Why No One Responds to Your Best Job Posts (And What To Do About It)

[Image of Empty Mailbox. Source: Robert Hruzek] How many times have you slaved away creating a job description for your dream hire only to have no one qualified respond?

Why does this happen?

Remember that when you are recruiting for your startup you are in sales and marketing mode. And to be successful you need to use the same tools to close candidates that great sales and marketing people use to win customers.

With that in mind, here are a few specific problems you may be facing and how to fix them.

 

People don’t know about your startup

In the US there are more than 400,000 new businesses started each year. There were 2,725 venture funding rounds closed in 2011.

Getting your startup to stand out from the crowd takes some work. Especially since the best talent is fully employed and not spending their time actively scanning job boards.

So how can you address this?

  • Start blogging. Tell your company’s story in bite size chunks. Build an audience of people who care about the same problems you do and want to help you solve them. You are likely to attract great candidates directly. And if not, at minimum your new audience will be happy to introduce you to the best people they know.
  • Do interviews. Creating high quality content for your blog takes time. Maybe you can’t do this every day. Supplement your writing with audio or video interviews. Don’t wait for A-list bloggers to put you on their schedule. Network or reach out directly to thought leaders in your space that you wanted to meet anyway. Pitch them on your business. Tell them that you’d like to share the insights from your conversation with the community you’re building. Write a script and record your conversation. If you can’t meet in person, use a call recorder for Skype. Upload it to Youtube and embed it on your blog. Create podcasts for people on the go. Link those too.
  • Go to startup focused meetups. Get out there and engage in person. Spend enough time networking with other people doing startups and you will find people interested in the same problems you are. Here is a list of events you might want to check out from 500 Startups.

 

People don’t understand your startup

Can you explain in 30 seconds or less who your customers are, what problems they face, and what your solution is?

Do other people in your startup give the same answer you do? Do visitors to your web site give the same answer as well?

If not, people may not understand what your startup is all about and why the problem you are trying to solve is important.

A confused mind doesn’t buy.

So how do you fix this?

First, make sure you have really good answers to all the basic startup questions. You can’t work on your communication until you have clarity on what you need to communicate.

Now that you have renewed clarity on what you’re doing, you need to think about how to write a job description to reflect it.

In the same way that marketing professionals strategically deliver exactly the right words so that people take a desired action, you need to strategically deliver the right words so that the right people apply to your job. This means you need to approach your job description as a copywriting exercise. Here is a great Copywriting 101 if you’re looking for some help.

Don’t be upset if this process takes a lot of time. You can’t expect to whip out great results in one short sitting.

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

-Mark Twain

Yes, it is incredibly hard to really distill things to their essence. But if you do, you will find you start to get the right people in the door. The side benefit is you actually might find that having done this makes it much easier to run your business overall.

 

People aren’t interested in your startup

This is a harder problem to deal with. The fundamental issue here is that your current startup vision might not deliver on the key things that motivate product managers and engineers to join startups.

The best product managers want to work on new experiences that will change the world and that lots of people will use. Chris Dixon has a great post on recruiting programmers where he talks about how they are motivated:

  • Working on interesting technical problems
  • Working with other talented people
  • Working in a friendly, creative environment
  • Working on software that lots of people will use

It’s important to note that money is not the primary driver here for either product managers or engineers. The best people are focused first on the vision and second on the return. In my experience, every time these are reversed, the outcome is poor.

Compensation needs to meet a threshold that is competitive with other startups. And people need to feel confident that if they execute successfully on the vision, they will be handsomely rewarded. But the main reward is being part of the team that changed the world. Not the monetary gain.

If your startup’s vision does not provide a clear path for how these needs will be met, you will have a hard time recruiting the best people.

 

You face competition for talent from other companies

Be careful skipping too quickly over the other problems above and concluding that your primary problem is a tight job market.

There is no doubt that it is always hard to hire rock star product, engineering and UX talent. However, if you’re having a problem recruiting, it is far more likely to be one of the above problems than simply a tight job market.

That said, if you’re convinced that a tight job market is your main issue, what can you do to tip the scales in your favor?

  • Make sure you are personally driving the recruiting efforts. Your people are your most valuable asset, and a startup needs you directly spending your time to find great people. If your approach is to hand this off to a recruiter, expect mediocre results.
  • Step up your personal networking. Recruit like a sales person. You need to prospect for candidates…and should be using the same tools that great sales people use.
  • Start mining Linkedin. Get yourself a premium account so you can receruit candidates directly.
  • Spend more time in the places where great talent hangs out. For engineers this might be github, Stack Overflow or Working With Rails.

 

Great people are one of the most significant competitive advantages you can build for your startup. Getting them is not easy, but if you focus on these key issues when you think about how to write a job description, you will be far ahead of your peers. And you might be amazed by your results the next time you need to fill a position.

 

About Andy Jagoe

Andy is the founder of Venturegrit and has 15 years of experience founding, funding, and leading venture funded startups. More about Andy's background. You can also find Andy on LinkedIn, Google+ and @andyjagoe on Twitter.

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