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6 Recruiting Rules I Established After Running A Startup For 6 Years

Liking someone isn’t enough to decide whether or not to make them an offer.


recruiting rules for startup

People are always your number one asset.

With the right people executing in their roles, a company’s potential becomes nearly limitless.

The trouble, of course, is finding the right people. Recruiting, hiring, onboarding—it all takes a ton of time and energy. There are no guarantees that you’ll find the perfect team member every time, you need to consistently hire well if you want to see your business grow.

Six years ago, our team at ThirdLove was just a handful of people. Today, we’re 350 strong. Along the way, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about who to hire, when to hire, and what processes to follow.

Here are six essential recruiting rules I’ve established over the years:

1: Liking someone isn’t enough.

If your recruitment team has been doing their job, then most of the jerks or unpleasant people will be screened before in-person interviews. And that means you’ll probably “like” the vast majority of the candidates you interview. 

But liking someone can’t be the method of determining whether or not you make them an offer.

Instead, create a list of three to five non-negotiable skills or traits you want a candidate to have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiring a CMO or a financial analyst, figure out what you can’t compromise on and stick to it.

2: Be willing to change expectations as you grow. 

In the early days of ThirdLove, we focused on hiring smart people who could learn to do whatever we needed them to. 

Today, I tell all my hiring managers that anyone we hire should be able to come in and accomplish at least 80% of the role immediately. We don’t need generalists anymore, we need specialists who have a strong skillset in one area. And we need people who are flexible and can adapt to changing priorities and job scope that happens at a growth stage start-up. 

As your company grows, be prepared for your hiring to change. The type of person you needed at 20 employees may be very different than the person you need at 120. 

3: Use interview panels to get to know a candidate better.

There are so many aspects of a candidate to evaluate over the course of an interview. Personality, skills, experience, background—it can become difficult for one or two interviewers to get a handle on all of it.

Creating interview panels is a good way to get around that problem. Each person on the panel has a pre-selected trait or skill that they’re evaluating for during the interview. Then, when the panel comes together after the interview, each person can talk about what they were focused on in-depth. 

Taken as a whole, the panel makes it much easier to decide whether a candidate has what you’re looking for.

4: Prepare candidates in advance.

You don’t want candidates to show up confused or overwhelmed to the second or final stage office interview. 

For example, some candidates in the past told us they didn’t really know what they were walking into on the day of the interview. We hadn’t been clear about exactly who they were meeting with or what their day would look like. So, our recruiting team started reaching out to candidates in advance and letting them know what to expect before the day of the interview. 

It really creates a better experience for the interviewee, and it’s an easy fix on the company’s end. 

5: Set up a call between the candidates and founders.

We actually got this idea from other founders we know. Even though they’re at roughly 800 people, the founders jump on a 15-minute call with candidates before extending an offer.

My co-founder, Dave, and I started doing this not long ago, and we’ve really enjoyed it. 

It’s not so much a final test for them as it is a chance for the candidates to ask us any questions they have about the company and get a sense of the open culture we’ve worked to build.

6: Reflect on past failures.

The reality is, not everyone you hire will work out. 

Sometimes, you may think a candidate will be a great fit, but for whatever reason, that person doesn’t thrive in the role. 

Hindsight is always 20/20. But if someone didn’t work out, then it’s important you reflect on what happened. Were there warning signs in the interview you ignored? Was there a miscommunication about what would be required of them in the role? Was the onboarding plan not as strong as it could have been?

While you’ll never be perfect at hiring, you can always work on continuing to bring in people who will help your company grow.

This article originally appeared on Inc.

Here are a few other related articles you might find helpful:

How To Learn In Any Job (Whether You Love It Or Hate It)

5 Office Design Tips That Can Improve Team Collaboration And Boost Morale

How To Build A Confident Team That Steps Up To Any Challenge

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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