Recruiting Tips for Startup CEOs and Business Owners

Updated: 22 Mar, 2022 | Bill Peatman

"Hiring the right people may be the most important thing you do when you start a new company," Frederic Lardinois said in TechCrunch. "But how much time should founders spend on hiring when there are so many other competing demands?"

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told TechCrunch he and cofounders spent about 70 percent of their time recruiting in the company's first two years. Prince believed it was the job of the founders to bring in candidates. "Fundamentally, as the founder and leader of an organization, your job is to attract and retain the best possible people," Prince argued. "And so, even to this day, at least a third of my time is spent on recruiting."

HR Paperwork Overwhelms 

For startups and smaller businesses alike, the challenge is how to optimize recruiting and HR admin work when you are too small to have an internal HR team. One study found that owners of companies with 20-40 employees spend about 40 percent of their time on HR paperwork. Where does the time go?

  • Sourcing—identifying candidates requires hours on LinkedIn or ZoomInfo to build lists of potential candidates.
  • Email outreach—personalized emails are the best way to reach candidates in a tight job market as impersonal mass emails fall on deaf ears.
  • Scheduling interviews—it takes about 25 minutes to schedule a meeting. Multiply those minutes by multiple candidates for multiple positions, and it takes a lot of time to get people in the door.
  • Candidate offers—the devil is in the details here, and there are a lot of them. Salary, benefits, job titles, employment status (exempt, nonexempt, contractor, FTE) must be correct and accurate. A small mistake can be costly.
  • New hire compliance—there are a lot of hoops to jump through when bringing new employees on board, like verifying the right to work documentation, background checks, benefits eligibility, etc.

Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

While you might not want to outsource recruiting entirely, especially when it comes to senior leaders, you can undoubtedly outsource the admin work to a part-time virtual assistant. A virtual assistant can:

  • Research candidates based on job requirements.
  • Build lists for email outreach.
  • Send templated emails to potential candidates.
  • Respond to questions and inquiries.
  • Schedule interviews.
  • Prepare resumes and profiles for interviews.
  • Schedule any follow-up activities.

A virtual assistant can help you get a shortlist of candidates for open roles and hand them off to the hiring manager or executive leader, depending on the position. A virtual assistant can help you:

  • Find more candidates faster.
  • Quickly weed out the underqualified applicants.
  • Respond faster to qualified candidates.
  • Get interviews.

The need for fast, responsive communication with candidates is essential in a tight job market. 

  • Workable found that most candidates that accept interviews and jobs hear from the employer within two days.
  • The average response time, according to Indeed is three weeks.
  • 89 percent of job seekers say that their recruiter's contact can make them accept a job offer faster.

While looking for ways to remain competitive, businesses turn to virtual assistant services to speed up recruiting, provide better candidate experiences, and faster hiring.

The CEO/Owner Role

The CEO/owner must take an active and continuing role in identifying and recruiting top talent for senior executive leaders—those are the core team that will drive the company culture and vision, according to the learning and leadership development platform Torch.

"Only the CEO can hire the company's senior leadership team and make sure that they work well together," Torch said. "You can get help and feedback from others as you hire, but when you bring leaders like a VP of Engineering, VP of Sales, and CFO on board, the ultimate hiring decisions must be yours."

The most time-consuming part of finding the best candidates is at the front end of the process—reviewing LinkedIn profiles, reading resumes, following up on inquiries takes time. The most crucial role for the CEO/owner is to build relationships and trust with those that will form the inner circle. But if you spend 40-70 percent of your time recruiting, there is not much time left for the rest of your business.

As the CEO of a startup or owner of a growing business, there are endless demands on your time, from managing co-founder relationships, fundraising, building company culture to hiring. "It's an exercise in prioritization to get the right things done," Torch said. A virtual assistant operating in the background can keep your talent funnel full so that you spend your time on the most important part of the process—spending time with the most promising candidates.

Getting Your Team Right 

Startups and small businesses succeed or fail based on the talent hired to execute the vision of their founders. And it is up to the CEO owner and their leadership team to articulate that vision in a way that attracts top talent. Competition is as fierce as it has ever been for every role. Leveraging a virtual assistant to keep the top of the recruiting funnel full can help you stay ahead. 

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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