The Talent Mindset of Lean, Mean, Fighting Machines (or “How Best to Position to Win Against Google”)

Monday Dec 16, 2013 by Michael Gaiss - Founder, ThinkB1G

We’ve interacted and worked with with dozens of startups around their campus recruiting initiatives and have observed many more. When it comes to recruiting technical talent from universities today, the differences between those companies that execute well versus those that struggle to do so are significant.

Here are the key principles embraced by companies that experience success on a repeatable basis. They’re:

  1. Institutionally building a talent centric organization. There’s an inherent focus on building internal core competencies in recruiting and talent retention that permeates all they do. It’s an organizational imperative, driven by the CEO or at a minimum the engineering leadership team. Accompanying it is usually a thoughtful, clearly defined and transparent organizational culture that supports and accentuates this approach.
  2. Managing their recruiting process internally. Nobody understands their company and its dynamics better than they do. Hiring is viewed as a team effort and recruiting is seen as scalable given a flexible team working towards the same goals. Outside recruiters may help source additional candidates into their funnel, but these companies own the process themselves.
  3. Staffed to win. Their recruiting process is founder, engineering, or internal recruiter led (the latter are experienced & ideally technically/product competent). Delegating this function to others – particularly during candidate engagement stages without at least strong support and heavy involvement from the above – means they will most likely be outgunned and out-executed by other companies.
  4. Putting up a strong front that shows/sells well. The best and brightest candidates have the luxury of being selective in who they work for. These companies put their best foot forward throughout all steps of the recruiting process, cognizant that the deck is stacked against them and therefore the need to work harder and smarter. See “Staffed to win” for how this gets accomplished.
  5. Moving quickly and aggressively. With more established companies and other hot startups vying for many of the same candidates, there are significant advantages to being the fastest mover while possessing the ability to concentrate resources when needed. These organizations are wired to relentlessly pursue a strong candidate when they see it. Everything is in days, not weeks. This extends to follow-ups and even candidate closure.
  6. Never satisfied. There is no “set way” for finding, pursuing and landing top candidates. These companies have multiple lines in the water and seek leverage wherever it can be found. They are inquisitive and creative, experimenting with new approaches and always looking for new angles, advantages and ways for standing out and reaching candidates.
  7. Taking the long view. While focused on immediate needs, they’re thinking 6-12 months down the road (and sometimes beyond). Specifically, what is needed to compete for talent in the future and what the potential best options are for doing so.

Do you need to embrace all these characteristics to be successful on campus? Absolutely not. You can nail #3, #4 and #5 in the immediate term and still do well. Longer term though, the other principles are critical for establishing a strong foundation for further scaling the organization.

Michael Gaiss is the Founder of ThinkB1G.  You can find this post, as well as additional posts on his blog located here.  You can also follow Michael on Twitter (@MichaelGaiss) by clicking here or sign up for the ThinkB1G newsletter here.

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