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How to develop a hiring process for a startup

August 18, 2022

Recruiting in a startup environment can look a little different than it does at a larger company. Below are some of our top tips for founders or hiring mangers as they grow their teams, and the process we recommend startups follow when bringing on new hires.

1. Be honest with your skills and those of your current team

Startups face different challenges when it comes to hiring, and the first step is often to take an assessment of your current skills. What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses? Which skills would take your business to the next level? For example, is your team heavily technical, but in need of a strong people manager? Do you have a team of experienced engineers who haven’t yet learned the latest programming languages? Does your team need improved project management in order to get your latest update out the door?

Assessing skills instead of experience keeps you open to less obvious hires. Finding a hire with experience in a different, yet similar industry, can also be valuable. Skillsets can be translated across different industries - so finding someone who’s adaptable, motivated and problem-solving can often be more important than finding someone who came from a specific company or job title.

2. Determine the level of hire you’re looking for

After you’ve taken stock of your own abilities, you’re ready to determine the level of hire you’re seeking (for example, a junior, senior, or leadership candidate). If the team expects to oversee the work, then a smaller budget can be allotted to finding a more junior engineer, for example.

Leveling is often less defined in a young company, so take some time to really determine the title that makes sense for this role. What level accurately reflects the duties? Do you plan on hiring a manager for this person within the next year? Does the title of this role leave the employee room to grow?

In the extremely early stages of growing your team, a contractor or an advisor can also be helpful. Often, people in these roles will accept full-time roles with your team if both of you enjoy working together and it makes sense for the business.

3. Write an interview plan to go along with your job description.

Writing a job description that’s both accurate and compelling is critical to attract the right candidates. While every job description will map out the required skills and the nice-to-have skills - don’t forget to include some bullet points that will interest your candidates too. For example, is it an exciting time to join the company? Did you just raise a large investment, or did you just make other top hires, snatching hires from a top company? Share those accomplishments. Or, include details about a new office or partnership. The best candidates will do research into your company and be invested in your accomplishments

The second step we recommend at this stage is to outline your interview loop. This is helpful in keeping you and your team on track as you start to review resumes, meet candidates, and track interviews. Ask yourself questions like:

1. Where are the places we want to advertise this role?

2. Where do we want to store the resumes we receive, and how does our team want to review them?

3. What’s our minimum and maximum compensation for the role?

4. What’s our timeline for hiring – when’s the date we ideally want to have someone in this role by?

5. What are the steps we want incorporated into the interview process – how many interviews, and how long should they be?

6. What are the technical skills you need to test for? Will you send a take-home exercise or hold a live technical interview?

7. Which members of the team should this candidate meet with?

4. Develop an interview scorecard

The next step in the process is to develop an interview scorecard. Write down a few questions that screen for the skills and qualities you’re looking for. Asking the same questions to every candidate calibrates interviewers and keeps your conversations on track.

In addition to interview questions, include your desired attributes in a candidate. Post-interview, take a few minutes to write down your thoughts on how the candidate presented in these core areas. For example, at Recruiting from Scratch, we take notes on communication, verbal and written, because these are attributes most often important to our clients.

While taking notes can seem daunting, doing so can help you save a lot of time, especially after you’ve met with dozens of candidates and need to distinguish between them.

5. Develop a technical assessment or assignment for your top candidates.

Asking your candidates to take an assessment is another way to gauge a candidate’s technical skills, which often takes place during the onsite interview or final stages. We’ve seen companies also ask candidates to develop a plan for how they would develop an app, or debug a feature, or solve a technical problem.

One tip here to employers is to be respectful of your candidate’s time as they complete your assignment, and how much work you’re expecting from them. Often, technical assignments can be completed in a matter of a few hours, and employers will still be able to understand a candidate’s skillset.

6. Seek feedback from all your interviewers at the same time and set up your communication for success

Keep the process moving as quickly as possible by seeking feedback from interviewers at the same time. For example – let’s say three people on your team are meeting with a candidate for an hour in a final stage interview. Can you also block 15 minutes off on your calendars after that meeting to compare notes?  

If meeting isn’t always an option, set up a system that works for your team. For example, at Recruiting from Scratch, we set up dedicated Slack channels with our clients so they can quickly share candidate and interview feedback with us and see what others have had to say about the same candidates.

7. Stick to your hiring plan throughout the process

Think back to that hiring plan you wrote earlier on in the process. Try to stick to it throughout the process! Pivots happen all the time and a business’s needs can change quickly, but your hiring plan can change with it.

Remember, hiring is a process – and finding the right candidates takes time. But with a solid plan in place, that process can become a lot easier and more headache-free.

Want to see more posts on startup hiring? Check out this post on when to hire a Head of Product for your startup and this post on developing a hiring plan.

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