For many early-stage startups, their limited hiring is unpredictable, ad hoc, and reactive. The founding team is focused on building/validating their product while considering funding options. Referrals are based on serendipity. There is no tracking, no methodology, no system. It just happens to happen.
So, how do you fix that?
Your Initial Steps
Implement some method of tracking candidate data. Maybe that's a spreadsheet or an entry-level ATS (applicant tracking system). Commit to data integrity and maintenance. Remember, this activity shouldn't be owned solely by one person. All founders and key stakeholders should have access and accountability to this information.
Invest time in mapping out your interview structure and how you will consistently deliver/store feedback. Make sure EVERYONE on your team is educated and trained on these items. Here, you're shaping your talent acquisition process. A well-defined process allows you to make actionable decisions with greater speed and confidence.
Managing What's Next
Your early recruiting structure is taking shape. Your founders should begin documenting requirements for each new role. That means defining job descriptions and timelines.
You're doing informal research to understand compensation packages in your local market. You're monitoring and conversing with your extended networks about trends they see. You're honing your employer value proposition to fuel your recruitment marketing.
Your team and stakeholders are combing through their networks at least three times for referrals. You're gaining momentum and dexterity after holding more and more interviews.
Defining Your Process
Your referrals and sourcing avenues are well documented. Your procedures, tools, and methods are being standardized. Some qualitative predictability emerges within your highly-detailed procedure.
Institutional learning is being adopted by your team through collaboration. Breakthroughs are experienced when sharing feedback and surveying candidate experience.
Loving the Data
Your interviewing, proactive sourcing, referral-mining, and onboarding reveals quantitative and qualitative insights. You track and measure metrics like candidate response rates, referral conversion rates, and interview-to-hire rates by source. You seek ways to continually improve your time-to-hire by removing friction and barriers.
Your rigorous commitment to data integrity means your recruiting process is becoming quantitatively predictable. You continually test your outreach messaging across different channels. You collect and implement candidate feedback to ensure a great experience.
Optimizing & Growing
Process improvement objectives and variations are established for sourcing and referrals. A/B testing reveals better practices based on platforms and job functions (e.g. engineer vs. salesperson). You continue to measure and evaluate your results based on quantitative goals.
You're adding new pieces of technology to your hiring stack when possible. Consistent investments are made in training your team on interviewing and recruiting etiquette. You prioritize candidate experience as a source of knowledge and employer branding differentiator.
Establishing internal systems that scale with success is really difficult. It takes actual concerned and sustained effort. Too often startups delay focusing on "getting hiring right." Yet, to increase the likelihood that your company will have a future, you must invest in getting talent acquisition right from the very beginning.