Effective Recruiting at Scale: Planning Wins the Day

Uplevel your startup’s recruiting strategy by having an interview pre-brief, staying aligned, and more.

Last Updated: October 7, 2020

Published: March 12, 2020

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For any startup looking to scale rapidly, bringing on great talent is foundational to growth. Once companies demonstrate the product-market fit and customer love that enables them to obtain funding, they’ve usually grown beyond their founding team and early hires (most likely selected from in-house networks). This translates into an immediate need to build a recruiting machine—one that will help maintain a high quality of talent, but also bring in a larger group of employees reflecting a greater emphasis on diverse skills and experience.

In a highly competitive market where speed can often make the difference between success and failure, there is an understandable urgency to get people in the door as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this can lead to overlooking best practices around hiring—actions that are more likely to result in long-term sustainable success.

What many founders don’t always realize is that taking time up front to build a thoughtful recruiting system can actually lead to faster acceleration in the overall process. And more importantly, it creates a resilient, engaged team that is likely to stay longer and perform at a higher level.

Here are some key approaches that can help you and your startup create a world-class recruiting practice:

Build alignment from the get-go

No matter the size of your team or organization, or how much you think you understand what you need, having an interview pre-brief is an absolutely essential step. The purpose of this kickoff meeting is for everyone involved in the recruiting process to be in complete alignment. This means that the hiring manager (often the founders at early stages) helps the recruiting team understand the role, career path, essential skills, and experience needed, as well as how to sell the role and opportunity to prospective candidates. Every member of the interview panel should be equally well-versed in a candidate’s needs.  

Some of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen in early-stage companies is the assumption that everyone knows what “the ideal” candidate looks like. This can result in wasted cycles of getting aligned on the fly through trial and error versus thoughtful discourse.

Know what you are looking for

In any group exercise, there is always the potential for miscommunication or misalignment when moving quickly. We’ve all been there when everyone “thinks” they know what they’re looking for, only to find out later on that some were focusing on different parts of the elephant. Avoid this trap early on—share specific objectives or outcomes. Overcommunicate what this looks like so the team has a chance to weigh in, ask questions, and iterate.

Make sure you have a clear job description in place that everyone can review before interviewing. This doesn’t need to include all your brand marketing bells and whistles (yet), but should be a codified document of the above attributes—allowing the team to start from the same point of discussion.

Carve out the time and space to align as a team. If you have time, share profiles of ideal candidates (even if you know they are non-recruitable) just to provide a comparator and pattern-match. Enlist colleagues in a shared sourcing session to review, and discuss potential candidates together.

Get organized for the interviews

There’s nothing worse than an excited candidate arriving at an interview, then leaving completely demotivated due to three separate interviews in which they were asked the same questions. This makes a company look inexperienced at best and incompetent at worst—wasting everyone’s time.

Remember: There’s zero benefit to scattershot interviews.

As part of the interview pre-brief, make sure there are clear assignments surrounding areas you’d like each interviewer to tackle. You can even provide specific interview questions. A good interview process should be playbooked as meticulously as any brand or product launch. You’ll obtain better and more helpful data, while creating a more seamless candidate experience.

Create an interview pre-brief cheat sheet

Consider focusing on these key objectives:

What will this person be working on?

What’s their impact on the organization and company?

How does this team and department fit into the organization?

What does the “ideal” candidate look like? Are there sample profiles we can target on LinkedIn to match against for sourcing strategy?

What skills/experiences are must-haves? How will we know if a candidate possesses them? Who on our team is best qualified to assess this?

When you’re moving quickly and trying to build a company, all of this can seem like a heavy lift. But taking the time now and doing things correctly will ultimately significantly accelerate the efficiency and effectiveness of your searches. Build a strong foundation, and results will follow.

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