How to Screen & Hire at Scale for Early Stage Companies (10K+ Applicants)
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Recently, at LimeChat, we were looking to hire two full-stack engineering interns to join our team.
Despite the difficulty in hiring tech talent, we had tremendous success with our process.
Think 10,000+ applications and 5000+ people taking our screening test.
In the end, we found two brilliant new employees out of a pool of many great candidates.
We then published a list of top candidates for other startups to hire from, which led to several of them getting placed!
I received a lot of queries about how we managed screening at this scale and how we built our process from start to end.
What was our strategy?
How many tools did we take help from to streamline the selection process?
What role (pun intended) does a JD play in attracting the right talent?
Should a company share what they will judge the interviews on?
I believe any early-stage company can implement our learnings into their hiring process, so I thought I’ll share them with all of you.
Key Learnings from our Hiring Process
After facing the very real and acute difficulties in hiring ourselves, we put in months of effort to improve our recruitment process.
It was very humbling to see it finally pay off!
I’m eager to put those learnings into practice for every new role we hire at LimeChat (and we’ll be hiring significantly – so watch this space)!
But before we give it away, I think it’s important to keep in mind the basics of hiring- sourcing, screening, interviewing and engagement.
I’ll cover each of them along with our insights below.
Learning #1 – Make your Job Posting Clear & Transparent (Sourcing)
Let’s face it – nobody reads your job description (JD).
Most JDs look the same, with large blocks of text that make your eyes glaze over. It also makes the job sound incredibly boring.
Next, they often have unrealistic expectations and hide important information – especially salary.
You’d think the candidates are being done a favour if their application is considered.
Talent is what enables any company to move forward and take the next steps in its growth.
To attract the best talent, you should be clear on the kind of work a candidate will do if they join, plus basic expectations for the role (e.g. location, working hours) and the remuneration.
Remuneration is the elephant in the room, and a ‘competitive salary in line with market’ doesn’t cut it.
Good talent comes to those organisations who can conceptualise and write JDs that don’t sound copy pasted.
You may lose some applicants, but I’m sure those who apply will be more serious.
Learning #2 – Intern hiring should be LinkedIn-driven (Sourcing)
Linkedin is a great way to reach out to college students despite the conventional wisdom of it being a network only for professionals.
- Nearly every college’s placement team is active on LinkedIn, looking for training opportunities. They circulate such opportunities internally, which the students find very appealing.
- You are highly visible to juniors of these colleges because of your mutual connections. This gives your post the initial traction to go viral.
- Students are very active when looking for good internships. The ratio of full-time hires and interns is relatively low in most companies, and hence opportunities are typically limited. These students are very active in applying and sharing among their communities. A great effect of Linkedin’s algorithm is seen when someone comments on the post or tags a friend. That significantly boosts the post of the student among the network of commenters.
Learning #3 – Have an objective way to shortlist candidates (Screening)
For a company of our size, manually screening 10,000+ applications was infeasible.
Given the technical nature of the role we were hiring for, we decided to ask candidates to complete a 30-minute online coding test to gauge their proficiency.
We used a service called TripleByte which I highly recommend.
Hosting a pre-screening test had many benefits:
- We could see the candidates who were truly interested in the role. They completed the test quickly and without prompting.
- We could quickly identify which candidates had the technical skill level we were looking for – out of 5000+ candidates taking the test, about 60 crossed our minimum threshold for being considered. This helped us to know where to focus.
- Very little time was spent by our talent team on screening candidates – this was done automatically for us on Triplebyte.
Learning #4 – Make it clear what the candidate will be tested on (Interviews)
Interviews are a daunting step for any candidate.
We wanted to figure out a way to make this a more balanced exchange for the interviewer and the candidate.
Moreover, we wanted to bring about standardisation in our interview evaluations. Here are some things we tried to solve both issues –
- Introduce the Interviewers
- Send over the syllabus
- Define an Evaluation Criteria
When we analysed our interviews, we found that our interviewers could have deeper insights into the candidate because no time was wasted by repeating any material that was sent to them earlier.
Overall the interviews were conducted smoothly, where the candidate and the interviewer learned more about each other in a short time frame.
Learning #5 – Make candidates feel wanted & give them the best hiring experience (Engagement)
We quickly realised the very best candidates (especially in tech & product) have many options when it comes to career moves.
Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your candidate’s experience is seamless.
1) Timely and regular communication.
It’s often overlooked, with candidates left hanging, but I feel this is crucial to hiring the best talent.
2) Making candidates feel wanted.
If you want the best talent, you must let them know why you want them and how you have planned for their time with you.
3) Selling your company and the role effectively.
Especially if your company isn’t a household name, it’s crucial to ensure candidates know why joining you makes sense. Don’t expect candidates to go through your websites or read boring JDs. Give them easy-to-consume material that is visual.
4) Provide regular feedback.
Candidates want to know how they’ve performed and what they can do to improve their chances of getting an offer. For your best candidates, doing this helps them show their true potential, as well as makes them feel respected (and more likely to join you).
We used BearHug’s new candidate experience tool to dramatically overhaul our hiring process & experience, and the results were phenomenal.
BearHug is a new start-up based in Bangalore, and our candidates loved the personalised content BearHug generated for them at every stage.
BearHug’s scoring tools helped us to objectively and quickly evaluate candidates. The scoring tools also enabled the automated provision of feedback which was also a game changer, allowing us to give candidates personal feedback at every step.
I strongly believe that any company can make these simple changes to their hiring process and see more success in finding the best talent.
The good news is that, with these changes, companies with a solid business plan who are not household names (like us) yet, can also recruit quickly and successfully.
There are many tools out there that are reasonably priced (some are even free) that can help you to make the changes. I sincerely recommend using them!
Good luck with your hiring!