“Hello Dan. I wanted to reach out regarding an opportunity for a senior web analyst position in your area. This person needs to have experience with Google Analytics as well as MySQL and SAS, and a strong understanding of SEO and Paid Search initiatives to drive leads and customer acquisition. The company is a small SaaS startup, and needs someone who is a self starter with an entrepreneurial mindset and passion. Can you tell me more about yourself and your experience?”
Well, thank you. You sound like the other 5 recruiters that called me this week looking for the same thing, describing skill sets and needs about which you have little understanding. Not to mention you have almost no detail regarding the company, what they do, how they’re growing, what the team does, and so on. You then proceed to send me a “more detailed” job description, which essentially regurgitates the bland information presented to me on the phone. In most cases, after probing further about the company and the situation, I am left with little pertinent information
Now consider if I had been approached with the following conversation:
“Hello Dan. I am reaching out regarding an opportunity with an early stage company in the media space. The company is a 2 year old VC-funded team of 15 led by two successful founders with backgrounds in enterprise software. They currently have a product coming out of beta testing and are 6 months into a strong push towards user acquisition while continuing to improve the product. They have established a few partnerships for lead generation with modest success, and are engaged in paid advertising, but have struggled to drive the volume needed. They have reached a level of growth that requires a person with experience in customer acquisition using a data-focused marketing approach to step in and direct their efforts. Does this sound like an opportunity that aligns with your background and your career goals?”
Umm, yes please. Let me tell you about my experience working with small companies to drive lead acquisition through digital channels, or about the several cases in which I consulted with early stage startups to define their web analytics strategy, measure performance and identify opportunities to alter experiences and messaging that resulted in lead increases. Let me tell you how those experiences would align with your needs to help your company move forward.
What’s the difference? As evidenced by the first example, most recruiters hand me a job description with a laundry list of skill sets and requirements for years of experience, while expecting me to tell them a story that verifies all boxes in that checklist are met; all before I really know anything about what I’m getting into. The latter example tells a story. It paints a picture of reality, offering a near tangible look into what a job with this company would require, and whether I would have an interest.
When hiring, good recruiters and hiring managers stop giving job descriptions, and start crafting company narratives.
The typical job description simply gets lost in a massive ocean of open positions. So you need a software engineer? That’s cool, who doesn’t? And that’s what it looks like. Furthermore, presenting a laundry list of skill sets, required experiences and generic responsibilities does little to inform me of the life of the job, nor the company that would employ me. It does, however, give me a checklist that I could easily use to eliminate myself from consideration, even if I am the right person for their needs.
Deviating from the job description in pursuit of a crafted narrative does several things, the first of which is delivering a unique experience. Most startups will tell you that a significant challenge in hiring early on is the lack of brand reach and its impact on attracting talent. Telling the story of the company, team and role delivers a unique experience to the potential candidate, making the role relatable to actual experience. It conveys the excitement of entrepreneurship, growth and innovation, which will be unique to each and every company. Best of all, company narratives allow your candidates to place themselves within the story and invest emotionally in the idea of being a part of it.
Job descriptions present boxes to check off regarding a generic experience. Narratives allow us to insert ourselves in a company’s story and share in that dream of success. And for an early stage company, hiring dreamers is a must.
Visibility for Job Openings
Your product must be visible to the marketplace of potential customers before it can ever generate users. The same goes for your job openings. Without proper visibility in the talent marketplace, your opening are left unread and unfilled. It may seem difficult to get job openings seen by the right talent, especially as a bootstrapped early stage company, but there are plenty of ways for your jobs to gain more attention, get more reads and attract more candidates.
Your Company’s Marketing
Marketing delivers more than customers. Any efforts to gain exposure for your company will also put your brand in front of potential talent. Granted, your company will be one within a sea of many, all with talent needs, but if your company can differentiate itself well, good marketing combined with a sexy product can get you noticed by passive and active seekers.
Your Own Network
When seeking employees within your own network, it is important to be cautious and set aside personal associations and feelings. That being said, your network can be a great place to get the word out about job openings and introductions to the talent you seek.
Your employees, both present and past, can be your greatest asset in getting exposure for your job openings. Not only should they be great supporters and advocates, but they are also most likely to be connected with the kind of professionals you need.
The Talent Community
Getting your job opening in front of active job seekers is easier than ever nowadays. From the number of free and inexpensive online job boards to sites like Craigslist and AngelList, the options for putting your openings in front of people are numerous.
Investors and Advisors
Your investors and advisors, especially VC firms, have a big incentive to help you grow your company, and at this stage of the game, growth means hiring. Some are better equipped than others, but most will be willing to help in some way.
Recruiters, Internal and External
For early stage companies, recruiters are your best resource for having your job openings seen by the right people. They will provide the right exposure for your openings and, if you find the right recruiters to work with, they can also act as a great barrier to keep back the wrong audiences. The key, of course, is finding high-quality executive recruiters.
Visibility for job openings is critical, but only a small step towards getting the talent you need. If you are in the market to hire, contact us today to find the right people for your company.
Attracting Tech Talent
For startups, attracting talent is a top priority and a critical component for their success. It also proves to be a major pain point for many startups. For top technical talent, evaluating the potential of a position goes beyond simply looking at the job description and the people involved in the work. Before you ever receive a resume from sought after technical talent, they are going to look into your organization as a whole, and make a determination as to whether your startup is worth their time and investment. And it is here where the startup’s talent acquisition effort begins.
What does top technical talent look for when researching you, and what can you do to maximize your appeal to future candidates? We’ve listed some of the bigger aspects, and provided some insight into what you can, should, and should not do to attract technical talent.
1) The Product: We put this first because for top technical talent in today’s market, the options available are numerous. Everyone wants to be a part of something revolutionary and exciting. Because of the high demand for exceptional technical professionals, top talent has the choice to pursue what they want for the most part. But unless your company is working on something that clearly stands on its own as disruptive or revolutionary, the product itself is not as important as how it is presented, framed and marketed. For the blatantly revolutionary and life changing project, attracting tech talent is less of an issue. But for a product with less sex appeal or one entering a crowded space, positioning and branding becomes important for attracting both talent and customers.
Your product is your product, and there’s a reason you chose to pursue its creation. But when putting focus on how your product is viewed, consider this as a talent acquisition tool as well. Positioning and messaging can have the same impact when attracting tech talent as it does for attracting customers and users; they are all parts of your audience.
2) The Company: Beyond the product, tech talent is going to research your company with whatever resources are available. They will Google you, sift through TechCrunch, Mashable, and Wired to find mentions of you, and find you on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. They will check you out on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and any other network that they share with you. And they will inevitably end up on your website.
There are two pieces to this puzzle, depending on your company’s status, that need to be addressed. The first is the maintenance of and promotion through these locations. You don’t need to be in every place or have an account with every social network, but you do need to pick locations that make sense and begin monitoring and using them actively. Most of your brand in today’s landscape will be represented online, so remaining active and engaging your audience is critical. This is especially true for attracting tech talent. So begin promoting to tech publications. Get your current staff to post about their experiences on job review sites. Pick your social channels and start pushing the right content out. Build an online presence that would make your future tech hire say “I really want to work for these guys.” And of course, get the website in order.
The second, should it apply to you, is triage. Hopefully, you can skip over this piece, but if not, you may have some work cut out for you. The longer a company is present on digital airwaves, the more likely something will appear that damages your reputation in some way, whether it’s a disgruntled ex-employee, an unsatisfied customer or critical user, or a social non-enthusiast of yours. Whatever the case may be, you need to know about it, and you need to address it. This doesn’t always mean getting something taken down or taking legal action, which much of the time can be less than successful, but if you can and it makes sense from a cost-benefit perspective, you should certainly consider it. But the reality is that, in a digital world, fighting against your critics online can get ugly. So how do you combat such nemeses? For most companies, it really goes back to great PR, a fairly robust online presence with a high level of engagement, and the realization that what you do offline will inevitably end up online. At a high level, the way you run your company will impact your ability to capture talent. Keeping this in mind can go a long way.
3) The Leadership Team: Great companies are built by great people. Beyond looking into the company as a whole, high caliber tech talent will do their research on you; the founder and the C-level staff. They will look into your history, what you did before you started or joined your company, the roles you served in, the success you saw, and the results you created. You know this, because you are here, reading this article, strategizing on how to attract the right talent. Top talent knows this, too. Tech talent realizes the dramatic impact that leadership has on the success, or failure, of a growing technology company.
In this regard, attracting top technical talent goes back to the way you run your company, and more specifically, who surrounds it early on. Building a solid leadership team is critical, not only to the overall success of the company but to your talent acquisition success.
Robust social profiles for your leadership team are highly recommended. When talent is looking for your executive team, you want them to be found, and you want them to impress. For this purpose, LinkedIn is especially powerful. If you choose nowhere else to display your mojo, be sure you and your team have well-crafted profiles on LinkedIn.
4) The Funding: Capital from your investors becomes more than just money. It becomes an endorsement. The money put into your company is a vote of confidence in your product, your company, your leadership team and your future. This endorsement becomes even more powerful when provided by a bigger player in the industry. An investment from Andreessen Horowitz or Benchmark Capital will go way further than one from smaller firms or private equity companies because they are leaders in venture capital and the technology industry. The same goes for the programs you may have completed like Y Combinator, 500 Startups or Kairos Society. This is even true of your advisors if they are heavyweights too.
Of course, you are already trying to get funding, find the right advisors and mentors, and considering or moving beyond accelerators. And you probably work pretty hard for all of that, so make sure that you’re capitalizing on it. Can users easily find this information on your website? Can potential employees? If not, they should be able to. Especially for early stage companies in the pre-product launch stage, the only major credibility you have is determined by the investors and people willing to put their name next to your company and product.
And yes, tech talent wants to know that you have a runway. You know, so they can eat and stuff.
5) The Traction: Traction becomes more important as you get further away from your product launch. No surprises there, but remember that tech talent will show interest in your progress just like your investors. Positive movement thus far implies positive movement in the future as well.
Once again, it’s not like anyone was waiting around for an “Aha!” moment to start working towards this. But whatever progress you have made, make sure you are demonstrating it to your future employees. In the news. In new funding rounds. On your website. And when you speak to people.
The impact of these and other items is not felt exclusively by your hiring efforts. Like most parts of your business, everything ends up interconnected. Everything we listed above has a large impact on the entire scope and lifecycle of your startup, from the definition and execution of work, fundraising efforts, and your talent acquisition success, to the overall survival, growth, and success of your business. In short, putting focus towards these items will help your entire business, including the quantity, caliber, and fit of the resumes you receive.
Attracting Startup Talent
A world of its own, the technical job description is a difficult beast to tackle. This is the transitional gateway that allows tech talent to go from understanding your company as a whole, to considering employment with you. There is a lot of literature out there on crafting great job descriptions, a lot of contradicting ideas, and a bunch of talk about how they’re ineffective and a thing of the past. While there may be newer ways to go about attracting startup talent, in most cases, we still presume that job descriptions are a critical component of the hiring process.
The written job description can be truly challenging. In a recruiting role, you want to share enough information to target the people you’re looking for, but not to the extent potential candidates on the fringes are excluded. It can be frustrating from a recruiter’s perspective when great candidates decline the exploration of an opportunity because they don’t match the written job description. Many times, a recruiter knows that the hiring party would still want to speak with such candidates. Great care must be taken when crafting position descriptions; though it may not be the case, descriptions appear to be written in stone, even when they are really written in sand.
Taking the above into consideration, job descriptions are crucial to the success of most hiring situations. Effective job descriptions are made up of three main components: the company’s information, the position’s description, and the requirements for that position.
1) The Company Information: For company information, clarity, brevity, and realism are essential. For instance, to boast your company as the “best something-or-other” ends up being little more than a soundbite among a vast ocean of other company descriptions. If you have a solid, well known brand behind you, then that changes things. For the rest of us, a more effective solution would be to craft a deeper description with more factual points. What is your product? Your industry? Your market? Where are you in your development? Have you launched? What are your company’s greatest strengths? What are your top priorities over the next year? How about the next three years? The list can go on.The point is that, so long as you don’t let it go out of control, details are more valuable than sound bites.
2) The Position’s Description: This can be a tough one, as many companies are making a technical hire to address important solutions that they themselves don’t fully understand how to accomplish. How do you capture essential high caliber tech candidates when you aren’t quite sure what the job will look like or what your company needs in its entirety? Rather than fumbling through an inaccurate description, you can just as easily describe what they will be working on, the challenges you’re currently encountering and ones that they will in the future. A level of brevity, honesty and bluntness can go much further than an elaborate montage of detail. You won’t scare anyone off. On the contrary, high-quality tech talent will have gone through this situation before, and will probably expect it again.
Remember, the point of a job description is to accurately inform the reader about the job at hand. A successful job description will attract a broad group of qualified (being the key word) candidates, while at the same time provide enough ambiguity to prevent the alienation of those qualified individuals. In the end, you will be better off attracting a diverse group of candidates and vetting them yourself, instead of getting too specific with a narrow and ultra specific write-up of the position. After all, some of the more important aspects of hiring cannot be tackled in a job description, such as chemistry, cultural fit, personality, mindset and work philosophy. There are hundreds of thousands of developers and programmers out there who will match your needs on paper, but only a handful that will meet your skill requirements and also match the soft aspects of your company.