On Hiring: A Guide for Startup CTOs

Magnus Udbjørg



Introduction/TL; DR

Trust is the cornerstone of high-performing teams, and the recruitment process is crucial in establishing this foundation. This blog post will explore how startup CTOs can create a transparent hiring process that leads to strong, trust-based technical teams. From crafting a concise and engaging pitch to collaborating with recruiters, we’ll provide insights and strategies to help you connect with diverse, talented candidates and build a cohesive team ready to drive your startup’s success.

The job ad

A well-crafted job ad is essential in attracting diverse candidates. In addition, keeping your job listings up-to-date (no older than 90 days) can leave a positive impression on prospective candidates. So what you’re looking for?

When creating a job ad, take the time to consider the requirements and qualifications you seek. Be mindful of language and phrasing that could unintentionally exclude certain groups of candidates, and instead aim to build a diverse team that reflects or complements your varied user base.

To ensure your job ad is inclusive, consider the following tips

  1. First, use gender-neutral language: Avoid using gender-specific pronouns or terms that could be perceived as biased. Instead, opt for neutral language that welcomes applicants of all genders.
  2. Highlight diversity and inclusion initiatives: Emphasize your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in your job ad and website. Initiatives will signal to potential candidates that your company values and prioritises building a diverse team.
  3. Be specific about requirements: Clearly outline the essential qualifications, skills, and experience required for the role. The explicit requirement will help prevent candidates from self-selecting out of the application process due to perceived inadequacies.

You can use tools to help you:

  • http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/
  • https://joblint.org/.

The pitch

As the CTO or VP of Engineering, reaching out to potential candidates personally can make a significant impact on their decision to join your team. When you take the time to connect with candidates on LinkedIn, it demonstrates your commitment to finding the right people and your dedication to the team’s success.

By crafting a personalised message, you increase your chances of connecting with the right candidate and building rapport right from the start. When composing a pitch with a strict character limit, it’s crucial to be concise and prioritise the most critical elements that will grab the candidate’s attention.

Here’s a simplified structure for a concise yet engaging pitch

  1. First, introduce yourself and the company (briefly):
  2. Combine your introduction and mission into one sentence to save characters while providing context.
  3. Present the challenge:
  4. Highlight the specific challenge the candidate will work on, keeping it brief and focused.

Here’s a revised structure for a concise pitch

“Hi, I’m [Your Name], [Your Role] at [Company], where we’re [Company Mission]. We need your expertise to [Specific Challenge]. So let’s connect and discuss how you can help us make a real impact in [Industry].”


“Hi, I’m Magnus, VP of Engineering at TwentyThree, on a quest to humanise digital experiences. We’re seeking an engineer to transition our monolith to modern architecture. So let’s connect and explore how you can help shape the future of video.”

This concise pitch highlights the crucial elements to pique the candidate’s interest.

The “three” models

I have three models when building your technical team, each with benefits and drawbacks. By understanding these approaches, you can choose the one that best suits your startup’s needs and resources.

Do it yourself - LinkedIn Recruiter Lite & a great pitch

  1. In this model, you control the hiring process using platforms like LinkedIn Recruiter Lite to identify and connect with potential candidates. A compelling pitch is crucial to pique candidates’ interest and establish rapport. This approach lets you handpick your talent and build relationships with candidates directly. However, it can be time-consuming and require expertise to manage the entire process.

Do it for me - Recruiter only

  1. In this model, you delegate the hiring process to a professional recruiter, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your startup. The recruiter takes responsibility for sourcing, screening, and managing candidates, allowing you to focus on different aspects of your startup. However, it can be more costly, and you may have less direct involvement in building relationships with candidates.

Do it together - Collaborating with a recruiter

  1. This hybrid model combines the benefits of both approaches. You work closely with a recruiter to identify potential candidates and actively participate in the outreach process. For example, you may send personalised pitches to candidates while the recruiter manages the follow-up, screening, and interview scheduling. This approach allows for more hands-on involvement in the hiring process, ensuring you maintain a strong connection with potential candidates while leveraging the recruiter’s expertise and resources. This collaborative model can lead to a more efficient and tailored recruitment process, helping you build a team that aligns with your startup’s goals and values. However, it may require more time and effort than fully delegating the process to a recruiter.

I prefer to Do it with me or Do it together; I like to participate in it to make it a team effort, and it will align you or your managers to a future where you also have in-house recruiters.

Being transparent

It’s essential to be transparent about salary expectations in your job ads or during the initial communication with potential candidates. Being upfront about the salary range prevents misunderstandings and ensures both parties understand the compensation package before investing time in further discussions and interviews.

The benefits of being transparent about salary expectations include the following:

  1. Saving time: By disclosing the salary range early on, you can avoid wasting time on candidates whose expectations do not align with what your startup can offer.
  2. Setting realistic expectations: Candidates aware of the salary range from the beginning can decide whether the opportunity aligns with their career goals and financial needs.
  3. Building trust: Transparency in compensation demonstrates your commitment to fairness and open communication, fostering trust between your company and potential candidates.
  4. Attracting suitable candidates: Clearly stating the salary range can attract candidates genuinely interested in the role and your company.

By incorporating salary transparency into your hiring process, you contribute to open and honest dialogue with potential candidates, saving time for both parties and setting the stage for a successful and trust-based working relationship.

Build a recruitment flow

Managing your recruitment process can be challenging, especially for startup CTOs juggling multiple responsibilities.

It’s essential to create a simple and organised recruitment flow using easily accessible tools. This section will provide a step-by-step guide to creating an efficient recruitment process using simple tools you likely already have.

Choose a suitable tool for organising your recruitment process:

  1. First, select a user-friendly tool you’re comfortable using, such as Trello, Asana, or a spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. The key is to choose a tool that allows for easy collaboration and tracking of your recruitment efforts.

Set up your recruitment stages

  1. Create columns or sections for each stage of your recruitment process, such as:
  • New Applicants
  • Screening
  • Phone Interviews
  • Technical Interviews
  • Final Interviews
  • Offer Extended
  • Hired
  • Rejected

Customise these stages according to your hiring process, and ensure they are labelled in your chosen tool.

Add candidate information

  1. As you receive applications or connect with potential candidates, add their information to the appropriate stage in your tool. Include relevant details, such as their name, contact information, LinkedIn profile, and any notes about their experience or qualifications. Candidate information will help you maintain an organised overview of your candidate pool.

Collaborate with your team

  1. If you’re working with other team members or recruiters, ensure they can access your chosen tool and contribute to the recruitment process. Encourage clear communication and timely updates to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Move candidates through the stages

  1. As candidates progress through the recruitment process, update their status by moving them to the appropriate stage in your tool. Keeping track will help you keep track of their progress and make informed decisions about the next steps.

Monitor and optimise your recruitment flow

  1. Regularly review your recruitment flow to identify any bottlenecks or areas for improvement. Retrospectives on your process will help you optimise the process and ensure you attract and retain your startup’s best talent.

By creating a simple recruitment flow using accessible tools, you can effectively manage your recruitment process and stay organised throughout each hiring stage.

Use your team

Involving your team in recruitment is essential for fostering trust between team members and potential candidates. Engaging your team throughout the hiring process can ensure a better cultural fit and create a collaborative work environment that promotes confidence and success. In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of involving your team in the recruitment process and provide tips on how to do so effectively.

Benefits of involving your team in the recruitment process

  1. Improved cultural fit: Your team members understand your company’s culture uniquely and can help identify candidates who will complement the existing work environment.
  2. Enhanced trust and buy-in: By involving your team in the recruitment process, they’ll feel a sense of ownership and confidence in the final decision, fostering a stronger connection with new hires.
  3. Better assessment of technical skills: Your team members possess valuable technical expertise to help evaluate a candidate’s skills and ability to contribute to the team’s goals.
  4. Increased candidate confidence: Candidates who meet and engage with their potential future teammates during the interview will have a clearer understanding of the company culture, team dynamics, and expectations, which can lead to increased confidence in their decision to join the company.

Tips for involving your team in the recruitment process

  1. Assign a team representative: Choose a team member to be the primary point of contact throughout the recruitment process. This person can collaborate with you, recruiters, or hiring managers to gather feedback and communicate updates to the rest of the team.
  2. Include team members in interviews: Involve team members in candidate interviews, either as part of a panel or in individual meetings. Including team members allows them to ask relevant questions, assess the candidate’s skills, and provide valuable input in the hiring decision.
  3. Encourage team feedback: After interviews, solicit feedback from your team members regarding the candidate’s qualifications, cultural fit, and potential contributions to the team. This input can play a crucial role in making the final hiring decision.
  4. Organise informal meet-and-greets: Schedule informal meetings or social events for candidates to meet the team in a more relaxed setting. Meet-and-greets can help both parties better understand each other and assess the potential for a successful working relationship.
  5. Provide training and support: Offer training and support to your team members on conducting interviews and providing constructive feedback. Training and Support will help them feel more confident and prepared to contribute effectively to the recruitment process.

By involving your team in the recruitment process, you can foster trust and collaboration, ensuring that new hires integrate seamlessly into the existing work environment. This approach ultimately contributes to developing a strong, trust-based technical team that drives your startup’s success.

Maintaining Regular Communication with Candidates

In a competitive job market, consistent and timely communication with potential candidates is essential to keep them engaged and interested in your company. Failing to maintain regular contact may result in losing the best candidates to other opportunities. In this section, we’ll explore the benefits of regular communication and share practical tips for staying connected with candidates throughout the hiring process.

Benefits of regular communication with candidates:

  • Demonstrates your company’s commitment to the candidate and their potential role within the team.
  • Keeps candidates informed about the progress of their application, preventing uncertainty and confusion.
  • Builds trust and rapport, making candidates feel valued and respected.
  • Reduces the likelihood of candidates accepting alternative job offers due to a perceived lack of interest or slow decision-making on your part.

Tips for maintaining regular communication with candidates

Set communication expectations

  1. During the initial stages of the hiring process, inform candidates about the timeline and how frequently they can expect updates from you. Setting expectations early on will help manage candidate anxiety and establish trust.

Use a consistent communication channel

  1. Select a preferred method of communication, such as email or phone calls, and use it consistently throughout the hiring process. This approach will ensure both parties know how and where to reach each other.

Schedule regular updates

  1. Establish a routine for updating candidates on their application status, even if there isn’t significant progress to report. Regular updates will demonstrate your commitment to keeping them informed and reduce the risk of them feeling neglected.

Personalise your communication

  1. Personalize your messages to candidates by addressing them by names and referring to specific details from previous interactions. This personal touch will make them feel valued and respected.

Be responsive

  1. Respond to candidate inquiries or follow-ups within a reasonable timeframe, ideally within 24-48 hours. Prompt responses show that you value their time and are actively engaged in hiring.

Provide constructive feedback

  1. If a candidate is not selected for a role, provide constructive feedback explaining the decision. The candidate will appreciate this transparency and could potentially open the door for future opportunities with your company.

Maintaining regular communication with candidates throughout the hiring process demonstrates your commitment to their success and fosters trust. Consistent and timely communication will help you retain top talent and create a positive candidate experience that reflects well on your company’s reputation.

Build trust

We know that trust is the cornerstone of high-performing teams. Building trust means that we should already foster trust while recruiting to have the best possible foundation for our company and talents; consider the following:

  1. Be Transparent: Share your vision, goals, and expectations with potential candidates during the hiring process. Transparency creates an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their ideas, concerns, and potential roadblocks.
  2. Encourage Open Communication: Foster a culture where everyone’s opinions are valued and encouraged. Open Communication will create an atmosphere where team members feel safe sharing their thoughts, ideas, and mistakes without fear of judgment.
  3. Hire for Cultural Fit: While technical skills are essential, hiring candidates who align with your company’s culture and values can help build a cohesive team. Assess candidates’ soft skills, such as collaboration, communication, and adaptability, during the interview process. Beware of your biases when checking for cultural fit.
  4. Show Vulnerability: As a leader, demonstrate vulnerability by admitting when you’re wrong or uncertain. Being vulnerable will create a safe space for your team members to do the same, fostering trust and growth.
  5. Invest in Team Building: Regular team-building activities and opportunities for team members to get to know each other personally will strengthen interpersonal relationships and trust within the team.

In conclusion, trust is the foundation of successful technical teams, and it starts with a transparent and engaging recruitment process. By crafting a personalised pitch, collaborating with recruiters, and being upfront about salary expectations, you can connect with diverse, talented candidates and set the stage for building a robust and trust-based team. Furthermore, by investing in transparency and fostering open communication from the outset, you can create an environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and growth, driving your startup’s success in the long run.

repost of https://udbjorg.net/2023/03/On-Hiring-A-Guide-for-Startup-CTOs

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