Taking the Easy Way Out, Instead of Doing the Hard Work
Recruiting is hard work for a growing company. First of all, it is hard in that you have to put a lot of effort into it. Secondly, it is hard to make good decisions about who to hire and who to pass over. Third, it is hard to make the sacrifice of time from your growing business to dedicate it to recruiting. That time could be spent working with customers, or meeting deadlines, or on much needed sales. And yet you make time.
Fourth, it is also hard because the reward can be a long time coming. Of course, there are the hires that immediately improve your business- the experts in your domain, the people with all the right skills and experience from day 1. But as your business grows, you’ll want to invest in people who will grow with your company, learning on the job so to speak. That takes time. When you move into college recruiting, the payoff for a hire made in October of November is a new employee in June, July, or August – a time frame that most startups can’t plan around.
Fifth, recruiting is hard because you’re competing with everyone else – not just in your market, or industry, but everyone in the market for that recruit’s skills.
Sixth, you can’t hand off recruiting to someone else. You can’t have an outside firm do it for you. Sure, you can get help from an outside firm, but you have to own it. The firm can send you candidates, but you have to determine whether to hire them, and sell them on joining your company. And you can’t hand off recruiting to HR. Human Resources isn’t your business, HR is administrative support for your business. Developing human talent at your company is your business. And the business of every single employee that cares about the company. If you offload it to HR you have sown the seeds of your own disaster.
At BP3 we started recruiting from college in 2011. We started with an internship. We knew from the outset that it would be a long journey to where we wanted to go with it. Our plans in 2012 assumed it would take 3 more years to get there. And that’s been about right. We have a great intern class again this year, and we have 3 full-time hires joining us from college. I think we’ll do even better next year (that third year we planned for). We could have improved the speed of our college hiring by spending more money on marketing, or going to more campuses or campus events. But we took the slow steady route – to learn as we go, build up gradually, and invest in the people and the schools that we recruit from. And I run the recruiting operation – with incredible help and leadership from a very talented team that really cares about BP3. I’m becoming more coach than operator now, and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going.
We’ve found that in the long run, caring about the people you recruit, having an efficient and respectful interview process, and getting involved in colleges through internship programs have been great ways to invest in the community and in our business.
So sure, it’s tough. but we believe it is a long game, and that the hard work eventually pays dividends in ways that shortcuts won’t.
A little historical context. When people perceive their job to be tough, they’ll take shortcuts that undermine their reputation and honor, as if “tough” is an excuse to compromise your values. As an example, I manage the Trilogy alumni list, where I first worked when I graduated from college. Once a person lied to me about their affiliation with one of the companies, in order to get added to the list. Once on the list, they started posting jobs. Pretty soon it was apparent that this person was a recruiter, not a former employee, and had just social-engineered their way onto the list by knowing the right names and product groups to talk about to pretend to have been an employee. I asked him why he would lie to me to get into a community he clearly wasn’t a member of. He told me it was his job to lie in order to recruit -“you understand, its just business, I gotta do whatever it takes to recruit the best people.” No, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why he thinks morality should be less when the job or the times are hard. True character is revealed when the job is tough, not when it is easy. Was it worth harming his reputation permanently within that community, which is so well-networked in Austin?
Just recently there was this kerfuffle over BigCommerce and their recruiting methods recently in Austin, which leave something to be desired based on most of the commentary. My advice would be to do the hard work and put in the time, and leave the donut outfits for Halloween. We all want companies to invest and hire in Austin (as BigCommerce is). But we also want them to respect the community and neighborhood they’re moving into. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.