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Jennifer Kim on How Startups can Hire Better

Lead Time Chats: Season 3, Episode 1 Takeaways

October 6, 2021

Kicking off Season 3 of Lead Time Chats, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, chats with Jennifer Kim, startup advisor and founder of Startup Recruiting Bootcamp, about how startups can hire better.

Jen and Jean discuss:

  • The current hiring environment that has shifted in favor of candidates
  • What candidates are looking for when they read your job description
  • How hiring highlights false positives in hiring, but overlooks false negatives
  • The importance of screening for motivation fit early on when hiring
  • What to watch out for when using backchannel and reference check

Additional Resources

Takeaways from Jen

The hiring process signals to candidates what their employee experience will be like

“From the candidate side, they are looking for information, not only just like what the actual job is, but the level of effort that a company puts into a document like this is directly correlated with the employee experience you'll have. Is this a type of company that actually cares about employee experience?

Is it investing in the right things on the people side, not just building the product and growth at all cost? I think this is really starting to emerge as a differentiator and it's something that the founders are really having to realize because pitching your company to investors versus pitching your company as a potential workplace are actually very different skillsets.”

Consider how your process is missing false negatives (great candidates who don’t even apply)

“The thing about recruiting is we need to think about false positives and false negatives. So there are the kind of errors in that sometimes you mis-hire, right? Those are the false positives and those are felt pretty quickly, and they can be really painful because especially when you're at a small team, you know, you have someone who's just like not working. Everyone's going to be like, aughh, this is terrible. The tricky thing about recruiting, though, is we actually have a ton of false negatives and we never know about it. So when you put up a job description that you were never taught how to do well, or you didn't put the right effort in, how do you know which candidates are closing the tabs on you and just never even applying who would have been a fantastic candidate for you?”

Startups need to step up their game to compete for talent

“We're at a stage where companies are realizing they have to step up their game. They're not entitled to talent just because they raised a certain amount of money and the founders have a certain pedigree. There's 30 other startups in this category that can have similar offerings. I really believe that this kind of a third skill... you know, there's one, building a great product. Two, being able to build a really solid business around it, go to market. The third advantage is going to be . Building culture, leadership, management, all these people things that I think for so long in our industry, we looked at it as a luxury like, no, we'll worry about that later. No, you've got to start now. This is common requirement.”

Relying too much on backchannels or references is a red flag to revisit your hiring process

“Backchannels at startups tend to be overused because companies haven't actually learned how to hire well yet, because they haven't actually confidently figured out how to do their own evaluation, their own, how do we define the business need and then learn how to actually evaluate people against it. By the time you get to the offer stage, they're just like, we still don't know. That is why we keep going back to backchannels. So my solution is there is a time and place where backchannels can be useful. Absolutely. Especially if there's a close relationship, there is room for nuance and kind of being able to filter appropriately. Backchannels and reference calls will never be a substitute for actually running the entire hiring process effectively.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

Lead Time Chats is brought to you by Range. Range helps hybrid teams check-in asynchronously about what matters most. Know what's happening through status updates that pull from tools like Github and JIRA without scheduling yet another meeting.

Checking-in with Range creates more focus time for heads-down work, all while feeling a deeper sense of connection and belonging with your team. To learn more about Range, you can check it out here.

Season 2 Episodes

» Episode 1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans

» Episode 2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

» Episode 3: Kim Scott on building for systemic justice

» Episode 4: Sumeet Arora on moving on from a big company

» Episode 5: Rachael Stedman on IC manager work

» Episode 6: Chris Bee on Behaviors of Effective Eng Leaders

» Episode 7: Lynne Tye on the Engineering Hiring Landscape

» Episode 8: Beau Lebens on Distributed Team Meetups

» Episode 9: Indrajit Khare on Getting Acquired by Google

» Episode 10: Jack Danger on Technical Debt

» Episode 11: Sarah Milstein on Successful Remote and Hybrid Teams

Season 1 Episodes

» Episode 1: Will Larson on the path of the senior engineer

» Episode 2: Duretti Hirpa on mentoring junior and mid-level engineers

» Episode 3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach

» Episode 4: Juan Pablo Buriticá on common eng manager mistakes

» Episode 5: Gergely Orosz on the decision to go into management

» Episode 6: Lara Hogan on leading effectively in a pandemic

» Episode 7: Kaya Thomas on common early career engineer challenges

» Episode 8: Uma Chingunde on starting a VPE role in a pandemic

» Episode 9: Katie Wilde on supporting your team's mental health

» Episode 10: Akhil Gupta on navigating uncertainty in new roles

» Episode 11: Harper Reed on giving everyone a voice in team meetings

» Episode 12: Marc Hedlund on sponsorship

S3 E1: Jennifer Kim on How Startups can Hire Better
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