5 Tips to Make Your Startup’s Hiring Process Way More Efficient

October 20, 2015

At a young start-up, hiring is a responsibility the entire team must shoulder - along with a million other things of course, making efficiency absolutely critical in the early days. A disorganized recruitment process (or lack of one entirely) wastes countless hours and makes the difficult task of hiring the right people nearly impossible.

But it’s precisely when a startup is young that they’re most likely to lack structure around hiring and get bogged down by inefficiencies and poor decisions as a result.

To see how startups can avoid the mess and get hiring right from the start, we reached out to talent leaders who’ve been through it all before at small, rapidly-growing companies. Here’s what they have to say.

1. Standardize your interviews

There’s no exact science to recruiting, but don’t make it harder on yourself with haphazard interviews. “If your process is inexact, you’re just magnifying what’s already difficult to nail down,” says Chris Shaw, Director of Talent at Meteor.

Assign interview roles so each interviewer during an onsite panel evaluates candidates for a different skill, and ask each candidate a consistent set of questions. That way, you have a more objective means by which to measure and compare talent vying for the same position, rather than relying on gut feel. Don’t let this keep you from evolving your process, however. You should always be iterating and improving upon the way you interview.

Standardization results in a better candidate experience too. When you’re small and trying to prove why people should work for you instead of all the other startups and established companies out there, candidates will be impressed by your high degree of professionalism in interviews. (We’ve all been asked the same question in back to back onsite panels. It’s not a good look.)

2. Create an efficiency mindset

Recruiting is a business function that should be evaluated critically, just like any other. “It’s not enough to look at how many people you hire and be content that you hit your goal, if you had to waste your team’s time doing it,” says Quora’s VP of HR and User Operations, Sarah Smith.

Instead, Smith suggests keeping a close eye on how many employee hours go into a hire by understanding what your conversion funnel should look like stage to stage. If less than 25 percent of onsite interviews get an offer, for example, you should consider whether your process could be more efficient. Look back in the funnel to identify where you need to tighten the process or refine your criteria with the hiring manager.

3. Screen candidates with take-home work

It’s smart to evaluate a candidate’s skills before you extend them an offer, and a lot of companies like to do so with high-pressure whiteboard coding challenges. A more productive way to gauge a candidate’s ability is a take-home challenge, says Meteor’s Chris Shaw. “You want to put your candidates in the position that is most similar to their actual working environment. That usually means at home and with a computer, not in front of a white board and out of their element,” he says.

Strong performance on a take-home challenge, says Shaw, is much more likely to translate into on-the-job success. For extra efficiency, Shaw suggests giving an assignment before the first interview. That way, you’ll weed out candidates who look great on paper, but aren’t top performers.

4. Hold hiring managers accountable

A lot of companies hire by consensus. They gather the relevant stakeholders in one room and ask them all to cast their vote. “What you get with consensus hiring,” says Quora’s Sarah Smith, “is that no one feels like they’re on the hook. You lose a lot of accountability.”

Instead, you want a consultative decision making process with a feedback loop that leads to one person (usually the hiring manager) who has the power to say yes or no. When someone is on point, you can be a lot more confident that great care goes into each and every hiring decision.

The responsible stakeholder can’t shrug off a poor hire as “just a group call.” What’s more, hiring managers are more likely to act as an advocate and make sure new hires are successful when they feel direct responsibility for the final say.

5. Track your best sources of hire

With limited resources, you want to double down on efforts that yield the best results. Why split your time 50 / 50 between job boards and AngelList, for example, if AngelList yields more and better hires?

As Coursera’s director of talent, Betty Tsan, puts it, “You’ll have better conversions in every stage of your recruitment process if you have a strong, targeted top of funnel source.” Take the time to define your sources from day one, and you’ll have a consistent data set to compare and optimize over time.

Don’t wait until you need ten butts in a chair yesterday to take recruiting seriously. It might feel easier to live and breathe spreadsheets now, but when you’re ready to scale, you’ll be thankful you have a process in place. 

For more tips on how to recruit for fast-growing organizations from Chris Shaw, the man who built Twitter's sourcing function from scratch, tune into our ‘Hiring for Growth – Practical Tips from Stealth through Series C’ webinar on Thursday, October 29. Register here

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