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From Ad Hoc to Agile:

Your Guide to a Scalable Hiring Process for your Growing SaaS Business

The thing about hiring is we all think we have a process.

But how is that "process" actually performing for you?

In the tech business, we're all about systems that work. But the unsexy truth about hiring in a fast-growing SaaS business is that no one has time to think about what works and what doesn't. We resign to coasting, coping or copying the SaaS next door, then wonder why the bad hires keep creeping in.

It's time for a fresh approach. Consider this your step-by-step playbook for breaking free of the hiring chaos to build an awesomely agile hiring process you can scale.

First, Know Thyself

But how is that "process" actually performing for you?

Before we launch into the nitty gritty, we need — strike that, we implore you — to take a minute (and maybe even a nice, deep breath) and think about who you really are and what you really want for your business and team.

Yep, it's time to take stock.

Because anyone can follow a formula, but if your inputs are off, you better believe your outputs will be, too. And no one wants to end up with a band of new hires who just don't "get it."

Start by answering the following cultural check-in questions:

  • What's the ultimate big picture strategy for your business? How do you want your business to look in five years? 10 years?
  • Beyond "making money", why did your founders build this business?
  • What's the north star metric for your company? And the talent department?
  • What principles guide your business? Are you all about rocketship growth? Or are you more about thoughtful, sustained growth?
  • How does your hiring plan align with those goals?

Before you can create your set of stellar hiring practices, you need to be 110% confident you're hiring for the right roles and reasons. Got it?

Great! Now, let's get you set up with some awesomely irresistible job ads.

Optimize your job descriptions and ads

OK. So you've defined your needs and confirmed that now is absolutely the time to bring in new talent for your SaaS business.

Time to tackle the specifics.

A great job description will double as an avatar for your ideal employee. So don't rush it.

Talk to your team leads to pinpoint who they need, why they need them and the exact results they expect to see from filling this role.

Before you can create your set of stellar hiring practices, you need to be 110% confident you're hiring for the right roles and reasons. Got it?

Paint a clear picture of your ideal candidate

Replace 'Responsibilities' with Impact

Instead of a bland list of “responsibilities”, start your job description with an ‘Impact’ section that outlines the value of the candidate's skills and how they actually drive real-world success for your company.

The goal is to offer applicants a crystal clear understanding of the purpose of this position in five lines or less.

Pinpoint the Exact Skills and Qualifications

Do you really want a candidate with a Masters degree? Like, really really?

Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to turn applicants away because it’s the one box they couldn’t tick. If it's a true must-have, add it in as a baseline qualification for the job. If not, add it to a 'It'd be nice if you' or 'Bonus Skills' section. Or scrap it completely.

Use Scenario-Based Planning to Set Seniority Requirements

Depending on the shape and stage of your business, you might need a specialist vs. generalist or junior vs. a senior.

It all depends on your unique ethos and of course, budget. Think through some scenarios to help nail it down. If you’ve got a star candidate with two years' experience, would you take them? Or does is really need to be five years minimum? Make sure all deal-breakers are clearly reflected.

Write with the "Soft Stuff" in Mind

It's downright crucial to snag candidates with the perfect set of soft skills.

And when it comes to attracting applicants with the right character and personality, like recognize like. Boldly state your business beliefs using the same language you’d want your new hire to use. Buttoned-up or super chill, just make sure you rep your true self.

Clarify Compensation

It can be tempting to leave pay out of your job descriptions and ads. But if you've done your homework, there's no reason to hide what you're offering. Applicants admire transparency — especially millennials. So be straight up about it and save yourself the hassle of awkward conversations down the road.

Not sure how to set compensation? Take a look at similar roles on Glassdoor and PayScale. Just type in the desired role and locations and boom! You've got your salary parameters.

Check In Questions

  • What specific tasks and activities would the ideal hire be responsible for?
  • What specific superpowers would they have?
  • Why are those important to the company’s big picture?
  • Are the “bonus” skills really optional or should they be mandatory?
  • Would you turn a candidate away for not having that skill or qualification?
  • What are the deal-breakers?

Use inclusive language to widen your talent pool

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that masculine and feminine-themed words were an “unacknowledged…institutional-level mechanism of inequality maintenance.”

Whichever way you cut it, companies with inclusive talent practices have 30% higher revenue per employee than companies that don't. Turn a blind eye and you can expect to be passed up by the competition that gets it.

Luckily, there are some simple ways to overcome some the icky unconscious stuff that can get in the way of a great hire.

  • Delete jargon and "insider" language and replace it with clear, accessible terms.
  • Aim for a balance of masculine and feminine-themed words.
  • Unless characteristics like gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial group or ability are directly relevant to the role, leave them out.

While you're at it, why not make sure your Fair Hiring Statement doesn't put applicants to sleep?

The equal employment opportunity statement is the most undervalued real estate in a job ad.

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, millennial workers “feel pessimistic about the prospects for political and social progress, along with concerns about safety, social equality, and environmental sustainability."

Not only that, 67% of job seekers say they care about your diversity statistics. Make sure your EEO statement shows them that you care, too.

Unemployment is at a historic low and things are getting more competitive, but I think you always have to assume you’re competing. You always have to be ready to put your best foot forward.
Terra Soloski
Head of Talent and Culture, Knock

Position your employer brand to win top talent

Now that you've got an awesomely compelling job description, you're probably pretty eager to post your open position all over the internet. But hold on a minute.

This next step will help make sure your employer brand actually jives with what you're saying to potential candidates. Because it's a tight talent market out there, and candidates have very little time for BS.

One of the most helpful things for me has been to take a moment and put myself in the shoes of the candidate. How might I be feeling? How would I want to be treated? Better yet, think of someone you dearly love. How would you want them to be treated throughout the recruitment process? Empathy is key for relationship-building and a people-oriented recruitment process.
Elijah Elkins
Global Talent Acquisition Manager, CloudFactory

Offer the right perks and benefits

Comparison kills — especially, when it comes to creating your benefits packages. You can literally break the bank trying to outplay the competition.

But here's the secret: candidates don't care about the things you think they do.

At least, not as much as you think. Data consistently shows that perks like learning and development opportunities, flexible working options and transparent and inclusive work environments are more important than pay.

Here are some proven perks and benefits strategies to try out.

  • Align your perks to your actual work culture like Trello did with remote working options
  • Add inclusive benefits like childcare, health insurance for partners and flex scheduling
  • Play up cultural differentiators like an autonomous environment, lack of bureaucracy and growth opportunities

At the end of the day, if candidates have to choose between playing ping pong on their lunch hour or feeling respected as an individual, guess which option they'll take.

So skip the one-upping and run a competitive analysis on your perks and benefits to find out what gaps you can fill better than anyone else.

Check In Questions

  • Are your compensation packages competitive?
  • Will training and development programs be available for this role?
  • What other perks, benefits or value are you offering that our competitors aren’t?

Create a killer career page

Companies like Knock and Unito get their best candidates from their career pages.

That's because a great career page will inspire visitors to become applicants, while helping them self-select whether or not they're the right fit.

Here's what you need to make that happen.

Compelling Mission Statement

Strike out the jargon and state straight up why working for your company is both fun and worth it. (And please don’t call it a “mission statement!”)

Social Proof

Add employee testimonials to your career page to help build trust with passive candidates. You can even integrate your latest Glassdoor rating.

Don't have a Glassdoor rating? No big deal. Launch a simple internal campaign asking employees that, if they've been happy with their experience so far, you'd love it if they could give you a quick rating and review.

Clear Values

Most of our talent-related troubles stem from a blurry line between expected outcomes and actual behavior. But what if you could clarify your expectations before an employment contract is signed? State your values loud and clear where every potential candidate can see them.

Live Chat

Strike while the iron is hot by answering a potential candidate’s questions immediately using chatbot messenger tool. You can opt to have your convos human or AI-led, then add that info to your applicant tracking system (ATS) to keep all future conversations as relevant as possible.

Need more inspiration? Here are five awesome examples to get you started.

Check In Questions

  • What’s the impact of the product and services your company provides?
  • What problems do you solve for the world?
  • What’s it really like to work for your company?
  • What are the specific paid or culture perks worth mentioning? Do you have a history of internal promotions?
  • How well are you doing as a company? Any business or HR awards you can brag about?
  • What technologies does your company use?

Source like a pro-recruiter

Once you have a killer job ad, the only question is where do you post it?

This will always depend on the type of talent you're looking for. Remote vs. local, engineering vs. marketing, etc. — the who always guides the where.

Still, it helps to know the full menu of sourcing options available so you can choose the right ones for you and optimize accordingly.

Start with your network

You might not get the instant gratification you'd feel after posting a job on LinkedIn, but letting people know you're always in the market for specific types of talent is easier and much more scalable than relying solely on online tools.

Reach out to your network, including your current employees, with a quick email letting them know what types of candidates you're constantly on the lookout for and get ready to do some serious hand-shaking.

It's always a good idea to meet a potential candidate, even if that person isn't in the job market right now.

If your ATS has a browser extension, use it to automatically pull candidate info straight from LinkedIn into your pipeline.

Scout via social

For a more active sourcing approach, head to the online watering holes where your candidates hang out — knowing where they hang and what they're into gives you a great 'in'.

Start a relevant conversation by following their posts or updates, commenting back and eventually sending a smart, personalized message about why you think they'd love to work for you.

Here are a few sleaze-free ways to get to know your prospects:

  • Participate in online discussions (LinkedIn Groups, Slack Forums, Facebook Groups)
  • Comment on your prospects’ public posts
  • Share or retweet something that they‘ve said
  • Get introduced via a mutual connection
  • Invite them to a relevant group, webinar or event

At some point, the discussion will probably move to email or even SMS.

When that happens, make sure you use simple subject lines like:

Quick question

[Company] + [FirstName]

Jump on a call later?

Lead the email with one or two points that excite the prospective candidate. If they’ve been extolling the virtues of graphic design as a way to shape company futures, and you’re looking for a graphic designer on your marketing team, try something like this:

You and I seem to be in perfect alignment when it comes to the importance of graphic design to brand identity. [One of my clients] [My marketing VP] agrees with you, too – she recently spoke at X conference about this very subject. You can see her talk [here].

Now, I don’t want to assume anything about your happiness at work, but given our mutual interest in this, I think you’d at least want to check out [opportunity] – I think you could really make an impact. Here’s why:

The job boards: where and how to post

Here's where it pays to really know your talent market.

There's a job board out there for virtually every type of candidate, but each one comes with a cost. Before you invest in paid job boards (which can range anywhere from $25-$5,000 and up), it's always a good idea to post your ad on the free, high-traffic sites.

If possible, save yourself a ton of time and use your ATS to automatically broadcast your ad across all the free job sites.

Here are a few of the top job boards you might want to try.

Try a Boolean search

Ready to go pro?

Boolean search is the ace in every pro recruiter's back pocket.

Here's how it works.

In search engines, combine the logical operations AND, OR, NOT, with keywords, phrases and other operators to form what's called Boolean search strings.

Let’s say you’re hunting for resumes on Google. Here’s how you formulate a Boolean search string to look for CMO resumes straight from the Google URL bar:

  • Start by looking intitle ← this just means you’re searching in the title of web-based documents, versus the body
  • Add your key phrases in “quotation marks” ← like “chief marketing officer”
  • Restrict your search by adding ANDs
  • Bulk it up by adding an OR
  • Remove needless hits with the NOT operator [in this case, we used the minus sign, which has the same function as the word NOT — note the minus sign isn’t officially supported by LinkedIn]
  • Use parentheses to group search terms

And here's how it plays out.

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) (“chief marketing officer” OR “VP Marketing”) -job -jobs -sample -examples

Or, let's say you're searching LinkedIn for a software developer? Try typing this into Google: (web OR software) AND (developer OR programmer)

Wanna get fancy and search LinkedIn directly? Let’s go back to our CMO example for this one, and type this into LinkedIn:

((Chief AND Officer) AND (Executive OR (Operational OR Operations) OR Marketing) OR (CEO OR COO OR CMO))

Boolean searches can be a great way to come up with a targeted candidate hit list. But they can also be a major time suck. If the return on your effort isn't much, it might not be the best option for your industry. That's ok.

Focus your efforts on the talent sources with the biggest ROI.

Boolean searches can be a great way to come up with a targeted candidate hit list. But they can also be a major time suck. If the return on your effort isn't much, it might not be the best option for your industry. That's ok.

Focus your efforts on the talent sources with the biggest ROI.

Always Follow Up

Have you ever been marketed to just once?

Didn’t think so. Salespeople and talent sourcers alike know that it takes four to eight touches to see progress, with conversion rates steadily increasing as the amount of touches go up. Calling it quits after the first email is a waste of the time and effort you put into finding great candidates in the first place!

Space your emails a few days apart (or up to a week, depending on seniority), and keep ’em short.

  • Bringing this back to the top of your inbox
  • Did you get a chance to check out [company/role] yet?
  • Hey — have to give you another ping on this, it’s too perfect to miss…
Candidates wish the average interviewer did a better job with follow-up communication. After the interview, candidates are often on edge left wondering, "what's going on?" If they didn't get the job, the earlier you let them know the quicker they can mentally move on. And if you've yet to decide, that's fine, but be sure to reach out regularly and let candidates know that you're still in the process of making a decision.
Christopher Taylor
Job Search Strategist

With the right tool, it can be a lot less work than you think.

Set up your pipeline to keep the hottest candidates highest on your radar and set an automated nurture sequence for applicants or candidates that weren't a fit this time, but could be awesome in the future.

With the proverbial 'War for Talent' back on like never before, you need to treat every candidate lead like a valuable sales lead.

Check In Questions

  • Do you need in-house talent or remote?
  • Full-time or contractor?
  • Specialist or generalist?
  • What associations, Facebook Groups or Twitter chats do your ideal candidates join?
  • What companies already have the best of the best in this role?
  • Can sourcing from different industries give you appropriate candidates with the same, transferable skills?
  • What blogs are they reading?
  • Who do they follow on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn?
  • What conferences and events will you find them at?
  • What Slack forums do they hang out on?

Assemble your hiring A-team

Whatever you do, do not skip this step.

Before you invite any candidates into your physical or virtual interview room, you need to clarify the who's who of hiring at your company.

Sit down and decide who's responsible for:

  • Managing the hiring process (some companies like to appoint a hiring scrum master)
  • Evaluating pre-interview tasks or projects
  • First interviews and follow-up interviews
  • Making the hiring decision (CEO, manager, or collective decision)

Avoid ad hoc hiring bottlenecks by creating a Hiring Brief or other shared doc that clearly lays out who handles what. Make sure you also come up with a plan for how to handle hiring stalemates.

Establish clear hiring checkpoints

Smart SaaS companies like Hotjar have drastically reduced their time to hire by establishing clear hiring checkpoints.

Every company's checkpoints will look a little different, but here are some common ones that might work for you.

  • Direct applicants to a questionnaire to automatically screen out candidates who don't submit it
  • Add a few key screening questions as a second culture-fit checkpoint
  • Ask applicants for video submissions to screen their communication skills
  • If the video looks great, invite them for a live or in-person interview
  • Ask candidates to complete a paid multi-day task in-office or remotely
  • Invite candidates for an onsite meet and greet or team lunch

The hiring team can then meet up for a group pow wow and make their decision.

Depending on the shape of your company and your hiring needs, it's totally ok to hire slow. Even painfully slow — as long as you make sure you're narrowing in on the right kind of awesome for your team.

Unito is very process-driven.Our CEO has a background in product and he’s all about building a repeatable process, rather than doing anything one-off. So we’ve always used Breezy.
Trevor Longino

Remove the bottlenecks

If you're already working within an ad hoc hiring process, take a minute to identify the bottlenecks.

For example, interview scheduling is a major bottleneck for most.

Companies like GE have reduced hiring time by 70% with an agile approach to crushing recruitment bottlenecks. In GE's case, interview scheduling was the time suck. (Don't we all know the pain of group email chains.)

By implementing an an automated interview-scheduling tool they scaled back the time to hire from 15 weeks to less than 3-6 weeks.

Check In Questions

  • Are your hiring checkpoints clear to all members of the hiring team?
  • Can they happen easily within your day-to-day workflows?
  • Does your hiring process add to or detract from the candidate experience?
  • Are any parts of the process repetitive or unnecessary?
  • What parts are the most time-consuming?
  • What parts of the process can be optimized?
  • Which parts of the process require a more personal or human approach?

Use an agile ATS to centralize and optimize

Once you've gotten crystal clear on what great hiring looks like at your company, sky's the limit.

And at Breezy, we're all about pushing the limits. We're an agile applicant tracking system that turns messy, ad hoc hiring processes into an easy-to-follow plan everyone can stick to.

But no matter what hiring tool you use, go for one with an open API that can help you scale and optimize as you grow. Features like automated emails, texts and pipeline stage actions can take care of the stuff you don't have time for and make sure everyone's on the same page when choosing your next rockstar.

Are you ready?

Start optimizing your recruiting process today.

Breezy HR is end-to-end recruiting software to help you attract & hire great employees with less effort. We believe HR should be fun, easy, and most of all, human.

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