Speaker Q&A: How to Secure Those Hard To Find Hires

May I have your attention please welcome TechCrunch reporter hayaan camps Chris Heard founder and CEO first base Janine O'Neill Talent director Sequoia and Emile Jurgen vice president of talent at Gusto Wait till the Music Stops hello Everybody thank you for joining us for This wonderful q a session about how to Secure the first how to find hires I'm Joined with a illustrious panel I'm Super excited to ask questions too and You also get to ask questions somewhere Around there should be a QR code or some Such that makes whatever you type into Your little phone device turn up on my Screen and then I can ask questions for You please do that liberally because It's more fun that way would you guys Quickly like to introduce yourselves and Uh in one sentence summarize what you do And what your company does I start uh I'm Chris heard I'm the Founder of firstbase.com and we help Companies provide the tools and Equipment workers need to work from home Awesome thank you I'm Janine O'Neal and I work at Sequoia Capital we're a Venture capital firm that invests in Seed to growth and Beyond and my role I Lead go to market recruiting executive And all levels for our portfolio Companies Uh my name is Emil Jurgen I'm a VP of

Talent at Gusto and we're the people Platform we partner with small to Medium-sized businesses to eradicate Some of those those pain points on the Back end that come with things like Payroll benefits hiring onboarding so on And so forth Awesome so um I've done a bunch of startups myself And the number one thing that almost Always screws me over is hiring the First few people right I look around at My friends and go like okay which which Of you can I rope into this for the First few months and after that I'm like Where do you go as a startup that Doesn't you know you don't have infinite Money you don't really have a named for People to recognize yet like where do You begin Yeah I've heard a variant of this a lot Recently which is like when you hire Your friends like think about a Venn Diagram and your skills almost always Like overlap a lot Um when you're thinking about startup Think about it as like a large area and What's best is like hire people where You cover the most surface area Um I think like the second part is People tend to over hire on CVS and they Don't have they don't hire for people Like that fit the business and Ultimately when you're building a

Business you need people that are going To perform and achieve the outcomes that You need to hit and that isn't Necessarily the best person on a CV yeah What do you guys do to uh to help Founders actually find their first Humans like what is your top advice So we definitely tell Founders that even Though you're maybe a product person you Need to spend about 70 percent of your Time recruiting so it is a departure From maybe your favorite thing to do but It's the only way to build the company So When you start out thinking all right Now I have to shift my time then you're Really opening up what is the process How do I attack how do I do this what's The first role and generally from seed Companies you're hiring engineers and You're starting to think about the sales Motion as a Founder you're probably the First salesperson at the company and you Need to think about Well how do I scale this how do I scale My uh my efforts and then you start to Hire somebody who has those skills Probably a product marketing person to Help you start to frame out what your Ideal customer profile is and really When you talk through what has to be Done step by step it's really just Spending the time the hours the energy The effort making it very much a

Personal uh A personal effort customizing Outreach You're really talking about hiring Outside of your immediate sphere and so You have to be willing to start putting Your Story in place so not just who you are As a Founder but why you're the person Who is tackling this problem so that Founder product fit and communicating That to the outside world that's the Beginning of your brand yeah I love that And what I say is you know it's about Finding that Talent Market fit I think As Founders you talk a lot about product Market fit you're soliciting input You're still listening feedback it's no Different when you're trying to hire Folks right networking is everything so Listening input is everything and when You get that feedback when you get that Input you're then ready to put together A story a narrative that goes beyond Just what your company vision is but It's why someone should entrust their Career in the next four to five years of Their lives with you right so again I Think it's it's about taking a lot of Different inputs and making it so that You're putting your best foot forward Not only when you're talking about your Company but when you're branding Yourself as someone that someone should Want to work with yeah

And so where do you even start to find People like uh like what does your top Of funnel look like as an early stage Founder yeah I mean I think you know if You're thinking about early it's a lot About Network right um and it's not Necessarily just hiring your friends or The people that you know or your door Mates and in school right it's about Just networking and putting yourself out There I mean the more conversations that You can have the more people that those People can introduce you to so I think First and foremost it's willing a Willingness to put yourself out there to Meet new people Um and solicit input as to the Opportunities that you have I think from There Um you know it's really important Um spending time on it right again in Some cases hiring can take three six Nine twelve months to find those right Folks and you got to be committed to Doing all that it takes to get to that Place and you can't spend three weeks on It and give up right Um so really being able to prioritize What's most important right and people Are going to be huge inputs as to Whether or not your company is going to Be successful or not Um so ensuring that you have that same Level of veracity as you think about

Finding those people as you do in Finding that product Market fit I feel like in like in a world where um Working from home is much easier like Working remotely is much easier I feel Like if you're tapping into your network It's almost always geographically based Right but now we have the entire world At our fingertips we specifically got a Question in here Um you know like how would you feel About uh hiring remote developers and Maybe specifically from from Latin America Um For price and time zone reasons We see a lot of our portfolio companies Looking for solutions to more volume Engineer hiring there are three years Ago there were very few of these Companies and it's just blossomed There's a lot of companies now as a Platform that you can hire a handful of Engineers they might be in Geographic Time zones that are not advantageous Certainly not in America would be more Aligned with California So there are so many more options and When you talk about where do I find Talent now the world is your oyster so It's really possible to look in a lot of Places it's still going to take a lot of Time you still have to put in the time And effort and I think one way it just

Comes to mind because Founders when you Get together and talk to other Founders About the challenges you'll find that Other people can be a great resource see What they've tried see what they've done I think Founders having Community helps Them really get to some answers and have Someone else that they can bounce things Off of Yeah no that's that's really good I'm I'm also curious like there's a question Here from the audience which Um I'd like your opinion of if you're Available for that which is like is There a space for apprenticeships I'm Like junior staff and an early team Yes cool next question like how do you I Mean it's it's hard right like I think When people talk about the ability to Learn via osmosis and they're typically Talking about soft professional skills Um some of that is required to be in Person now I think there's an aspect or Or admission to be made around well Collaboration and communication isn't is Better in person and there are certain Things that we want to build those Skills for Um and I think that specifically Pertains to younger people who have just Graduated so yeah I think there's Onboarding to be built around how do you Do that in person how do you connect Them with mentors in the company where

They can get those skills and really When we do come together if we're a Remote company when we do come together Physically using those opportunities to Build those communication and Collaboration skills that don't really Help and come any other way yeah I'm pretty good answer thank you Um we have a question specifically for Sequoia which is uh what commonalities Have you seen in how the best Founders In your in your network do their hiring Do they do something different uh what Makes them really good as persuaders for Inviting people to join the company Um well as As I said about Founders being the first Salespeople they are spending the best Founders are spending a huge amount of Time recruiting and spending their own Personal Energy and effort to create customized Messaging one founder Joe Thomas founder Of loom sent individual looms to Engineers individual contributor Engineers that spoke specifically to That person talked about what he liked About their background and it was Impossible for someone to refuse a Direct appeal and he had great results I Think for whatever level you're Recruiting for it's important to as a Founder be very Uncanned just be very specific about

That person I mean everybody's living in A world where they're receiving a lot of Incoming requests and when you see Something that's personal and it's from A Founder it really does stand out and I Think the best Founders take that Seriously and build the company like Rick breitbrick like everything matters Yeah Uh Emily I kind of want to ask you a Question as well which is um like beyond The resume itself which we're starting To figure out right and we mentioned That maybe that's not the best way to uh Only screen your uh applicants like what Do you actually look for in in your Early hires in your early team yeah and I think it's been touched upon a little Bit already it's you know do you bring That holistic skill set I think it's Very easy to get into this mode of um Looking at only uh uh you know skill Based hiring when the reality of it is I Think is an early hirer as an early Employee at a company you got to do a Lot of stuff right and what isn't a job Description may be only a fraction of The work that you'll have to do in order To see your startup succeed so I think About finding those those those Opportunities and and looking Beyond Just The companies that you've worked at the School you went to but really looking to

Find those opportunities to solicit Whether or not someone is gritty right Is someone gonna you know take on the Company's problems as my own does Someone want to see a company scale over The course of time and do they want to Scale their careers alongside of it so I Really think it's going Beyond just you Know can you code yes or no and a lot of The binary stuff that we typically base Our hiring practices around are going to Be very very quickly outdated especially If you're a startup I think you know That's a lecture that maybe larger Companies can have right because it's More task based but I think as a company Builder you have to bring a holistic Skill set to the table and whether or Not you can put together zeros and ones Isn't the only thing that's going to Make that difference yeah no that makes A lot of sense Um I kind of want to talk a little bit More specifically about time zones Because I mean again Global hiring Market that kind of thing one of my Previous companies I had a team in Thailand a team in London and I was here It was perfect eight hour difference Which makes it almost impossible to do Any real-time work and tools like Loom And tools like other Async tools are really really powerful For that is there a way that you could

Optimize your hiring process to to think About time zones and and like Synchronous collaboration or is that Less important now somebody wants to Grab that Um I I think it's less important I think Some overlap is still necessary we tend To go for eight hours so if we're in the UK we've got people on the east coast And people on the west coast the people On the west coast typically work East Coast hours And that's just something you need to Commit to we want to meet more Asynchronous but I think there's a Danger that you become too asynchronous And then you think everyone else wants To be asynchronous and then you're not Synchronous enough right so if you don't Have the overlap that obviously becomes A huge problem yeah and obviously that Needs to be part of the hiring process And the expectation settings like hey we Actually expect you to work New York Hours yep if that works for you then That's great but yeah and I think it's a Spectrum right I think you know one of The things that is really really Important especially in today's market Is meeting Talent where they are right And I think in your early stages that Can mean a host of things right it can Mean meeting them Um on a 10-6 work schedule as opposed to

Nine to five it could mean meeting them In Indonesia as opposed to San Francisco Go if that's the town that's going to Help scare your company then I think That's what you kind of have to base Your philosophy around I think as you Scale to Chris's point you can start to Think a little bit more about Cohorts of folks right because I think That community that connection the Ability to come together in your locales Becomes important as well so I don't Think there's a one-size-fits all There's no Silver Bullet to it I think You just have to base your hiring Strategy around what's going to work for Your company in the immediate and then Giving yourself an opportunity to scale Out over the course of time yeah Um another good question from the Audience here which is like looking at It from the other side as a potential Applicant how can you showcase your fit With a startup is there something like The like a potential hire it could do Uh I can speak what we look for please Um we want Builders right like when You're coming to Startup it's because You want to have an outsized impact on What you're working on Um the last we were upstairs on a Different stage and the question was Like well what happens if you're in the Final two of the conduit and it's

Startup Fan company right total antipirin right Like should we be hiring those people or Or not and yeah I think what you want is People that understand how hard it is Because startups are hard they Understand how much work it is but they Can take things and run with it and I'll Ultimately deliver on what needs to be Achieved rather than optimizing where Buttons Place yeah no that makes a lot Of sense I think for Um A question specifically for Gusto here I Suppose uh two questions really uh like Do you hire Engineers abroad and do you Hire internationally and I guess the Second part of that same question like Are Gusto's tools uh evolving to be more Internationally focused as well yeah so In terms of hiring internationally for Engineers it's something that we're Starting to delve into it's not Something that we've uh like Programmatized quite yet but the answer And the reason is because of your second Question right I think the level of Intentionality that goes around scaling A team internationally needs to be very Very high right I don't think you go out And hire people and then figure it out Later I think you ensure that you have Tools you have systems you have Processes and you have

A flying formation that's going to allow These folks to be set up for Success you Know I think the stakes of hiring is Higher than it's ever been it's more Difficult to hire good talent than it's Ever been so what sense does it make to Spend all this time all this energy all These very personalized crafted messages To go hire someone and then they leave Three to six months later That's a waste of time right so to me It's about really finding that Intentionality around your strategy if We want to go International do we have The supplementary systems that are going To allow these folks to be set up for Success are we going to be able to Evaluate them properly how do we take Into consideration some of the different Cultural components that come into an Interview process so we can be Equitable And I think once you have those boxes Checked then I think you can take the Next step and start to hire Internationally more volumously but I Think in our case we want to be Thoughtful we want to be intentional and We want to be Equitable in our Approaches so we have to move slow to Move fast Yeah great answer thank you Um I'm curious like Um

They're you're talking about hiring the Right people for the right job and I was Wondering if you could say something About And that is balanced with as a startup Needing to run as fast as you possibly Can because you know you have a Runway And a place to get to Um do you have a sense of like do you Wait for the right person or do you hire The person who's like 90 there and hope It works works out I know it's a very biased question yes I I can take it but would definitely love To hear these two's answers Um I think it's a balance right Um and if you were to tell me what that 90 is I'd give you a better answer if You told me there are 90 skill set but 100 motivation and values alignment and Wants to grind with us I'd say Absolutely that is the right person if You told me it's someone who has 100 of The skill set and only 50 of the grit 50 Of the company building uh skill set That we're looking for I'd say that's Absolutely not the right fit right so I Think it's about finding what that right Balance for your specific company is I Think for us and one of the things that We do that's pretty unique is we do a Values and motivation alignment Interview which is a departure from like Your technical can you code can you do

Architecture type of interview but we Want to talk to folks and give them an Opportunity to talk to someone who's not On their local team but to be able to Talk about what it's like to be an Employee at Gusto talk about some of the Softer things about company building and Really dig deep into what their why is Right and in those interviews we have an Opportunity to learn a little bit more About that candidate but we also have an Opportunity to create a resident message So if we do go to offer the hope is that We've created enough connection enough Internet messaging that we've created a Value proposition that's hard to say no To so I think it's a lot of the small Things that really come into it but to Answer your questions succinctly it Really all depends But I'll just to clarify a little bit I Mean what a company needs as far as a Marketing leader at series a is not the Same thing as what a company needs at Series C or D and so companies evolve And certain people self-select and what They like to do so there's building Involved in all these phases but there's Different flavors of building and so It's pretty important to know if the Person is the right person for that time Period And if they can do the work That's necessary to get to the next Phase some people can scale and plenty

Of stories exist of people scaling to You know much bigger companies so It's unusual though it's it's not the Norm so the right person for that right Time is the right hire now what are the Ingredients of that 19 is pretty Important right I mean I could add one Thing before we go to the next question Yeah Um most companies are terrible at hiring Yes and like if you know the 90 like you Know someone's a 90 fit probably means You're better at hiring and I think like The reason why people are terrible at Hiring is because companies lie to Themselves they they hire on Vibes right You said the front like I'm gonna hire a Bunch of my friends You're never gonna hire the right people Whereas like if if I say like to Janine's point right now for the Business this is what we need to achieve In marketing it's a b c d e f and g and We take nine of the boxes so they're a 90 fat that's awesome like we know They're going to crush those things we Know exactly how we can augment them on The Gap that they do have Most companies never got to a point Where they understand like this is what Needs to be done this is who's going to Do it and bring those two pieces Together yeah Um and so India India stages

Um we often see people like um you start With a CEO and a CTO and you kind of Build from there how do you think about Hiring c-level people into an Organization and specifically would like Your answer for this uh Janine because I Feel like as an investor I imagine you See a lot of movement in in the top Top positions so but for clarity are you Talking about sea level are you talking About exact level uh the question will Sea level uh but maybe both both Questions yeah So Um I mean look every company is unique And so I will say there's not like one Answer copy pasted and it fits your Company however there are certain things That have to be in place for the the Role to be big enough the scope to be Big enough the need to be big enough for The role to be a c-level role so At the beginning you don't need a sea Level anything it's fine if you're a Founder and you want to call yourself a CEO Of course and The people that you hire in different Functions are going to be maybe ahead of Some function and then they'll evolve as The company gets bigger and there's more Complexity and there's growth that You're hiring at the VP level and then At some point you you will need to hire

A c-level person again mapping to size Of the company as measured by things Like revenue or number of people or Complexity of the company certain Sectors demand A sea level sooner because they're Incredibly complex That would be how I would answer that Yeah no that's great I can add to that Too I think And Chris you've inspired me by the way You know I think one of the things that You have to be really mindful of if You're looking to hire an executive or a Sea level Individual is you got to be honest about What the problems and the pain points That you're hiring this person to come Solve right I've seen so many examples Of of job descriptions or interview Processes and the way that a job is sold Highlighting all the great things right This is great everything is Rosy Everything is great right I think if You're trying to find that right person You have to be honest about the problems That you're running into the scalability Challenges that you might be Experiencing And why this person can come in and help Solve those things I think a lot of Folks think about you know hiding the The potentially downsides of a role or Some of the challenges that you run into

I find it to be a lot more alluring to Folks the right folks that is that if They can understand what those Challenges are they can see how their Experience is going to directly apply And help scale the company and be a Great partner and help get you to that Next level so that's my advice to Everyone is to be super honest about What you're experiencing what you're Hopeful that this person can bring to The table and more times than not if you Find that right person they're going to Be energized and invigorated by the Problem set not not afraid of it and You're saying to do that as part of the Earlier part of the interview process Even a thousand percent right on your Your first recruiter call on your first Founder call every step of the way Talk about the good but let's talk about The challenges right and get their Perspective on these things because I Think you can turn these interviews into You know pseudo working sessions right Like let's talk about a strategy let's Talk about how you would take these Problems and structurally come up with The 30 60 90 365 7 whatever the math Around that is of type of solution right And you get a better understanding of What it's like to work with that person And how they would operate under those Conditions versus these very

Hypothetical like if the world were Perfect what would you do right that Doesn't give you much until it turns out It's not so I mean one example would be We have a portfolio company that was Looking to hire a head of finance and They were unsure and had seen a lot of Candidates and this particular Finance Executive had worked for another Sequoia Company in the past and the best thing That That we did was put the two Founders Together and what comforted the founder Around this individual is the stories That this person was in it with it with This other founder in the trenches Regularly up until four in the morning Working really hard and this really Was what it was how this Finance leader Is wired at that stage is a builder is Willing to you know stay all night Working on some problem and so it's not Like the people that want to go to the Fang company are going to be a fit for That scenario right they're not going to Have a back channel that says or a Reference that says yeah they're up till Four in the morning working on this one Problem with me yeah and so I think the Referencing and getting that kind of Testimonial I think goes a long way I Love it we're out of time Chris Janine Emil thank you so much for your help Thank you for asking talking way more

Questions that I could get to and enjoy The rest of the show Cheers


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