Without the right talent, you can't achieve incredible things with your business. Yet, the people you want to hire probably are knocking balls out of the park for someone else. Luring them to your company will take time, skill and a good dose of relationship-building on the part of whomever is doing your recruiting. That's according to Dan Portillo, talent partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock Partners, who is tasked with recruiting core talent--engineers, product managers, designers and the like--for the firm's portfolio companies. Here's his advice on how to sell your company to candidates who aren't looking for a job.
1. It's all about building relationships.
In the last five years Greylock has hired about 400 people in critical roles for around 60 of its portfolio companies. Nearly every single one of those individuals came into the firm's focus of attention because of a referral or some kind of networking connection, and not because of applying on Greylock's website. In Portillo's experience, companies that hunt for the best people have better business success than those that wait for candidates to apply.
2. It takes time--a lot of it.
On average, Greylock builds a relationship with a person for at least a year before he or she joins a portfolio company. "I just placed someone that I've been working on for three years, and my absolute longest is ten years," he says.
3. Identifying the right people involves a good deal of research.
Portillo spends time finding things that people have created that demonstrate their expertise. By reading what they have written online, for example, he gathers fodder for having a personalized conversation when he eventually connects with them. And while online communities are great resources to source potential talent, meeting face to face is still the best way to understand and engage with people doing interesting and exceptional work.
4. Make a meaningful connection.
Once you've done your homework, use any kind of shared connection to open a door. If you don't have one, craft a personalized message to the person asking about some interesting project he or she has worked on. "People love to talk about themselves," he says. "They really appreciate when someone has done their homework, to reach out to them, and that it's not just some canned email that every other recruiter has sent."
5. Continue to engage the person without talking about a specific job position.
Ideally, you'll meet in person with the goal of building rapport, asking good questions and getting the individual to talk about what he likes and dislikes about his current gig, or what things she really cares about. "You start to figure out their pushes and pulls, and triggers that help them determine where they want to work," he says.
6. Have a dialogue regarding a particular problem that needs solving.
Again, without talking about a job, have a conversation about the problem that's relevant to the individual and connected to the reason you reached out in the first place. "Hopefully they're starting to lean in a little bit and or getting excited about the particular problem and why it broke and working with you on solutions," he says.
7. Direct prospects into an engagement funnel.
Without offering a job, merely tell prospects you're looking for people to work on the problem you've been talking about. If they're interested, great. If not, maybe they know someone who would be. From there, connect on LinkedIn, invite the person to events, happy hours, speaker series or an occasional dinner. "Greylock has a dedicated community building program where we invite people across various operational areas like product management and infrastructure engineering to network and learn from their peers," he says.
8. Wait for the right moment.
All the work you've put into building a relationship with this individual will eventually pay off when he or she is ready to make a change. "Everyone has that day at work when they're not feeling it anymore," he says. "Those connections and consistent touch points and waiting for the opportune time [help] make a transition from a friendly conversation to 'You should really work here.'"