It Takes Two: Passive Candidate Recruiting from Both Sides of the Table

May 22, 2012


Meet Greg Harezlak, Technical Sourcer at San Francisco-based start-up TinyCo. Greg started out at a third party agency for a couple of years before moving in-house at TinyCo. From engineers to artists to product managers, Greg fills almost all of the company’s positions with passive candidates. During our conversation, he conveyed such an intensity and enthusiasm for his role and his company that it is no surprise his InMail response rates are among the highest.

[caption id="attachment_4599" align="alignright" width="300"]Greg Harezlak, Technical Sourcer at TinyCo Greg Harezlak, Technical Sourcer at San Francisco-based TinyCo[/caption]


Tell me about the role of talent at TinyCo.   

Every hire is crucial for us. With only about 100 employees, there isn’t room for anyone who can’t start contributing from Day One. Our people not only have incredible technical aptitude, but also fit in with our very strong culture. We seek very specific needs and attributes and we have a very high bar. Typically those who come on board have been specifically targeted. We tripled in size last year, and our goal is to double again this year, primarily by recruiting passive candidates.

Do you use traditional job boards?

In the start-up realm and especially in gaming, I utilize tools that are very far from job boards. I obviously use LinkedIn, plus other sources, such as searches on educational sites like Berkeley and Stanford.

How does your approach compare now versus when you worked for a staffing firm?

At the agency, I was evaluated on volume of calls and emails, as those metrics were assumed to correlate with number of candidates brought on board. Now I spend more of my time on fewer candidates, researching their professional backgrounds as well as anything else I can learn from their web presence. More targeted searches bring superior results and are a better utilization of my time.

How do you prepare for your conversations with candidates?

Often I’ll start with a very general Internet search to get familiar with a given area. I’ll take note of relevant websites and resources that emerge. I’ll immerse myself in the communities, LinkedIn groups, blogs, and other sites to better understand the world of my candidates.

You mentioned your strong company culture. How do you screen for that?

I can’t give away our secrets, but we have a highly effective method to find out if a candidate will be a good fit. We’re pretty good at not wasting folks’ time. When they’ve finished our interview process, both the hiring manager and the candidate will know the outcome.

How do candidates react to that?

We spend a lot of time making sure that candidates have a very positive experience interviewing with us. We also like to leave the door open: just because someone isn’t an immediate fit, we don’t shut them out. We like to maintain those types of relationships.

How do you keep the door open?

I keep an active list of folks who are a great cultural fit and great candidate overall, but their timing isn’t right. You never know how you can help someone down the line, and vice versa. I would say that I apply the same amount of effort into recruiting passive candidates regardless of whether or not they are ready to move. I’m evangelizing TinyCo the same way whether they are staying put at another company or chomping at the bit to get here.

Passive candidate recruiting: art or science?

I’m constantly trying to refine my Boolean techniques, find new sources online, and maximize the utility of LinkedIn - these pivotal skill sets make up the science part, about 40%. The remaining 60% is the art, all of the soft skills required to analyze and discern what a person wants, if it’s in line enough with what we offer, and whether they will fit in with the culture.

How do you explain your high InMail response rates?

I couldn’t be an internal recruiter if I didn’t believe in the company I work for. I’ve never dreaded a single day at TinyCo. I thrive on the fast-paced, creative environment, and I think my enthusiasm for my company contributes to my success as a recruiter.


Now meet Scott, one of those ‘great fit/incredible technical aptitude’ hires that Greg described at the outset. Scott talked us through the hiring process from his vantage point.

What were you doing prior to joining TinyCo?

I had spent six years in Las Vegas, where I worked for some of the best casinos in Las Vegas analyzing all of the numbers that go into making marketing decisions.

How did you feel about your prior job? Were you actively looking for another job?

I had no intention of leaving my former employer.  I was working for a great company, had been there for more than two years, and really enjoyed the job.  My wife and I were interested in moving back to my home state of California, but I had not been actively looking for a new job...  until I got the message via LinkedIn from a TinyCo recruiter.

Had you heard of TinyCo before they reached out? If so, what were your impressions of them?

I was aware of the mobile gaming industry, but I had never heard of TinyCo before.

What was your first contact with TinyCo? What did they say that grabbed your attention?

The first time I had heard anything from TinyCo was through an InMail I received on LinkedIn.  The messaging was compelling enough to catch my eye, even though I wasn't looking for a new role. The InMail talked up TinyCo, and the environment sounded cool enough for me to at least want to know more.

How did they convince you to apply for their team?

TinyCo is an awesome company full of incredible people, and it only took a few phone calls to understand that. I was able to talk to four or five employees and have real conversations with these people about what life at TinyCo is like.  These weren’t interviews where they ask why I want to work at TinyCo or how I could solve a specific problem that they might have; they truly wanted to get to know me and find out if I would fit with the company, and that's what convinced me this was a good company to work for.  The people made me want to apply because TinyCo is and always will be built around awesome people!

Why did you eventually decide to take the position?

Once I was able to get through the interviews (yes, they did eventually get to the tough questions) and they made me an offer, there wasn't much holding me back.  While a transition is always tough, especially when moving to a new industry, I already felt like a member of the TinyCo family and was excited to make the move.

How do you feel about TinyCo now?

We have some amazing talent here from the best animators in LA to the smartest computer scientists MIT has to offer, and it's all due to the hard work of the recruiting team at TinyCo.  I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!


Do you have a best practice to share? Tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #passivetalent. We want to hear from you!

See the other posts in the series:

Secrets of Recruiters with the Best InMail Response Rates featuring Centrica's James Dowling
What Works with Passive Candidates in Brazil featuring ThoughtWorks' Camila Tartari
Five Questions You Must Ask Your Hiring Manager featuring Betfair's Rachel Riddington
Mastering the Basics: Passive Candidate Recruiting for Newcomers featuring Tim Horton's Jacqueline Benedetti