Tailoring A Hiring Strategy

In today’s market, hiring is harder than ever before. Even businesses that are willing to pay top talent top dollar are having a hard time filling all their positions. If you’re trying to grow your company, you should make sure that your hiring strategy fits your company.

The right hiring strategy varies tremendously between businesses. It’s quite easy to go with a strategy that was successful when you set it up 2 years ago, only to realize too late that it no longer works for you.

Here are the most important aspects to take into account when tailoring your strategy to your current situation:

Company stage: If you’re just starting out and still have a headcount that’s less than about 20 people, play to your strengths there and explain how at this size people still mostly know everything that’s going on, able to hop from one end of the system to the other, less pigeonholed. If we’re talking about the very first developers, surely you’re looking for the rare Day One Developers, and should be targeting all your pitches to those kinds of people.

Alternately, if on the other hand we’re talking about a company that’s bigger, you are likely hiring people for specific teams, with specific projects in mind. This is the kind of stability that’s rarely offered at smaller companies and can help attract those people who value less surprises when switching jobs.

Also, you should think about the way you’d like to structure your company and see how that plays into your hiring. As an example, if you want a flat company, you should market your positions to people that do not like middle management and are very good at being autonomous and self-guided.

Company age: When you’re planning out your hiring goals, make sure to account for turnover – that’s your employee churn. People switch jobs, get sick, take extended parental leaves, and so if you’re planning to grow your team by 10 people in the next year, it makes sense to aim for actually hiring 11-12.

Moreover, realize that there are common cycles in our industry. New startups usually see very low turnaround in their first 2-3 years, as the kind of people that come over at such an early stage tend to stick around more than average. Afterwards the average seems to be for people switching jobs every 2.5-3 years, and you should consider it in your plans, especially as people also tend to leave in “waves” – once someone that joined the company with you leaves, you tend to start considering it more seriously as well.

And, of course, we all know that golden handcuffs–benefit packages after acquisitions–usually mean droves of employees leaving together.

Your selling points: Let’s face it, every company is different, and different kinds of business attract other kinds of people. Some people hate the thought of working at a Cyber/Storage/Ads/etc. startup while others are in-love with the industry and can keep going for a decade.

Just as you need to find product/market-fit with your company’s users, you should understand what kind of developers usually come work for companies such as yours. Address what makes them tick, so they’ll see that you actually understand them. A social/impact company is more likely to stress the good it is trying to achieve in the world, while other companies might do better to talk about their technological challenges or the financial gains they are expecting.

Just how fast are you trying to grow: I’ve discussed growing too big and too fast elsewhere. That aside, it really matters whether you’re trying to get 3 more developers in the near future, or 50. The former means that you might be able to simply focus on head-hunting a few specific people. The latter means that you need to put into motion a whole mechanism, interview hundreds of applicants and have multiple employees involved with hiring for most of their working time.

Hiring can easily take up the majority of your time as a tech executive. Make sure that you’re doing this intentionally and only if it makes sense for your situation.