One of the common misconceptions many companies have is that they can’t compete against the Googles and Facebooks of the world when it comes to inbound flow of candidates.
While it’s certainly true companies of that scale have far more exposure to good candidates, too many companies, especially early-stage startups, put all their eggs into other avenues such as sourcing, referrals and agencies. This strategy can work, but it’s a huge missed opportunity to avoid investing in developing those inbound funnels. Fortunately, there are some strategies for building a strong inbound pipeline that a few companies have played to perfection.
Optimize Candidate Experience
Our founder recently gave me some great advice which he had heard from another head of talent whom he greatly respected: Optimize for the candidate experience for those that you don’t hire, and they’ll be a great source of referrals. Most companies are pretty good when it comes to streamlining the recruiting process for the candidates they eventually hire, but creating a great experience for those you don’t move forward can prove to be a wonderful source as well.
If you optimize for those you don’t hire, they’ll leave your process feeling like they got their fair shot, will likely think highly of your standards for hiring and will come away feeling good about your company as a whole. Now you’ve built advocates for your company that are more likely to refer their friends especially if they think they’d be good fits for you. This is probably the simplest way for most companies to immediately increase quality candidate flow.
Encourage Internal Referrals
It’s still surprising how many companies don’t maximize their internal referral flow. Couple strategies for doing this effectively:
Sit down with as many employees as possible and mine through their networks with them. You can run simple skill searches in Linkedin and limit your searches to 1st degree connections (or 2nd degree if you want a broader pool). As a recruiter, you’ll be more aware of the roles the team is looking to fill, and you may find some gems in their networks that they didn’t realize would be good fits.
Also, employees often think they should only refer candidates that they know are actively looking, but even building a list of prospects can be immensely helpful to target your sourcing more effectively.
Experiment with other types of connections outside of Linkedin/Facebook. Engineers that follow your colleagues’ repos on Github could be good people to chat with as well.
The top priority should be building a good culture where your employees feel valued and enjoy their work. None of the subsequent steps matter if you bypass this, and if you need some inspiration, you can take a look at how we think about hiring.
Once you’ve built a culture and your colleagues get in the groove with referrals, you’d be surprised how effective this engine can be.
The same way content marketing can be a huge boon for lead generation from a sales perspective, blogging done well can be an excellent way for your company to boost awareness and get more candidates reaching out to you.
One of the issues I see brought up frequently is that companies don’t know what to blog about. Interestingly, you could blog about anything ranging from your strategies for growing the team, the product you’re creating, to projects from other companies in the industry that excite you. The key is to produce interesting content that helps you build a community and helps prospective candidates understand you and your organization better.
I’ve seen a variety of tactics work well from Danielle Morrill showing incredible transparency into Mattermark’s mission or milestones they’ve hit to Jason Freedman at 42Floors writing about various startup challenges. Effective blogging can go a long ways toward attracting amazing candidates your way or have second order effects such as boosting the effectiveness of your own outbound recruiting efforts.
I can’t stress how effective this strategy can be, but when companies have pulled this off effectively, they pretty much become a powerhouse recruiting organization in which stellar engineers reach out to your team directly.
Of all companies I’ve seen attempt to pull this off, Stripe has pulled this off most effectively although companies like Layer and Docker have been incredibly impressive as well. It definitely helps if your company creates products geared toward developers, but if your engineering team has developed some interesting technology they feel they can share publicly and have others commit to, it can be highly beneficial to post that code on Github (ideally with a corresponding blog post), and allow engineers to learn more about the types of cool challenges your team is working on.
Stripe pulled this off excellently and they now have tremendous inbound flow of high-quality engineering candidates despite them being under 200 employees at the time of me writing this post.
While this may require a bit more effort to coordinate, running quality recruiting events can also help build awareness of your company and potentially allow yourself to piggyback off of existing groups (i.e. sponsoring a Ruby Meetup).
Depending on what role you’re attempting to build pipeline, even a simple $500 - $1,000 spend can be more than enough to cover food and drinks for a poker event for hiring for business roles or tech talks and hackathons to attract engineers. There’s a lot of room for experimentation, but leveraging existing groups and running cool events can definitely attract people’s attention and result in better awareness of your company and potentially some really good candidates at low cost.
If you haven’t noticed already, many of the strategies outlined are straight out of a marketing playbook, but if you treat inbound flow as a long game (the same way marketing understands the need to build the engine before observing impactful results), you’ll be far better equipped to build a durable and highly successful recruiting organization in which your inbound flow of excellent candidates can compete against even the largest of corporations!