A Love Letter to Anyone Hiring

Operating Partner and former Chief People Officer Rebecca Price offers a reassuring framework for business leaders looking to master recruiting.

Hiring advice, recruiting advice, recruiting tipsHiring advice, recruiting advice, recruiting tips

I have some good news. You already know what you are doing when it comes to recruiting.

It seems as leaders, we already have a good sense of how to run our commercial funnel. We know the mechanics of marketing and attracting potential customers, we know how to set up our commercial funnel to convert leads. We know how to onboard and retain our customers.

But when it comes to sourcing and recruiting talent, we have this feeling that we don't know the secret. We think the solution is to outsource our recruiting to external firms or hire a recruiter. I’ve seen this many times as I’ve helped Primary’s portfolio of early-stage startups develop their People functions and build their early teams; these founders are brilliantly talented, but don’t always trust their own ability to build a team.

I’m here to tell you the secret: The skills you need to build your commercial funnel are the exact skills you need to build your talent funnel. When you are recruiting talent, you are marketing and selling your company as a great place to work. Talent is your customer.

Ideal Customer Profile and channel strategy

To run any effective marketing campaign, you need to determine your target audience and your channel strategy. In other words, what is the ideal customer profile of your buyer and where will you find them? The first step to any effective recruiting process requires the exact same inputs: What is the persona of your ideal candidate and what channels will you pursue to recruit them?

To determine your ideal candidate persona, you need to answer the following 4 questions for each role:

  1. What measurable outcomes and deliverables do I need this person to achieve in the next 12-18 months?
  2. What skills, experiences, and capabilities does someone need to achieve these outcomes?
  3. What will I see on a resume or profile that will be indicators that someone could deliver these outcomes?
  4. Where are these people today: How do they spend their time? What do they read? Where do they work? What jobs do they currently hold?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you have all the inputs you need to determine your channel strategy and to target your sourcing activities. In other words, it doesn't make sense to go to StackOverflow to look for Finance professionals! If you don't know where to begin, be curious. Use your network to talk to someone who is similar to the candidate you want to hire and ask them what they read, what events they attend, who they follow professionally on social media.

Lead generation

Once you’ve determined the persona of your ideal candidate and where to find them, the next step is to generate and convert leads. In Talent Acquisition language, this is called sourcing.

Many leaders will source in a manual way: keyword search on LinkedIn, followed up by dozens and dozens of InMail, and little to no follow up. This is grueling, and honestly, likely ineffective. There are many technologies, like Gem and Hiretual to help automate this process. These tools allow you to automate a multi-step communication flow with candidates. Marketing leaders have been using technology to run campaigns for years—HR is catching up.

These technologies also offer helpful analytics on open and response rates, so you can iterate quickly on messaging, A-B test your content, as well as determine which talent pools are most interested in your opportunity.

Lead conversion part 1: first call

When you start receiving responses from interested candidates, congratulations! But, don't celebrate too long. You have a short and critical period to respond. Talent is a product that goes stale quickly, and other companies are also interested in your candidate. You do not have the luxury of time to wait. Imagine a whale of a customer showed interest in buying your product, would you wait days to respond?

Your first call with a candidate should be split into two equal parts:

  • First, pitch your company and the role. No one can pitch your company better than you. Just as you would sell a customer on why they should buy your product, you equally need to sell the candidate on why this is a great company to work for.
  • Second, ask two or three questions about the candidate. The goal here is not to do an exhaustive assessment, but rather to determine if at a high level their skills and experiences align to the needs of the role, if they are strong communicators, and if there are any blatant red flags.

The goal of this first call is to get a second call: You want to get the candidate interested enough to keep the conversation going. When you are just starting out, it is better to bring an under-qualified candidate forward than to dismiss a qualified candidate too early. (As you get more advanced in assessment, you will dismiss candidates earlier in the process with more precision.)

Lead conversion part 2: assessment

The majority of the hiring errors occur at this next phase: assessment. Too often interviews consist of inconsistent or misaligned questions. Interviewers tend to look for commonalities with the candidate, like where they grew up or who they know. And too often interviewers are asking candidates for the same role different questions.

An assessment process should be unbiased and data driven. For every skill, experience, and capability included in the ideal candidate profile, determine the two to three questions. Repeat these questions with every candidate. Candidates can then be compared in a consistent manner against each other, and against the objective requirements for the role. Ideally, you structure an interview guide that is used for every interview, an example below.

Lead conversion part 3: offer

Sales professionals use the simple mnemonic device called BANT when talking to potential consumers; BANT  stands for budget, authority, needs, and timeline. When making an offer to a candidate, you need the same information:

  • Budget: What are the candidate’s salary expectations?**
  • Authority: Are they willing and ready to leave their current position?
  • Needs: What are they looking for in their next opportunity?
  • Timing: When are they able to transition?

Once you have this data, you are prepared to make a compelling offer to your candidate, aligned to their motivations, needs and timing.

**Remember, it's not legal to ask a candidate how much they currently earn, but you can ask them for their expectations.

The cherry on top: candidate experience

Candidate experience is critical. The way a person feels in every interaction with you and your company during the interview process can tip the scales either positively or negatively. Some small actions that can go a long way:

  • Always follow-up in a timely manner, ideally no more than 24-48 hours
  • Educate the candidate on your company and your role
  • Be curious to learn about the candidate’s experiences
  • Keep the candidate abreast of the timeline and what to expect
  • Always communicate changes to the timeline and/or process
  • And, most importantly, always keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it

Regardless of the outcome, candidates that have a great experience interviewing with your company can be brand ambassadors. Translated into talent: they will refer great candidates your way.

Was this helpful? If you have more questions about the talent acquisition process and building People functions, drop me a line at Rebecca@Primary.vc.

Tags: Primers