Hiring is tough. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, tedious and nerve racking at times. For what it’s worth, I’ll explore how Tutum goes about tackling the process of hiring without a team dedicated to hiring.
Until I sat down to write this blog post, I never really thought how ironic it is that 80-90% of a start-up’s initial funding dollars go toward hiring, yet few start-ups actually have a person or team dedicated to hiring. The logic is usually; “it doesn’t make sense to build out a human resources function at this stage and/or recruiters charge an arm and a leg, so we’ll cobble it together ourselves”. At least that was our logic and probably the reason why there are so many start-ups out there trying to upend the recruitment industry.
For Tutum, hiring is the single biggest and most important spend and no one on the team has ever had any first-hand experience with running a hiring process. But that is the joy of being entrepreneurs and wearing many different hats, right?
The perspective I’m providing is one from the point of view of an early stage start-up that is looking to make their first 5-10 hires outside the founding team. Our process isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind; rather, I hope it is confirmatory and helpful to others out there that are at a similar stage in their growth trajectory.
Turning that “Use of Funds Slide” into Reality
So you’ve successfully raised your first significant round of funding and you likely had one of those exacting roadmaps showing how you plan to spend your VC’s dollars. Right down to whom you will hire and in what month.
The challenge now is figuring out who you need and when. Hiring everyone on your list at once, if possible, wouldn’t be the right solution. There is obviously no formula for figuring this out. You have to strike that balance between adding resources in such a way that you maintain a tolerant level of being resource constrained.
What can you keep living without, because we all wear many hats, and what is keeping you from moving forward? Get a few months of operating the business under your belt and don’t feel rushed. It’s hard to forecast exactly who you need and when, but I think a couple months of business as usual, whatever that may be, will tell you what you need to know.
Developers Developers Developers Developers
Sourcing is unsurprisingly the toughest part, especially if you have decided not to use a recruiter. We were fortunate in the beginning to be able to leverage our own network for our first two hires post funding. Your own network might surprise you, so don’t take it for granted.
Sites like Angel.co and StackOverflow Careers can be hit or miss but for the time it takes to set up a company page, it is definitely worth it. The problem with those sites is that there is no barrier to expressing interest in your company. You end up weeding through a lot of bad to find a little good.
Having said that, we have actually had some success with these sites, but it has taken some patience. While not yet willing to use a traditional recruiting service, we have started to explore paid services like SpringRole and StackOverflow Careers (we bought a month subscription to StackOverflow’s resume database which has been helpful in sourcing talent for our Madrid office). We’ve yet to hire out of these services, but we are actively interviewing candidates from each.
I would advise to really dig into some of these newer recruiting solutions (i.e. the start-ups upending the recruitment industry) before diving in head-first. They all want to sell you on how big their network of relevant applicants is and or how their magical screening method yields only the best candidates.
But at the end of the day, you should request to speak with some of their satisfied and unsatisfied customers (if they will let you). Otherwise, we have found it is hard to make heads or tails of their sales pitch.
Being the interviewer, much like the interviewee, gets better with repetition. As an interviewee, having your dream job as your first interview is never good. Likewise, as an interviewer, try to schedule a few of your less desirable candidates first.
We typically start with a quick ~15-minute call to just introduce one another, talk a bit about the role and understand what it is he/she is interested in doing in their career. We’re usually able to tell intra call whether it’s worth future conversations or not.
For subsequent conversations, we have tried to progressively intensify the type and nature of questions, all the while avoiding having to revisit specific topics or questions. I hate having to ask a candidate the same question more than once and I think it reflects poorly on your process.
To help us get started, we found Google Ventures’ Library to be a great resource for hiring technique and sample questions. Such a resource will help you interview for a candidate’s job-specific capabilities but not necessarily culture fit. For us, it is important to understand not just can the candidate do this job, but how well will they fit in and interact with the team. For that, we like to introduce more Tutum team members into the process as the interviews progress.
Lastly, and a logistical note, we like to have one note taker throughout the whole process. Being a distributed team, it has been helpful to thoroughly document the Q&A such that others on the team can come up to speed on the candidate when jumping into the interview process midstream.
Make a Decision and Move On
Seek outside opinions and leverage the opportunity to have your advisors or investors interview select candidates. We like to use our investors as a gut check and final review.
So far, they have either served to confirm our position on someone or let us know we’re going down the wrong rabbit hole. For me, it’s like taking the multiple-choice section of a standardized test – your first instinct is usually the right answer and the longer you deliberate the less likely you are to make the right choice.
Point being; don’t be indecisive because the decision is hard. Don’t fixate on the “hire slow” portion of the cliché phrase, “hire slow and fire fast”. Keep your process efficient and make a decision once it’s over, not 1, 2 or 3 weeks after your last conversation with the candidate. Lastly, be honest with the candidate. If you are truly undecided about their candidacy, tell them so and keep the dialog open.
We’re hiring! Check out Angel.co for a complete list of the positions we’re looking to fill. If you’re interested, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume and a brief explanation regarding your interest. Thanks for reading!