Building Your Team, with Jack Groetzinger of SeatGeek

I decided to watch Jack talk about building a start up team.

What to look for in a first recruit

Versatility – In the startup, everyone’s going to be doing all sorts of things, and might not continue to be doing the things they started out doing.

Technical Skills – Not just 20 years in the IT sector, but someone who could be a front end manager, product manager, or even a product-oriented person who wants to build a great UX.

Energy  – People who aren’t salary focused, but really believe in your mission.

Think about what you imagine your team to be.

Passive Recruiting Tactics

The first thing you need is a strong, compelling, and elegant “Jobs” page. It needs to really communicate perks, what you’re about, and what jobs are available.

Open sourcing code is also pretty useful. If your code segment becomes popular, web developers will find out about your computer. In a similar vein, writing technical blog posts will also attract the attention of web developers.

Posting on job boards can potentially work, but most applicants are very low quality. Usually job boards are good for non-technical positions. It’s also advisable to avoid big-name job boards like Monster, and try niche/specialty job boards like Forest.

Recruiters are very expensive, taking up to 20%-35% of the hirees starting salary. This might be better for a later stage startup that really needs people.

Finally, have open job positions in your email signature! It’s small but is just another way to advertise jobs.

Active Recruiting Tactics

Tapping your own personal network is probably the most effective way. Go to friends, family, and anyone who has a stake in your company, and ask them if they think they know anyone. Getting other people to tap their networks will snowball, but eventually that network gets tapped out.

LinkedIn can be one such alternative to your personal network. You can be very targeted – by geography, technical skills, industry, etc. LinkedIn is very general, so you can find other ‘social websites’ like in stackoverflow. You can find other developers there who are good and then figure out how to contact them.

Something that has worked well for SeatGeek is a hiring challenge. It’s a contest, e.g. like a computer programming puzzle, and those who win can apply for a job. The benefit of a hiring challenge is that it acts both as a screen and generates buzz. Another contest they made asked contestants to write content based on this chart.

Going to meetups, like the ones you find on, is a great way to meet specific types of people. Meet them informally, get to know them, and tell them about what you’re doing.

Whenever you go out and find people, you want to find as diverse a group as possible. This is just something to keep in mind.

Selling Your Company to Potential Hires

It’s not just a case of finding the right people for your company, it’s also about helping people understand why your company is a good fit for them.

The interview process at SeatGeek starts out with an informal meetup (e.g. coffee) to get them excited, and then invite them to the office for a formal interview. Showing applicants good PR or hosting events at your work space are also great things to do.

Asking your current employees what they think is great about your company also can be helpful.

Managing the Formal Interview Process

There is no one right way to run the interview process. At one end of the spectrum, Google might have 20 different interviews, at the other end, you might have coffee with the co-founder if he/she likes you, you’re hired.

A typical interview has the interviewee talk to people they’re likely to work with. The two main things you want to find out are whether they’re a good cultural fit and if they can do the job. You look at their past work, and walk through their approach to their work. Ask them for feedback on your company and their product.

Some other tips & strategies: having multiple rounds of interviews, and limiting how many employees speak to the interviewee in the first round. Keep the interview schedule loose, and avoid personal topics.

Managing Technical Hiring

The market for web developers is different, and there’s a bit of a lack of good web developers. There are lots of applicants but few that are high quality.

A couple of good screen questions: do they have a personal webpage? Do they use GitHub? Are they aware of Startup accelerators? Are they on Hacker News? OS X or Linux? Are they comfortable with the web stack (from front end all the way to the back end)?  Ruby or Python? Personal projects?

You should let the technical people run the technical interviews. Review their GitHub profile, and/or give them an assessment (have them make a web service that accomplishes a specific task).

When you build your web development team, try to make sure they’re full stack developers. You can be way more flexible in the future.

Making an Offer

Before making the offer, call the person’s references. One game Jack plays is word association, to see what comes to the reference’s mind. Then standard questions are asked. Generally these reference checks are to make sure nothing is terribly wrong. Some start ups offer a contract-of-hire, so they start off as contractors then if everything goes well they get hired as full time employees, however this has some tricky legal issues. When thinking of benefits, you should really outsource that. It allows you not to worry about the pragmatics. The focus of this step should be to getting on the phone with the applicant, and getting them excited.

Regarding negotiation, there usually isn’t negotiation if you made sure to assess what they want during the interview process. Always ask them for their salary range, be mindful of your own budget, pay standard market rate, and be willing to negotiate perks.

Finding a CoFounder

The ideal cofunder is someone you’ve known for a while in your personal network, but you can also find them in meetups. A lot of the principles regarding finding new hires can apply to finding cofunders.

The ideal founding team is pretty technical, with more technical folks than non-technical. Always to try to find the people who complement your own skills, and find a way to have worked with them before. One last thing is common life goals and priorities. Do they just want to build it to sell it? Or are they in it for the long haul?

Applying What You’ve Learned

Hiring is a long term iterative process. As a cofounder, it’ll be your job for a while, and it’ll only get harder as time goes on. A successful start up starts with an incredible team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *