Q&A from our Startup Hiring Bootcamp: Recruiting for Series A through D

Whether your startup has 3, 30, or 300 employees, one thing’s for sure. If you can recruit exceptional talent – and do so efficiently – you’ll level up the entire team’s success. But as you grow at lightning speed and juggle a dozen priorities, where do you find the time to soak up new insights? That’s where our new Startup Hiring Bootcamps come in. 

Last Friday, we launched our first Bootcamp, a 2.5 hour session aimed at arming attendees with a wealth of new recruiting ideas. With the help of our friends at Teamable, we gathered a stellar group of panelists to join us: Caffeine’s Head of Talent Alex Lebovic, Quantcast’s Recruiting Operations Manager Danielle Layous, and Rainforest QA’s VP of People Heather Doshay. Together, they shared their best startup hiring insights – around topics ranging from sourcing and referrals to data-driven recruiting. Afterwards, our attendees broke out into smaller groups to brainstorm and catalogue actionable strategies. Below, we focus only our panelists’ insights, but stay tuned for our next post on crucial takeaways from the breakout sessions!

Which recruiting metrics do you like to examine, and why?

Heather Doshay: You have to look closely at conversion rates. If you find you’re really good at getting candidates to the onsite but they typically drop off afterwards, dig into what isn’t working there. Look at how long it’s taking to follow up with candidates, for example, or your time to hire.

Danielle Layous: We’ve struggled recently with time to hire, driving us to focus on it more. As one way to tackle it, we’ve launched more hiring manager and candidate experience surveys. After we notice and analyze trends, we make huge shifts. With candidate experience surveys, for example, we make sure they’re having a high-touch, transparent experience. We’ve also set a goal to get rated highly at least 85 percent of the time.

We also examine conversion rate, and make sure we hit a 50 percent conversion rate from interview to interview. We also aim to keep our offer acceptance rate at 80 percent. 

Alex Lebovic: I also use conversion rates to evaluate our success. It shows the quality of people we’re adding to the process in the first place. Here, we’re running a relatively high conversion rate of between 70 and 80 percent, in part because our team is so small. At my former company, though, we were larger and so we wanted our onsites to be more competitive. We aimed for 50 or 60 percent conversion. And that made sense for us then! It’s important to remind your team that success has different meanings on different teams – it’s not compare and contrast.

Too often, I think we focus on vanity recruiting metrics that don’t actually tell you anything. One example is: ‘How candidates am I touching per week?’. Another is: ‘How many offers are we giving out?’. That’s not telling you anything about whether or not your process is successful. Instead, refine your strategies for evaluating the candidates you touch, or examine how effective your offers are. I also don’t think we focus enough on the impact of our hires, or what they’re doing to add value to the team.

As a startup, your leadership is juggling dozens of priorities. How do you get their buy-in for hiring? 

Danielle Layous: Creating a line to your executive team is imperative, and you do so, you need data to back it up. It’s the best way to speak their language, because it’s the clearest way to paint a picture of your hiring process.

Alex Lebovic: You want your executives to feel confident in the work you’re doing. So, you have to think strategically about which info you’re presenting to them in order to get them bought in. How is their time benefiting the team? Right now, I have my execs spend 15 percent of their time on recruiting, and I communicate the ROI of their time.

What are your best tips for mastering sourcing and employee referrals?

Heather Doshay: When it’s time to gather referrals, don’t ask your team: “refer your friends”. Say “refer your former coworkers”. Your best friend from college probably has a similar identity to you, but in all likelihood, not everyone on your former team does. Even acknowledging the fact that a diverse set of referrals is important will make your team pause and approach their networks differently.

Danielle Layous: Referrals account for 30 percent of our hires at Quantcast. When our new hires start, one of our recruiters sits down with them to source through their network. We know that our recruiters are the ones who can really ensure that our team is looking at their networks in a more holistic way. 

When it comes to sourcing, mass and impersonal messages don’t work. You may get responses to those messages, but they aren’t the promising, engaged kind that will lead to a hire. I’m a huge fan of quality over quantity. Get really good at understanding your candidate. What would they likely think after hearing from you?

Alex Lebovic: If your team is trying to send meaningful messages, don’t burn them out by asking them to send thousands of messages a day. My recruiters send 10 to 15 messages a day, and then they work hard at getting a really high number of responses. The key is to try creating value for candidates in your first message; create an opportunity for the candidate to share their motivations with you. Open the dialogue.


Itching to attend our next Startup Hiring Bootcamp? We’re posting the details on our site very soon – email us at, and we’ll reach out as soon as we do!