You’re Not Taking Recruiting Seriously

Recruiting is hard.

Good candidates are hard to find.

What tells you this? Well, you can see it. Out of all the candidates that applied to your job post, very few are what you’re looking for and those that are seem to be falling down in the interview.

I hear it all the time—and when I hear it, I hear a red flag. Did you hear it?

“Applying to our job post.”

I mean, sure you need to put up some job posts so that those who are looking know that you’re hiring—and you need to write up the job anyway to get your team on the same page about what it is that you’re even looking for, but this isn’t how your next hire is going to come in.

You don’t just put up a few job posts and hope employee number four or six or eight walks through the door.

In the words of Billy Madison, “If your dog is lost, you don’t look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there, and you find that fucking dog!”

There is absolutely no substitute for a consistent outbound effort by your own team—not a recruiter. You can hire recruiters—that’s fine. You just also need to be actively seeking out the very best candidate by including those that aren’t searching.

When I started a company fifteen years ago, I put up job posts everywhere I could, but the volume of interviewable candidates just wasn’t there. We thought seriously about lowering our standards just so we could get those first engineers into the company because we were falling behind.

That’s when I met Max Ventilla, who, at the time, was working on Aardvark. This was long before he started AltSchool.

Max told me he was interviewing at least five candidates a day for each position he had open.

“Five candidates a day?? How in the world do you find five people worth interviewing??”

“Well, we reach out to at least 50.”


Boy, was I doing it wrong.

That totally made sense. Of course it was going to take reaching out to 50 people a day given response rates and basic qualifying questions that would eliminate people from different steps in the funnel. Any reasonable funnel assumptions would require that you’ve got a lot of folks at the top.

I went back to the office and spend two whole weeks doing nothing but reaching out to people individually—mostly to 2nd level connections of people. A lot of it went like this:

“Hey Bob, I noticed you’re connected to Jane. We’re hiring for a front end developer to be our fourth employee. Do you think Jane would be a good fit for this? The most important things to us are X, Y, and Z…”

Not only did we get a ton of warm intros that way, but we also got some very candid feedback.

“She’s great, but she would thrive in a company with more structure. I don’t think being employee number four would be a great fit for her.”

“She’s great and actually, we just talked about how she wanted to take on more of a leadership role—would that be available to her?”

Within two weeks, we had our first hire.

One of the ways you can make this search easier is by handing the name sourcing to someone else. You can ask an administrative person—perhaps outsourced—to start gathering names and e-mails. You start with very generic searches like, “Give me all the front-end developers with 5-10 years of professional experience in NYC” and then as you get back names and profiles, you can ask for refinements.

“Actually, only give me people who have had at least one small company experience.”

“Take out anyone who is working at an agency right now.”

“Take out anyone who has been working freelance for over three years because they’re probably not going to want to go back to a full-time commitment.”

You’d be surprised at how few refinements actually wind up getting you a pretty decent top-of-funnel list to start with.

One other way that you should think about this outbound effort is to determine who the very best are at a given position. If you outbound 500 people in your network who are second-level connections to the kind of person you want to hire and ask, “Who’s the very best B2B salesperson you’ve worked with” eventually you’re going to run into some repeat names. That’s true for talking to the people who deal with these hires as well. Ask clients who sells to them extraordinarily well and who has built the best relationships.

Your outbound efforts should produce target lists of 10-25 people each who are clearly head and shoulders above the rest—as evidenced by the fact that you’re talking to so many people, that it’s becoming clear what the best even is.

If you’re only taking who is inbound and not stretching for the tough to hire “perfect” candidates who are already happily in other positions, you’re not going to get a sense of what great really is.

Does all this take a lot of time? Yes. It takes a ton of time, not just from the founder, but from other team members too.

Is it absolutely necessary?

Only if you want to build a great team.