How We Hire: Instacart's Tips for Scaling Fast With A Lean Talent Operation

instacart-veggies-logo-642x336Head of Talent Mat Caldwell equates building a recruiting process to Building An Airplane in Flight. You have to make improvements as you go, particularly when you are scaling at the rapid pace of his company, Instacart.

A year ago, Instacart had 18 employees and a single recruiter. Today, Instacart has over 100 employees and nine members of the recruiting team, with plans to make over 300 new hires this year. So, how does Mat grow the company that quickly with such a small Talent operation?

Mat shares that there are 3 things that he focuses on: Process, Systems, and People.

1. Process:

Often, when companies are small and growing, they do things ad-hoc. There’s no system in place. Mat advises Talent leads to build a process optimized for efficiency, repeatability, effectiveness, and compromise.

Efficiency: Ensure your process lets you do things just once. Each stage should require as little input as possible from everyone involved. In addition, you should be able to schedule things quickly and easily communicate with candidates and hiring managers. Think about your candidate workflow and how efficient it is.

Repeatability: Each candidate interaction should be the same every time. The conversations may be different among candidates, but the mechanics should be identical. This is most important for the people outside of recruiting, who need to feel comfortable with the process.

Effectiveness: Initially, Instacart would give all technical candidates two, three-hour coding screens. Although this was an effective method to filter out unqualified candidates, they were losing out on talent that was turned off by the challenge upfront. Make sure your process is built effectively and you’re screening candidates without losing out on great ones.

Compromise: Finally, find a process that works for your company. Do not simply bring in what you did at your last company, or what a thought leader says. Make compromises, and be willing to think differently than you may have before.

2. Systems:

When you choose technology to support your Talent operation, make sure it not only complements the work that the recruiting team is doing, but also works well with the rest of the organization. It should be:

Comprehensive: Sourcing tools change all the time. You will have to find new ways to find great people, but keep your process in place. The cornerstone of your Talent operation is the Applicant Tracking System. It touches all of your applicants, every internal person, hiring managers, and recruiters, as well as deals with calendaring and the complexities of your process.

Scalable: When Mat joined Instacart, they needed a system that could get them from 100 to 1,000 employees. He encourages Talent leaders to purchase an ATS that will allow you to scale your Talent operations, so that you don’t have to go out seeking a new one at a certain size.

Easy: Recruiters do not want to duplicate their efforts, Mat says. Your system should make it easy to find people. More importantly, your customers -- candidates, hiring managers, interview participants --  need to think it’s easy or you will have problems.

3. People

Some companies take shortcuts around the recruiting team, but you will not get the best people in without the best recruiters. Focus on building a lean recruiting team first.. Mat hires for the following attributes:

Talented: Recruiters need mental horsepower -- the role requires that they are constantly “juggling balls and herding cats,” so you need to be sharp and agile.

Driven: Recruiters at Instacart must be hungry to close a candidate!

Focused: Mat hires for broad skills, but recruiters work within specific groups so they have a narrow focus. He has designated recruiters to specific roles, such as Data Science, Ruby on Rails, Project Management, Design, and Ops. They partner well with teams, so they know the pool and marketplace, and can provide more value and be successful.

Complimentary: Mat is building a diverse recruiting team - both in terms of skills and tenure. For example, people who are just getting into recruiting may think about things differently than he does, with different philosophies and approaches. The span of the two makes you a more powerful team.

(Psst - Mat is hiring now, and plans to double his team this year.)

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Talent Operations