Category: Recruiting

Apr 28 2008 by Brad

How Do Startups Find Early Hires?

Q: What I haven’t seen among the blogs, and what I’m hoping you can shed some light on, is how early stage companies go about finding and attracting the right talent.

It’d be interesting to hear from you (probably in blog form, I’d reckon) about how the companies you invest in find their talent. Do they hire mainly from within their network? How would a company go about finding a generalist, meaning somebody that’s capable of coding one day and going on a sales call or working a trade show the next? Sites like Monster and Dice aren’t set up to find those people, but there must be a need.

A: (Brad) I find it fascinating (and awesome) that you are asking your question backwards.  Most of the time the question people in your position ask is "how do I find a job in a startup?"  Kudos on going one level deeper!

There are several ways startups find their early hires.  The most common is to aggressively hire within their network.  I’ve found this to be the most useful (as have you – apparently from your past).  Great people tend to run in packs and enjoy working with each other again so when this works it has very high leverage.

While friends are great, new blood is often helpful, especially if you are looking for either specialized talent or very generalized talent.  The more specialized the talent, the broader the net should be as you want to be the attractor.  Don’t limit yourself to a few online job boards – hit them all, and don’t forget Craigslist and your friends / companies blogs (especially if they are widely read).  Put an email footer on all your emails.  Get the word out.  Since you are looking for specialized talent, you should be able to filter quickly based on resume plus phone interview as to whether or not the person fits through your talent filter.

In contrast, if you are looking for very generalized talent, this approach won’t work.  In this case, posting to online job boards is likely a complete waste of time and will generate a high noise to signal ratio.  In the generalized talent case, you need to work your network even more aggressively and go after all the second order introductions that you can (e.g. people you know that might know someone).  I’ve even found third order introductions (e.g. people that you know that know someone that knows someone) to be useful here.  The higher quality the introductions (e.g. people that have worked together, vs. "I just know this guy") the better.

If you are on the other side of this (e.g. the one looking for a job) get the word out to YOUR network.  Random inbound resumes to VCs and companies rarely produce much (unless they are a response to a specific job inquiry.)