Three Ways to Run Recruitment Like a Startup


Startups face many challenges. Besides funding, recruitment can be the difference between a premature exit and a multi-million dollar valuation. These resource-strapped organizations understand that the right recruiter is a competitive advantage. Startup recruiters invest themselves in all parts of the business. They scale teams with the same caliber of care and attention that software development teams do in writing maintainable, high-performance code.

While your organization might be well-funded or well-established, you risk your business if you fail to properly invest in your recruitment function. If you believe budget allocation and job postings are enough to hire the workforce you need to execute your product roadmap, you’re sorely mistaken and most definitely need to take a page out of the startup book.

Here are three ways your organization can reengineer your recruitment function to operate and deliver like a seasoned startup recruiter.

Alignment With Leadership

A startup recruiter is often seen as an extension of the founding leadership team. They’re intimately familiar with every facet of the organization, from development practices to your go-to-market strategy. Generally, a startup recruiter is hired because of his or her domain knowledge. While they aren’t a programmer by any stretch of the imagination, they are fluent in the language of the organization’s recruits, and able to perform at least a preliminary dive of the discipline they are hiring for. Because of this degree of alignment, the startup recruiter understands why the req is open and why the skills they are sourcing for are business-critical.

Not every organization is blessed with a seasoned recruiter, nor is every organization equipped to recruit for highly technical positions. In such circumstances, it’s necessary for the recruiter and hiring manager to seek as close a degree of alignment as exists between a startup recruiter and their startup organization. Once hiring managers and corporate recruiters forge a partnership based on the understanding that each party is an SME (subject matter expert) – the hiring manager in their field and team, the recruiter in their process and knowledge of the talent market – hiring top talent will be a shared objective and pursued as such.

Minimal Viable Pool

The average startup takes approximately 990 hours to hire 12 software engineers. The engineers are the value delivered – it’s what comes out at the bottom of the recruitment funnel. While the end goal is quantifiable, far too few recruiters measure what it takes to deliver on it. Startup recruiters are as invested in their recruitment metrics as the senior leadership team is in ensuring LTV (lifetime value) exceeds CAC (cost to acquire customers). To this end, startup recruiters track their conversion rates and invest significant effort at the top of the funnel – the MVP (in this case minimal viable pool, rather than minimal viable product).

Each position’s MVP will be different from the next, depending on the degree of difficulty and the state of the talent market. For example, your conversion rate at offer stage for a software developer might be 85 percent. This means that you must make 1.17 offers to obtain one hire. If only 20 percent of your interviews become offers, you’ll need to interview 5.85 candidates to make a hire. One further step back, if only 25 percent of QCs (qualified candidates) make it to the interview stage, that means – on average – your organization will need approximately 24 QCs to secure one software developer. That’s your MVP.

Recruitment and onboarding are expensive, and startups run lean. Increasing the conversion rate at the top of the funnel is therefore critical. If you’re more focused on filling the seat than optimizing the funnel, you’re not thinking like a startup.

Strategic Talent Acquisition

Research shows that 42% of hiring managers wished their recruiters would develop a talent pool for the organization’s future hiring needs. The challenge with most organizations is that for every hour a recruiter invests in sourcing candidates to match a laundry list of unnecessary skills, the more the recruiter is drawn away from more strategic tasks.

Startup recruiters are invested in performing competitive market research, understanding the intricacies of the organization’s total rewards package, optimizing the recruitment process that they themselves architected, and refining the brand messaging that will increase the likelihood of candidate conversion. They’re invested in transforming their workforce into a team of brand ambassadors, as well.

While a seasoned, resource-equipped recruiter can directly source and hire approximately 30 software engineers in a single year, the number climbs to 70 if candidates are submitted by way of referral. High referral percentages are generally indicative of a company that categorizes recruiting as a top priority. If your process is to allocate budget, submit a req, and sit back and wait, you are doing your organization, your team, and your recruitment partner a disservice.

Well-established organizations stand to benefit from reengineering their recruitment processes into one similar to that of a lean and nimble startup. Approaching recruitment with a startup mindset might be just what your organization needs to regain its competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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