Written By
Max Brown

09.21.16

Where do you find your people?

As a professional headhunter, one of the questions I get asked most frequently by founders and hiring managers is “where do you find your people?” And as tempting as it is to tell them that I actually do have one super secret source, the truth is that there’s no magic bullet that will always produce the right candidate.  The real answer is much less sexy but much more true:  it’s about strategically working multiple channels in parallel to maximize your chances of reaching the right person at the right time, and to make sure you never, ever stop recruiting.

Of course, I understand that finding a great candidate can feel as impossible as Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a mountain every day, especially for new founders.  And often it can be hard to justify paying high fees for outside recruiters when you need to be scrappy and maximize funding.  Usually what people are really asking instead of “where do you find your people” is “why are you worth your fees?”  And to that I tell founders:  “imagine that instead of thinking about raising money, dealing with vendors, and the 18 other hats you’re wearing, you were only responsible for creating and maintaining a pipeline of great people.  If that were your only job, how much more effective would you be at it than you are right now?”  That’s the advantage you get with a professional headhunter.

That said, there are certainly some basic tips that everyone can apply to maximize their effectiveness.  Networking events, for example, can be a double edged sword.  If the purpose of attending is simply to network, then that’s typically not a compelling reason to attend. Instead of thinking about networking events as a ‘what’ (something to do to expand your network), think about why you’d like to attend them. Are you passionate about Cleantech and Electric Vehicles (EV)? Attend a related expo or new product reveal. Attending events to further develop your own knowledge of subject that you’re passionate about will lead to much more genuine connections.

Recruiting is hardest when you have to start cold on a new search and easiest when you look at every day as part of the same search.  Non recruiters have to jump out of a search once it’s done and then jump back in when they need people, whereas professional recruiters are always recruiting, always networking, always maintaining their networks.

Of course, once you find candidates, it’s important to close the deal. Make sure they see the logic in your interview process. Identifying good candidates isn’t the only challenge. Convincing them that they will be able to contribute to meaningful forward progress is just as important. For instance, when the interview contains a technical test of some sort where the candidate works on real prototyping or coding, they’d like the interviewer to ask them what they would do differently to the code or to the architecture if they could do anything they wanted. These questions would be beneficial to both parties because they encourage open communication and feedback – two key aspects of a happy and productive team.