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Why Your Hiring Strategy Should Prioritize Talent Infrastructure

Will Reed | April 14, 2023| 5 min. read
Bird on a fence

This article was originally published by Will Reed and does not necessarily reflect the perspective of Insight Partners. Insight Partners is an investor in Will Reed.

What’s In Your Hiring Strategy?

When it comes to early-stage startups, founders and leaders sometimes need to “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes to decision-making. And sure, this approach can work for a lot of things (like where to put the nitro cold brew coffee tap). But there are many critical aspects of early-stage startups that need methodical and proven processes, because of the weight of these decisions. This includes using a hiring strategy for recruiting new talent, especially when it comes to critical leadership roles, like vice presidents.

For early-stage startups, every hire matters, because every new team member has the power to influence the company’s work production, goals, and culture. And because of this, executive hires are even more critical, and there’s even less room for error. In short: bringing on the right leaders is essential, which is where a hiring strategy comes into play.

And of course, one of the most important executive roles to hire for is the position of vice president. A startup’s first vice president will yield incredible power in influencing the trajectory of the company, and startup leaders need to make sure that their first vice president is 100% a perfect fit.

Why Build a Recruiting Strategy?

Why build a recruiting strategy in the first place? Aside from the “set it and forget it” strategy of writing job descriptions and posting them online, is there more work that needs to go into an early-stage startup’s hiring strategy?

Recruiting strategies take the guesswork and chance out of hiring for startups, and instead, gives startups a detailed blueprint to follow that’s goal-oriented and precise. Excellent hiring strategies can help startups attract top-talent, and eventually make their perfectly-timed dream hires. On the other hand, approaching hiring without a recruiting strategy can be haphazard and reactive, and can lead to hiring mistakes.

The truth is that perfect-match candidates can be difficult to come by. Excellent talent can sometimes take some effort to locate. A majority of potential job candidates are passive, but are willing to hear about new opportunities.

What exactly does this all mean? It means that great talent can be hard to come by, especially when it comes to executives. And the best way to reach executives (like your new future vice president) is to develop an excellent hiring strategy.

How Is Hiring Execs Different?

With all of that in mind, it’s important to remember that hiring executives is very different from hiring individual contributors, and they require a tailored hiring strategy. These business-critical hires can be tricky to get right, with data showing that 50% of newly-hired executives are considered to be “failures in their roles,” and many executive positions are seeing growing turnover rates (CEOs are particularly impacted).

Hiring executives is different because these best-of-the-best hires need to not only match the educational and professional qualifications for the executive role, but also the culture and goals of the company as a whole. In order to hire a candidate who is a match across the board and who can help take an early-stage startup to untold heights, a targeted hiring strategy is necessary.

What to Consider Improving in Your VP Hiring Strategy

With that in mind, let’s do a deep-dive into the hiring strategy for bringing on a vice president. Bringing on a VP might be the most specific of the hiring strategies, and it needs a very intentional approach. Here are ways you can consider improving your VP hiring strategy.

Employer Brand

Employer branding is increasingly considered a crucial factor in a hiring strategy, especially when it comes to hiring executives. Lack of brand awareness has historically been cited as a significant barrier to recruitment, and it can be an even more challenging obstacle to overcome when we’re talking about hiring executives.

For early-stage startups, it might be difficult to lean on your brand just yet. Even if your brand lacks the recognition it’s destined to one day have, there are a few things you can do now to make sure your employer brand is as strong as possible.

First, shore up the reputation of your employer brand. Studies show us that most candidates will research companies, and base their decision to apply on employee reviews. In order to do this, you can ask your happiest employees to leave you rave reviews on different job platforms.

Next, focus on your employer value proposition, or EVP. This is the complete set of offerings your startup gives employees beyond just standard compensation. This means that in addition to a competitive executive salary, there needs to be other perks of working at your startup, that make the work “worth it” for a top-tier executive.

Lastly, you can hone in on the employee experience. Employees who have a positive experience aren’t only going to be happier, but they’re going to work better. When your current team is productive, efficient, and happy, your potential new executives will be more than happy to join the ranks.

Creating Compelling Job Posts

Ah, job posts. They’re definitely not what they used to be, and writing that you’re looking for a “highly motivated self-starter” just isn’t going to cut it anymore, especially when it comes to hiring executives. In order for a startup to level-up its hiring strategy, job posts need to be action and goal-oriented. For vice presidents, job posts can include elements such as:

  • Who will be reporting to them, and what teams they’ll have ownership of.
  • What the day-to-day is expected to look like on day 30, day 60, day 90, and day 120.
  • What strategies and goals this executive will be responsible for conceptualizing and taking ownership of.
  • What communication will look like.
  • Professional and educational requirements, along with what cultural requirements the startup is looking to meet.
  • The startup’s core values.

This Requires You to Truly Understand the Role

One of the trickiest parts about writing compelling job posts for executive roles is deeply understanding the role in the first place. It might seem like executive roles are obvious, and that they come with clear responsibilities. But the truth is that executive roles need to be formed with clear guidance and responsibilities.

To understand the role, startup leaders can ask themselves why they want to hire for this role in the first place. What responsibilities, teams, and goals are they looking for someone to take ownership of, and what new talent and skills do they want their vice president to bring to the table?

Honing in on the Interview Process

Revamping a startup’s hiring strategy means also revamping its interview process. That’s because when you have your dream candidate on the line, you don’t want them to walk away due to a misstep in the interview process. Here are ways leaders can hone in on the interview process:

  • Establish your interview strategy: You don’t want candidates to unnecessarily repeat themselves in multiple rounds of interviews for no reason. Ensure that each tier of your interview process is intentional and planned, so that each interview achieves a new goal in the interview process.
  • Tighten up your timeline: The executive interview process can’t be drawn out, because it can cost you excellent candidates. We’ve found that the best candidates only stay on the market for 10 days, while the average search process can take upwards of 90 days (that’s why here at Will Reed, we run searches that take 45 days on average).
  • Be clear with your needs and offer: In order to find their dream vice president, startup leaders need to be clear about what they’re looking for, and what they’re offering. The job description is a great blueprint for sharing and obtaining this information (when written thoroughly, it can be used as a checklist).

Onboarding Employees and Setting Them Up for Success

The hiring process doesn’t end once the ink has dried on a new executive contract. A crucial part of any hiring strategy is the onboarding process, so that that a startup’s new executives are set up for success. Ensure that onboarding happens at a steady, consistent pace, and that for executive roles, it’s the proper balance of technical onboarding and social onboarding. Also be sure to onboard new executives to the startup’s cultural expectations, not only the hard skills required for the job.

How Does This All Tie Into a Formal Talent Infrastructure?

Hiring top-tier talent for executive positions like vice presidents goes far beyond posting a job and waiting. Instead, hiring for these positions requires a detailed and proactive hiring strategy, supported by formal talent infrastructure at an organization. When there’s a formal talent infrastructure in place, a startup’s employer branding, job postings, interview process, and onboarding will all contribute to the recruitment of new executives, and will ensure their success for years to come.


Note: This article has been updated to reflect the current hiring landscape.