Hiring Hacks for Founders

The last 2 weeks I attended courses on Attracting, Hiring and Retaining the Best People and Top 5 HR Mistakes & Compensation 101. It was organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world. This week was session 3, the last of the series and it was a ripper! (Aussie slang for excellent). The topic was Hiring Hacks for Founders.

“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest

This evening had 3 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.

Here’s what happened.

How Interns can be a game changer by Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan Parcells, Founder at InternMatch

Nathan covered how Interns can add value and be a game changer for your startup. He also spoke about how to recruit top interns and tips and tricks for intern management.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/interns-startup-nathan-parcells-internmatch/

Hiring Hacks by Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan covered everything you need to know from hiring to retaining top talent and how to build culture around having and being the best in the industry. He also gave plenty of examples and techniques on how to properly utilize a corporate gifting platform. He sent a clear message to Hire for TALENT (ability to learn new things) vs Skills (stuff you already know) since skills get outdated fast while talent.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/hire-hacks-dan-arkind-jobscore/

Closing like a Champion by Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell Fradin, Investor & CEO of Adify

Russell covered how to close like a Champion once you have found great talent including the process to follow and the post-offer. He sent a clear message to never forget that people work for people. They do not work for companies.

Full blog post is located here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/jobs/closing-champions-russell-fradin-adify/

Isn’t this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.

Happy hiring!

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post

Hire Hacks

This is the full post from StartupDigest: Hiring Hacks for Founders. Organized by StartupDigest University, the insider’s guide to the startup world.

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

Dan Arkind, CEO and Co-Founder at JobScore

About Dan:

  • Dan brings recruiting experience and vision to JobScore. Dan spent seven years with OTEC, the recruiting firm that spun off Hotjobs.com.
  • Dan co-founded OTEC’s Silicon Valley search practice, training a team of recruiters and placing personnel at early stage enterprise software, internet services, media and content companies.
  • Dan holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.
  • Dan runs a very informative and professional blog called “The Art and Science of Recruiting” located here: http://blog.jobscore.com/

The presentation notes:

  • Only hiring friends = FAIL.
  • A great startup hiring process is where the candidate doesn’t know you.
  • “We Start With the Customer and We Work Backward.” ~ Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s success.
  • Work backwards using 3 month milestones.
  • Change is the only constant in startups.
  • You will constantly iterate and rework plans.
  • Create a Plan to get from A to B. This means Goal setting – Today, 3 months to 6 months. As shown below in the picture.

    Hiring Plan

Getting it right

  1. Set clear goals and time-lines.
  2. Sequence and Prioritize.
  3. Assess existing talent skills & expertise inc. throughput.
  4. Build vs. Buy.
  5. Vet with experts such as Sterling Check.

Job Description – 90% effort spend is required on the first 2 and 10% effort on the last. However most spend on the last 2 (points 3 & 4). Make sure you cover:

  1. What we do (commonly forgotten)
  2. What you’ll do (commonly forgotten)
  3. Need to have (most time spent)
  4. Nice to have (most time spent)


  • Interviewing takes time.  Therefore write down all learnings and how-to’s so you can iterate and improve.
  • Establish “core values” and a plan how you will interview people to match those.
  • Drive, Personality & Talent TRUMPS over Skills.
  • To reduce stress on the candidate, explain to them the full interview process e.g. what’s going to happen, who will interview them, how to get to the firm etc. Remember that normally people are not stressed during their day job and so will always perform differently under stress.
  • Document feedback and meet immediately after with the interview team to evaluate the candidate against multiple criteria. Make this a habit early in the company so that everyone follows it.
  • Sample feedback form:

    Sample feedback form

  • Engineer your questions, then iterate on failure to spend more time on qualified candidates.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions upfront if you can close a candidate eg. wage, last time bonus, figure out what they want.
  • People should not flip out if rejected. If they do, hang up on them. Life is too short.
  • Only send written offer letter once the candidate has verbally accepted the offer. If they don’t verbally accept, talk to them until they do or stay in-touch until they accept and only then send the job offer.
  • Referrals are exceptions – Just Sell, do not assess.
  • Hiring requires focus – 10 at once, not 10 in 3 months. Choice is good!
  • Turn interviewees into advocates. Turn your company into a magnet so everyone talks about it. Pitch these.  Candidates should come to you.
  • How to pitch a job – mission (where you are going), status, team, pain (customer problem you are solving) and opportunity (goals – see above).
    • The people: prompt, prepared, fun, engaging and smart.
    • The office: cool, light filled, modern, comfortable and big monitors!
  • Sell you – what you can teach, your personality, your resume and your vision.

Hiring Hacks

  • Express a problem, not skills, to get to candidates. e.g. instead of asking for python developer ask for someone who developed high scalable open source cloud solutions.
  • Be specific when wanting to hire someone so that you can generate stronger referrals.
  • Ask for referrals (and you get advice), Ask for advice (and you get referrals).
  • Your company is your people. Get the right ones. Even if it means moving heaven and earth to hire proven commodities.
  • Hire like an investor. Equity is your currency. Get it. Spend it.
  • Be hyper aggressive in the 1st year.
  • Hire for TALENT vs Skills.
    • Talent is the ability to learn new things.
    • Skills is the stuff you already know how to do.
    • Skills get outdated fast in this fast changing landscape while talent is something which stays with you forever.
  • If you don’t believe your special. Quit. Since you need to believe you will change the world in order to compete with the likes of Facebook et al.
  • Job market doesn’t matter since it’s never of a recessive nature. There is always a market for smart people.
  • Make bets – cliffs and vesting are you friends.
  • “Fire Fast” – create a culture where that’s possible.

Happy hiring!

Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:

~ Ernest

Linked mentioned in this post