One Reason Why Your Technical Recruiting Isn't Working

Time and time again, I hear how hard of a time startups are having recruiting, especially for software developers.  While candidate quality is sometimes an issue, or culture fit, or some other quality, most of the time the issue is that the company just isn't getting enough people into the top of the funnel.  

When I was a startup founder, I had this same issue.  That's when I had a conversation with Max Ventilla, the founder of AltSchool, who at the time was running Aardvark.  Max was telling me how he was interviewing 4-5 candidates a day, which stunned me.  I couldn't figure out how anyone could fill their calendar with that many qualified people.  His reply was simple--he was outbounding to 5-10x that many people each day.  

Oh.

Yeah, I definitely wasn't putting in that kind of volume.  I immediately started writing a ton of notes each day to individuals that I thought looked promising or who could connect me to candidates.  After a couple of weeks, I had written to 500 people, talked to at least 20, and made a hire, after failing to do so for months.  

The other day, I was in a board meeting and we were talking about the need for a software engineer.  The team already had a lead on board.  I asked the founder how much time they were encouraging their lead to do recruiting--and whether they had made it clear that despite a backlog of feature requests, that they were willing to compromise on development timelines in order to make sure their lead had enough time to personally get involved in recruiting.

The reality is, no one likes getting recruiter form messages.  You'd much rather get a personalized note from the person you're actually going to be working for.  That person, unfortunately, is very busy (mostly because your team is understaffed).  When deadlines are fast approaching, their instinct is most likely to double down on their own hours worked rather than pull back and invest the time into recruiting.  They can't do that forever and you need to remind them of that.  The only way your team is going to produce more in the long run is by growing, not by burning out the few people it has.  It's everyone's job to recruit and it should be something everyone should carve out a portion of their day for.  

When you have a software team of 1 or 2 people and you have the money to grow, each of those people should be spending an hour a day on outreach and interviews minimum.  There are, however a couple of shortcuts that can scale their time:

1) Hire an intern or outsourced person to help with the outreach.  Give them access to this person's account or maybe a version of their name, like first letter at startup dot com.  Your team member should just be sending this person links and a short explanation as to why they found this person interesting enough to reach out to.  Let the outsourced person handle the finding of e-mail addresses and composing of actual e-mails, making any editing adjustments that need to be made, as well as handling responses and interview scheduling.

2) When you do get to the point where you think the person has an interesting skillset and you'd like to get a better idea of where they are talentwise--outsource your assessment to Headlight (A Brooklyn Bridge Ventures portfolio company).  There's no reason why your team members should spend time developing and marking tests when a standardized test has already been created and teams of people who have been trained to assess are standing by willing to jump in.  

3) Collaborate with other companies on sourcing through events.  At Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, we run a series of events called Stackup Talks.  We'll get multiple companies together in the same room sharing brief overviews of their stack--be it the code they use to run their applications or even the marketing processes in place for their "acquisition stack".  If you think about what your target talent pool would find most interesting, hearing from one company isn't nearly as interesting as getting a taste of several companies and how they're using the same tools they work with everyday.  Add to that having that conversation in a way that's about the code and the people, not about recruiting, even if you know they're actively hiring.  This Wednesday, we have three companies joining us to talk about React and React Native.  For the time and effort it takes to give an overview of what you're up to, being able to share your stack with 50 or so talent leads is a great use of ROI, making events a really efficient means of connecting on both sides.