The Three Hiring Channels πŸ“£

And how you can get the best out of them to hire faster and better.

I remember an interview with Ozzie Osman about technical hiring. He wrote a great book about it, and was asked how startups and small companies can compete against big corps about talent.

At some point he said: they can, because hiring is a product.

That sentence stuck with me because, as you start thinking that way, everything changes. A product has a brand, a funnel, target customers, and so on.

More so, you can look at the whole employee lifecycle as a product β€” of which hiring is just the start.

πŸ‘” The Employment Funnel

The goal of the employment product is to hire great people and make them bring value and revenues to the company over time.

Your employees are your users.

To make it more practical, and see if the metaphor stands, we can use the pirate metrics to map the various stages of this new product:

  1. Acquisition β€” finding new people to be hired. In this phase people apply for a position and you start the selection process.

  2. Activation β€” converting applicants into new employees. It includes interviews, formal proposals, up to the point where you have actually hired the new person.

  3. Retention β€” retaining people in your team. Making them happy, engaged, and minimizing the turnover.

  4. Revenue β€” maximizing the value that is brought by the employee to the company. As each person grows in expertise and responsibilities over time, you want it to be higher and higher.

  5. Referral β€” finding new hires via recommendation by other employees. This is incredibly efficient and often overlooked.

Out of these five steps, hiring covers the first two: Acquisition and Activation.

In this article I will focus on the acquisition phase, its main channels and how we can make them work better.

So let's dive in πŸ‘‡

πŸ“£ Acquisition β€” Reach + Context

The effectiveness of the acquisition step depends on two elements:

  • Reach: the more people you can reach, the more people you will have the chance to convert into employees.

  • Context: the more context into your company you can provide, and the more compelling it is, the more people will be interested in a career in your company.

Both elements are crucial. Reach is about quantity, while Context is about bringing in qualified leads that have a higher chance of fitting your position.

This is important to understand, because hiring is a matching game:

  • As a company, you want to find a good match for your position.

  • As a prospective hire, you want to find a good match for your skills, aspirations and values.

Good reach makes you find many candidates, good context helps you finding the right ones.

πŸ›£οΈ The Three Channels (+1)

In regular products, acquisition happens through channels.

Hiring happens through channels as well, out of which the most common ones are the following:

  1. β˜• Network

  2. πŸŽͺ Communities

  3. πŸ“‹ Job Boards

These all have different intrinsic characteristics, that make them better or worse based on the position you are hiring for, and the stage of your company.

Let's see them in detail, with advice to get the most out of them πŸ‘‡

β˜• Network

Low Reach + High Context

Network is people you already know and can contact directly. It's the first channel everyone starts with, for a simple reason: it's the one with the best context.

You know these people and whether they are a good fit or not. Likewise, they likely already know you, what you stand for, and possibly the company you work with.

The limit of the network channel is usually reach:

  • There is a limit to the people you can get in touch directly.

  • People of your network are often peers, or from connected functions, which restricts the positions you can hire for. E.g. for a young startup founder, with an engineering background, it would be hard to hire a seasoned marketing leader through network alone.

Advice: expand your reach 🎯

  • Grow your social media presence about your work. Chances are you have plenty of interesting things to share, you just have to look for them and make a habit out of it. Do it regularly β€” it will attract like-minded people to your network. Twitter and Linkedin work best.

  • Join relevant events β€” events are a bit out of fashion nowadays, but online conferences, if you put in the effort to stay in touch with people, are still a great way meet new peers.

  • Leverage your team network β€” encourage your team to do the same. It's a win-win, for their professional career and for your company's brand. Also, actively ask your team for recommendations about your open positions. It’s easy and very effective.

πŸŽͺ Communities

Medium Reach + Medium Context

This is like indirect network. It might be professional communities you belong to, alumni of initiatives/conferences you have attended, or social media followers.

They might know you and/or the company you work for, but need more context about what you are looking for, and if it's a good fit for them.

You can usually reach more people this way than through direct network, but the quality of the leads will be lower.

Advice: improve both reach and context 🎯

  • Join and be active in professional communities β€” there are so many! Find the best ones β€” the value they bring is amazing. Many communities are a byproduct of other initiatives, like publications (e.g. Lenny's) or conferences (e.g. CTO Craft).

  • Improve your company brand & positioning β€” what do you stand for? what makes it special to work with you? Create a company blog, tell stories, create more and better context to make people understand what it would be like to join your team.

πŸ“‹ Job Boards

High Reach + Low Context

Total strangers β€” they don't know neither you nor your company. This channel comes with the highest reach and the lowest context.

The risk here is low signal-to-noise ratio: receiving a high number of candidates with a very small share of actually good ones.

Advice: improve context 🎯

  • Build an amazing job post + careers page β€” it should go without saying, but many fail at this. Make it clear what you offer and what you are looking for. Explain your mission, your culture, and why people are going to do the best work of their life with you. Be honest, but passionate.

  • Improve your company brand & positioning β€” same advice as before. People may get to know you through a job post, but rest assured that great candidates make further due diligence. They do their best to learn as much as possible about you in advance.

πŸ’Ό Bonus: Recruiters

It's complicated.

Recruiters don't have a great reputation in tech hiring.

They come with the promise of high reach + high context, that is: "we have a great pool of candidates, we know exactly what they are looking for, and we are able to match them with your company needs."

In reality, there are good recruiters and bad recruiters. Bad recruiters are usually bad at context. They don't know candidates very well, and they are not good at presenting your positions, leaving you with a bad signal-to-noise ratio.

Advice 🎯

  • Consider them for leadership positions: upper management and executive roles are often hired via recruiters, because candidates are rare, and having good reach via other channels is hard. Sometimes, before you worry about signal-to-noise, it's important to get any signal at all.

  • Build long lasting relationships with them: the longer you work with a recruiter, the better it becomes at understanding what you need and what works for you. Context improves over time, so don't give up early.

πŸ“š Resources

Hiring is a super wide topic β€” here are a couple of resources I particularly enjoyed while writing this article:

  • πŸ“– Technical Recruiting and Hiring β€” by Ozzie Osman. It's very well written and comprehensive. Also, it's a Holloway book, and I just love the experience of reading their books online.

  • πŸ–₯️ Doist Blog β€” Doist is a fantastic company that does a great job at sharing context about their values, culture and processes. They do it through their blog and through Amir's (their CEO) twitter presence. Great candidates are naturally drawn to such companies.

That's it for this week! What's your experience with hiring? Is there any other advice you can share, or something you need help with? Feel free to reply to the email, or in the comments πŸ‘‡


Hey, I am Luca πŸ‘‹ thank you for reading this far!

Every week I read tens of articles and draw from my own experience to create a 10-minutes advice about some engineering leadership topic.

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