As a technical founder, finding the right talent for your company is crucial. In this post, we’ll walk you through the first step of talent sourcing, finding compelling talent.
As a technical founder, finding the right talent for your company is crucial. While you may have already tapped into your network and posted job openings on your website, you’re likely not getting the strong pipeline of qualified applicants you need. It’s time to expand your methods and embrace outbound recruitment, commonly referred to as talent sourcing.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the first step of talent sourcing, finding compelling talent. To provide illustrative examples, we will assume the perspective of a Series A DevOps founder.
Nevertheless, it's important to note that the following advice can be equally applicable to technical founders at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey, ranging from pre-seed to Seed and even beyond.
Before kicking off your search, you'll want to purchase a lightweight search platform from LinkedIn — either Recruiter Lite or Sales Navigator Core (the latter will come in handy if you also plan to do sales prospecting). You do not need LinkedIn’s full Recruiter offering to effectively find candidates — the cost is not worth the additional functionality at your size or stage.
While there are several additional tools that surpass the capabilities of these platforms (just look at G2's grid for Talent Intelligence Software ) I prefer LinkedIn due to its status as the industry standard in tech recruitment, coupled with its market presence. Additionally, it’s affordable and immediately available for purchase. Finally, it is proven to be effective — it may not have the perfect UX, but it is a reliable solution that will get the job done.
Part 1 — Identify analogous companies to target
Step 1: Since I’m a DevOps founder, one approach is to look to Sapphire Ventures’ 2022 DevOps Market Map for potential targets or another market map posted online.
Over time, you’ll build a list of your favorite targets, but today you can also perform a Google search for “DevOps Ecosystem or Market Maps” for alternative resources. To find additional targets, you can map out the following from the primary companies you have identified:
Step 2: Next, figure out where my company would belong on this map. For this example, let’s assume I have an Error Tracking startup.
Step 3: Add these teams to a Google Sheet
Note: Not all of these companies will be ideal matches, as some of their teams may not be based in your hiring geography or may be very small. To ensure a broader pool, let’s add some more teams to your list by expanding the areas of the Market Map we’re open to considering (you can see in the above example I’ve added Blameless from the Incident Response category).
Step 4: Continue to identify target companies from your chosen Market Map(s) until you have at least ~50 (there is no upper limit on the number to add).
Part 2 — Identify the requisite skills and experience to use as keywords in your search
A few questions to ask yourself:
Do I NEED a candidate to have prior experience with this? Or do they just need to be able to learn it? If it’s the latter, I do not want to include it as a keyword requirement.
Can I infer if a candidate likely has prior experience with this technology or skillset? Not everyone fills out their LinkedIn with all of their skills, particularly those who receive a large volume of recruiter outreach. In such cases, if you know a particular company uses the technology, consider excluding the keyword from your search. Additionally, you will likely want your prospects to have prior experience with venture-backed startups. Because we’re targeting venture-backed startup companies with our approach, we know they will have this experience.
For this example, let’s assume the candidate needs experience with Python OR Go, in addition to experience with AWS, Azure, or GCP.
Part 3 — Build out our search in your platform of choice (I’ll do so in LinkedIn Recruiter)
Step 1: Add some companies from your list until you have at least ~200 people results.
Step 2: Add in your Go & Python keywords to filter down this list.
Step 3: Add any additional restrictions to your search, such as Location or Required Years of Experience. This will help make your number of results even more manageable. (Don’t be afraid to experiment here! Ultimately you’re trying to find a group of interesting, qualified candidates, so it’s OK to explore what your various search parameters return.)
Step 4: If there are a lot of extraneous profiles, you can choose to add titles, such as “Software Engineer” and “Backend Engineer.”
Step 5: Run through your results, reviewing each profile to see if it’s potentially someone you’d like to speak with about your opening.
Step 6: Once you’ve run through the list and identified all of the individuals you want to reach out to, cross the names of the companies you sourced from off of your Google Sheet. Add a new batch of company names to your LinkedIn search, and start the process again.
Step 7: Once you've reached 100 - 200 leads, we’ll move on to messaging the prospects you’ve identified.
Part 4 — Wrapping up
Your sourcing activity should continue until you get a group of interesting, qualified folks into your interview process.
Ultimately, although this search was run for a Series A company, the process is applicable to any team that wants to find talent. There are a plethora of other ways to source, such as Open Source projects, conferences, research papers, hackathons & competitive circuits, other social media, etc… that may be preferred by certain teams. The methods outlined here are tried and true though, offering a repeatable method that will ensure success for teams of any size & stage. Particularly for an early-stage founder, it’s a great starting point on your recruitment process.
Now that you’ve seen the process and had an opportunity to follow along, let’s dive into some of the methods we just used (and one we didn’t).
Company mapping should form the foundation of most recruitment searches. It involves identifying specific companies whose staff are, in your opinion, an interesting profile for your team. This alignment can be based on various factors such as their product and problem area, tech stack, leadership, culture, fundraising stage/company size, and so on.
In our example, we started with this approach by identifying target companies we found interesting given their similar product focus and prior VC backing. These companies included Airbrake, datagen, Instabug, OverOps, Raygun, Rollbar, RevDeBug, Sentry, and sprkl.
This is often the starting point for most individuals new to finding talent via outbound recruitment. It Involves researching individuals with the specific hard skills your new hire must have in order to be successful. While this can be a useful way to add non-traditional backgrounds to your search, the search results can be too wide to be immediately useful for early stage teams.
Instead, consider layering in skills-mapping on top of your company-mapping approach. In our previous example, we accomplished this by first looking at employees of Error Tracking companies such as Airbrake, datagen, Instabug, OverOps, Raygun, Rollbar, RevDeBug, Sentry, and sprkl. We then specified that we only wanted to review individuals with Go or Python experience listed on their LinkedIn.
School mapping is an effective means of finding specialized talent in specific areas, such as targeting graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), or graduates from top AI/ML programs.
As previously stated, these are only a few of many sourcing methods. I chose to share these because, during your early stages, you can achieve the highest ROI by utilizing these methods in your outbound recruitment efforts.
What haven’t we covered?
There are a number of pertinent topics we omitted from this post for brevity. These include: how to effectively review prospective candidate profiles for fit, how to store candidates (see this resource from LinkedIn), developing compelling outreach & best practices in messaging, more advanced tooling options than LinkedIn’s platforms, and more.
Which would you like us to cover next? Let us know!