Engineer Your Hiring Process to Get the Best Candidates


Why I Wrote This Hiring Guide

I was asked recently to describe how to get good at recruiting and hiring. Like me, the friend who asked me is running a small but fast-growing company. As a result, he is a generalist in every sense of the word. He needs to learn how to do many things quickly and without much fuss. To help him out I wrote this no-frills guide to managing your hiring strategy. To help you out I’ve created the absolutely no-frills TL;DR version of this guide.


Engineer your recruiting funnel the way you engineer your sales funnel. Candidates are your customers. Sell them on your company. Treat all of your candidates like they are unique individuals deserving of your respect and interest. When making an offer, appeal to the desire for people to feel connected to their colleagues, to be recognized, and to have impact.

Top of the Funnel – Attracting candidates begins with the channels you are using to attract them

  • In-person/Networking – Go to meet-ups related to the type of person you want to hire. Ask everyone in your network (personal, professional, investor) if they know anyone. Be relentless. Every social interaction you have could be a recruiting avenue. I am not joking when I tell you that I have used a dating app to source candidates.
  • LinkedIn Prospecting – Outbound of this sort is typically low yield – you have to reach out to a lot of people. This avenue can be a slog, but if you do utilize it here is what you must do to make this meaningful–Make your message personal based on their experience, sell your company hard on team, traction, etc., pay attention to things like location (if you are contacting candidates outside your geo address relocation), make it easy for them to respond to you personally outside of LI. My last point on this channel is to try to hack the timing of your messages to maximize the chance someone responds. For example, contact people at companies that have announced layoffs, strategic changes, or reorgs. You have a better bet of poaching a disengaged employee.
  • External Recruiters – Get recommendations for recruiters, some are good some are terrible. Be very clear with your experience criteria and give lots of feedback to the recruiter after you meet with a candidate so they can get to know what you are looking for.
  • Job postings – Inbound candidates from job boards is typically lower-quality. If you do post to one of these boards set hard guidelines to manage the volume. If you are looking for someone with experience, do not waste valuable time talking to candidates that are way too junior or do not have the skills you are looking for. If someone looks interesting start with a 15-minute call to assess.

Middle of the Funnel – Evaluating candidates

  • Recruiting = Sales. You are selling your company, never lose sight of this fact.
  • Job Description – Your job description whether it is written on a job board or you are talking to someone at a meet-up is super important. More of this: What is exciting about what your company is working on? How great is the team you have already? Who are you as a company, what is your mission, what are your values, what makes you unique in the way you get shit done? Less of this: Looking for rockstars, multi-taskers, any generic description of a role that could be on any job posting.
  • Bottom line – There is a small group of people who would be great additions to your team. You’ve engineered the top of the funnel to optimize your shot at getting in front of them, now you need to make sure that your company rises above the clutter with the right ones, and you cannot do this by being generic.
  • Commit to a timeframe and communication schedule for getting everyone from initial application to decision. Job search totally sucks, so respect the time and effort that your candidates are putting in. The candidates that you end up rejecting (i.e. 99% of the people who touch this process with your company) will either have good things to say about you or bad things.
  • Make sure candidates know when they will hear back from you on a decision. You are either telling them what the next step is and when it will happen, or you are telling them clearly why you are rejecting them. The second part I think is super important and underappreciated as a way to generate good will. It feels more disrespectful to be ignored as a candidate than to be told why you are not getting the job.
  • If you can’t articulate clearly why you are rejecting someone that is a warning sign that you might be making poorly supported decisions. Demand high integrity from your team on this point.
  • Structure your interview process, and give everyone some basic guidance on how to interview well. Have people ask the same questions so that you can do an apples-to-apples comparison. Ask open-ended behavioral interview questions e.g. “give me an example of a time when…” Have well-defined success criteria for interviews.
  • Work samples are great when you can get people to do them. Asking a candidate for a work sample is one of the best ways to get a sense for the quality of their work. If you are going to use these we recommend using them at the end of your evaluation process because they are time-consuming to create for the candidates (only highly motivated candidates will complete them thoughtfully) and they are time-consuming for you to evaluate.

Bottom of the Funnel – Making the offer

  • Selecting the candidates you will offer a job to should be based on a consistent and rigorous process. You should be able to answer a set of critical questions about each candidate.
  • Obviously, as the founder of a company that believes in company culture as a driver of success, I’m going to tell you to prioritize culture and values. If you’ve evaluated what someone prioritizes and how they behave into your process then don’t ignore red flags. Even a highly qualified talented person will fail at a company if they have different values. The cost of ignoring those red flags is especially high for small companies or companies that are growing very fast.
  • When you are making the offer you have sold them the dream of your company, so don’t lose this opportunity to hit this point again. Unless you are one of a very few companies (ahem, Alphabet and Facebook) you are not getting a candidate to accept your offer with top compensation or benefits. You are persuading them because they believe what you believe. Speak to them in terms of what you know they care about, emphasize how excited your team is to work with them, and what impact they will have.

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