I get a lot of "Do you know anyone for this?" e-mails.
It's good to know what people are searching for, but the chances that an investor knows the right person are quite low.
Here are five tips for improving your chances:
1) Hire someone to do the blocking and tackling.
This is a volume game, just like sales. In my estimation, you need to reach out to roughly 100 people to score 10 interviews to hire 1 person. Results may vary. You might get a rando in from a job post, but I wouldn't leave it to chance. Go find the right person yourself.
In sales, when you want to generate good leads, you hire an SDR--a sales development representative. They basically work towards filling your pipeline and booking meetings. It's a largely administrative job full of sniffing out contacts, vetting them for basic criteria, and creating opportunities.
This kind of person could come in handy in recruiting.
They could do the legwork of finding relevant people, or people who would be likely to find the relevant people. Arm them with a short, focused explanation of the job you're hiring for, and why you think it would be an interesting experience to work with you and your team.
When you agree on a message, you might even give them an account with the founder's e-mail alias to send messages from, because who wants to get an e-mail from an RPD (Recruiting Pipeline Developer)? The best ones will add 1-2 specific sentences why they're specifically reaching out to that person in the e-mail.
If you're asking for referrals through your network, make them specific. As an investor, I'd love to get a note that says, "Hey, Charlie, we noticed that someone in your network knows Jen. It looks like she could make for an interesting addition to our engineering team for X, Y, and Z specific reason. Could you find out more through your connections?"
This way, the work of finding the person has already been done, and all I need to do is find the connection we have in between and say "Hey, Joe, what do you think? Would Jen be right for something like this?"
Makes my work easy peasy.
Sometimes, you have to play network golf--and you don't have the specific person in mind, but you have a vague notion of who might know that person. Same deal. Just send me a note that I can send to the person who is a lot closer. Asking me if I know any front end engineers is going to have a lower hit right than if you send a note to me because I noticed that you know the person who runs the Front End Engineering Meetup, who might know someone.
2) Create events that your target hires want to attend.
How could you get 100 of the kind of people you want to hire in one room?
Certainly, hosting an event about how awesome your company is probably wouldn't work. What are they interested in, and how can you associate yourself with it? Certainly, there's got to be some kind of innovation, best practice, or advice that they want to hear about.
And when you figure out what that is and offer it to them, you're welcome to ask them in the RSVP whether they'd be open to hearing about opportunities going forward. Even if you have to pay a speaker and for some food or drink, the cost of these events will be significantly less than that of just a single fee paid to a recruiter.
You just have to make sure you're targeting invites well. Seed the audience with influencers, experienced professionals, and figure out which meetups, outlets, and organizations would be your best partners for getting the word out.
3) Recruiting is everyone's job.
If you've got budget and open positions, then your early folks need to be spending a lot of time on helping to fill them. If it's your first 10 employees, I'd say as high as 10% of their time. Think about it--each hire up to 10 adds more than 10% capacity to the organization. So, doesn't it stand to reason that the organization would have a positive ROI on spending 10% of its time recruiting?
That means getting out there in person showing off the awesome problems you're trying to solve and the creative solutions you solve them with. That means thought leadership--and helping each other to hone your stories. Make time at the end of each week to give each other feedback on presentations, and always be on the lookout for speaking opportunities. It bodes well for potential employees if you're the kind of organization that puts its people on a pedestal, showcasing them and doing as much for their career as they're doing for your company.
4) Use advisors.
If you're making the first hire in a particular area, or you don't have a senior person that someone would get excited to work for, think about using at advisor. Could you get someone amazing that anyone would be thrilled to spend time with to spend a day every week or two at your company mentoring new employees. Maybe you could never afford them or doing so at this early stage would be overkill, but you could leverage their presence to get talented folks in the door.
5) Go out of your way to build diverse teams.
If your first ten employees are white guys, do you know how much harder it will get after that to hire from the rest of the 70% of the population that isn't white males? If you build an environment that looks more like a smaller version of what you'll look like at 100 people, you'll have an easier time getting there.