Lately, a ton of my advisory calls with founders in the space lead to one question:
How can I recruit a technical cofounder, or a great developer, or a great first marketing hire.
Recruiting is one of the hardest things for a founder, especially early on when you and your company are the underdog.
But don't let that stop you.
The biggest mistake I see founders make is treating recruiting as a passive activity.
Passive recruiting: Write a job description, post it on your website, interview candidates that apply.
Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for passive recruiting. To me, its when the company is scaling, and you've got incredibly well defined roles, with half decent training in place.
Until then, recruiting needs to be active.
You're looking for owners who will drive impact, not people looking to apply to any old job.
And I'm not perfect here. I've definitely had to fire tons of people who didn't work out.
9 times out of ten that was 100% my fault, because I lowered the bar and wanted to just fill the role.
Anyways - recruiting is sales. And until 50 people or so, you the founder, need to be in active recruiting mode, not passive.
Active recruiting aka sales.
Here's what I mean by Active recruiting.
As an example let's use "technical cofounder" as the role you're trying to fill.
Here's how I might approach the challenge of finding someone great:
Start by meeting "great technical cofounders" who are already in the role.
Pick an app in the shopify space that's a few steps ahead of you. Someone you look up to that's not competitive. Use linkedin to find who the technical cofounder is. Build a list of 5-10 of those. Reach out to them, be real that you're not trying to recruit them, but that you admire their work in the space (be specific on why) and that you're in the process of building your app, and would love to ask them a few questions about how they got into the space and their role. (Maybe they're already on mentorpass or something like that)
Not all of them will get back to you, but hopefully 1-2 do, and coming out of those conversations, you'll have a real sense of what "Great" looks like for the role. You'll understand their background and roles prior to building their app, etc. This is going to give you ideas for other profiles of potential technical cofounders that could be a good match for you.
Craft a personal message that stands out.
Assume that the developers you want to recruit get 5-10 messages each day. These are messages from recruiters, not founders.
You're a founder.
Make your message sound different.
Rather than saying:
"hey [name], I'd love to show you what we're building at [my company] since we're looking for a lead developer
Refer back to sales 101. Why are you reaching out to them? Why now?
Try something like this:
I’m Ben the founder of the business. Been growing like crazy, and really looking for a strong technical lead to help build out the next iteration of the product. Would love to tell you more about the vision and growth and role. Looks like your background at [relevant company] could be a huge asset since we're [reason you think their work history is relevant]”
Build a list using LinkedIn people search and mini CRM in a google sheet.
You're going to need to build a list of 20 target candidates for the role. Open a google sheet, add a column for name, current company, comment for why they stand out and linkedin profile.
Until we were acquired, I was on LinkedIn free plan, but became a beast at using LinkedIn search. As a founder, LinkedIn search needs to become your best friend if you expect to get good at hiring.
Start with an empty search.
Filter by people, then connections (1st or 2nd), and if you're looking for talent who is currently at a specific company, add that in.
Lastly, for a role specific search, click into "all filters" and under title add the words "engineer". And just like that you've got a list of the 79 developers actively working at [klaviyo or other successful app here].
Open each in a new tab. See how long they've been there. If they've been there less than 12 months, not worth reaching out. They probably are happy, and haven't had enough time to understand if they're impactful or not in the role.
Go through the list. Add relevant ones to your target sheet.
I'd also run a similar queer except instead of current company, do "prior company". Some people leave a role and wish they hadn't, or wish they could get back into that same industry they loved, but at a smaller company.
Once you're list is full, start tailoring that message you drafted for each candidate, and reach out.
If you're on LinkedIn free like me, add a message to your connection outreach, and then a follow up with more detail after they "accept".
And remember, if a candidate is strong, they most likely have multiple people reaching out to them each day or each week.
You can stand out by leaning into the fact that you're the founder. That alone is different. And be specific about what that candidate is doing or has done that made you want to reach out to them.