Looking to hire the perfect talent? Build the recruiting muscle

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I was recently sitting with a friend who runs an early stage startup and looking to hire first few employees. They had recently raised an angel/seed round and were under some pressure to build and grow the team faster. He had tried using various recruiting platforms, referrals, headhunters etc, but just couldn’t hire. He isn’t unique. I hear this from most people I meet these days. Everybody is struggling to hire.


This is what I tell them — “Build the recruiting muscle”

What does that mean?

1. Specialization : Recruiting is a specialized function. Just like other functions — engineering, accounting, marketing, sales, etc. Would I trust myself to manage our company’s books of account or server infrastructure? Most people assume that anyone can recruit. The first step to building the muscle is treating the function with the respect it deserves. A good full-time recruiter will change the way you think about recruiting.

2. Whom to hire?: You will meet three types of people when you try to hire for this position. People who are in HR (or want to do other HR stuff); Corporate Talent Acquisition professionals who work with outside vendors, hiring partners etc; and sourcing professionals. Hire people who’ve done sourcing themselves — that includes picking up the phone, making cold calls to prospective employees, pitching them the company/role, lining them up for interview, managing the funnel and closing positions. Anyone who is interested or wants to other HR functions like Learning & Development, Training, HR Generalists, Compensation & Benefits, Organization Development, etc may not be good fit for such a role. This is like a sales role. You want people who thrive on making cold calls and closing business.

3. Outsource vs In-house: You can not outsource anything and build the organization muscle. If it is important and strategic, it must be in-house. That might initially be harder, or take longer but that is the only way to build the capability. An internal recruiter would always in a much better position to understand the position better, manage pipeline, refine the recruiting / sourcing process. It is generally harder to get the alignment right with a third-party agency.

4. Numbers: This is the most important point. Recruiting is like sales. You can’t build a great sales team unless you track the activity metrics. Here are some of the things one should track at an individual recruiter, position and company level -

— Applications

— First level profile screen

— Candidates called

— Candidates who came for first level interview

— Candidates moving to subsequent stages

— Number of offers made

— Offers accepted (along with their joining dates)

— Offers declined (far various reasons)

— Number of candidates joined

Make sure you track the pipeline on a regular basis. Tracking drop-off rates at various stages (and for various recruiters) will give you insights on what to fix.

5. Be reasonable : If a position is taking longer to fill, often there is something wrong with the position. Is it so specific that there are very few people who have that skill? Is the salary offered lower than the prevailing market salary for that role? Is location a challenge? Are you being unreasonable?

Rinse and Repeat. Follow the process and you will be surprised by your ability to hire.