What slows down hiring?
Ask this question to startup leaders, and you’ll get a variety of answers:
Lack of pipeline and qualified candidates
Busy schedules prevent efficient interviewing
Bottleneck when making compensation decisions
From my experience as a Startup HR Expert, here’s the real answer: lack of alignment.
This answer feels frustrating because it seems too simple. And even worse - it’s totally within a company’s control. But it’s true. Lack of alignment slows down hiring.
Let me paint a picture: A leader decides to open a role. They tell the recruiting team (if there even is a recruiting team), “Open this role! Open it as quickly as you can!” Maybe they give the recruiter a bit of time for a hiring kickoff meeting, but most likely? They’re prioritizing moving quickly over explaining what they need in the role. The recruiter might not have the resources they need to understand the role. So the recruiter makes assumptions, and begins searching and pushing people along based on those assumptions. Because the hiring manager wants to move fast, no one stops to think, “have we designed the interview process? Have we told the interviewers what we want them to focus on in their interviews? Have we ensured we have the right budget?”
What ends up happening? Maybe you have a few candidates that get pushed along. But those candidates often languish in the interview process because interviewers are not clear on what they’re looking for, so they feel uncomfortable providing feedback. If the interviewers do feel positively about a candidate, it takes time to move to next steps because no one knows what those next steps should be. Essentially, every step of the way, there’s a roadblock. And it takes time to get around the roadblock and determine the path forward.
All of those roadblocks are opportunities where setting up a process that facilitates alignment will pay dividends in the long run. The upfront investment more than pays for itself because of the speed you gain in the process.
Back in 2014, I was leading People Operations at a fast growing startup. We received a major investment, and we were looking to double the size of the company as quickly as possible.
It was important to the CEOs that we did this in a way that did not compromise our values or the environment we had created. So alignment was absolutely key.
We approached our recruiting process with an agile software development mentality - we understood that it would take time for our product (the recruiting process) to reflect our vision. It can feel overwhelming to think about how the current state is so far from where you want it to be. However, we can learn from the agile software development process when we feel this emotional reaction. Instead of despairing, structure the build. Let’s scope the work, break it into concrete sprints, and create a backlog of future things to build.
Our first priority? Alignment and internal communication.
Over the course of a year, we exceeded our hiring targets. At the same time, we created a strong recruiting process, one that was built on a bedrock of consistent communication and alignment.
Rapid growth (heck, any growth!) means you need good systems and structures so you can focus on moving forward. While some startups hate the idea of “process,” the wise companies know that investing in working smarter, not harder, is always worthwhile.
Here’s my formula for quick, start-up friendly alignment:
Always do a recruiting kickoff meeting: Whenever you open a new role, the hiring manager and the person leading recruitment should meet to go over key points, such as:
What goals/focus will this person have?
What skills/abilities are we looking for in candidates?
What would A player accomplish in 6 months on the job?
What will the interview process look like?
Who will assess what in the interview process?
What is our sourcing strategy?
How are we building diversity in our pipeline?
I can hear you asking, “What if I’m the hiring manager AND the person leading recruitment?” Even if you’re playing both roles, don’t skip this step! Open up a blank document, copy/paste the above questions into it, and answer them for yourself. It’s never a waste of time to prioritize clarity. And when we’re playing dual roles on a lean team, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re crystal clear on what you need.
Communicate out to the team: Once you open a role, you need two communications:
Company communication: Reach out to the company and ask for referrals. Let them know you’re looking for this role.
Interviewer communication: Reach out to the interview team and let them know they will be interviewing for the role. Tell them what you want them to focus on in the interviews.
When time is tight, communication is critical. It’s often the first thing to slip when companies are trying to move fast, but you actually waste time by skipping communication. By communicating to the company about the role, you’re giving your team the chance to help you source candidates and share the role. You’re building a culture where hiring is a shared responsibility amongst the team. You’re also keeping your team “in the know” with your growth plans.
By communicating to your interviewers, you set them up for success in the interviews. They understand what they are looking for, what they should focus on, and what the company wants in candidates. You give them the chance to make the best possible use of that interviewing time.
Touch base after interviews: What went well? What didn’t sit right? Make sure you create a structure to gather feedback after the interviews. If you don’t get feedback after the interviews, why are you even taking the time to do the interviews? A great applicant tracking system (such as Greenhouse) has built-in functionality to make it simple to gather feedback after each interview. Don’t have the budget for that yet? Even a google form can create a culture of documenting feedback after an interview.
Once you get that feedback, iterate on your process . Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and revise the job description and the skills you’re looking for based on what you learned in the interview process.
After you put in place these three components, there’s lots of ways you can continue to uplevel your recruiting operations to turn into a machine. There’s structured interview kits, referral programs, sourcing strategies, interview training, candidate experience optimization… the list goes on and on.
For startups, though, I believe that the biggest impact you can have on your hiring is how you create internal alignment. Lack of alignment is what slows companies down. Lack of alignment is what delays hires. Lack of alignment results in open roles remaining unfilled.
How do you create alignment? The answer is simple: communication and easy-to-follow process.
Want help with improving communication and process around hiring? Reach out to Reservoir HR today so we can help you work smarter, not harder.