Insights | Talent

Winning Framework for Hiring with External Resources

April 04, 2018

Over the years, I’ve created rules of thumb around best practices in hiring, and I’m sure there’s some Freudian reason for why I tend to group things in 3’s. I have the 3 R’s when I look at sales resumes– Revenue, Reputable Customers and Ranking, I have the Rule of 3 when I think about writing content and building your personal branding, and I have the Rule of ⅓ when explaining how companies should think about hiring for their teams.

The Rule of ⅓ is the theory that ⅓ of your hires should come from internal referrals (this includes the founder’s network), ⅓ of hires should come from advisers, including your board, the talent teams at your VC’s, etc. and ⅓ of your hires should come from outside resources such as recruiting agencies. While hiring with external resources can be expensive, a quality sales rep pays for himself or herself many times over, and every day that a sales seat sits empty, is one more day that the company is actively not generating revenue. That said, it’s also your responsibility to make sure that when hiring with external resources, they are set up for success. In my experience as an agency recruiter and now as the recruiting contact for a handful of our early-stage portfolio companies, I’ve had the opportunity to see this from both perspectives, and here are a few of the most salient points, in order of operation, to consider when hiring with external resources.

1. Make Sure You’ve Worked Out the Internal Kinks Around Spec and Compensation. Writing a job description is one thing (if you haven’t done this before deploying outside resources on a search, Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200!), but make sure that you’ve also analyzed the details of the role and have answers for these questions. For example, in sales, it’s vital that quota is determined ahead of time. If you don’t have quota, how can you accurately calculate someone’s OTE? Which leads to my next point… don’t start a search without having compensation ironed out. This is a two-part game. 1. Understand market salary ranges for the role that you’re looking to hire and 2. Know ahead of time what you’re willing to pay for this hire. If you’re hiring with external resources like an agency, be sure to also calculate the agency fee into the total cost of the hire.

2. Have Your Interview Process Outlined Before You Engage, and Stick to It! Beyond just outlining the basic steps in the process, phone screen, onsite, etc., make sure you answer 3 things: Who, What, and When.

WHO are my final decision makers? This is usually the hiring manager for the role, but with a smaller company can also mean the Founder or CEO. Quick tip: If the Founder or CEO is going to be coming in at the end of the process as a final step, are they interviewing for intangibles or something more? If it’s the ladder, I recommend that they sit in on the skills assessment or join the process sooner to ensure alignment around qualifications. It’s also important to think about who will this person work with day to day. For example, if they’re joining an existing team, make sure that they get to meet with at least 1-2 members of the team during the interview process.

WHAT skills am I assessing in each step? Each step of the interview process is a chance to gage expertise, culture fit and more, but I encourage our founders to incorporate a step in the process that tests a candidate’s capabilities in real time. For example, if this hire is going to be an Account Executive on your sales team, have them demo their current product or even your product. If they’re an SDR, give this step a try. For technical hires, we’ve seen companies use a variety of technical assessments to gage someone’s skills. My personal favorite is having them whiteboard an equation or problem with the hiring manager or a team member so you can assess not only their technical aptitude, but also their collaboration and feedback skills.

WHEN is arguably the most important of these 3. Timing is often something that is overlooked in the hiring process, and can sometimes be the final the reason that a candidate doesn’t take an offer. If you can’t devote at least 50% of your time to interviewing candidates, then don’t start a search. A good rule of thumb is to not surpass 3 days between interview steps with a candidate that you like. Keeping momentum in your corner not only shows interest from your end, it also shows internal organization and efficiency, something that a good candidate will be looking for as they consider working at your organization.

Once you’ve solidified things and have your interview steps in place, stick to your process. A repeatable interview process is essential for scaling and also ensures that all hires are held to the same hiring standards.

3. Make Sure Your Website Is Ready For Candidate Traffic. The first thing a good candidate will do when they’re pitched on a role is go to your website, so make sure your website is attractive and speaks to what you do and who you are! As a company trying to hire, your website is your resume. If you have company values, put those on there! Great benefits? Check out how Transfix highlights theirs here! If you’ve won awards or received media attention, it needs to be front and center! One of my favorite examples of this is ActionIQ’s Newsroom on their landing page; an entire tab committed to recent press and articles.

Another thing that may seem obvious, but I think it’s worth noting that if you’re going to open a role to an agency, make sure it’s also on your website. Create a Careers page and have a tab at the top of your homepage. Many companies nest Careers or “We’re Hiring!” under About Us or put this section at the bottom of the homepage, but my bias is to make the hiring tab clear and distinct, like does here.

4. Create a Recruiting One-Pager. Creating this should only take 15 minutes, and will save you a tremendous amount of time and headaches in the long run. So what exactly is a Recruiting One-Pager? Answer: Exactly what it sounds like. A one page document that can be distributed to external recruiting resources as well as your network. ¾ of this page should be about the company and the last ¼ should be about the role. Why only 1 page? Because TL;DR is a very real thing. This is very important when hiring with external resources.

Here’s what it should include:

Top 3/4

    • 30-second pitch of how you want your company explained in layman’s terms. Good way to think about this is if your grandma asked you what your company does, how would you explain it?

    • Who your company sells to with names of your top customers with at least 1 short and relevant use case. This is hugely important for every company, but even more important for technical products. mParticle has an entire section of their website dedicated to their top customers with great testimonials. When you’re getting ready to hire, pages like these are incredibly helpful, but if you’re still in your early days and don’t have enough use cases to dedicate an entire section of your website to this, it’s even more important to highlight it on your Recruiting One-Pager.

    • How you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Be concise here– you don’t want your competition bullet to take up too much of the page, but make sure you’re arming your outside agencies with at least a little amo on how to rebuttal the, “What makes them different?” question.

    • A few highlights from the last quarter around revenue, hiring or recent PR. Examples might include things like, “Closed Q4 20% ahead of goal” or “Recently hired a new CRO from XX company” or “Founder named to Forbes 30 Under 30.”

    • Number of employees and office locations (bonus points if you break it down by division… sales, engineering, marketing, etc!)

Bottom 1/4

    • Link to Job Description

    • Target list of companies that you’d like to see people coming from. Also companies that you want to avoid hiring out of

    • Name and LinkedIn URL for the hiring manager/person this hire will roll up to

    • LinkedIn URL of someone who is currently in the role performing well

    • Short blurb on why this hire is important for the company right now

5. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback! Be overly communicative early and often. If the first handful of candidates that you see from an agency are wildly off the mark, it’s your responsibility to get things back on track. By giving clear and detailed feedback around why the candidates weren’t right and re-setting expectations, you will likely also illuminate where you may have forgotten a critical piece of information in the job description. For example, one of the most commonly ignored sticking points in hiring is around tenure, primarily because it’s a subjective data point. If anything less than 2 years at a previous company is a no-go, tell your recruiting resources so they can screen for this!

It’s also important to note that the feedback loop doesn’t end at the resume screen. The best way to ensure that agencies are continuously calibrating on your search is by providing specific feedback about the pro’s and con’s of a candidate’s interview. For example, telling a recruiter that a candidate struggled to articulate their selling process at the F500 level is far more beneficial than just telling them that you’re passing without any context. When hiring with external resources, take the extra time on the front end of the search and it will save you an enormous amount of time in the long run.

Your interview process will inevitably change as your company grows, but the basics outlined above are a systematic way to make sure that you’ll be set up for success from hire 1 to hire 100. By creating internal checks for yourself before hiring with external resources, and then setting those resources up for success both before and during the process, you will create useful hiring habits that can be replicated and used at scale.

If you liked “Winning Framework for Hiring with External Resources” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.