ll have to be thinking about as you define your hiring process. I’ll dive into some of these in more depth in future articles.