This post was updated on January 8, 2020 and is part of a series of articles written by Spark Hire CEO, Josh Tolan in response to specific questions asked on Quora.
Question: What are the best methods for sourcing, screening, and hiring top talent?
I’m going to approach my response with the assumption you’re a growing startup that’s beginning to scale your recruitment efforts to 10, 20, or even 100 people. There’s a good chance you’re solely responsible for recruiting (most likely a founder) or have a limited amount of recruiting resources. So the key here is to be lean and agile as you recruit while also being highly effective to ensure you’re able to attract the best people for your open roles.
There won’t be a single hiring and recruiting method that’ll drive your success. But you can focus on a stack of tools and strategies that drive meaningful results. Below, I’ve outlined innovative strategies, processes, and tools to help guide you:
When I suggest certain tools and recruiting strategies for sourcing, screening, and interviewing talent, I keep the following in mind:
- Speed – Why? You can’t afford to get bogged down by your hiring process
- Budget – Why? You’re operating on a small budget
- Convenience – Why? You’re short on time because of limited resources
- Effectiveness – Why? You need to be effective at scale
- Barrier to entry – Why? You can’t get caught up with something that takes too long to implement
Go through these steps before you start recruiting and you’ll have a strong foundation for creating effective recruitment strategies:
Before posting an open position, you must write a clear description of the role and its responsibilities. Consider the following details to successfully craft an appealing job description:
- What are the job requirements?
- What are the regular responsibilities?
- Is there opportunity for growth?
- How does this position fit within the organization?
- What does the team look like?
Next, determine a clear method for your evaluation criteria.
- What are the most important skills?
- Who is on the hiring team for this position?
- What interview questions are you going to ask at different points in the process?
- How will you evaluate the candidates?
Now it’s time to create your hiring process.
- What are the steps?
- What is the timeline for each step?
- What is your target hire date for this position?
As you’re crafting the job description and determining recruiting methods, it’s important to remember a short and standardized hiring process is critical for success. A standardized process shows candidates you’re dedicated to a fair assessment of their skills and experiences. For your team, it improves their ability to accurately measure and compare talent to choose the best-fitting, new hires.
- Why should people apply?
- Why should they want to work for you over other companies?
- What is the potential in terms of how much they can learn, make, and grow?
Inbound recruiting: successfully advertising your open roles to create an engine for inbound applications.
- Launch a careers page on your website.
- Take advantage of free job boards (don’t forget about posting on the niche ones).
- Make it easy for talent to apply — no matter where you’ve posted or where they’re applying. This also means optimizing your applications for mobile.
- Test out a few paid job boards to determine your top talent sources.
- Leverage your network and the network of your employees – ask for referrals and offer incentives for jobs you fill.
Outbound recruiting: reaching your ideal candidate or passive talent (those who aren’t actively seeking).
Write or record a branded outbound message or series of messages (sequence) to cold message talent. Keep it short, relevant, and personal and make sure there’s a call-to-action at the end. The more personalized and uniquely branded the message is to your company and employees, the more connected the right job seekers will be to your opportunities.
From a tools perspective, I really suggest getting an applicant tracking system (ATS). It must be easy to sign up, use, and be cost effective. At Spark Hire, we partner with a bunch of applicant tracking systems and they are all awesome for different use cases.
- ApplicantPro (applicantpro.comhttp://applicantpro.com)
- ATS OnDemand (power.atsondemand.com/https://power.atsondemand.com/)
- Greenhouse (greenhouse.io/https://www.greenhouse.io/)
- JazzHR (jazzhr.comhttp://jazzhr.com)
- Workable (workable.comhttp://workable.com)
An ATS offers critical functionality for you to launch a careers page, post to a bunch of job boards, manage your inbound applications, keep records of who you’re reaching out to, provide you with analytics on your No. 1 candidate sources, and track your candidate through the different stages of your hiring process.
If you decide to not use an ATS, I suggest first posting your job directly on:
- Indeed (indeed.com) – broadest reach
- ZipRecruiter (ziprecruiter.com) – pushes your job to a bunch of boards at once
- Craigslist (craigslist.com) – cheap and local, but will drive applicants
Once you’ve received applications and sorted through your resumes, it’s time to start screening for your specific positions. This step is critical in the strategy because it’s where you determine who you’re going to invest more time and effort into during the interviewing process.
There are really three ways to go here:
Many debate the effectiveness of phone screens, but they are pretty standard in the traditional hiring process. If you decide to use phone screens, the key to making them effective is ensuring they’re consistent and dependent upon the questions you ask. Once again, a standardized process is critical here. Ask candidates the exact same revealing interview questions and have a pre-made scoring or evaluation worksheet ready to assess and compare across all candidates.
The challenge with phone screens is that it’s a big investment of time for minimal insight. Therefore, it’s critical you’re using your time efficiently.
Look into scheduling tools designed specifically for recruiters that allow job seekers to easily book an interview on your schedule. These tools send a scheduler link to candidates so they can select a time from your calendar based on your availability. The below tools take away the time-consuming annoyance of back-and-forth email scheduling chains:
- Spark Hire’s Interview Scheduling Software
- Calendly (calendly.com)
- YouCanBookMe (youcanbook.me)
- ScheduleOnce (scheduleonce.com)
One-Way Video Interviews
Many peopled mentioned video interviews when answering this question and I’m glad to see it.
A one-way video interview is asynchronous technology, meaning you come up with interview questions that a candidate records video responses to on their own time. Think of it like a selfie interview.
I came up with the idea for Spark Hire because the company I was previously working for was scaling fast and we were limited on hiring resources plus wasting a ton of time on bad in-person interviews as a result of misleading phone screens.
The great thing about one-way video interviews is that your applicants are interviewing 24/7 and as a busy startup founder/SMB owner/recruiter on an overworked team, you gain that time back in the day. In addition, all of your applicants are answering the exact same questions, so it’s easy to compare them.
In my honest opinion, the ultimate screening process is a combination of a quick phone call and one-way video interview. In my hiring process, I like to book a five to 10 minute phone call to provide the candidate with an overview of next steps and info on the job. It’s actually more of an opportunity for me to pitch them on the position. I then outline how the one-way video interview is relevant in the bigger picture and what they can expect in our hiring process going forward. Sure, it takes a few more minutes of time, but it sets up a better candidate experience and you’re more likely to convert candidates later in your recruiting funnel as a result.
Whatever screening method you choose, you should be collaborating with the hiring team to ensure you’re asking questions that lead to better decisions regarding who advances in your hiring process.
Effective recruiting requires face-to-face interviews — and that’s what I’m referencing here. If you’re hiring remotely, this can, and should, include live video interviews. There are a few critical steps you’ll want to take before jumping into interviewing:
1. Come up with an interview kit
- What questions are you going to ask and why?
- How does an answer to an individual question factor into your overall evaluation?
- Breakdown your interview questions by category. For example, when I conduct face-to-face interviews, I have it broken down to comprehensive questions related to things such as experience, skills, personality/cultural fit, potential, etc.
- Structure the order of your questions.
- Prepare for common candidate questions (e.g. compensation, benefits, typical day, etc.) so you can answer them when the candidate asks. If you expect your candidate to prepare for interviews, you better be prepared too!
Come up with an administrative/organization plan
- Who is involved in this process?
- How are you scheduling your interviews?
- Ensure the logistics are on point. Nothing is a bigger turn off to a candidate than disorganization. The biggest compliment I’ve received during a face-to-face interview was a candidate telling me our interview process was more structured than any other company they interviewed with.
Come up with a “win the candidate plan”
- What are the highlights of working for your company? You need to make sure you hit on these when you’re meeting face-to-face.
- Is the interview taking place at your office? Take them on a tour and introduce them to your teams. Help them picture themselves as an employee walking around the space and interacting with co-workers.
- Remember, candidates are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.
Come up with a post-interview plan
- This comes back to your hiring team. If you’re collaborating with others on this hire, make sure you have a set process for how you’re going to review candidates you interview face-to-face. Hiring processes get dragged out when hiring professionals on your team aren’t held accountable to a plan.
- When are you going to follow up with the candidate? Whether it’s good news or bad news for them, what’s the plan?
- Be ready to jump when you have the opportunity to hire a rock star candidate. Top talent won’t stay on the market long, so don’t waste time – get the offer out if the candidate is the right fit.
When it’s time to make the offer, make sure you communicate effectively with your candidate. Re-convey the benefits of working for your company, talk about the potential for growth in the position, etc. Give applicants a realistic deadline to get back to you and make sure you send it in writing. Don’t stop recruiting/interviewing for this role until the candidate accepts the position. You’ve built a lot of momentum at this point and you don’t want to have to start over if a candidate declines your offer.
Follow these strategies and methods and you’ll be in a good place to ramp up your hiring efforts. Let me know if you have any questions. Connect with me on LinkedIn here: https://linkedin.com/in/joshtolan