Posts from recruiting

MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Donna White

Now we start the guest post part of this MBA Mondays series on People. First up is AVC regular Donna White. In this post, Donna explains that recruiting is fun if you approach it the right way. I know many founders who don't really enjoy recruiting so this post is for all of you.


Recruiting is Fun!

My husband convinced me to use this title for my post.  This is his observation of how I approach my work as an executive recruiter.

I can honestly say that I do find recruiting to be fun.  Perhaps this why it is still fresh and interesting to me after close to two decades.  Don’t get me wrong, recruiting is hard and strenuous work.  I probably don’t have to tell most of you this.  Yet, the more challenging it is, the more I seem to enjoy it.  

This is one of the many reasons I am attracted to recruiting for startups where you have to hold both the present and the future in your head at the same time and, simultaneously, be both visionary and pragmatic, among other challenges.  

Here is an excerpt from a Twitter exchange that I had with AVC regular, Aaron Klein, Founder/CEO of Riskalyze:

Aaron’s words represent what I enjoy most about recruiting.  It wasn’t until after this exchange that it occurred to me – these words could also describe running a startup: challenging, exhilarating, high stakes.

As I thought about writing this post, I wondered if, in general, people for whom recruiting is part of other responsibilities have a different perception than I do as a professional recruiter.  I used the Honestly Now site (Tereza Nemessanyi, Founder/CEO) and Quipol (Max Yoder, Founder) to do some cursory research.  As of this writing, the votes on whether or not people enjoy recruiting are about 50/50 from both sources (excluding those who chose “none of the above”).  Perhaps, not conclusive, but indicative.

I thought it would be interesting to bring the Quipol over to this post so that AVC readers could also chime in:

In the end, it is not my enjoyment of the work of recruiting that represents my true motivation. 

The true motivation and why it is a passion is summed up in a statement made by Fred in another MBA Mondays post earlier in the year:   “Building the business largely means building the management team. They are one and the same.”  I have a passion for helping entrepreneurs build businesses.  

Fred’s words represent why many of you who are founders and/or CEOs have shared in the AVC comments that recruiting is one of the most important things that you do.  In questioning William Mougayar (Founder/CEO, Engagio) about his underlying motivations in recruiting, one of the reasons that he gave was:  “I need to find the best talent that can give me a competitive advantage.”  

It is not a matter of whether or not you enjoy it, it is something that needs to be done.  The life of your company depends upon it.  As Aaron said, the stakes are high.

There are a number of directions that I could take from here, but I am going back to the beginning of the post.  It would be understandable if you thought “So what!  Who cares whether or not recruiting is enjoyable. It just needs to get done.”  

Even for me, as someone who does enjoy recruiting, the enjoyment in itself is not what motivates me.  However, enjoyment is a huge contributing factor toward excelling in my work and approaching a client’s hiring need with excitement and enthusiasm.  I believe that doing something that you enjoy turns out a better quality product on a more consistent basis.  Attitude and perspective in recruiting influence results and may even produce a better team in the long run.

Some ideas for transforming your perception of recruiting:

Recognize recruiting as a source of opportunity beyond hiring.   The insights gained, and discoveries and contacts made during the recruiting process can be an invaluable investment into your business.  For instance, you may learn of business opportunities, build your network, gain market intelligence, be exposed to new ways of thinking and of doing things, and introduce your product to people who will become evangelists.  

Use the activities involved in recruiting to strengthen abilities that will contribute to your overall effectiveness.  There are elements of recruiting that you probably already enjoy and that exercise the same abilities that you use in other aspects of running your business, such as:  creating something out of nothing, analyzing and solving problems, devising strategies, making new contacts, crafting and relaying your company’s story, negotiating and closing deals. 

Think of your staffing need in terms of an opportunity rather than filling a job.  What is the opportunity that you are presenting and why is it great?  What problem is being solved by this hire?  What challenge is being met?  What opportunities will your business be better positioned for?

Create a recruiting culture.  Build elements of recruiting into the fabric of your business and use this to galvanize your team and increase their engagement.  More in this post.

The goal I had in writing this post was to share my enthusiasm for recruiting in the hope that some of you will be inspired and will take a fresh look at recruiting.  One thing I appreciate about this community is that a post doesn’t need to supply all the answers and typically merely serves as a conversation starter.  I look forward to where you take this.  Carry on, please…

#MBA Mondays

MBA Mondays: Where To Find Strong Talent

One of the most vexing problems entrepreneurs face is where to find strong talent for their companies. The kind of people you want to hire for your company are in short supply and they are rarely out looking for a job. You have to go find them and recruit them to join your team. But where to look?

Here are some suggestions:

1) People you know and people your team knows. This is the most obvious but also often the most fruitful source of talent. I know an entrepreneur who asks everyone he hires this question on their first day on the job, "who is the most talented person you have ever worked with and whom you would love to work with again?." He then adds that person's name to his list of people he is trying to recruit to his company. It is that kind of dedication to sourcing talent that is required to build the strongest team.

2) People who work for your competition. I often tell entrepreneurs that they are overly focused on their competition and that they should spend less time watching the competition and spend more time focused on their own game plan. But there is one place that watching the competition closely pays off. If you find a sales talent who keeps winning deals from you or a product talent who is making your competitor better, you should see if you can recruit them to leave your competitor and join your team. There can be issues with non-competes but the truth is that non-competes are often unenforceable unless they have been properly structured and most are not.

3) Companies that have been recently purchased. When a company is sold, the team is in play. Buyers know this and structure the deals to lock up key employees. But the combination of having had a decent payday on the purchase, having to wait a bit for the stay package to pay off, and the dread of working for a big, slow, bureacratic company is often enough to cut them loose. When a company sells, find out who the stars are on that team and go after them. It might take a bit of time to get them, but keep trying. They will free up in time.

4) Other parts of the country and the world. This is particularly true if you are operating in a hypercompetitive talent hub like NYC or Silicon Valley. The best talent is often locked up by the big companies in the neighborhood. I have seen our portfolio companies do incredibly well by locating super talented folks working in other parts of the country or the world and relocating them to NYC of SF. They find these folks on places like Stack Overflow, Behance (both are USV portfolio companies), Dribbble, and GitHub. Relocating someone from another part of the country often means making their relocation painless with financial incentives and also things like helping a spouse find a job. Relocating someone from another part of the world means all that plus navigating the immigration system. It is painful to do all of this but it is often worth it to get the right type of person for your company.

5) Colleges. You cannot fill your entire company with young folks graduating from college. You will need people with experience and management skills on your team. But you can supplement senior talent with people just starting out in their career. And the one pool of talent where everyone is looking for a job is the senior class at a college campus. I had an investment in a company back in the 90s that had a high paid sales force that wasn't getting the job done selling the company's product. The CEO fired the entire sales force and replaced them with an army of smart, inexperienced college grads who were hungry and scrappy and sales took off. That move won't work for everyone but it sure worked for that company. It is often surprising what young folks right out of school can do with the right management.

If you want to focus some of your recruiting efforts on college grads, I would encourage you to set up an internship program for students to work at your company prior to being hired. There are all sorts of ways to do this. One of our portfolio companies offers seniors in college the opportunity to work for them 10 hours a week during senior year. They then offer the best ones full time jobs upon graduation. There are also programs like HackNY that can bring great summer interns to your company.

6) The big companies in your market. This one is a little dangerous because you can find a lot of people "resting and vesting" in big companies and you don't want to hire that kind of talent. But the fact is that when companies like Google, eBay, Yahoo, and yes, even Facebook, get big, they become the wrong place to work for the scrappy fast moving entrepreneurial types. The early employees get itchy and can be cut loose. Focus your recruiting efforts on folks who have been at these companies three years or more because at that point they will have vested into the majority of their initial stock grant and will have weaker "golden handcuffs."

7) Your investors. The truth about venture capital firms is that as much as anything else, they are recruiters. I don't think a day goes by in our firm where someone isn't doing some form of recruiting. People who want to get their "resume on the street" will often come by and let us know they are looking around. We get tips from all across our network that someone is good. We reach out to them, take them to lunch, and get to know them. And then we route all of the talent we are seeing to the places in our portfolio where they are the best fit. If your investor isn't helping you find talent, then they aren't doing their job.

So those are some places to go to in order to find strong talent. Don't expect that you will be able to find people easily. Recruiting is a full time job for many people. Even if you can't make it your full time job, you must work on it every day, and be thinking about it all the time. You need a strategy, a process, and a committment to the process. It will bear fruit over time if you are patient and committed.

#MBA Mondays


We've been using a really nifty service to hire our next analyst. It's called TakeTheInterview. This product/company came out of this summer's DreamIt Ventures program in NYC.

We wrote a blog post outlining the position and then linked to TakeTheInterview (note – the application process ended twelve days ago and is closed). Candidates click on that link, fill out a few key data points (name, contact info, blog url, linked in profile, etc) and then they take two short video interviews (90 seconds and 120 seconds). The minute our post went live, I put myself through the candidate flow and I found it drop dead simple. Obviously looking into a webcam and speaking articulately and well about two topics for almost three minutes is not drop dead simple but that's the point of TakeTheInterview.

For the employer, TakeTheInterview has a nice interface that makes it fairly efficient to watch a ton of video. We got about 250 completed applications so that is about 10 hours of video. About half of the people in our firm watched each and every video. The other half watched the top 1/3 of the applicants as rated by the team that watched every video. So in total, our firm watched about 45 hours of video in this hiring process. And TakeTheInterview does a nice job with the video consumption flow. I watched a bunch of the video on my family room TV via a mac mini and that worked pretty well.

The main piece of feedback we've given TakeTheInterview is that they need a better scoring system in the service. We cobbled together one using Google Docs which works, but a slick candidate scoring system in the service would have saved our team a lot of time. I suspect that won't be too hard for TakeTheInterview to build.

Our hiring process in the past started with a blog post asking for a web presence (blog url, linkedin), followed by phone screens, ending in face to face interviews with the finalists. We swapped out the phone screens with TakeTheInterview and in the process we were able to see everyone in action as opposed to phone screens with a small subset.

I'm very enthusiastic about this new tool. Seeing people live and in person without having to commit to a long in person interview creates a lot of important information early in the hiring process. I'd encourage others to give TakeTheInterview a try.


Social Recruiting

I'm giving the keynote talk at the Social Recruiting Summit in NYC on Monday. I've been working on my presentation over the past few days and some themes are worth talking about.

1) Since we started Union Square Ventures in 2003/2004, we have only been involved with one retained search. Our portfolio companies have certainly used search firms, but our use of them has been extremely rare. We prefer to source candidates ourselves using our networks, and increasingly our social networks.

2) We sourced both of our junior investment professionals, Andrew Parker and Eric Friedman, with blog posts at

3) We have sourced countless senior hires for our portfolio companies off of this blog and I would bet that we've done a couple dozen successful hires that way in the past couple years.

4) Many of our companies have internal recruiters and we work hand in hand with them, sourcing talent, vetting talent, and closing the sale.

5) LinkedIn is a terrific place to find talent and to find references. When I want to check someone out, I invite them to connect to me on LinkedIn, I find who we know in common, and that is my reference list. Charlie O'Donnell taught me these LinkedIn tricks about five years ago and I use them all the time. 

6) is also a terrific place to find talent and figure out who they know. Let's say you wanted to find the top execs at LinkedIn. You can find them all in one place here.

7) Hunting for talent is necessary but not always sufficient. You need to get the word out. Like all things on the internet, there are free ways and paid ways to do that.

8) The best free way is get your jobs indexed by Indeed so they can be found by the over 10 million people a month who go there looking for jobs. We feature all the jobs in our portfolio on the front page of by running an Indeed stored query of all the jobs in our portfolio companies.

9) Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are also great free ways to get the word out. Post the job on your website and tweet it out, get it retweeted, searched, and discovered and the resumes will start coming in.

10) You can also pay to get your jobs "sponsored" in Indeed. You can post job ads via Facebook's self serve ad system and target them at very specific locations and job types. And we'll see more social media/networks offer paid systems like this in the next year.

11) There are all sorts of niche communities on the web you should be hanging out in if you want to find talent. For tech/engineering talent, we like to look at Meetup groups on certain tech topics (there are eight Ruby On Rails meetups within 25 miles of NYC), open source projects, and niche communities like Hacker News and Stack Overflow. You can play the same game with communities for other kinds of job types. The key is you have to hang out there a bit, get to know the community and the people in it, and build trust and add value.

That last point is the big point. Social media is about showing up, hanging out, and earning trust. If you want to use social media to source talent, you can't fake it. You have to really participate in these systems. But if and when you do, they are incredibly powerful and are changing the face of recruiting.

I look forward to talking to the recruiting community about this topic more on Monday. And if you have ideas for other things I should be talking about, please leave them in the comments.

#VC & Technology