I was invited by the guys from Jobbox.io to do an interview regarding 'Talent Hacking'. A topic I have been interested in ever since I made my first hire. Below is the result, big thanks to Pedro and his team.

Every startup struggles when it comes to hiring. You need to get the very best if you want your business to be successful, but you have no idea where to find talent and you might not have the skills to persuade them and bring them on board. Startups live in a fast paced environment and the whole recruitment process, in most cases, slows down business growth. So how can you solve this problem? How can you find the software engineer you need to build your product? Well, that’s where Talent Hacking comes in.

What is Talent Hacking?

Talent Hacking breaks away from traditional recruitment methods (it’s about time), and invests in technology to tackle the hiring process. The concept involves finding the best people by sourcing candidates in different channels and by analysing useful data. A talent hacker finds the right people to hire by using unconventional tactics.

To find out more about it we have spoken with Willem Wijnans, who’s a Talent Hacking enthusiast. Willem is one of our verified referrers and he’s the founder ofsourcing monk and responsible for building tech teams at Backbase.

Willem, what is a talent hacker?

In tech recruitment, things are going haywire. Companies have no idea on how to attract the best talent and the conventional recruitment methods are not working anymore. There are some smart people, who see this huge gap that needs to be bridged. Any person who wants to disrupt hiring in tech is in my eyes a talent hacker. So from a platform like JOBBOX.io, to a consultant that advises companies to let their own developers do the sourcing of their new colleagues is a talent hacker. Just thinking outside the box (read not paying 20K+ for a random hire through an agency or hiring a recruiter to spam developers on LinkedIn).

From your experience at Backbase why is talent hacking so important?

For my company Backbase it is of the utmost importance to use new tools to come to the best quality hires. Luckily for us, there are many startups who provide just that. Think about HackerRankX, who gives you a very easy way to test your developers to an innovative ATS (Applicant Tracking System) as Lever or Workable. They make it so much easier to do the most important bit in recruiting nowadays: sourcing relevant profiles. But, it also means educating hiring managers and interviewers. The traditional recruiting is not viable anymore. They need to get their hands dirty as much as a recruiter does. That’s why I am giving seminars to my developers at Backbase on how they can source on GithubStackoverflow andBitbucket. They deliver a nice pipeline of relevant developers and once someone gets hired they get a massive referral fee. Pretty nice hack if you ask me.

What is the current problem with hiring and what tools are there to make it ‘easier’.

The problem is that no one in a startup has time for recruiting. The most successful companies I have advised are the companies whose CTO is in the trenches with me searching for his next hire. There are all these nice tools that make recruitment easier, like TalentBinEntelo or Gild, but they give a traditional recruiter a motorbike and he only has a driving licence for a car. He won’t be able to use these awesome tools the way they are designed to help and make recruiting easier. Startups however, use this one hack that very beneficial: the guy who KNOWS tech and KNOWS the business is doing the recruitment. Give him these tools or hacks, and hiring just gets so much easier. I have seen CTO’s hire with so much confidence once they were trained on how to leverage sites they normally use to push commits or search about tech related questions to hunt their new hires.

Why is it so difficult for a startup to use traditional recruiting tools? Are these tools of any use?

A traditional tool, if you can call it a tool, is for example an external recruiter. #1 problem: duh, cash. But these external recruiters are of no use at all, since most of them don’t even know what you need and why you need it. They give you some senior PHP developer when you need Ruby guy. Next to that, they spam the developer community, which gives your company a bad name. This is completely useless.

Another example is Job posting (good luck with that). Snowed in by everyone who still thinks that people apply. You are not Facebook, Google or Uber. You’re not disrupting anything yet.

Networking and asking friends might be worth it though. This still works sometimes, but I am not a fan of a biased hiring. In the startup scene this is the most common method.

What talent hacks have you used in order to recruit better?

In terms of services: I think JOBBOX.io is nice and unconventional. I also usedhiremyfriend.io although I did not hire through it, I partnered up with a lot of hacking founders who came across so many people but at the wrong time. I use that extensively as well. Then I am building my own service with two friends that makes searching for tech talent easier on Stack, Github & Angel. Oh and not really a hack, but I like to include this when I hack for Javascripters: Javascript under pressure.

In terms of my approach: I am trying to help startups I advise making the right decisions when they START recruiting (even better is to tackle this 6 months before they start). This being, planting the seeds of a good ATS (Applicant Tracking System), or a good info enricher as Connectifier. Making them comfortable reaching out to people. For some reason people always perceive this a bothering. But turn it around, when you get a nice email about a relevant github commit or stackoverflow answer, how flattering is it that someone notices this and wants to work with you. Writing you an email out of the blue? I think that’s hacking pur sang, sending 5x emails to relevant guys/girls, instead of the typical recruiter crap (mass email to everyone who mentions javascript on their profile). And last, get your devs to help you when you have zero tech knowledge in your recruitment team. Make this an incentive for them, make them part of it. It works.

Do you find the referral/reward system useful when hiring?

Yes, but it needs to be constantly improved and marketed. When it comes to new hires, referrals are king in many organisation. Problem is, some companies think they can get away only with a referral system. They do approach this critical thing in referral hiring: “Why would employee X refer friend Y”? There are many companies out there better than yours, believe me.