Sometimes there’s no getting around it – you need to hire someone great as quickly as possible.
Let’s use lawyers as an example.
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Any entrepreneur will tell you that legal issues can arise out of the blue. Suppose I ran a company that was suddenly wrapped up in an intellectual property dispute preventing a product from launching. Of course I need legal help, but there are a variety of lawyers operating across diverse verticals of law. This is obviously a problem to solve immediately, but it can be clumsy to search for the best when you don’t really know what you’re shopping for.
Similar flash-fire problems that require immediate hires manifest in the software development world as well. A product might be good to go, but perhaps a Stripe integration is deemed essential at the last minute, and a specialized fixer needs to be brought on board to turn the project out quickly.
Whatever the situation, businesses will occasionally need to hire someone to do something very quickly and in a very specific manner.
I’ve hired more than 200 people in my career, and I’d estimate that five percent of them were rapid-turnaround hires, made within 48 hours. Some were amazing hires, a lot were really good. Here’s how we made it work.
Embrace the suckitude of having to hire quickly
It’s important to remember that time is actively working against you in rapid-hire scenario. It’s an uneven game and a lovely opportunity to make a costly mistake if you don’t play it well. This risk is perhaps offset if you have established a lot of resources and personal connections in your life, but regardless, you’re the under-pressure quarterback in this situation.
Is this a one-and-done problem, something that can be fixed permanently and within a limited timeframe? Or is yours a situation requiring longer-term backup right away?
A 2015 Glassdoor study finds that hiring policies of employers can have a large effect on the length of the interview process. Choosing to require group panel interviews, candidate presentations, background checks, skills tests and more each have a positive and statistically significant effect on hiring times. Be sure to examine your own policy and live by the carpenter’s wisdom of measuring twice and cutting once – it’s applicable in nearly every scenario, including this one.
Talk to experts that you can trust
Let’s revisit the lawyer example. If I need a lawyer quickly, I would call up a law firm I’ve worked with in the past or a lawyer that I trust to ask for recommendations of who they know might be available, and could they connect me as soon as possible.
You don’t even necessarily need to have a personal connection to get worthwhile advice from top-tier resources. You could get in touch with a prestigious law firm, one that notably charges top-dollar, and open by saying you can’t afford their services — could they recommend someone else?
Often times this works out well. Industry big dogs have relationships with people that they want to refer business to, and they understand lots of people can’t afford the best in the world. You don’t need to be a paying client to take advantage of high-dollar advice.
Next, I would simply turn to Google. Get creative with some search terms like “hire the best lawyer” or “hire great lawyers,” and check the top resources available for law, or whichever field you need help in.
I would Google job descriptions and cross-reference them against which skills and experience other people are expecting someone to have for that job. Browse job descriptions from top companies to see what they want for a given job. If you set such expectations at the outset of your search, you can calibrate a strong filter to help you zoom in on the people you want to work with.
It might sound so basic as to be silly, but I’d argue that there are few tools worth using beyond Google here. Obvious choices might bubble to the top of various conversations — LinkedIn, Monster.com, and the like — but these sites make recruiting more time-consuming. They are a great way to make the hiring process take longer.
Interview as many people as possible
The more interviews within your limited timeframe, the better. Not only do you want to hire someone who can start quickly, but you want to hire the best as well. The more interviews you conduct, the more comparisons you can fairly make between candidates. This is the only way to fairly determine why you like someone for a job description more than someone else.
Avoid the potential mistakes
Don’t hire the first person you interview unless it’s in an area that you know extremely well.
Structure your recruiting in whichever way makes the most sense to you; it might be as simple as writing down a thoughtful checklist of non-negotiables you want to see in your new employee’s skillset.
Be diligent in fact-checking a candidate’s resume. What actually was this candidate’s level of involvement in a project that he or she features prominently on a resume? Just because someone writes down that they grew a company from 100 million to 500 million users doesn’t mean they necessarily had any meaningful involvement to that end at all. At best, this person is a valuable resource ready to be snapped up by your company. At worst, the candidate is trying to attribute luck and success to himself based off of someone else’s work. Ask the tough metaphysical question of candidates’ resumes: What is the truth?
At the end, follow your best intuition. Not everyone does, so be very cognizant of this — I’ll reiterate the “measure twice, cut once” aphorism here.
Rounding it up
The rapid-fire hire is not an ideal scenario, but there are reasonable steps you can take to make it a low-impact process that leaves you better off than you started. The more time you spend with someone going through the recruiting process and the more expectations you set, even in the short-term, the better off you both are for the long-term experience that follows.
There are very few tech platforms worth engaging to make your quest for the right candidate easier. Some solutions will help you frontload the interview process, but these simply aren’t the same as actually interviewing somebody. Maybe there are gains in efficiency to operating this way, but we haven’t seen it at my own company, Toptal. The gains we see come from open technology, like the Internet.
A well-executed Google search will always be better than a thoughtful LinkedIn search. Seek expert opinion, do your own research, and set expectations clearly.
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