by Danny Boice
Last time we took a look about how best to go about getting started with the hiring process, including the best places to look to find great candidates. So, now that you’ve scoured AngelList, blew up a ton of LinkedIn inboxes and had one too many drinks at too many meetups to count, you’ve amassed an amazing array of hopefuls. Now what?
Having a huge pipeline of candidates can almost be as bad as having little to no pipeline. Interviews can be a massive time-suck to you and your team. But note that although they can be, they don’t have to be. The secret to filtering down your pipeline is to move quickly and efficiently and to not rope in other members of the team until you feel pretty good about someone.
Also, remember: in our current talent climate, you need to sell candidates on your startup just as hard as they need to sell you on their mad skills.
For example, here is the sequence of events I followed in whittling down my developer pipeline:
Step 1: Quick Glance
Take a very quick look at their LinkedIn or Github profiles or (if absolutely necessary) resume. Look for relevant projects, skills, languages, technologies. Make sure they haven’t spent their entire career in corporate or government hell.
Why the lack of love for traditional resumes? They’re outdated, especially when it comes to developers. LinkedIn profiles, Github profiles and/or websites and portfolios are where it’s at. When we started hiring a couple years ago, if developers led with their resumes I tended to think less of them. And I don’t think I ended up hiring any of them.
Step 2: Email Screen
For anyone that makes it past the quick glance, shoot them an email asking for URLs to apps they have built and/or Github projects they have participated in. Also ask about hackathons and the resulting apps or projects – hackathon participation is a very, very, very good sign. You are looking for a good mix of devices, technologies, languages or all of the above. Review what they send you.
Step 3: Phone Interview
Talk to them on the phone for no longer than 15 minutes. Be very disciplined about the stop time. Your goal here is to a) sell them on your startup (to make sure they don’t bow out of the process), b) gauge their personality and c) ascertain whether or not they represented themselves accurately during screening steps 1 and 2.
If you can, challenge them on something during the phone interview. Even if you aren’t sure or think you may be wrong, take a stance. See how they react. This is a good way to smoke out the assholes and the prima donnas. The phone interview is also a good place to broach the subject of compensation. Better to find out now whether they’re willing to defer some of their salary or stock.
Step 4: Face-to-Face Interviews
Be very, very, very strict about who makes it through to this. At Speek, we blocked off an hour or more for the candidate to spend 15-30 minutes apiece with some key members of the team. My interviewers were me, Virginia Lee from the community team (focused on personality), developer Jeff Ritenburg (technical deep dive), and CEO John Bracken (Speek business model, roadmap, our general level of awesomeness).
You need to approach hiring the same way you approach sales, business development and fundraising. It’s a numbers game. You’re going to have to kiss a bunch of toads. The secret is to build yourself a solid pipeline and quickly get to the point where you’re spending your time on the truly promising leads.
Startups live or die based on the level of talent they hire. If you’re a startup founder, or aspiring startup founder, you’re probably great at a few things already. It may be sales, it may be business development, it may be coding. But no matter what you are great at to start with, you have to get great at hiring talent, the sooner the better. Assembling a team that can best help you make your startup what you know it can be is a pretty daunting task; hopefully the above advice makes it a little less so.
A version of this post originally appeared on Tech Cocktail.
Danny Boice is the CTO of Speek – a 500 Startups funded startup that lets users do conference calls with a simple link (speek.com/YourName) rather than using phone numbers and PINs. Danny contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Pando Daily, Fast Company and other publications. He attended Harvard undergrad and did advanced studies at MIT.