MBA Mondays: Best Hiring Practices

Hiring is a process and should be treated as such. It is serious business.

The first step is building a hiring roadmap which should lay out the hiring plan over time by job type. This should be built into your operating plan and budget. You want to be very strategic about how you invest your scarce resources into hiring and think carefully about when you need to add resources.

Once you have done that, you want to have a system for opening up these positions for hire. This should not be done lightly because each position will require a fair bit of work by a bunch of people to hire for. Don't open up your hiring process lightly.

The first step in opening up a position for hiring is to define the position you are looking for. Most companies call this a job specification (or spec). The spec should outline the role that is being filled and the characteristics of the person who will be successful in the job. Here is a job spec for a brand strategist job in Twitter's office in NYC. If you click on that link, you will see that it starts with a high level description of the role within the context of the larger Twitter organization. Then it gets into what it will take to be successful in the role. Then it lays out specific responsibilities and finishes with the background and experience that Twitter is looking for in the candidate.

The manager who is directly responsible for the person being hired should draft the job spec and it should be signed off on by the CEO and whomever is in charge of HR (which could be the CEO in a small company). Once this job spec is published on your jobs page, this position is officially open for hire and the process begins.

Your company should have a jobs page. Even if you are a five person startup, you should have one. It should articulate what it is like to work at your company and list any open jobs. It should be linked to at the bottom of your webpage, right next to the link to your about page. This is important. Don't put it off. Here is Etsy's "careers page". It's a good example of what you want to do on your jobs page.

There are web-based solutions to get your open positions onto your jobs page, track the candidates through the hiring process, and provide workflow for your hiring team. In the industry vernacular, these systems are called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Many of our portfolio companies use Jobvite, but there are plenty of other options out there as well. You do not need to build this stuff yourself.

Once the position is open, you want to crank up the sourcing process. We talked about where to find strong talent two weeks ago. Do not take the "put the job opening up and let the applicants come" approach. That will not get you the best people. You must go out and find the talent you want to hire. You can use your existing team, that is where the best leads always come from. You can use your network. You can use recruiters, both contingency and retained, and you can use services like LinkedIn and Indeed. You want to cast a wide net and work hard to source the best candidates you can. This is a time intensive process. Many companies will hire an in-house recruiter to help with this process, particularly when recruiting engineers, designers, and product talent. I've seen companies as small as ten employees bring on in-house recruiters. I am a big fan of making that investment because it pays dividends in terms of better talent.

Once the candidates start coming in, you will need to vet them to determine who gets an interview and who does not. Someone inside the company must lead this process. If there are HR resources, this vetting process starts with them. But the manager who is hiring for this position must be directly engaged in this vetting process. A HR professional can identify the candidates who don't come close to meeting the requirements of the job and filter them out. But the hiring manager should go through the applications of everyone who is close to being a viable candidate. He or she knows best what the job entails and can make the kind of "gut calls" that often lead to the best candidates.

You will want to interview a decent number of folks for every position. There are no hard rules for this, but the more people you meet, the better job you will do with the hire. Of course you can't meet everyone. Many companies like a 15 minute phone call (the phone screen) as the first filter into the interview process. A skype video call is also a good way to do this.  At USV we have experimented with a video application (using a service called Take The Interview), with good results. The phone or video screen is an efficient way to identify the small group (a half dozen to a dozen) that you will want to do a face to face interview with.

Once you get to face to face interviews, you will want to figure out how to get as many folks in the company to meet the candidates as possible. Our portfolio company Return Path has each candidate meet with four to eight employees during their interview process. That is a lot but Return Path makes a huge investment in team, culture, and their employees and they feel it is worth it. It may be worth it for your company as well.

Many employees don't know how to interview and you should teach them the basics as well as educate them on what you are looking to learn from their interview. Some training on interviewing as well as a quick feedback form for each employee to fill out will provide consistency and clarity from the employee interview process.

Most CEOs I know interview every hire their company makes until they get to be more than 100 employees (or more). Even if you have a head of HR and a top notch recruiting team, the responsibility for hiring is yours and yours only. A bad hire is your fault. A good hire is your success. So do not abdicate your responsibility to make the final call on each hire until your company is developed enough and strong enough to start making these hires themselves. This is how you build a great team, a great culture, and a great company.

Once the successful candidate is identified, you will want to do some checking on the person. I am a fan of making reference calls on everyone. They are not that hard to do and you will learn more from them than any other source of background checking. LinkedIn is particularly good for this. If you connect to the candidate on LinkedIn, you can quickly figure out who you know that knows them. Call those people and do your homework. It is also pretty wasy to do a simple background check for criminal or civil information. We don't do that at USV but I know a lot of companies that do it as a matter of good corporate practice.

When you are ready to make the hire, you must prepare an offer letter. The offer letter will outline the compensation you are offering and any other salient terms of the employement offer. Have your lawyer help you draft the first one you send out and use it as a template for all future hires. Offer letter are written agreements between you and the employee and treat them as such. Sign the employment offer and have the employee sign it to acknowledge that they are accepting it.

That's the hiring process. Done right, it involves a huge investment in each and every position. So many startups cut corners on it because they simply don't have the time or the resources to do it right. I would encourage everyone to take a step back and think about the costs of not doing it right and commit themselves and their companies to doing it right. You will see the benefits in time. And they are large.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Reading this made me think that recruiting is as important a part of company culture as most anything else.Takes too much time. Is too important. Involves so many people that every person when they get hired, just participated in a process that they themselves will be integral to moving forward.

    1. fredwilson




  2. Kate Huyett

    Great post. A few questions (maybe for follow up posts?):- nothing in here about having candidates do either individual or group exercises that get to either hard or soft skills. We have recently started doing both at HowAboutWe but curious if you’ve seen it be helpful elsewhere and if so who does it best- scoring/having clear set of metrics as part of process Daniel Kahneman, in Thining Fast and Slow, talks about a scoring metric with 4-6 qualities directly related to how you think someone will perform (eg hustle) and notes TaJft in his experience with the Israeli army these matrices outperformed gut level calls about whether someone would be a great soldier – what are best processes you’ve seen around people you don’t currently have roles for but you think you may want to hire eventually? How do yiu do outreach and also keep track of them/contact them over time?- best practices for reference checks. I’ve only recently discovered the very telling question, “what’s thecanecdote about this perdon that in your mind really captures who they are,” but generally speaking references seem to want to help candidate get a job more than they want to help you make a great hire- lastly, who are the companies that really knew it out of the park with each stage of recruiting?

    1. fredwilson

      great follow on questions/topics. i had to stop because i had already violated my word length max with that post.

      1. Kate Huyett

        Thanks Fred. Good thing it’s already a mini-series on your blog! The posts and the comments have been really helpful these past few weeks.

    2. Daniel Chait

      I answer all of these in my GA class. Here are the quick “answers”:1. Hard skills -> testing, always and always. They say they can code? Make then write code. Want to know if they can copy edit? Edit some copy! etc.2. Soft skills / personal characteristics -> behavioral interviewing (google it) and reference checks. Yes, reference checks. Try asking your next candidate, “When I call your references to ask about you, what will they say your strengths and weaknesses are?”. You’ve just done 2 things – made them believe you will actually call the person (note it was “When”, not “If”), and given the reference permission to discuss the person’s weaknesses (“Bob said that he thought people might have concerns about his work ethic. Have you seen that?”)3. Scoring – Yes you need scores. Use a simple score – I advocate 1 to 4 where 1 is VETO, 2 is “No”, 3 is “Yes’ and 4 is “Lightning in a bottle”. Anything more that than is more noise than signal – what’s the diff between a “7” or an “8” anyway? However, don’t just add them up! It’s data to use in the decision process, not a math formula guaranteed to yield the right answer. Take the scores into a meeting and use them to inform your judgment.4. The “Hire laters” – keep in contact. Use a candidate tracking system. Add them to your newsletter. Follow them on twitter. Invite them to your company happy hour. Call them! Candidates are just like people.5. Reference checks – answered in 2.6. ZocDoc and my old firm, Lab49, run the best processes in the city, that I know of. I’m sure there are lots more.

      1. Elli Sharef

        Daniel,Great point about testing for skills. I made a pretty big hiring mistake in my last job. I was hiring a data analyst who was mostly supposed to do Excel work. His resume was good and outlined data analysis work he had done. He was a personable guy and the whole team liked him. But the first day on the job I asked him to crunch some data — I quickly realized he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. His resume was either not entirely honest or else his definition of “excel analysis” was just very different than mine. Either way, it didn’t work out and was a huge pain for the whole team. Lots of things I did wrong in that process (e.g., no reference checking, no skills testing, not enough probing)…I’m now co-founder of HireArt partly as a result of that experience — we administer work sample tests for non-technical hires (e.g., write copy, crunch data, tell us how you’d sell this product). Candidates take our online interviews and we pass those on to employers. Check it out!

      2. John Rorick

        One thing to keep in mind regarding #1, actually make sure the testing environment is applicable to the context of the work they will be doing. Is what you are asking these candidates to demonstrate an actual corollary to how these skills are used in the workplace? An example, in years of staffing in engineers I had to consistently coach my tech managers to not “whiteboard” our top candidates to death. Meaning, they would fail certain developer prospects without consideration for the fact that in the workplace if they know what resource to go to or reference, that is more like the actual work environment than being able to pull everything from pure memory in the moment that a question is asked. These folks are interviewing to “fail” a candidate versus interviewing to hire.Also, one other concept to keep in mind regarding testing. Your measuring stick should technically be the lowest score from the incumbent team. If they are employed and successful then that is the minimum bar for consideration of a new hire. Validate a test with the current employee base first.

      3. Kate Huyett

        thanks – super helpful!



      1. Donna Brewington White

        I wish more companies did this.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Great questions, Kate.I see that many of these have already been answered. This one caught my attention:- what are best processes you’ve seen around people you don’t currently have roles for but you think you may want to hire eventually? How do yiu do outreach and also keep track of them/contact them over time?I don’t know of any standard practices, but…One thing I do as a recruiter is connect with them in social media and especially on LinkedIn. I also contact them for referrals. In recruiting the old “birds of a feather” adage generally holds true — and I make it clear that the main reason I am contacting them is because I am impressed with them and want to work with candidates of their caliber. You are in a better position to do this because you can actually say that you want to HIRE people of their caliber. This is a way to keep in touch, continue to reinforce your interest in them and keep them close by hiring people that they know. You can also offer to be available to them for advice, etc. Think of them as your not-yet-hires and find ways to connect with and engage them — consider this as part of your retention strategy along with retaining current employees.A search firm that wanted to hire me but did not have an opening began sending me their newsletter, the president’s Christmas letter and various announcements. Sometimes, the president would send me articles that he thought I might be interested in. He eventually hired me even though I was not looking (I had my own firm).

  3. LIAD

    #not doing it right.Back in 2007, I was running and needed to hire a marketing director.We jumped through all the hoops, compiled a shortlist and got down to a preferred candidate. We met with her individually and collectively, took references, did the whole enchilada. She checked out well. We made the offer. She accepted.Her first day on the job, around 11.30am, I take her and the people she’d be working with to the cafe/bar across the street for a casual get-to-know-everyone kind of meeting.I go through the group, asking each what they would like to drink. ‘espresso’, ‘latte’, ‘orange juice’ etc etc. I get to her. She says:’whisky on the rocks’- WHISKY ON THE FUCKING ROCKS!!!!!First day on the job. 11.30am! Whisky on the rocks!!I nearly died.Needless to say, she didn’t last with us very long and I bought a bunch of books on ‘hiring for dummies’.

    1. awaldstein

      After doing hiring right and wrong, both, lot’s of times, two things I learned:-Can’t rush it.-Can’t hire for the job, need to hire the person.Rule from you….is a good one. Know what they drink when.

      1. LIAD

        lol yeah. first question on our new job application form is:Are you a raging alcoholic?

        1. Guest

          I don’t drink. But a drink at 11:30am doesn’t mean raging alcoholic.

          1. PhilipSugar

            One would have to conclude she either had the worst judgement known to mankind (and remember we are talking about a marketer someone who is supposed to study that) or she was.I worked at Mitsubishi where it was customary to have a drink at lunch, but you better be sure you figured out the lay of the land. First day everybody else orders non-alcoholic and you go strong with a whiskey on the rocks? Only one of two possible conclusions.

          2. Guest

            I don’t know maybe she was nervous and needed to calm down because it was her first day. Maybe she really felt great about the new job and knowing the first day isn’t the time to start “making large contributions.” She figured it would be the last time she would have the luxury of having a drink at lunch.The tighter your grip the more slips through your fingers.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            @Rick_EWS:disqus I am not criticizing her lifestyle, but rather her judgment.Also, just because someone is a genius at what they do doesn’t mean that they are the best person to have on your team. Job performance is only one part of the equation.You have to look at the overall impact a person makes. If negative impact outweighs the person’s positive contribution, then you might have a problem. That balance will be different for some environments than it is for others.And you have to make sure that it truly is negative impact rather than merely making people uncomfortable.BTW, this was in response to another comment you made but I guess there is now a cutoff to the thread?

          4. Guest

            I don’t think there was any “thread cutoff”. Disqus was acting up. All should be well now.Good points thx.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Or “Are you stupid?”How can someone not know that it was a mistake to order a drink in the a.m. as part of a new team?I think the lack of judgment was the bigger issue.

          1. Guest

            See I think just the opposite. I don’t want team members to wear a uniform to work and I don’t want to make them all mini-me’s.Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean others shouldn’t. Again it all comes down to how well she did as a marketer.So by the line of reasoning in this thread you would not hire Albert Einstein because of his non-conventional sleeping habits?

    2. fredwilson

      yeow. maybe the lesson is take the candidate for coffee before you make the hire 🙂

      1. Heliodor Jalba

        I find the typical interview process much too shallow. Coffee, lunch, and/or bar would provide more (and broader) insight.

    3. Cam MacRae

      Sounds like she was direct from an agency.

      1. leigh


        1. Cam MacRae

          Stop me if I’m wrong! I’d have thought 11:30am was quite civilised; sun over the yard arm and all that.

          1. leigh

            11:30 is almost lunch!

          2. Cam MacRae

            Right! It’s almost unforgivable she didn’t order the bottle. (To share, obvs.).

          3. Donna Brewington White

            I stand corrected. If someone has been up since 5:00 a.m., 11:30 can seem quite late in the day.

      2. Guest

        lolI have to say that seems to be the majority opinion.

    4. andyswan

      Shame. Had she said “bourbon” this almost certainly would have had a much happier ending.

    5. Anne Libby

      It also goes to show you what checking references might not get you. Many people don’t want to say anything negative, for any number of reasons. (Wanting to be “nice,” fear of legal action, etc…)

      1. JLM

        .No person with a brain in the current litigious environment would ever say anything negative about any former employee unless they are currently in prison.The most I would ever say is something like — “They may have gotten out of charm school a semester early.”References for former employers are no longer a wise thing to do..

        1. Emily Merkle

          References as discovery are a waste – any candidate with half a brain will only provide a positive or neutral reference. I like then as character / personality / performance checks & I like to touch base with former clients, and if I am lucky, the competition.

          1. leigh

            You’d be surprised. And a good reference checker is like a spy — they can find ways to get at the right info….

          2. Donna Brewington White

            The key is that you don’t just talk to references that the candidate provides — Fred gave some good suggestions above — you can also ask each reference for a suggestion of someone to talk to. Sometimes I do stick with the provided references (although I ask for several — 360 degrees) unless I get even a whiff of a problem. But I have done this enough that I can smell trouble.

        2. David Semeria

          It’s enough to say “in this particular case, we would rather not provide a reference” – says a lot without saying anything.

        3. awaldstein

          Smart rule of thumb.I still get tracked down for references like….you were VP of X when someone was a major account manager.Good news is that just about no one calls without emailing so easy to decide whether to participate or not.

        4. K_Berger

          It’s true that the smart, safe thing is to not say anything of consequence. However, plenty of people still do. My favorite question for a reference is “Can you tell me their biggest strength and biggest opportunity for growth (or challenge)”.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Especially, if you ask the latter with the intent that the company does want to provide opportunity for growth and development. I will sometimes phrase this way “What types of opportunities for growth and development do you suggest we provide to help Ken operate at peak level?”(of course, in my case I will say “my client” instead of “we”)

        5. LE

          “No person with a brain in the current litigious environment would ever say anything negative about any former employee unless they are currently in prison.”To me that doesn’t matter. You can tell based not only on what they say (or don’t say) but how they say it. The tone of their voice and the words that they use.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            “You can tell based not only on what they say (or don’t say) but how they say it. The tone of their voice and the words that they use.”Exactly. You have to be alert! And listen.

        6. Dan T

          I quit on phone reference except when I know the reference personally or have one degree of separation and can get the real scoop. Otherwise, I use skillsurvey – which gets feedback from the former co-workers/bosses, but it’s candidate driven and confidential – i.e. you don’t know exactly who said what – – so you can get some good info without risk exposure for the references – disclosure – I am an investor – from 7 years ago. But still using it cause it works.

        7. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. LIAD

        lots of UK companies have a policy of never giving references. they just confirm the dates the person worked there and nothing more.

        1. William Mougayar

          Hey LIAD. Sorry for the side question. Are you in the UK? I’ll be there June 19-20 for 2 short days at LeWeb. I wonder who else besides you, Richard F and Rohan is in the UK?

          1. LIAD

            Will be around on day 2. Will track you down.

          2. William Mougayar

            Great. Let’s meet up then. I”ll ping you via engagio to connect.

          3. Russell

            Hi William, I’m based in London as well. Doing business development for a business magazine. I’m playing softball in the evenings, but happy to meet up for a coffee, or give recommendations. A quick one, a short cab from “Silicon Roundabout” is Moro – great restaurant on a hidden, little pedestrian street (Exmouth Market). Plus if you are taking any UK developers as a bonus there is a foosball place across the street (cafe kick). Cheers, Russell

          4. William Mougayar

            Thanks. I wanted to stay at the LeWeb venue and meet anyone there hopefully.

        2. Brandon Marker

          It is the same way here… but you know… whatever…

      3. Donna Brewington White

        This is also in response to @leigh:disqus and @twitter-422544802:disqus below.I think the reference being interviewed can tell if you are just talking to references as something to check off the list or if you are truly trying to ensure the best fit for the company and the candidate.I find that if you put the conversation into the latter context people are more willing to be candid, especially if he/she is in a hiring role and can relate to the challenge you face.I am not saying that this is failproof but couching the questions in these terms has often made a difference.Questions have to be crafted well so that they are not as easy to evade or seen as having a “good” or “bad” answer, and leading questions avoided like the plague. Asking for a supporting example also helps.

    6. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      Did you server her the drink she asked for? :-).

    7. ShanaC

      umm, and how many startups do you know keep beer in their fridges?

      1. William Mougayar

        Everybody does! Shana, you’ll need to visit them more often. Actually last week in NYC, I visited a famous startup and they had a table stocked with scotches and liquor. Did you read Dennis Crowley’s blog announcing the new Foursquare release and celebrating it with Macallan? Actually, Foursquare was doing Macallan tasting and hiring a couple of days ago:

        1. ShanaC

          my point was why are we bothered about her drinking at 11:30 when there are many open bars essentially at these startups….



        1. William Mougayar

          That’s been my experienceThursdays are bad days until it gets replenished on Friday

        2. Guest


      3. Guest

        More then you might expect.

    8. Tom Labus

      I kinda like that.

    9. Justin Singer

      Brings up an important point: in a startup, part of having a good hiring process is also having a good *firing* process. A very wise friend once told me that, even after hiring hundreds of people, he was lucky to get it right 60% of the time. Better to admit a mistake and cut ties quickly than to let a bad hire overstay their welcome.

    10. Guest

      How did she perform at marketing? That’s the real question. It doesn’t matter if she has to rub pig shit in her hair every morning to get that “edge”. If she markets like crazy then she’s the one for the job. Only problem is you’ll need to let her work from home because she’ll smell like pig shit.Remember Fred’s diversity post? Don’t try to change people. If they contribute to the company then they are called an asset!



        1. LIAD

          ah dude. below the belt.I know an awesome crack addict, where should I send him for an interview to work with you?

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. LIAD

            Things that matter to me are the things that matter.We can agree to disagree

    11. Donna Brewington White

      Ha!Ideally you will have an informal “non-interview” with everyone you hire — especially for your leadership team. Even something as simple as going out to lunch or dinner — but something that is away from the work environment and does not feel like an interview.This can tell you a lot!



    13. Guest

      Liad,Back in my graduate days I managed a convenience store and one time I hired a guy to work third shift. Now, we were located in a pretty rough neighborhood; so finding people was not all that easy. Finding a big black guy who could pass a drug test and a couple of other exams was really rough.First night on the job, he comes in dressed as a she. Since we were bordered by projects on one side and had a few gay bars on the other it really should not have been a surprise.After getting over the shock I just said, “…you can come to work anyway you want just make sure you are consistent!”Sometimes you just have to laugh at life…..

  4. Guest

    Let me add to the amount of work involved in finding candidates -Don’t forget to ensure that every single person who applies for a position receives a timely notification that they are not being considered any longer for a position.Its not only how you hire but how you reject that also can effect your success in the future. This article explains why:…I have “tested”, Jobvite and Jobscore and by applying to job openings and I will tell you truthfully, there are quite a few companies, start ups, that I will have nothing to do with based on how you treated applicants.I know you are busy changing the world and dealing with 800+ applicants is way too much a waste of time, but remember, that is 800 people who will share their experience with others.

    1. Kate Huyett

      So so true. Also related to this is setting and following clear deadlines Eith the candidates- eg we will be doing final round interview next week.

    2. awaldstein

      Old hack was the most important marketers are your salespeople because they touch people day after day, all day.Most important people in the recruiting chain are the people you interview, even those you don’t hire.

    3. Anne Libby


    4. fredwilson

      that is such great advice. it is true in passing on investment opportunities and we still struggle to do that well.

      1. ShanaC

        schedule a day to send out nos? The waiting is a killer for those waiting.

        1. Guest

          That is a psychological game that is played. It’s about telling the applicant they don’t really *need* you. And it’s about the applicant saying I don’t need to know because I have other options. Just a waste of time unless the company is wanting to find someone better and looking to keep a backup second rate choice on the list.

          1. ShanaC

            Everyone would be happier if there were no psychological games played.

        2. John Rorick

          You have highlighted the NUMBER ONE challenge in the recruitment chain. Not to make excuses, and this is a large company perspective, but the sheer volume coupled with the other aspects of HR onboarding, benefits, payrolling, etc, have been the bain of my corporate recruitment existence since I made the career shift in 2000. Two things I hammer my teams on though: regardless of anyone getting the job we want everyone who leaves our organization WANTING to be connected with the company or at the very least our product. And second, the only thing I can not defend my team on is responsiveness ~ whether good news or bad news. All other sins can be worked on.Bear in mind I personally struggle with all of the above. But I try. And in odd ways social media has become a tool for me to sometimes fix when a candidate experience goes awry.

          1. ShanaC

            I’ve seen this happen with small companies too. It seems we’re losing an element of politness in this world.

    5. LIAD

      same goes for VC passes.

    6. JLM

      .In a certain way, the contact with a candidate is a chance to test out the company’s business thesis.Can you seduce the candidate into taking the job?Al Qaeda suicide bombers and the 72 virgins?One would naturally want to know — if this is such a great deal how did you get to be 65 years old?How about 6 New Orleans hookers who know what they are doing v 72 inept virgins?Sorry..

      1. David Semeria


      2. Guest

        “Can you seduce the candidate into taking the job?”That doesn’t sound like the right way to find a match. Why would the candidate need to be seduced if the job is a mutually beneficial opportunity?

        1. Dale Allyn

          I think what JLM was suggesting is that highly desirable prospects often have multiple options available. In such cases, one needs to show why your opportunity is better than others which might be under consideration – hence, the “seduction”. (semantics ;)One can say “well, if that is needed, then it’s not a perfect fit”, but beyond finding a partner/co-founder or similar, the market place broadens and competition enters into the equation. That competition can be two-way, but still factors.

          1. Guest

            Yea, I realized that it was me using too strict a definition of seduced. No problem.I tend to feel the candidate is being offered an opportunity to advance theiself and the company is being offered an opportunity to build their team.

        2. JLM

          .Every hire in the history of the world is a mutual seduction.Maybe you’re a start up and you can only offer a meager compensation but lots of equity as upside. Who is doing the selling in this scenario? The employer.You have to explain the culture of the company to ensure fit — you have to sell the culture of the company to ensure fit.The seduction is the process by which you describe the fit.On a very personal level, do you personally want to be sized, tagged and measured for fit or do you want to be courted, pursued and seduced?Do you want an employee or a follower, a fanatic?Me, I make people want to follow me through the fire and I have the water hose.Just semantics, really. But important semantics..

          1. Guest

            Just a terminology thing because I get this from the dictionary:Seduce -to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; persuade or induce to have sexual lead or draw away, as from principles, faithOf course the intercourse one isn’t applicable. But, I get your meaning.

          2. JLM

            .@Rick_EWS:disqusDisqus misbehaving, cannot REPLY to your posts for some reason. Did you pixie dust me?I think the word “seduce” has several meanings.Seduce —a. To entice or beguile into a desired state or position.b. To win over; attract.

          3. Sam Parker

            Our fix for this issue is out now.

          4. Guest

            Nope, I didn’t pixie dust you. lolI’m also having problem with Disqus, hence me replying to this post instead of the post below. I went to their website and they have 40 people working there. I don’t know if it’s their fault or if they’re getting hacked from the outside.

          5. Sam Parker

            We’ve rolled out a fix for this. Should be working now.

          6. Guest

            Thx Sam. Disqus is working better now.

          7. Tyler Hayes

            @Rick_EWS:disqus If this is still happening for you would you kindly let know the details? E.g., what browser/version you’re using and a step-by-step of the issue would both be very helpful. More than happy to lend a hand once we have more info.

          8. Guest

            OK, I entered the information. Enjoy. If you need any more help let me know.

          9. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        @JLM- What was it said you’d be doing after you washed the car ? :)))

    7. ShanaC

      Don’t remind me. After interviews sometimes I found that even if I write a thank you note people will not get back with any sort of news for more than a month later. Sometimes they don’t get back at all. It is really really rude, as the person interviewing may be under as much if not more stress finding a job.

      1. JLM

        .That is simply wrong..

        1. ShanaC

          People don’t care how wrong it is, alas.

      2. Guest

        Just curious, who did you send the thank you note to?

        1. ShanaC

          usually the interviewer/person of last contact. They took time out of their day to interview, and I should be thankful. I sometimes will also follow up with HR. I then almost always follow up with HR a week later, because otherwise I never hear.

      3. Mark Essel

        how rude! And a signal of the character o f the company.

    8. Otto

      The applicant/candidate is interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing him or her. It may not seem like it now because of the economy and tough job market, but I imagine many job seekers still do see that way.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Yes, they do, Otto. Good point. I am so impressed by the companies that recognize this…and don’t take advantage of the tough job market to slack off. One of the skills I love in recruiting is “wooing” the candidate. I wonder if a candidate who has been wooed is a more loyal employee?

        1. John Rorick

          A person who is wooed and subsequently finds the job experience and opportunity matches the “woo” is a long term loyal employee. When there is dissonance between the actual role and the initial sales pitch you can count on their eventual departure.

        2. Otto

          Good question. I’ve been wooed. It’s flattering, but I can’t say it influenced me one way or another. One ultimately wasn’t a good fit, so now I would be skeptical of that recruiting tactic. My best experiences as a job candidate were when we had a conversation and it didn’t feel like a “job interview”. I’ve done most of my corporate work in sales, so authentic conversation – speaking and listening – is important to me because it’s a important part of the job. If I can’t have a two-way conversation with my manager, the job is going to suck.As for loyalty, I don’t know if there is a concrete answer. In my opinion, people may act loyal at first but in reality they’re being loyal to themselves because it’s a new opportunity and they don’t want to blow it. It’s what I call The Don Draper paradox (shameless, I know), but why are they being loyal? In time a person might become loyal, but if authentic I think that sort of trust is earned and goes in both directions. I’ll leave you with another one you may have heard, “People don’t quit, they fire their managers.”

    9. LE

      “but remember, that is 800 people who will share their experience with others.”Couldn’t agree more.I believe in “always be selling” and not being lazy.We get inquiries from people all the time that confuse us with other companies. Separately we also get offers for domain names where the offer is from a person in the business and very low. To people who confuse us with another company with similar names we give them the registrar whom they should call and a coupon for a reduced rate to use in the future with us. For people who make low offers we send them a list of names they could buy for a lower rate or suggest an available name. No reason to waste an opportunity to make a future sale.It only takes a second. People pay to advertise their company to get business so why pass on an opportunity to send an email and sell to someone who has approached you?

    10. Guest

      I interviewed at two of the most-prominent web startups in my area, got past the 3rd rounds at each. I figured there’d be no way at that point in the process they wouldn’t get back to me or give me more information as to why I wasn’t moving on. One of them left me high and dry after promising a return response. The other had me take a 3-hour PTO from my FT job just to tell me an hour in that I wasn’t what they were looking for, but they literally couldn’t tell me why (when I asked, he shrugged).Neither of these places are going to get any future business or recommendations from me because of these experiences. I have no ill-will towards employers who don’t hire me — there’s a lot of factors that go into it on both ends — but not treating potential-hires like people says an awful lot, and I’m glad I didn’t get the jobs in the end anyway.



    12. Kate Huyett

      what is best way to communicate “no” to people? feel like the thanks but no thanks emails always come across harsh no matter how you write them…

      1. Guest

        Email is a harsh and cold method of communication period.If I receive a resume with a cover letter and it shows that someone took some time applying for a job, even if they did send it to me via email then I send them a letter via USPS; its a chain letter with one or two sentences that make the letter “personal” and then I sign every one of them.Thanks to email, a signed letter via the postal service seems to be considered an honor nowadays.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Hi Kate — I think you asked me a question in another post about using LinkedIn for recruiting. I’d like to respond to you but things went haywire for a while. Can you ask me that question via email? I may respond via email — or by writing a post on my Hire Thoughts blog. Thanks. dwhite AT bwasearch DOT com.

      3. Donna Brewington White

        A no is a no and you cannot control how people will receive it. Most people don’t want to be condescended to when you tell them no. They want to be treated like grown-ups. But people do like to be appreciated and treated with respect.First of all, if I actually met with someone or sent them to interview with a client, I will call them to give them the bad news. And I won’t leave this on voice mail.When sending an email, I thank the person for their time and interest in exploring the opportunity. I think that the word “appreciate” is nice — i.e., I appreciate your interest in our Marketing Director opening and would like to thank you for taking the time to explore (or inquire about) this opportunity.Tell them why they were not selected in the most positive terms possible. “Your qualifications are impressive, however, after careful consideration, we narrowed down our candidate pool to those whose industry experience was a closer fit for the role.”Make yourself available if they have any further questions. And if you sincerely mean this, tell them that you hope your paths will cross again — or to continue to check your company’s job page for future opportunities, etc.Don’t say anything that is not true to try to make them feel better.Just some thoughts.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          @donnawhite:disqus You woke up too early or yet to hit the bed? … it is odd time for both in my opinion.

        2. kidmercury

          this is good insight…..thanks for sharing!

      4. Cata

        The best way to say “no” is to call the person and to give him the news. I had 1 experience of this kind, and i preffer it. I don’t like to receive answears via e-mail.

    13. Mark Essel

      This!The company culture is define by how It treats everyone they engage. Not responding is indicative of a broken value system.

  5. Kate Huyett

    One other question -how does/should process evolve with size and stage of company? Or should hammering out and then refining a process start with the first hire?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, on the latter. the answer to the former is that it evolves into more and more of a process.

  6. Cam MacRae

    I referee for people quite a lot. There’s a real to art conducting a reference check with someone you’re not acquainted with because when you get down to brass tacks the referee is an idiot if they offer anything short of ambivalent praise (at least where I live, although I can’t imagine it’s any different in NA). I’ll nearly always tell you exactly what I think, but you might not hear me.

    1. William Mougayar

      I agree that reference checking can be quite revealing, including who they list as a reference & what the references don’t tell you.

  7. Emily Merkle

    i spent a brief stint recruiting for DoubleClick years ago. I was successful in placing candidates in part because I kept in mind that hiring is a Two Way Street. You are “selling” the candidate on the opportunity as much as the candidate is seeking a fit with your organization. And you want it that way – last thing that is good fr anyone is a new hire that does not fit the culture, for example.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. Exactly

  8. William Mougayar

    Wow You covered lots of ground & that’s pretty comprehensive. I would only add 4 other elements: 1. Have more than 2 people interview the short listed candidate. If you’re a small firm, ask someone else from another startup to also interview them.  2. Use a set of metrics/criteria so you can easily compare later.3. Give them a test to perform, either a hacking challenge, a marketing problem, a UI design to improve, etc. 4. Be prepared to break some rules if you luck out on someone really unique. 

    1. fredwilson

      that last one is a really good one

    2. awaldstein

      #1I often find myself doing this for clients.



    3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      good additonal list. Regarding point 1 – I enjoyed reading Return Path interview technique of having a team performing the interview. It is good way for small companies to get their employees involved in the hiring making decision. Also, as the person being interviewed – it feels special when a company has made the effort to get their team to meet with you. The third point about the test is an interesting one and I went through it once in a job interview and actually enjoyed the experience!!

      1. John Rorick

        Be careful about paneling candidates; as Fred noted you should never assume the 4-6 people staring blankly across a table at a candidate are actually comfortable interviewing or knowledgeable in how to conduct one. It can be very uncomfortable for many which typically transfers to the candidate during the process.

        1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

          that is a good point and I would hope that when choosing the panels – the members understand the significance of their participation and are engaging individuals. It is in the interest of interviewers to attract the top talent and a badly run interview would be a turn off

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Good list, William. Hey, when did Fred remove the 3-week restriction on comments? I am having a great time reading these comments and responding — warming up for my post.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I tweeted a comment last week about how great it was rediscovering older conversations with engagio!! same thought as yours

    5. Donna Brewington White

      P.S. BTW, when I searched for hiring using Engagio, I saw all these comments that I had missed and this brought me back to the thread.

      1. William Mougayar

        I rest my case 🙂

  9. Richard

    A great hire is where a great company goes.

  10. JimHirshfield

    Where did my comment go?!!!!

    1. fredwilson

      This issue has been inflicting us for the padt few days. Disqus is aware of it

      1. JimHirshfield

        Redo: I try to get to know as many people as I can along this journey, ’cause when I need a new gig, it helps to just reach out to the network and let them know you’re looking (as I am now, BTW). So I’d add to your list that employers should also get to know as many people as they can – get out there – so that when it’s time to hire, they can consider people they already know, or know of.

      2. Guest

        I fiddled around with it trying to come up with some rhyme or reason but it doesn’t seem to follow any particular pattern.

    2. Cam MacRae

      The thread depth limit seems to be back which appears to be sending replies from to /dev/null.

      1. JimHirshfield

        My missing comment was a direct first reply to the post (i.e.not a reply to another comment) entered directly on

    3. obscurelyfamous

      We’re digging into this but the answer isn’t obvious right now. It might just be a gap in the UX.Did you post from the site? Did you see the post go through but, when refreshing, it went away?

      1. JimHirshfield

        I posted from the site while on my Nexus One Android. I was logged in already. I hit post and all that appeared was a blank comment entry with my name and avatar. A few moments later, nothing upon refresh.

  11. andyswan

    Step # 0.1: Develop and lead a network of awesome people who can’t wait to work with you (and each other).Then you don’t have to go through all of the complexities listed in this post…you just pick up the phone and say “ready to join us?”

  12. JLM

    .One of your very best practical MBA Monday posts. Very well done. A real road map of pragmatic practices that can be applied………………….today. Well played!A couple of thoughts:Reference checking is an art. Nobody gives you a reference that they do not expect to be favorable. The way to smoke them out — play dumb or feign ignorance — is to initially double check what they say they did at that company v what the reference says they did. If there is a substantial difference, probe deeper.Know the reason why every candidate got a former job and why they left. Know their boss’s name and the CEO at every job. These are the beginning of your blind reference checks. You will be amazed at what people tell you is the reason they left a company.Make a weighted matrix to rationalize among candidates.Have a written list of questions which reflects the weighted matrix.Where one can demonstrate a skill, make them do so. This has worked great for me.Get the candidate on “their” turf at some time — ask them to set the location for a quick lunch or coffee.Know the candidates’ outside interests. Spouse, significant other. Family.Be very, very careful as to where you get other internal opinions — CFO opining on a software engineer?Do not be afraid to use a bit of testing — MBTI, etc.Get them talking..

    1. Cam MacRae

      Agree with most of this, except that depending on the law in your location it takes a very brave person to probe into spouse & family, and the MBTI is unadulterated bullshit — you might as well send them for a Tarot reading.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Actually – the Myers-Briggs is legit. I studied all manner of psych testing in grad school. To wit – it is only as good as the ability of the individual scoring/analyzing.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Legit, yes. However there is often a chasmic gap between certification and scientific validity. The test exhibits neither reliability nor stability.In any event even its enthusiasts consider it unethical to use the test to evaluate candidates.

          1. Emily Merkle

            Actually, I know this one. When administered, scored, and interpreted appropriately, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is reliable and valid. As far as ethics – that is a different animal.

          2. Cam MacRae

            A quick perusal of the literature shows otherwise. To be fair, I haven’t done that for a couple of years.

          3. JLM

            .Not to go all in on MBTI but I have found it to be a very useful tool when administered by a professional who also meets w/ the candidate.One of the best hires I ever made, wanted to know everyone in the company’s MBTI. He knew he would fit.I cannot perceive any ethical dilemma in using it.It is but one very tiny data point and is not a killer..

          4. Donna Brewington White

            I have found Myers-Briggs to be a good validator and check of my work. If I learn someone’s Myers Briggs and it is not what I would have expected, this is a signal to me that something is awry — whether in my interviewing and vetting or in the person’s presentation. In any event, it signals that some investigation is needed.

          5. Cam MacRae

            @JLM:disqus No doubt a great many people find it to be useful — it wouldn’t have endured otherwise.

          6. Cam MacRae

            @twitter-422544802:disqus A quick perusal of the literature shows otherwise. To be fair, I haven’t done that for a couple of years.

          7. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. PhilipSugar

          I’m not sure, we once had a Myers-Briggs done on me an my two partners (VC’s wanted) and the results say we would all kill each other. We have worked together on many projects since 1992 and while at times it might have got heated I can’t imagine better people to work with. We’ve worked with each other longer than we’ve been married. In an especially ironic twist one married my sister in 2002.

          1. Emily Merkle

            You are mistaken in your recollection; the result as you state it above is not within the realm of potential feedback.



        1. arootham

          I’m with FAKEGRIMLOCK on this one. People are not resources to be plugged into a MS Project Plan.

    2. William Mougayar

      Great list and it concurs with a couple of things I said. For the reference checks, who they don’t volunteer as a reference can be telling. After an initial list, I’ve gone back and asked – can you give us this type of reference, and why not this one, etc. You can end with a very simple question “Would you hire them again?”

    3. fredwilson

      “Get them talking”. Words to live your life by. Such great advice.

    4. John Revay

      “Get them talking”I have been on both side of interviewing (buyer and seller), can not agree w/ you more about letting the candidate do the talking. Sometimes – people just say more than they should if you let them. Even on both sides of the transaction

      1. JLM

        .The most important question in any interview:”Hmmm, that’s interesting and then what happened?”.

        1. John Rorick

          An easy corporate recruiter trick when you may have accidentally zoned out in the midst of a lengthy reply and were thinking about your email inbox…”How so?”

    5. Brandon Marker

      I agree, this has been one of the best for me. I am still learning the proper technique for hiring in the startup world. I come from the corporate world. While I hired dozens of people, it was in a completely different context. I needed this. And getting them on “their” turf will be the very next thing I do.



      1. JLM

        Do you consume the rejects, FG?

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  13. Frank Garland

    Here is another thought —- We hire skills, knowledge and attitude. As managers and leaders we can always work on skills and knowledge. The candidate brings the attitude, which I would break down into values and principles. The biggest mistake hiring managers make is focusing on the skills and knowledge and not the attitude. But it is the attitude more than anything that determines success. If the candidates values and principles line up with the company, they can thrive. If not, even a person with great skills and knowledge will fail. My guess is the woman who ordered the whiskey on the rocks came from a place where this was accepted. But this clearly didn’t match up with the new company. So ask a lot of questions about the values and principles of the places where the candidate has worked. I like questions like “describe for me the characteristics of the people who have been the most successful at your previous company?” And depending on their track record, I suggest asking a whole serious of questions about the people they have worked with well, and the people they haven’t fit in with.

    1. Guest

      “The candidate brings the attitude, which I would break down into values and principles.”I think the coupling of the company with the employee creates the attitude. I once interviewed with a company that said they were moving to a higher level of system development. My attitude was great because that’s what I was excited about doing in my career. They asked me to come in and help change things to the new methods. I agreed and when I got there they said I needed to take a coding test (for programming). My attitude changed! I walked out.

  14. reece

    while being dedicated to a process like this is fantastic, it’s important to also allow for surprises. what i mean is that sometimes great people fall into your lap/become availablethey don’t fit your hiring plans, at least not at the moment, but they’d make an awesome addition to the teamgiven how hard it is to get awesome people, our approach is to at least have a conversation with them. get to know them and in a few cases, we’ve hired them, despite our hiring plans because they’re just that awesome (remember: “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”)if it really isn’t a fit for us at the time however, i’ll put some energy into passing them on to another startup i know or if they’re leaving a big company for their first startup, i will definitely play matchmaker for them. thinking is, it’s better to have that person happily in the startup ecosystem, than burned by their job search and back at Big Co XYZ

    1. fredwilson

      Yes absolutely. No process worth its salt is immune to exceptions. But dont make exceptions the rule.

      1. reece

        great Yoda-ism

    2. Donna Brewington White

      One of my pet peeves is lack of imagination and rigidity in hiring. Drives me crazy. Encourages me to hear your approach.What you describe in the last paragraph is very cool. In fact when I dream about a better way to do hiring, what you described is part of the process. This should definitely happen at venture-funded companies — where companies in the same portfolio exchange this type of information.

  15. PhilipSugar

    On the subject of references, one thing I learned was that the first reference only counts as a source to get to the real reference. As JLM says in the current environment you will find nothing. When you ask that reference for another reference, that is where you will find information.

    1. Robert Thuston

      That’s an interesting approach… The other one is to only use references you personally know (I.e. use LinkedIn to find personal references). And to make 2 and 3 calls to different people. Its said you can’t spend too much time in this step. –Larry Bossidy paraphrased

  16. gbattle

    Your hiring process and practice says everything about your company. As many have detailed, you will pass on many more people than you hire, and those people you reject will talk and either be advocates or detractors based upon their experience. What Fred detailed are indeed best practices, but remember, best practices don’t define the exceptional, they define the minimal acceptable activity. That’s where you start, not end.So how do you become exceptional in the age where hiring is an arms race for talent?Though on-demand and just-in-time work well for scaling technology resources, you cannot do this with human resources. You have to be looking at all times (and in all places) independent of your hiring needs, because talent doesn’t just appear on your doorstep when you need it. This involves a CEO taking stock of the culture and what he or she will or will not accept.- Is your company vision and values reflected in your process?- What does the job spec say about your company’s identity outside of the role itself?- If you expect speed and efficiency from your employees, does your process reflect that value?- Are you willing to hire based upon availability of stellar talent rather than immediate need, and if so, how do you integrate them into your company?- Are you willing to work with talent remotely?- If you build remote teams, how often do you visit them and how often do you bring everyone together?- What types of non-dollar rewards/benefits are you willing to employ to acquire great talent and align them for success?- Post the offer, what is your onboarding process for new hires – make everyone learn code or do customer service or a leadership seminar/adventure – what about the onboarding process binds everyone together?- Will you poach people from other companies directly?- How do you deal with other companies poaching your people?Knowing who you are as a company is a candidate filter for both sides. If you twist in the wind to accommodate, people will know and respect you less. Not that there’s no room for negotiation, but your values should define the boundaries.

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment. So good its a blog post.

      1. gbattle

        I’m just glad I’m no longer an asshole in these parts. 😉

    2. Dale Allyn

      Great comment, Greg.And specifically: Sending everyone (any non-hires) away as advocates for you is simply good business. That includes the “no thank you” communication, as well as the entire process of scheduling interviews, respecting the candidates’ time, etc.As for adding “stellar talent” upon availability rather than at time of absolute need: I suggest this goes in the b-plan and includes a contingency line-item in expense projections (we have it). Also, in the event of such a hire, have appropriate projects ready to engage, even if breaking sequence of the anticipated time line.

      1. gbattle

        I love that contingency line item in your budget for acquiring talent. I will steal that idea for certain. 🙂

  17. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Find the veterans in the same field OR consult a veteran in the same field …. you got your first 20-candidates.When it goes to hiring beyond the first 20 leave it to the individual leader and ask them to find their leaders to work under them.

  18. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Great practical post. As someone who is currently testing the job market – it is great to hear the view point of the other side. I am glad that Jobvite got the mention in the article because I am always happier to use them in job applications when they are available. Also, my experience has been better with companies using jobvite!! The main reason being that I usually always almost received a reply

  19. Parker

    Surprised you would recommend Skype as opposed to Google Hangout… since you said you’d move there. I’m guessing it’s just MBA talk though. 🙂

  20. Tom Labus

    Hiring well should be left to professionals.It’s a weird game as we play it here in the US and I don’t know if the process really serves either side well.Our careers are so important to how we define ourselves but we are at the mercy of a hiring process that doesn’t work well.

    1. Daniel Chait

      I think almost the exact opposite actually. Experience has shown that if line of business managers and executives just “leave it to HR” or delegate to an outside recruiter, they will suffer. This stuff is important – work hard at it!

      1. Tom Labus

        A team effort approach to slice up task may help.Also exposing potential hires to lots of people or a range of reactions.I always ask someone like a receptionist what they thought of the person even if it was just meeting in passing. I’ve gotten some very interesting reactions.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          The receptionist is one of the most important people in the feedback process. This is when the candidate is most unguarded.

      2. John Rorick

        Over the past dozen years the easiest folks to recruit for are those leaders that engage in partnership with HR from day one to find talent. Not surprisingly they tend to higher quickest, and see the lowest attrition unless it is a loss to promotion.

  21. David O. Smith

    Lots of terrific advice here. My biggest challenge with the hiring process is that the primary source of information about the candidate is the candidate. This is particularly limiting when aspects of their character and relational skills are important. Every candidate says they are trustworthy and good team players no matter how many ways they are asked the question.For me, 3rd party insight is the most accurate for these qualities. Have tried to move references earlier in the process so not just about the lead candidate and adding more structure to the questions. One techniques is to ask references to rank a series of attributes from strongest to least strong. This relative ranking enables the reference to get through the call without saying anything bad but still provides some clarity on key leadership qualities.

    1. Daniel Chait

      @davidosmith7:disqus actually – there exist quite valid, reliable techniques to assess candidates inherent qualities, personality traits, and values (such as the examples you mention, “character”, “trustworthiness”, “good team players” etc).The most common of these is known as behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing says that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Traditional interview questions tend to pose general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” or situational questions such as, “How would you handle ABC situation?” These type of questions fail to impose accountability since the candidate can just make up their answer, and you have no way to tell if they would really react the way they say they would.The process of behavioral interviewing is much more probing and works very differently. Most behavioral interviews begin with a “Tell me about a time when …” question. You then follow those up with very pointed questions meant to probe for detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. For example, “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Why was it important to you that the team implement your change?” These probes add reliability and give a much more complete picture of the candidate’s way of thinking.There are other ways of getting at these values (referrals can be great for this, as an example) but behavioral interviewing is certainly a starting point.

      1. David O. Smith

        Hey DanielThanks for the note – yes I have used Behavioral interviewing over the years and it is a much better approach. However, even with multiple people asking different behavioral questions through the process, we are still collecting data about the candidate from the candidate. I have experimented with some more analytical approaches to the reference process – the execution remains challenging.

  22. Daniel Chait

    Great post Fred. Two points in particular I wanted to comment on:1. Amazing how few companies actually make a hiring plan; most just dive right in and start posting job links on the web. They often end up stumbling, short of candidates and unsure what they are even looking for let alone where to look. So much wasted effort & missed opportunities!2. Thank you for emphasizing that recruiting rewards hard work. You said it best, “work hard to source the best candidates you can” and “it involves a huge investment”. Shocking how often I meet people who want to know the “magic spot” where all the top candidates are just sitting around waiting for them. No! You must go out and get them – each and every one of them – before your competitors do!Recruiting is a real passion of mine, and for the past few months I have been teaching a practical, hands-on session on how to implement a world-class hiring process at General Assembly called “How to Make Hiring a Strength of your Company” – next class is July 9 –… – I cover all this and more. Hope to see some of you there!

  23. John@PGISelfDirected

    Hiring is a very critical process. That’s why we have specialists to do that.

  24. Rhatta

    Your readers might benefit from the process I’ve laid out that matches yours very closely, but provides a bit more detail across 3 installments…….

  25. Rocket Listings

    Fred, for a startup do you like to see

  26. Ravi Chandrasekaran

    Would agree that this is best practice, but it’s still slow, cumbersome, and not necessarily guaranteed to bring in the level of talent that companies need now. Would be interested to see examples of other companies deploying/experimenting with other tactics that go beyond.Could imagine a whole post on pre-hiring – maintaining networks of passionate developers, customers, alumni before the hiring need become tangible.

    1. John Rorick

      There is a tiny movement afoot in recruitment called “Talent Communities”. They are attempting to fill the need you illustrate above. I am not convinced as of yet that it does anything further than keeping your own robust network evolved and engaged accomplishes but I am certain that at some point in these comments you will see someone pop on here and share the virtues.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Ravi, the steps that Fred outlined are “best practices.” Hiring can be done differently, but I can tell you that done without careful thought and planning, you are setting yourself up for failure. By failure, I mean hiring the wrong person. Sometimes it is not a matter of hiring the wrong person but recruiting for the wrong job and not presenting an accurate description of the company and job.I am thinking of a situation where the company hired someone who was outstanding and with excellent references. But they thought they were going in a particular direction and once they had someone moving in that direction, realized that they weren’t ready to do so. They didn’t think it through properly — and they were super smart people.

  27. Brian Sirkia

    You mentioned that you will go through and check for references, but what sort of premium do you place on recommendations from people you trust? Our practice at Rocket Listings (still small, about 7 employees) has been to hire almost exclusively people that come highly recommended from our top advisors, do you think we should be opening up to any applicants?

  28. Otto

    LinkedIn might be good for reference and sourcing, but has anyone actually found a job or started a project through it? It has always seemed like the dull office park of the Internet to me, with résumés used as wallpaper. Not being snarky here, I’m genuinely curious if there are numbers that show LinkedIn being a good facilitator for new hires, job finds, project incubators, etc.

    1. John Rorick

      As a contributor to Linkedin’s large growth in the recruiting services revenue line I would unequivocally say yes. But I am on the buying side, not the skill-selling side. For context I am not an agency, never have been. I lead the talent function for a large manufacturer and wholesaler at the moment ~ direct corporate.

      1. Otto

        I’m sure some people have used LinkedIn productively. I’m just wondering if the numbers are of distinction, enough to justify the time expense for it? As you mentioned, it might just depend on if you’re buying or selling and for what business.

    2. Dan T

      Just hired someone two months ago that I found on Linked-in. She was not looking, but she looked like a good fit, so I reached out and she responded.I’ve also hired people to do projects for me that I discovered through linkedin – overall, I’ve had great success, but then again, I’ve been using it for a long time and put a fair amount into it.

    3. Kate Huyett

      i’ve sourced a ton of great candidates for a HowAboutWe role through LinkedIn – many of whom were not actively looking when I reached out.

  29. Guest

    Fred,Isn’t that the same hiring approach that’s been used for many many years? Aren’t companies always complaining that they can’t find talent? Why is the same old approach going to start working all of a sudden?

  30. Otto

    Quite frankly I would like to get rid of the employee class “servant to the firm” mentality and culture. That would be disruptive.

  31. Otto

    Another thought is what about entry level job applicants? This process seems very difficult on them or people new to a industry. Perhaps a similar process for internships would be useful. Then again, if this is mostly about start ups then you probably don’t want entry level employees. On the other hand, convincing a star or someone already employed with a specialized trade to take a chance on a start up is probably easier said than done. Also, what happens if the company takes off and grows like gangbusters? You might have to hit the job boards, no?

  32. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I think it is worth remembering when it comes to references that some of the best, most original driven people, are almost wholly unemployable for some environments.I would count myself in that number. I would get a couple of dreadful references if they dared to be honest about me. I would get high praise from others.Therefore the question is do you want someone who will fit in , or someone who will shake things up. Is it a speculative hire or a must succeed role?

  33. LE

    It is also pretty wasy (sic) to do a simple background check for criminal or civil information. We don’t do that at USV but I know a lot of companies that do it as a matter of good corporate practice.It is good practice. To me this is super important and should always be done before entering into any relationship with anyone – investment or employment. (Possibly, in certain cases, even marriage or engagement).It’s easy to do as you mentioned and can prevent future problems.The question to ask yourself when confronted with something like this which is so simple and not costly at all is “if I got burned would I do it the next time” and “what is the down side”.

  34. Cliff McKinney

    I like the advice about the job spec, but I think that way too often hiring managers make the mistake of putting ALL of that spec on the job post. Many an article or blog post has been written about how little time most hiring managers and/or HR type folks give to resumes. Five seconds, maybe 10 seconds per candidate is all many of them take to decide whether a candidate goes into the “keep” or “discard” pile.Hiring managers shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that job seekers are different. Truth is, we pay about as much attention to the job post as those folks pay to our resumes. Most get less than five seconds and then we move on. So, in a word, make those five seconds count, and don’t spend paragraph after paragraph telling me that you won some award for being a great place to work or whatever. Tell us what sets you apart as a company, and do it quickly…

    1. Donna Brewington White

      This is a good point. I wrote a post about this as a pet peeve — job postings that are laundry lists.http://hirethoughts.blogspo

  35. JLM

    .One other idea I have used is the provision of “exemplars” of former work.I ask for job descriptions, performance appraisals, formal training, salary history and exemplars of work product.These have been useful..

    1. Donna Brewington White

      This is a great idea.



  37. Affintus

    great advice – hiring is definitely not an easy process, and does involve an investment of time to do it well.

  38. David Snitkof

    Incredibly important topic! A few thoughts based on my experience both as a hiring manager as well as someone who routinely guest-interviews other teams’ recruits:-If you are using a recruiter to post job listings and screen resumes, make sure you either supplement this by doing some of the recruiting directly or make sure your recruiter has a very deep understanding of the qualities you value in a hire. Otherwise, you risk the recruiter applying a very specific screen on a set of concrete criteria and missing some stellar candidates who don’t fit an exact mold.-Similar to the above point, tailor a job to a great person, and not the other way around. Chances are, even the best person you interview won’t have 100% of what you are looking for on every dimension, so be willing to shift roles around and rethink job descriptions based on who you end up meeting.-The “sore throat test”: After I interview someone, if my throat is sore, I know that the candidate did not do enough of the talking, meaning that I probably didn’t get to know him/her as well as I could have, and that he/she probably didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to persuade me. My throat is rarely sore after interviewing someone who is a good communicator. Lately, I’ve taken to telling interviewees at the beginning: “I want to hear what you have to say, so I won’t do much talking myself. Please don’t take that as a lack of engagement.”-A good interview tells you that someone is a good interviewer, a skill that becomes useless once you actually make the hire. Do everything you can to watch a candidate do real work, whether having a developer write real code, a designer create a design, a bizdev/sales person give a short presentation, etc. If you can have a final-round candidate actually come to your office and work with the team for a half-day, that is even better. -Sell great candidates on why they should work for you, but do so openly and honestly, and do not paint a picture that doesn’t exist. You want someone to join for the right reason and not be upset 3 months later because you promised something unrealistic.-Finally, onboard aggressively. Make sure all new hires are rapidly socialized, are immediately assigned real and challenging work, and have the opportunity to learn quickly and notch some quick wins. A really good hire will do a lot of this already, but you want to make sure 100% of hires hit the ground running.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      This is great advice, Dave. The only thing I disagree with is the sore throat test. I do believe that the candidate should do most of the talking, so perhaps we really are not in disagreement. But, an ideal candidate will have engaged the interviewer, will have picked his/her brain. I am more interested in a candidate who asks good questions than I am in one who gives good answers. Of course, that depends to some extent on the job.

  39. FlavioGomes

    I ask two questions right from the get go: name 5 of our customers and what was the last piece of news we posted. (all available on our site) If they don’t get them right, I politely cut the meeting short. I’m amazed how often I face a candidate so well prepared to talk about themselves, but didn’t do their homework on the company.

  40. Donna Brewington White

    This is a great post, Fred. Of course each practice you’ve listed can be a post in itself.I think that one of the most important aspects of this post is the emphasis on strategic thinking and planning. There are wonderful serendipities that happen during recruiting — you learn to expect them, but the most successful recruiting is well-thought out and strategically executed.I was excited to see the emphasis placed on the job spec. But I know that writing this can be intimidating — sometimes it is just thrown together — maybe even pieced together by reading other job specs. It can become a document not fully based on reality. Are there some tools or processes that your portfolio companies use for creating job specs? I can’t imagine that every founder is good at developing a job spec and yet it is a critical tool.

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      You were supposed to do a guest post on this topic right? Looking forward to some of the questions you ask and the actual interpretation of the answers in it.It will help both the parties of this fredland.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you, Kasi.Is there anything in particular that you think would be important to talk about?

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          Not specifically Donna…. just interested in generic questions and answers and how they are interpreted….more interested in the interpretation part of it. Just 3-4 interpretation is enough. Hope others also find it useful.I normally ask candidates only 2 or 3 questions (personal interview) and allow them to talk more and MORE and intercept their talks with why? how? what are the alternatives? elaborate more please … etc., 90% of the time never leave the eye-contact with the candidate.If it is purely technical over phone … i will have 10-15 questions ready with me and ask candidate first “Do you know about this X” if he she/he says yes then I go deep into X.In my experience i have never completed all the 15 questions ever … I could conclude on the candidate mostly before crossing 6-8 questions both good and bad. Very rarely i gone past 10.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Do you mean the questions I ask in an interview?

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          @donnawhite:disqus yes…Few questions and 2-3 different answers for each question and how it is interpreted from your angle.

  41. Donna Brewington White

    Another point on job specs and maybe recruiting in general.One of the primary reasons for job dissatisfaction is that the job was misrepresented during the hiring process. I don’t think that this is intentional most of the time, but due to carelessness. It is very difficult for an employee to recover from that sense of betrayal. It is one of the key reasons people are willing to consider a new opportunity early into a new job.It is not enough to create a job spec but to continually revisit and refine it as the recruiting process offers more feedback concerning its validity.

  42. Sebastian Wain

    Offtopic again: Don’t know why but some podcasts are not downloadable. For example this MBA Monday post can’t be downloaded (don’t have the download button) while previous posts can.

  43. Todd Werelius

    The biggest problems I have ever had can be directly related to allowing the hiring process to be short circuited out of a need to get a position filled, and if your looking for a job I would suggest the same approach towards prospective employers ;-)While I agree that valued team members are some of the best sources to find quality people I would also suggest that those candidates still need to go through the whole vetting process to avoid bias.The other thing that I would add is that no matter how well my process has worked in the past I can and have been surprised, once with a hire I thought was the best I had ever made.To try and manage that issue I do quick review every 30 days for the first 90 days of all of the people that work with the candidate even if I have had no negative feedback from any of them.I compare this with the initial perspective and If there is a big delta towards the negative I have found that there is usually a big problem that goes with it, it’s rare but it’s happened.

  44. Foundersuite

    re: your opening statement: “The first step is building a hiring roadmap which should lay out the hiring plan over time by job type. This should be built into your operating plan and budget”…I’ve got a pretty cool hiring roadmap I use with startup clients when I build their financial models. It shows a list of typical tech startup job titles grouped by Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Gen & Admin, Support, etc as well as salaries. Then you just plug in a “1” when you think you will hire for that role and it automatically sums up headcount expense.I’d be happy to send it to anyone– email me nathan <at> venturearchetypes dotcom (for your internal planning purposes only– not for commercial use, please).Great post, Fred! Nathan Beckord

  45. David Bressler

    Hi Fred,Thank you. You have an incredibly valuable blog and I’m a regular reader.One favor. Can you please refer to Employees as “People” rather than “Resources”?People work really hard, and I think companies should at least acknowledge that they’re human, with human needs, even if those needs don’t factor into the equation at hand.David

  46. Mrinal

    I would love a post on some good questions to ask/ process to get a sense of the candidate, Fred – not so much for the hard skills but for the intangible skills, their beliefs and to really get a sense of who they are