Sourcing good candidates is the hardest part of the recruiting process to make time for, and the easiest part of the process to procrastinate on. It requires a good network, a lot of grunt work sifting through that network, and a lot of rejection. Quite frankly, if you allow it, the process can be really dull.
However, there is no alternative. Clearbit's success hinges on our ability to source great candidates. A good rule of thumb is that every offer requires 10–15 candidates, which requires contacting 100 quality candidates.
When you do not have a lot of quality candidates at the top of the funnel, you compromise further down the funnel. You say to yourself, "while this candidate isn't a great fit, we really need to fill this position," and then you make a bad hire.
But I have other things to do
New managers at Clearbit are sometimes surprised that, after submitting a role proposal, potential candidates don't magically appear waiting to be interviewed. That is not how things work here. You are responsible for sourcing and nurturing your own candidates.
The reason we do this is because it results in higher quality candidates. You are the best person to source candidates because you know better than anyone else exactly what kind of person is needed for the position.
It's also because, given that they will probably work directly for you, you're an integral part of this process. When candidates are evaluating the position, they are just as much evaluating you as they are the company.
Having a diverse workforce is an important part of building a healthy company. Diversity in background brings diversity of thought, which brings better ideas to the table. Additionally, candidates are increasingly looking at an organization's diversity when evaluating places to work.
In full transparency, we are still figuring out how to do this really well at Clearbit. We recognize that one of our most successful hiring channels (referrals through our network) can also lead to hiring more people from the same background. Improving our overall diversity is one of our 2020 goals.
Ensuring that you have a diverse top-of-funnel (i.e., in the sourcing stage) is an important part of achieving diversity in hiring.
Of all the ways to source candidates, the number one method is via referrals.
Source-a-thons are the secret to Clearbit's hiring success. They achieve two things: making sourcing less of a slog, and leveraging the full power of Clearbit's network to find employee referrals.
Clearbit is now at the size that we can source for most roles in our immediate network of employees. Source-a-thons simply gather the most relevant individuals (based on their role and network) in a room for an hour, and dedicate that time to scouring through their networks.
Once you have an approved role proposal in hand, schedule some time with people at the company who have networks related to the role. For example, if you were looking for an engineer, schedule some time with our CTO, Head of Engineering, and a few engineers you know have large networks.
At the start of the meeting, ensure that everyone has read the role proposal. We suggest listing a few sample candidates to help your sourcing group calibrate. Then we're off to the races! Get everyone to scour through their networks (using the tools listed further below), and add the results to a spreadsheet looking like this:
|Name||LinkedIn URL||GitHub URL||Can intro?||Notes|
|James Smith||https://firstname.lastname@example.org||Yes||Worked with at Thoughtbot; fantastic engineer|
For candidates that your sourcing group can intro, ask for an intro right then and there (double-opt-in of course). For the others, either find mutual contacts, or cold-email them after the meeting.
We suggest gamifying the process by giving whoever refers the best candidates a voucher for a fancy dinner. Bringing snacks doesn't hurt either. Speak to our recruiting team to help organize this.
Start by putting together a Google Sheet dedicated to listing candidates for the role. Once the Source-a-thon is over, import this sheet into Lever (our candidate CRM) and put them in a nurture sequence.
Referrals via your own friends and network
When sourcing from your own network, simply sit down and sift through your own Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook for good candidates. We recommend using one of the tools we list below to do this. Often a quick text or Twitter DM will get a much better response rate than an email.
For those of you who use Twitter, we have seen success by going through your Twitter followers, filtering by role, and then reaching out over Twitter DM. If you have a large Twitter following, tweeting out links to open positions also works.
Sourcing session with new employees
Schedule an hour sourcing session with new employees after they have been at the company for a couple of months. Sit next to them, and comb through their network for open roles. This includes going through their Covey (see the tools list below), their previous colleagues, and whoever they follow on GitHub, Dribble, etc.
We suggest doing prework for this by creating a list of all their old companies, and then pulling up a list of people who work at those companies via Prospector. Then, during the sourcing session, go through the list one by one and ask whether the employee recommends them.
Sourcing session with your ATS
It's also a good idea to source directly from your application tracking system (ATS), in our case Lever. If you have spent time creating a great candidate experience, then you can use your past efforts by reengaging candidates you have already invested time in. It is critical to have detailed reasons for archiving candidates. "Candidate withdrew, not the right time, waiting for promotion."
Use Lever's snooze feature to prompt you to follow up with candidates at a later time. Often candidates are interested in a position, but the timing isn't good. Ask them when it would be a good time to re-engage.
Sourcing Session with friends of Clearbit
We have had a lot of success with sitting down with friends who are experts in a field and running a sourcing session with them. Often industry experts will have a good idea of up-and-comers in their field.
Once you have a list of candidates, get a warm intro through that friend; their introduction will carry some social proof.
Note down particularly interesting interactions with customers who are clearly very sharp—they may turn out to be great candidates. They already know you and the company, which is a huge shortcut.
You can search our internal customer database for people (via SQL on our Analytics DB) whose roles and seniority matches your requirements and start there.
AngelList & AList (engineer-specific)
AngelList and AList are both tools you can use to drum up some engineering candidates, although often of varying quality. AngelList is inbound and AList outbound. We recommend starting with AList.
The key to using these tools is to do some aggressive filtering to limit yourself to a manageable number of candidates. For example, exclude engineers without an avatar, a GitHub account, or a personal website and blog. In the engineering world, the latter represents a good signal. Writing about your craft is a good indication that you have passion for it.
Then send a customized, targeted message to a candidate. For example, compliment them on a particularly interesting GitHub repo they worked on.
Outbound is the most grueling way to source, but it can work. Again, the key is aggressive filtering and customized messages.
Make a list of companies who are well known for hiring great people in the role you're trying to fill. Go through Prospector or LinkedIn Recruiter to find a list of their employees.
We suggest keeping the message short and simple, and then link to some "fun Clearbit facts." Another approach is to write up a fun description of the team, the role, and the company.
Lead with a standout subject line that will make candidates want to open the email. "Hello" works surprisingly well, or "I would love to work with you." Additionally, emails that end with "Thanks in advance" get a better response rate.
As a hiring manager, you can also leverage your CEO and executive team for outbound! A short note from the CEO will often get a more positive response than one from your recruiting team. Using Lever, you can send nurture sequences from whomever you'd like without bothering them.
Aline Lerner, founder of interviewing.io, has a great presentation on sourcing that she gives to founders. She says:
"It's hard to get enough info about people to write great personalized messages, but when it's possible, it's SO much better. I'd even venture to say that for every 100 impersonal, automated messages you send (unless you're a household name like Google), you're better off spending like 30 minutes stalking someone and writing something about how their past work resonates with what you're doing." — Aline Lerner
Ask for feedback / to learn
Following the if you want money, ask for feedback model, this technique involves asking the people you might want to hire for feedback on your job description.
Once you've written a compelling job description and gotten some real feedback from your team, create a simple email like this:
Your name came up when I was chatting with Ashley Taylor, and she mentioned that you were an incredibly talented Product Marketer and someone she looked up to while at Yext.
I'm starting to build out our PMM team here at Clearbit, and I'd love to chat for a few minutes if you're willing.
Mostly I would love advice on how to think about the first 2–4 PMM hires and how you would structure that org if you were starting over.
Would also really appreciate any feedback you have for me on the early job description I've put together.
Let me know if you'd be willing to grab a quick call sometime next week!
Remember, if they're not interested, it's possible that they know of other good candidates. Ask them.
Recruiters should often be the last resort, since the pool of candidates they send through typically aren't of the same quality as you’d find when sourcing through your own network. However, recruiters excel at filling certain types of roles such as go-to-market roles (e.g., CSMs), since these are evergreen roles with typically a high volume of candidates.
We have also found a difference between recruiting companies and recruiting freelancers in that the latter tend to bring in higher quality candidates.
|Teamable||Search your network||cold||teamable.com|
|Covey||Search your network||cold||getcovey.com|
|AngelList||Job postings & candidates||warm||angel.co|
|AList||List of vetted candidates||warm||alist.co|
|LinkedIn Recruiter||Search for candidates||cold||linkedin.com|