This post is part of a series of articles that will be written in a more personal format from Spark Hire CEO, Josh Tolan. These articles will reference 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 that you’re a growing startup that’s starting to scale to 10, 20, or even 100 people. It also sounds like 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 while also being highly effective to ensure you’re ending up with the best people for your open roles.
There isn’t going to be a single method that’ll drive your recruiting success, but you can put together a stack of tools and strategies that’ll drive meaningful results. I’ll outline certain strategies, processes, and some tools that’ll help you execute them below.
When I suggest certain tools and strategies for sourcing, screening, and interviewing, I’m keeping 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 recruiting success.
Before you start hiring for a position, come up with a clear description for the job.
- What are the requirements?
- What are the responsibilities?
- What is the opportunity for growth?
- How does this position fit within the organization?
- What does the team look like?
Next, determine how you’re going to evaluate candidates.
- 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?
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?
Lastly, you’ll need to create a job advertisement based off the description. They keyword here is advertisement. This is what’s going to sell the job.
- Why should people apply?
- Why should they want to work for you?
- What is the potential?
You can drive as much traffic to your job advertisement as you want, but it means nothing if the ad doesn’t convert so make it good.
Inbound – getting your job advertisement out there to create an engine for inbound applications.
- Launch a careers page on your website
- Take advantage of free job boards (don’t forget about the niche ones)
- Make it easy for candidates to apply to your jobs no matter where they are posted
- You’re going to need to test out a few paid job boards to determine your best candidate sources.
- Leverage your network and the network of your employees – ask for referrals and offer incentives
Outbound – reaching people who you want to target directly or those who aren’t actively searching
- Write an outbound message template or series of templates (sequence) that you’ll cold message to candidates. Keep it short, relevant, and personal. Make sure there’s a call-to-action at the end.
- Research where your candidates are most active online. More specifically, where are they most likely to be searching for jobs or promoting their qualifications? In most cases, this will be LinkedIn and that’s a good place to start.
- Ensure you’re tracking the candidates you reach out to.
At a high level, coming up with an inbound and outbound sourcing strategy is going to start getting your applications coming in. I’d expect to spend a few hundred dollars (give or take) on getting your job advertisement out, but you’ll quickly discover which sources work best for you.
From a tools perspective, I really suggest getting an applicant tracking system. It must be easy to sign up, use, and cost effective. At Spark Hire, we partner with a bunch of applicant tracking systems and they are all awesome for different use cases.
For a startup/small business, here are a few that offer a self-service signup:
- ApplicantPro (applicantpro.com)
- JazzHR (jazzhr.com)
- Recruitee (recruitee.com)
- RecruiterBox (recruiterbox.com)
- Workable (workable.com)
Applicant tracking systems offer a lot of functionality, but for your purposes, they’ll help you launch a careers page, post to a bunch of job boards, manage your inbound applications, keep records of which candidates you’re reaching out to, provide you with analytics on your best candidate sources, and track your candidate through the different stages of your hiring process.
If you decide to not use an applicant tracking system, 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 your candidates. This step is critical because it’s where you determine who you’re going to invest a lot of 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 hiring process. If you decide to do phone screens, the key to making them effective is 1) consistency and 2) the questions you ask. Make sure you’re asking all of the candidates the exact same revealing interview questions and come up with a worksheet so you can easily evaluate and compare them.
The challenge with phone screens is that it’s a big investment of time for not a whole lot of insight. Therefore, it’s critical that you are efficient with your time.
Look into scheduling tools which will allow you to easily book times with candidates. These tools will let you send a scheduler link to a candidate and they can select a time from your calendar based on your availability. No more back and forth:
- Spark Hire’s Interview Scheduling Software
- Calendly (calendly.com)
- YouCanBookMe (youcanbook.me)
- ScheduleOnce (scheduleonce.com)
One-Way Video Interviews
I’ve seen some people mention video interviews when answering this question so I’m glad to see that being mentioned.
A one-way video interview is asynchronous 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 candidate 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 candidates are answering the exact same questions so it’s easy to compare them.
IMHO, the best screening process is a combination of a quick phone call and one-way video interview. In my hiring process, I like to book a 5-10 minute phone call to give the candidate an overview of our hiring process 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 fits into 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 being made about who advances in your hiring process.
I’m referring to face-to-face interviews here. If you’re hiring remotely, this can include live video interviews.
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 questions related to things such as experience, skills, personality/cultural fit, potential, etc.
- Structure the order in which you’re going to ask your questions
- Prepare for commonly asked 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 when you’re unorganized. The biggest compliment I’ve received when doing a face-to-face interview was a candidate telling me that our interview process was more structured than any other company they were 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 people. Help them picture themselves 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 that you interview face-to-face. Hiring processes get dragged out when hiring team members aren’t held accountable to a plan.
- When are you going to get back to the candidate? Whether it’s good news or bad news, what’s the plan?
- Be ready to jump on the opportunity to hire a rockstar candidate. Top candidates won’t stay on the market long so if you 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 candidates 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 tips, strategies, and processes and you’ll be in a good place as you start 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