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Overcoming Hiring Constraints

Goal Setting
Company Culture

25 October, 2021

Mustafa Furniturewala
Mustafa Furniturewala

SVP Of Engineering at Coursera

Mustafa Furinturewala, VP of Engineering at Coursera, speaks on overcoming the constraints of hiring in the Bay Area by opening a Toronto office and emphasizing the importance of local recruiters, brand awareness, and team culture.


Early this year, we struggled to meet our hiring goals as we focused on finding talent within the Bay Area. Our company was expanding, and we faced the challenge of not finding potential candidates fit for positions available within our company. We were looking to scale our organization with diverse individuals while meeting our hiring goals, something we couldn't find by only looking within the Bay Area. The problems arose when faced with a scarcity of talent combined with fierce competition.

Actions taken

Our company took three significant measures to overcome hiring constraints and meet our hiring goals. First, we devoted our time to researching different target locations where we would open our new office. We created specific goals related to our needs and focused on the regions with the highest talent. We required all candidates to reside in the North American time zone and speak English fluently, so there would be no hiccups during cross-team work. We searched for areas that had a midground between skilled talent and low competition. Once we had compiled this data, we spent time analyzing it, finding the exact skillsets we were looking for in prospective employees and where to find them.

The second step we took was conducting surveys. I focused on two specific targets during this process: industry professionals who had experience in the remote hiring process and internal employees striving for upward growth. I interviewed 20 experts in their field who surmounted the challenges of creating a remote office. I asked for their insights for success and compiled a list of many suggestions I would have otherwise not considered.

On the other hand, the internal survey focused on those interested in moving with the company. Whether a lateral shift or upward progression, I discussed opportunities and changes available with my primary team before onboarding new members.

The final measure we took was creating a cross-functional team or hiring board, strictly focused on employing new members. This team represented different functions within our company, from Finance to HR. Each function was present within this board, which was necessary for potential employees to establish a sense of our company's culture.

As we put these initiatives in place, I thought we would begin seeing rapid advances. However, this was not the case; growth was slow within the first two weeks until we hired seasoned, local recruiters. After hiring them, I realized what had been missing. Qualified recruiters know where to seek the best active and passive candidates for a position. I found that some of the best applicants for the roles weren't actively seeking new employment and therefore were not looking at our opportunities. We began pushing our brand using prior market research during the two-week lull of talent hunting. We held happy hour hiring events and promoted our company on TikTok in the hopes of catching the attention of prospective employees.

At the headquarters, I pushed something I dubbed "initial team culture." This idea was based on the premise that new employees would embody qualities that current employees displayed. We were lucky that our original employees were high-performing individuals idealizing strong dedication to the work at our company. The "initial team culture" mainly benefited employees after they were hired, allowing them to visualize the values of our organization.

Lessons learned

  • Don't be afraid to allocate resources to a professional local recruiter. A recruiter understands how to use and leverage their network to find the ideal applicant and persuade them to take the job. I believe that hiring local recruiters was the critical step in accelerating the hiring process.
  • Understand the qualities your company is looking for in prospective employees before conducting interviews or producing job listings. Taking the time to research specific areas and critical values will expedite the hiring process.
  • Brand awareness equates to possibility. When we decided to start creating hiring events, our job applications blew up. The remote professional world is growing, and any hiring board should invest in marketing strategies to target their potential talent.

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