Think of a structured hiring kickoff like a GPS app. Before this tool was universally available, we relied on complex, fold-out maps to try to find where we needed to go. After consulting another person or a website for directions, we unwrapped the pleated, coffee-stained mess of a map and traced the complex web of interstates and backroads until we found the approximate route to take.
Paper maps are essentially how many recruiters and hiring managers approach hiring. You know there’s a role that you need to hire someone for and that you need to source and recruit candidates, conduct interviews and prepare an offer. But beyond that, there’s no clear direction on what you’re looking for, what questions you need to ask and who you’ll have to involve in the hiring process.
GPS technology, on the other hand, gives a well laid out series of directions that gets us to the front door of our destination and automatically redirects us if we make a wrong turn – a structured hiring kickoff serves the same role. It’s our North Star throughout the hiring process.
Why a structured role kickoff is key to hiring success
In those moments where you feel things veering off track, your kickoff is going to reroute you on the following:
Who are you looking for? Who is going to have the right combination of technical, interpersonal and basic qualifications essential for success in the position? Who will they collaborate with most? Who needs to be involved in the decision-making process?
What will this hire be accountable for? What are the high-level objectives for this position? What do you hope this person will accomplish by the time they hit one year?
When do you need to find someone? Is the gap from this unfilled position impacting your team? Does this person’s start date need to align with important projects or initiatives?
Where are you going to search for talent? Moreover, where will this person need to be geographically? Are you open to remote? Will you consider any time zone?
Why is this position open? Is it a new headcount or a backfill? Why do you need this hire to accomplish your OKRs?
How are you going to get someone interviewed and hired? How will you and the recruiter establish a communication cadence to keep things moving along at a reasonable pace?
Different roles in the hiring process
As you navigate your way to making a hire, there are checkpoints that you will define in greater detail during your kickoff meeting to keep you on course. These can include a combination of individual or panel interviews, presentations, take-home assignments or live coding assessments.
As you muse over the best hiring plan format in your kickoff meeting, start to think about who from your org you want to incorporate and at what point in the candidate’s journey.
The recruiter is the voice on your GPS system, dictating your directions and keeping you on course if you make a wrong turn. They are your best source of information on the breadth and quality of the candidate pool, the complexities of the market and trends in compensation.
They are also the gatekeeper of your inbound pipeline and the hunter going off road to cast a net for talent according to your parameters. It is critical that you establish clear expectations with the recruiter on what you are looking for during the kickoff meeting and check in regularly to make sure they are on the right path.
As the hiring manager, you are in the driver’s seat! Your recruiter GPS voice can provide direction but it’s ultimately you who determines what route to take to your destination. With every decision that deviates from the route you outlined in your kickoff doc, it’s important to consider whether taking action will get you closer to your objective or push you off course.
If your process includes a take-home exercise or live coding assessment, think about who is the most qualified person(s) to review or facilitate those exercises. Let your recruiter know who you’ve identified as having the best understanding of the technical attributes that will best set up your eventual hire for success in the position.
Collaborators and peers
As you plan out your interview roster, consider incorporating team members from departments outside of your own who would work closely with this new hire. They can offer a better understanding of what profile of candidate will best navigate cross-functional partnerships.
Engaging members of your current team in the process is even more important. These individuals have the best understanding of what challenges the department is facing and can therefore help you understand which candidates are best prepared to tackle those obstacles head on.
As you reach the last checkpoint before arrival, it can be helpful to have your shortlisted candidates meet with a department head. This stakeholder can dig deeper into any major concerns from the process and give their perspective on the candidate’s fitness for the position.
Anyone and everyone in your organization can be a Talent Maker™, or a leader in your org who sees hiring as a strategic advantage. We often see talent-making manifest as great candidate referrals. Do you have infrastructure in place to encourage and reward referrals? Can you and your recruiter come up with a strategy during the kickoff for how to best encourage team members to submit referrals from their networks?
Talent-making can also be more proactive. Think of folks within your organization who have the best understanding of what it takes to be successful in this role. Get them involved in the recruiting process by hosting a sourcing party or setting aside time to scour LinkedIn together to create a list of prospects. This not only helps you bolster your outreach list but also engages team members in a way that makes them feel like they’re part of the hiring process.
The kickoff process
Scheduling the kickoff
It’s best to schedule a 45-minute kickoff meeting within 5 business days of connecting with your recruiter. As you schedule the meeting, think about who add value to the conversation – perhaps someone who held the role before and can offer insight and clarity. Additionally, consider inviting your TA coordinator and sourcer so they can fully understand your needs and everyone gets on the same page.
Preparing for the kickoff meeting
Ahead of your kickoff meeting, take some time for your hiring manager homework (explained in the next section) and prepare to discuss the strategic components of the search. Think about the who, what, when, where, why and how as outlined at the beginning of the article.
Most importantly, think about all the necessary experience and qualifications someone would need to succeed in the role and start organizing them into technical, interpersonal and basic attributes.
Technical attributes describe specific abilities or skills someone should have, like “ability to create dashboards in Salesforce” and “strong presentation skills”
Interpersonal attributes are the demonstrable soft skills needed for the role, such as “persuasive” and “naturally curious”
Basic qualifications are the bare-minimum experience needed to qualify for the role – think in terms of overall experience as opposed to finite years of experience, like “experience using Salesforce in an operations-focused role”
Finally, think through how you’d like to structure your interview process and who you’ll recruit to meet with your candidate throughout the hiring lifecycle. At Greenhouse, most of our interview processes are standardized as outlined below:
Memorializing your kickoff
Greenhouse recently launched the exciting new job kickoff functionality under the “Job Setup” tab. This intuitive, comprehensive tool provides a natural flow to guide you through the kickoff conversation and ensure you’re capturing all the information you need to start recruiting successfully.
Instead of trying to remember everything from your kickoff meeting in a follow-up email or tracking notes in Google Docs, the job kickoff form is organized so you can easily reference all the talking points discussed. If you feel like there’s misalignment at any point in the search, the kickoff form is your go-to resource to refamiliarize yourself with what you’ve identified as being critical to success in your process.
At Greenhouse, we like to assign what we call hiring manager “homework” ahead of the scheduled kickoff meeting. A few days before the meeting, the recruiter sends the hiring manager a link to the kickoff form in Greenhouse. From there, we ask them to fill in higher-level information about the position to the best of their ability. This usually includes:
Descriptions of the business need for the role, high-level objectives, 90-day goals and one-year goals
Reporting structure of the position and cross-functional partnerships
A description of the position and its responsibilities
A list of technical, interpersonal and basic competencies needed
Sourcing tips (comparable titles to search, sample profiles, target companies, etc.)
High-level overview of the interview plan and an interviewer roster
With this information clearly outlined ahead of time, the recruiter can go into the meeting with a strong understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for. This frees up time in the kickoff meeting to talk through the more strategic elements of the search, like scorecard building, interview plans and sourcing strategy.
Additional tips for your kickoff meeting
Make it personal
If it’s your first time working with a recruiter, open the kickoff by breaking the ice! Share information about yourself that could help a recruiter better understand how to describe you to candidates. Helpful talking points include an overview of your background and how you grew into your current position, a description of your role, what keeps you at the company and how you’d describe your management philosophy.
Be very clear in establishing a recurring communication cadence with your recruiter. A weekly 1:1 sync tends to be more effective at triaging blockers than a weekly email summarizing where you’re at in the process. In this virtual world, meeting with your recruiter regularly helps keep the partnership engaging and human.
Be proactively proactive
Spend 20 to 30 minutes ahead of your kickoff meeting sourcing sample profiles of prospects you think would be a great match for what you want in the position. This will give the recruiter a solid idea of where to start as they begin their outreach efforts.
It’s a lot, but…
As you might have noticed, a structured kickoff process is objectively more work than many of us are used to when starting a search – however, the time you invest on the front end can save you from hours of realignment and frustration through the lifecycle of your search. In the age of The Great Resignation, we can no longer afford to fly by the seat of our pants. By operating a thoughtful and structured hiring process, you can gain a significant competitive advantage in the speed and efficiency with which you hire. While everyone else fumbles with their glove-compartment road map of a hiring process, you will cruise on by with your GPS directions.