(Editors note: Bryan Johnson is the CEO of Braintree. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
Finding good people for your start-up is tough when you don’t personally know many candidates, aren’t well connected or well known and don’t have a lot of money to pay a recruiter. But sometimes, a group effort can make the process easier.
During the past three years, our company’s employees have collectively reached out to friends, written job postings, interviewed, administered capability assessments, and wrote pre-screening tests (for developers) – and it has worked tremendously.
Six months ago, though, we found ourselves in need of 10 people in a myriad of positions. And the workload was so heavy that our old methods weren’t something we could rely upon. To avoid being flooded with applications (that would devour time to sift through), I needed to find a way to hack the recruiting process. I had to figure out how to write a job posting that both hit home with the right people and deterred others from applying.
It’s still a work in progress, but here are a few things I’ve learned:
Send smoke signals – as many as you can – We wanted to provide concrete data about what it was like to work at Braintree. We would share tidbits about our culture, the characteristics we valued in people, our goals, the challenges, and what we did for fun. We linked to our About Us page and invited candidates to learn more by doing their own research.
Spill the beans in the job description – Instead of using general responsibilities to explain the position, we would list out exactly what people were doing on a daily basis. Some descriptions included 30 bullet points and most included the challenges and more unattractive aspects. We originally used “What to Expect” but recently started using the title “This is what you would have done had you been with us last month.” to describe this section (thanks, Jason Fried). The accuracy and openness resonated with people and gave them a lot of information to consider.
State what you do NOT want – We included a “Please DO NOT apply if” section and were surprised with its effectiveness. We were including things such as “Please DO NOT apply if: you’d feel like a fish out of water without a well defined traditional corporate structure” or “if you have not consistently performed in the top 12 percent among your peers in sales performance.” We loved the effect this had on applicants because it spoke loud and clear to those we were trying to attract. We found it was almost more important to state what weren’t looking for.
We also had a “Please DO apply if” section including “your friends and co-workers gush about your awesomeness and attitude.”
Get them out of script mode – We all act certain ways when engaged in different situations. When applying for a job or interviewing, people are typically more stiff, scripted, guarded and cautious. Some of those things can be good, but it also increases the uncertainty for both the employer and employee because the real data set is being hidden.
To try and get applicants out of script mode, we would ask questions like “Who is your favorite super hero and why?”, or “If you could only use one utensil for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why? (spork is not an option).” Their answers would provide some insight that we could use to more quickly make judgments regarding our interest.
Offer a referral fee for qualified friends – While many qualified candidates are unemployed, many more are currently employed, but not actively looking for a job. We wanted to expand our reach into the employed-but-not-looking category by offering up $2,000 for a referred hire.
Using these methods, we found four exceptional people within 45 days. The ad made my job of screening significantly easier as it allowed me to look for people who connected with us and quickly pass on the others.