Nothing goes south faster than a mismatched employee. We’re lucky to attract ambitious hard-workers here at Arc90, people who have big appetites for churning through work. If we don’t have enough work to hire someone—or if the work we have doesn’t match their goals—then I inevitably end up with an HR issue on my hands in less than 2 months.
Given these realities, I’ve had to adapt our hiring strategies. Instead of reactive recruiting, we now practice building relationships. And it’s totally changed the quality and retention of new hires that we’ve been able to attract.
First off a couple of definitions:
Reactive recruiting: Knee-jerk reaction hiring. Someone quits or new client work comes in. Suddenly people are yelling, “Crap, we need a Python developer STAT!”—and the next thing you know you’re $2K deep in job postings and watching your inbox like a hawk. You hire the first person who lists Python on their resume. High stress, low control.
Relationship-based recruiting: Constant, on-going conversations with people who seem interesting. Some of these people come through recommendations, but others come through as traditional email applicants. You hire slowly, but develop lists of people who could be good fits and in what contexts. Low stress, higher control.
Here’s how to get relationship-based recruiting up and running:
1. Stick to your standards. The right candidate is going to be obvious. If you’re feeling anxious because you have a role to fill, your filters go out the window. “He spent half the interview talking about his ex-wife, but that’s probably fine, right?” WRONG. As dire as the situation feels, it’s better to wait for the right hire then make a sloppy choice that could jeopardize the balance of the team.
2. Ask the experts. One of the most important parts of the process is the peer review. Developers should vet potential developers and the same goes for designers. Our structured vetting process only takes a few minutes and involves people who might end up working with the candidate. Doesn’t comment in their code? Portfolio is more print than web? The team will sniff this out.
3. Job postings don’t necessarily mean available jobs. I routinely post positions on the arc90.com jobs page that I’m not currently hiring for. I consider this planting seeds for the future. I get a crop of candidates out of each post and can choose the best, make contact, and find out what they’re really looking for. That way when something comes up a week later, I’ve already got a few people to reach out to without even posting the jobs on third party sites.
4. Ask people what they want. To be fair, almost no one knows what they want. I have people tell me they’re dying to become the leading expert on Python who suddenly leave to develop iPhone apps. To some extent, you can’t predict the whims of human nature. BUT! You absolutely can establish some baselines by asking candidates directly what their dream job would be. Listen closely. Do they mention a small team? Do they cite previous disappointing employers? How do their needs fit with what you can offer them?
5. You learn a lot about someone over a beer. We instituted bi-monthly happy hours here last year, which are wonderfully inexpensive opportunities for Arc90-ers to hang out over pizza and beer. The genius of these nights, however, is to invite a few people who aren’t currently employed here and get them networking. There’s no way that your hiring manager can convey the culture of the entire company over the phone or even in person; bringing potential candidates in for socializing can get them pumped about the community you have. Your team will also give you signals about who’s a good fit and who’s not. I’ve had many a cab ride home to Brooklyn with Arc people whose gut feel tells them NO about a candidate or two. I trust them.
Admittedly building relationships with potential employees takes a little bit of work in the beginning. But there are so many positives to this approach that I can’t imagine us doing it any other way. We’ve built community around the social events, gotten employees involved in the hiring process and, most convincingly, have ended up with some really, really good recent hires.