I mentioned to a friend recently that Hunch had just completed a very successful round of recruitment for summer interns, having attracted the most qualified candidates we had ever had.
Coincidentally, my friend had also recently heard from a client (CEO of a successful and growing software company) about what a hard time the client was having with recruiting in general. So he asked me to take a few minutes to speak with the client to review her website and suggest some concrete recruiting tips.
These may seem really obvious to urban-based startups with a social media presence, but they were an eye-opener for this particular firm. Among my tips to her:
- Recruiting shouldn’t be thought of as a single-shot approach for individual candidates, but rather as a brand-building exercise 365 days/year to accurately portray your company as a fun, energetic, plugged-in, rewarding, and challenging place to be. Some of the ways we do that at Hunch:
- We keep a Facebook page and highlight pictures of our loft office. We have an active blog, a Formspring presence, we showcase videos of the fun that our team has and we provide testimonials from past interns.
- We actively use Twitter to reach out to our users and position our company as fun, edgy, and tackling challenging problems.
- We always have a few extra desks, and we let entrepreneurs/friends use them while they’re getting started. This increases the energy in the office with fresh faces, gives us smart people to exchange ideas with, and it gets people buzzing about our company.
- We host MeetUp events at our office in the evenings to talk about geeky startup stuff, which attracts lots of interesting people, teaches us a lot, and at the same time gets the word out about us.
- We host occasional Friday lunches for students (in fact, 10 Penn students came in today) where we talk about what it’s like to be in a startup and have informal networking with our employees.
- We go to tech hack-a-thons to create cool new mash-ups and network with other hackers.
- It’s not just about online recruiting. One Friday afternoon we sent several current interns to canvas some downtown Manhattan colleges and put up “old school” (paper) recruitment flyers in dorms and on common area bulletin boards. It worked: we received several strong applications and found a great new intern that way.
- We find out who the student leaders are of college tech clubs, interact with them, and sponsor their events. They are motivated, incredibly helpful, and provide a direct link to talent without the filter of a campus career center.
- Although the client identified recruiting as her key short-term challenge, her website didn’t have a ‘careers’ link on her homepage, but rather buried in a ‘company’ sub-page. Easy fix.
- This client’s careers page had a very general statement saying “We’re always looking for people in the following disciplines…please send us your resume if you’re interested.” This type of open-ended, wishy-washy statement is a turn-off to recruits. Is a particular position even open? Is it worth a recruit’s time to research the company and craft a careful application? Any open position deserves an individually-crafted, stand-alone page which describes the position and its requirements in an interesting way.
- New recruits (particularly fresh out of college, starting their career), want to get a sense of the personality of the company and the people they will work with. But this person’s website only listed long, academic-like bios for two senior “management team” execs. This might be reassuring for customers, but it doesn’t help with recruiting. Consider a simple team page which shows the breadth of experience and the general smarts of your team.
- We don’t have the administrative bandwidth to acknowledge and respond to every candidate submission. But the second we interact with someone via a returned email, we designate that candidate as ‘active’ on an internal tracking document. We then track the number of days since their initial resume submission and since our last interaction with them. They don’t become ‘inactive’ until they either receive an offer or we promptly let them know that unfortunately we need to stop the process. We never leave people indefinitely hanging after engaging with them. This is common courtesy but too often not followed.
- We don’t believe in free labor, although many candidates offer it. Questionable legality aside, our philosophy is that quality candidates are expected to contribute in a meaningful way. In return, we invest time and training, and we believe they deserve to be paid a competitive wage for their contributions.
Recruiting should be a continuous and long-term priority, but done correctly it should also be one of the highest return investments you make.