Common advice for hiring is to go outbound. Things like setting up your talent pipeline, going to recruiting events and conferences, scouring LinkedIn.
We were a two-person company with no recruitment expertise and little time. How were we supposed to compete with big tech?
Our recruiting had to be inbound; people come to us. We’re very light with getting our open roles out there. We post on Hacker News: Who is hiring?, and we’re listed on RemoteOK and NoDesk.
I’m happy to say, we’re doing it! Getting people to apply is one thing. Getting the cream of the crop, aka top talent, to apply, is another.
Andre, who works on customer success, joined us last October. In his own words:
“I wanted to join a small start up again with innovative, smart and passionate founders. That they were solving a problem I understood, and knew would be making a big difference for other people. It was as if the stars had aligned when I came across Canny.”
Andre worked at Airbnb for seven years. He’s the nicest guy ever and we knew he was smart from our first chat.
Dan, a software engineer, joined us last month. Dan worked at Tesla for three years. He’s a free spirit that breathes new life into the team while challenging us to push harder.
Both could’ve worked for any company but chose us instead.
Beyond that, our hiring inbox is constantly growing with people who have worked at amazing companies.
I'll be sharing more about how we're attracting these legit people.
Showing off our personality
"I checked out your Instagram and you look like fun people."
One advantage small companies have is being able to show personality. All you have to do is be yourself. In contrast, big companies are inherently more closed and mysterious because they’re bigger. In the early days, you and your company are one. Use that to your advantage!
Many applicants mention in their emails that they check out our Instagram and blog. Neither of these channels was meant to be recruiting tools.
“After learning more about your product via the Canny website, your Instagram, and reading the blog articles that you have published, I thought that this may just be the company I've been searching for!”
Our Instagram was just a fun way to document our travels while we build Canny. Turns, out it’s also a great way to show people the kind of people we are. We share stories about our day-to-day. Nothing fancy. Being candid is kind of the point.
The blog is another thing. It's much more business-focused than our Instagram but it has a similar effect. Most of our blog posts share a direct glimpse into what we work on and how we work.
“I appreciated how candid and reflective you came across in your writings.“
A lot of SaaS companies focus on content marketing: writing to attract leads for the product. Definitely important but brand content is the other half of the equation. It's the half that gives you a personality and a voice.
This is huge for attracting talent. People who are interested in joining early-stage startups usually know the kind of lifestyle they’re looking for. Showing off your personality is a great way to do that without selling. If you can convince them that you’re awesome, that's your boot in the door.
As people looking to work at an early-stage company, a common thing we're pursuing is freedom. Everyone on the team so far has experience working at a desk job. Going into the office, usually around the same time every day. Working for "the man".
Something about working under those constraints for years makes you want more freedom. A huge aspect of that is having the freedom to build what you want. Another big aspect of that is freedom of location. Soon after we started Canny, Andrew and I left San Francisco to travel.
When we started growing the team, we knew we weren't going to get an office. Everyone was going to work remotely. Remote work allows everyone on our team to be location independent. For Andre, it means he can go back to his UK roots. For Dan, it means he can shoot off to anywhere (as long as there's wifi), whenever he feels like it.
"My name is Dan and I saw your comment while "ctrl+f"ing the word "remote" on the Who Is Hiring post on Hacker News." – Dan
Had we started a home base, neither Andre or Dan would be with us. We'd also significantly cut down our applicant pool. If we had stayed in San Francisco as a bootstrapped startup, hiring would be much more challenging. Competition for talent in the Bay Area is fierce and the cost of living is insane. It used to be pretty common for people to move for a job. Today, it's a whole different playing field. One where remote roles make talent across the world accessible.
Convincing people we’re going somewhere
Joining an early stage company is a risk. As founders, we have to be able to reassure people that we’re on a path to success and beyond.
Before candidates even talk to us, they should have an idea of how well we’re doing. Our company blog is a great place to share the success we’ve found along our journey. We’ve shared a few blog posts like that. If we do it well, people should feel inspired to apply.
We share numbers in these posts because numbers speak for themselves. We're quite open with our numbers with candidates. How much money we're making, how many customers we have, and what growth looks like.
This transparency is especially helpful as a bootstrapped startup where you don’t have millions in the bank. You can't have candidates worry they would be joining a business at risk of shutting down.
Once you get to the actual interview, it’s show time. It’s your chance to reinforce all the good things that the candidate now thinks about your company. Speak with confidence and enthusiasm—it goes a long way. This shouldn't be hard if you genuinely believe in the future of your company.
An interview is a two-way street. You’re asking people skill-testing questions to see if they’re a good fit for the role. You also need to sell yourself and your company. If as a founder you can't get excited about your own mission, how can you expect anyone else to be? The best candidates have options. Why are you the best one?