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2 Critical Dos and Don’ts of Startup Hiring in 2017

When Lever doubled in size in 2016, Director of Recruiting Amanda Bell and CMO Leela Srinivasan played pivotal roles in driving that explosive growth. In other words, they helped lead the recruiting efforts at a company that creates recruiting software. We know, meta, right? More importantly, it means they know a thing or two about hiring.

In our webinar last week, Amanda and Leela shared their step-by-step guide on how to scale your startup in 2017. First, they revealed the strategies that worked for Lever in 2016; then they candidly confessed the mistakes that they’ve learned from. Below, we’re recapping two of the most essential do’s and don’ts they revealed to our audience. To hear every single learning our audience walked away with, listen to our full webinar recording here.

Do: Become “known” for something

Over the last several years, Leela has observed a steady rise in employer branding. These days, candidates can easily discover employees’ stories online, and she’s seeing many companies that are eager to share them. “Focus on one, two or three things that your org is great at, rather than trying to be everything for everyone,” suggests Leela. “What can your org excel at, stand out for, and become known for?”.

What’s been successful at Lever?

Blogging has been an effective, rewarding way to share what it’s like to work at Lever, explains Amanda. On our Inside Lever blog, employees have written about topics ranging from their passion for product ops to the moment they knew they’d found the right team. And recently, the engineering team even launched Fulcrum, a space where they can delve into what they’re working on and why they believe in it.

Also, Amanda has watched it become trendy to preach about diversity and inclusion (D&I) lately, but not enough teams are walking the talk. At Lever, the goal has always been to convey why the team is pushing D&I forward and which steps are being taken to embed those values into the workplace. “When we talk to candidates, we make sure to speak candidly about our journey towards an inclusive workplace,” explains Amanda. “Everything from the imagery on our site to the interviewers our candidates meet with reflect our unrelenting commitment to D&I.” 

Do: Consistently follow up with your dream candidates

“There is immense power in consistently following up with the candidates of your dreams,” reflects Leela. According to our findings, roughly 30% of hires are proactively sourced. While talent pools have become more accessible, the best talent is bombarded by everyone from recruiters to CEOs. There’s no harm in sending up to four emails to that candidate you’re really excited about before throwing in the towel; your last email might just pique their interest. 

“Even if polite persistence doesn’t win you your dream candidate, it can open the door to a very promising referral,” remarks Leela. Have you ever talked to a member of your sales team about a customer they reached out to again and again? Leela advises you to follow up with candidates with the same persistence and commitment to personalization. When founder and CEO of Social Talent, Johnny Campbell, joined us to share his top sourcing tricks, he emphasized how important it is to focus on the content of your message. Sending countless generic reach-outs simply won’t elicit responses; the key is to automate your follow-ups with tools like Lever Nurture so that you can focus more on the message you’re sending.

Don’t: Let your interviewers loose without an interview training

Chances are, your interviewers weren’t born with innate interviewing talent or a catalogue of go-to recruiting strategies. They’re counting on you to provide tools that will help them interview better. In order to communicate your tips and ensure that your team evaluates different criteria, Amanda suggests that you plan consistent interview trainings. These trainings are particularly essential when you kick off new interview processes, but you should also re-communicate tips to your team as your interview process inevitably evolves.

Two of the most important tips Amanda has given her interviewers? 1. Treat recruiting like a two-way street, i.e. leave time for candidates to ask questions and 2. Ensure that you submit your feedback on time; that way, your coveted candidates don’t have to wait days to hear from you. 

Don’t: Hire a candidate without thorough evaluation

Upon reflection, Leela’s biggest hiring mistakes arose when she overlooked signals regarding cultural alignment. In her eagerness to get bodies in open roles, she’s checked boxes without deep reflection, or discounted feedback that came in late in the process. These oversights led her to hire candidates who didn’t share some of Lever’s core values.

Since then, Leela has learned to invest heavily in reference checks. “You have to ask thoughtful questions to make sure your hire has the right impact,” advises Leela. “Every hire can make a difference, especially at a smaller org. Have the guts to walk away even from a candidate who looks great in most ways.”

In fact, Leela now makes a list of seven or eight criteria she thinks are essential for her candidates to meet before each call. She then walks her reference through the list and asks them to grade her candidate accordingly on scale of one to ten. This allows her to answer key questions like: ‘Which areas have they struggled in in the past?’, ‘Which have they excelled in?’, and ‘How do I make them successful?’.

We had so much fun hearing from the power hiring duo that is Amanda Bell and Leela Srinivasan. When these two put their heads together, we think even the most seasoned recruiters can walk away with new, powerful learnings.

To hear all five of their do’s and don’ts of startup hiring in 2017, listen to their full webinar recording here.