How I Filled My Key Hires Pipeline With “A” Candidates in 3 Days Without Spending A Cent

Transitioning into my new role as COO at Bite Squad. I believe with 100% conviction that selecting the right key team members and forming a killer team will determine the success of the organization. I knew the profile attributes of the key hires we needed for the following roles (Director of Marketing Automation, Paid Media Manager, Lead Designer & Sales Ops Specialist). I believe the role of leaders in an organization wether there is a Chief in front of your title or not is  level folks is spending a portion of your time doing cold outbound recruiting yourself. For a few reasons….

(1) It keeps you close to the local talent market and maintains a sharp recruiting sword

(2) You get a feel for cold outbound recruiting funnel metrics (# of messages, # of responses, sentiment of responses and of course my favorite, closed-won baby!)

(3) If you want top talent, you have to go take it, it’s not sitting around browsing indeed.com (most of the time, not always true). Reaching out as a leader in the organization will have an impact on response and conversion rates for key hires

(4) Top talent should want to work with you; you need to prove you can close top talent.

(5) The more top talent you interact with, the wider your network will organically reach. Diligent hands bring wealth, a wealth of talent!

So, I called upon my inner tiger and developed a “BA” cold outbound linkedin sales navigator recruiting campaign. Here is how I did it, the tools, the tactics, the copy, what I learned and the results. I’ll use the Director of Marketing Automation role as the focus of this article.

Set Yourself Up For Success

(1) Understand your candidate profile options: I had two profiles in mind.

Profile (A) is a candidate with 4-7 years of automation experience, hopefully with both B2B and some B2C chops with experience in managing a team of 1-5 people.

Profile (B) was that rising star, maybe only 2-3 years of automation experience but wicked raw talent, coachable and hungry. I really love developing raw talent so I have zero problem pulling the trigger for the right candidate under profile B.

(2)  A Job description that goes beyond: I noticed that company’s often start their job description about why they are the best place to work, basically a jersey point if we’re being honest. This is backwards to me, start with the impact the candidate will have on the business, then tease the tale of the tape on your org and why it’s an exciting opportunity. Have really strong bullets on all the key tasks, goals and results you’re looking for the role to own. Make it clear you can’t grow the business and hit your goals without this A player. Make it clear they could be the person to walk in on day ONE having an impact that is absolute to the organization. People want to have an impact, they want to fully deploy their skill set. The want a seat at the table, to be heard, to be challenged. Remember as well, in cold outbound email copy, emails that start talking about who you are and what your solution does NEVER get responded to. Why should a job description be any different? Your trying to sell somebody on something (an idea, an opportunity) who has likely never heard of you. Put the candidate first, PERIOD.

(3) Target the right candidates: I used Linkedin Sales Navigator and filtered for folks with marketing automation listed in their title and or skills, in the Greater Minneapolis / St. Paul area. I browsed the results, used tags to flag “candidate” so later I could easily find those folks and start my messaging. I selected 20 candidates, I believed if I selected 20 candidates, I’d find my A player. If I couldn’t close 1 of 20, something was wrong with my profiling, my copy or my closing skills or all of it! $HIT!

(4) The right message: I developed a very competitive thirst for high converting and persuasive cold outbound email copy the last two years at Leadpages and Drip writing our cold outbound email email copy. I wanted to use those same tactics in my recruiting messages. Short, impactful, lead towards a vision, make it about the candidate primarily and the business secondary. I made it clear to the candidate that I know what I’m looking for and I hand selected them personally, that the role at this stage was an invite only opportunity.  Then I did a quick blurb on the business and then I created some scarcity. I let them know if they were interested, I would send the job description and that it wasn’t posted anywhere. This asked for a small commitment from them, which was key in identifying if the were game to throw down. I found that people were generally happy in their roles, but there is almost always something that they’re wishing was different, even if they end up turning down the role eventually.

(5) Track Your Funnel: I built an excel spreadsheet with drop downs for (stage of the funnel, likely salary expectations, candidate rank etc). I tracked it obsessively, it was great to have this visual representation of where I stood in the funnel.

(6) Make it Easy for A Talent to Speak with You: cater to their current situation, what times work for them, drive the calendar invites, always call them and make sure they understand next steps and always ensure they are comfortable with the process.

(7) Interview Guides: you want to put all talent through a very similar process or you can’t properly measure them against one another to identify your top candidates. What are the 2-3 non negotiable skills to execute this job. What questions can you ask to surface those skill sets. Bite Squad had never hired for any of these roles, so there was no interview guide. Don’t ever wing interviews, be prepared, know non negotiable skills important to the role, know what profile of candidate is right for the stage the business is at and build your interview guide off that. At all cost build a solid interview guide, stay up late to get it done or come in early, it will pay off when you specifically point to why candidate A vs. candidate B is a better fit for the role. Also, when candidates see structured interviews with challenging questions, it also helps sell them on you and the company.

(8) Have a interview partner: these key hires were mostly going to be living in marketing with Craig our VP of marketing. Craig and I had just started working together and this was a fabulous opportunity for he and I to develop trust, learn each others strengths and weakness and be a support network for each other to make the right decision for the business. Depending on the role, one of us typically took interview #1 while the other took interview #2, sometimes we did a team interview when it made sense. We always downloaded after each interview, compared notes and came to decisions together. It was an invaluable process. I learned from Craig and he learned form me, great team effort, thanks Craig!

What I Learned

(1) Damnit I love recruiting: the thrill of the hunt, the funnel metrics, getting closer and closer to that right hire that will elevate your business. It’s very energizing to recruit and close talent you hand selected. It also makes you very dialed in to making the right hire and ensuring they have all the support they need to be successful once they start. Basically what I am saying is #Ownership.

(2) I love people: a business is it’s people, I had so many enjoyable conversations even with candidates who ended up not being the right fit for us or vice versa. Really so many great and talented people in Minneapolis. Thank you to everyone I had the opportunity to learn about and swap stories with.

(3) Referrals, Referrals, Referrals: even if a candidate was not the right fit, I found them referring people in their network they thought would be a good fit for the role or a different role we had open. How cool is that?! The lesson…….treat people with respect no matter what, thank everyone for their time, wish them well, compliment them on where you believe they’re talented and wish them well on their journey….ALWAYS. Everyone is trying to be happy, make an impact, take care of their families and have some fun along the way. Never forget that, neva eva eva.

(4) Recruiting Process Feedback: if you ask people, they will give you honest feedback on your recruiting tactics, messaging etc. Don’t be afraid to ask, if a good candidate turns you down for a next step, create a safe environment for them to tell you why. Make it clear you want to learn and not make any mistakes that may deter top talent like them in the future. Sometimes it comes to timing or fit and sometimes you made a mistake and didn’t realize it. You can learn from everyone, never forget that.

(5) My Recruiting Funnel Metrics Were Strong: I messaged 20 people, got 12 responses, 9 were positive, 6 resulted in good candidates, 3 resulted in strong candidates, I got 3 referrals from candidates and as for hires, well we’re very close to that final data point 😉

(6) It’s a Rollercoaster: candidates you thought were perfect will sometimes turn you down, you’ll change your mind, second guess yourself, wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and everything in between. Roll with the punches, fall in love with the journey. Be grateful, be kind, don’t take yourself to seriously and have some fun along the way.

(7) Always Keep the Cost of the Wrong Hire in Mind: hiring the wrong person has several consequences not just for you and the org, but for the candidate to. Don’t play with peoples lives, make the best decision possible. When you hire the right person, you typically know within 30-45 days. They build momentum, start delivering results, have an impact. The average hire who won’t end up having a major impact can be much harder to detect in that first 30-45 days. They aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong, your thinking, “oh they’re just ramping up.” Before you know it, it’s 4-6 months in and at that point, your doing performance counseling trying to manage them up or out of the business. 9-12 months hit, your hire isn’t happy, your not happy and your back to square one, actually square zero, you just lost a year didn’t you.

Listen it’s always hard to know until the candidate starts but you can mitigate the risk with thoughtful candidate profiling, the right interview guide, a consistent interview process and a strong partner to make decisions with along the journey. 3-5 years from now when I look back on what we accomplished. I want to talk about the major pivot point that shot us to the moon. The people, how they impacted the business, how they impacted me, how I impacted them. No individual is great without the team and the team isn’t great without the individual. We did it together and it all started with some cold outbound linkedin recruiting………..

So go find your A talent, don’t wait for them to submit a resume. Be creative, be fierce, be lovable, be challenging, be empathetic, be curious. Let your recruiting process be the secret proprietary weapon your competitors can’t touch, but above all else…………….Identify, Feed & Grow the Animal Within. 

kyle hale

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