Leaping into 2013: A recruiter’s thoughts on startup hiring for job-seekers and hiring teams

[Editor: The new year often has folks looking for new jobs. So now seemed to be the perfect time to share this guest post from Aimee Fahey, a local recruiter who has helped a number of startups fill critical positions with awesome people.]

I don’t know about you but 2012 was one intense year. Lots of great experiences, great lessons, and great people. But I’m ready for a new year, like most of the world.

After having worked from the giant corporations to the super tiny startups that double in size (or more) in a year, in a ton of different industries, I’ve seen a lot of themes emerge relating to job seekers and hiring teams. As one who’s coached both sides, I’ve witnessed a lot of mistakes made and helped them create direction where there once was chaos. Not all end up wanting to make the changes I’ve recommended, but in the end, they’re armed with more information than when they began, and can make better decisions going forward.

So with that, I thought I’d share a list of suggested resolutions for the new year for both job seekers and hiring teams, that come from my perspective as a recruiter and a career coach.

Job Seekers

Networking doesn’t have to suck. Have a plan. Bring a friend to events that interest you. Avoid job-seeker networking groups where you’re just around other job-seekers (exception: career fairs). Read this post I wrote about getting over the fears. It’s my favorite. Networking doesn’t have to make you feel like an awkward adolescent, I promise.

Never pay someone who hasn’t been a recruiter to write your resume. I’m always amazed at the number of ‘resume writers’ out there who’ve never done any recruiting—and how much they charge—without having the experience of having reviewed resumes & screened candidates for a living. Paying more doesn’t always equal better results.

Customize your resume and cover letter to the company and the job. Generic = bad. Make it easy for me and the hiring team to see you are qualified. Tell me why you want to work for my company. Leave out the personality fluff. Explain gaps in employment. Connect with me on LinkedIn and make sure your own profile is up to date.

Practice good job-seeker etiquette. Don’t stalk. Send a thank you note or email. Be gracious. Follow the directions on the job posting. Be concise in your interviews. Read this.

Come clean. When we ask for salary requirements, answer. Give a range rather than a minimum. You still have flexibility, while we get some tangible information. Here’s some food for thought on getting the salary you want. And speaking of clean… If you’re looking for a job, hold off on smoking weed. Dude, I’m serious. While drug tests aren’t as commonplace at smaller companies, I can’t tell you how many candidates I’ve encountered who have failed drug tests because they refuse to put the bong down.

Make sure you interview the company, not just vice versa. You’re the one who has to show up, might as well make sure you’re making a good decision. Here are some tips on turning the tables on the interviewer. Think about what’s important to you, what you want.

Hiring Teams

Treat candidates as you would your customers. The candidate experience can make or break whether they take the job. Not to mention if they want to tell their other friends how cool you are or how much they think you suck. The other day I had a finalist who we had to turn down, yet because he had such a good time in the process, he sent me a stronger candidate. That was rad. Empathy is key. Put yourself in their shoes.

Your Recruiter is your Partner, not your subordinate. They have expertise you don’t, and vice versa. While you may have experience in certain parts of the process, they have been doing this as a full-time job. And they can learn from you as the technical expert and the expert on your team culture. Be open minded and let it be an awesome partnership!

Consider a retained search recruiter if you don’t have a dedicated resource. Yep, shameless self-promotion for people like me. We manage the whole process – essentially, acting as your corporate recruiter for that particular job or set of jobs. For hard to fill roles, this can allow you to turn the time intensive recruiting process over to an expert, from advertising to managing incoming apps to sourcing to pre-screening to logistics and more. (Psst! And we often charge less than staffing agencies.)

Be flexible on qualifications. You might not get all ten items on your wishlist. What can be learned? Will they fail in the job if they don’t know X on day one? Is it financially worth it to spend 6 months on a search looking for 10 out of 10, when there are perfectly good 8’s that you could groom to be 10’s? Think about hiring from a variety of angles.

Be realistic about pay. Salary surveys do not always realistically depict what the good ones are making. Sometimes they’re over, sometimes they’re under. If the best are all coming in at $10K more than your budget, you have two choices – pay more, or expect less. But remember this when it comes to compensation.

Side note – are you a recruiter in tech? I strongly suggest if you don’t already, get to know other recruiters. It doesn’t have to be a competition. We can all help each other. I love being able to refer a candidate who was not quite right for my company to a recruiter who might have something for him/her. It’s about customer service. Or as I call it, great karma!

So… what’s working for you? What’s been your biggest challenge? Finding great employees and finding great jobs can both be daunting tasks, so don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters (yep, you can contact me if you want) to simply chat about your experiences and brainstorm for the coming year.

P.S. Big thanks to Silicon Florist, Portland Girl Geek Dinners, and the plethora of user groups and communities out there who encourage sharing of knowledge and always focusing on how we can up our game.

For the past 15 years, Aimee Fahey has worked with companies from 15 to 15,000+ employees in hiring awesome people, creating strong processes, improving the candidate experience, and promoting her employers in the community. These days, as a Recruiting Consultant, she helps growing companies hire quickly and effectively, and as a career coach, helps individuals in their job search via resume writing, networking assistance, communication & interview skills, and more. Aimee also loves to blog, get her hands dirty in her garden, bike rather slowly through her neighborhood, and volunteer with community-focused organizations.

(Image courtesy Shutterstock. Used with permission.)

  1. Good advice for job seekers and recruiters no matter what the industry, Aimee. Your point about the importance of hiring teams treating candidates like customers is especially important. Whatever your career you’re likely to keep meeting the same people again and again.

  2. Good post…could not agree more on all counts. Way too many mistakes out there made by both sides. Over and over.

  3. […] y’all!  My guest post on Silicon Florist is up HERE – go check out Leaping into 2013: A recruiter’s thoughts on startup hiring for job-seekers […]

  4. Sounds like good solid advice, which can be applied to any industry, not just the high tech industry in the “Silicon Forest”. Thank you!

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