Tips on Recruiting Executives Part I [On Atlassian]

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We are in the midst of recruiting for a vice president of marketing. Even though we are still working on it, I thought I would share some of what we do during the initial stages of recruiting. Here I am concentrating on attracting candidates, finding candidates, and filtering resumes.

Here are eight key elements to how we start the recruiting process:

  1. Write a great ad – Why do companies continually forget how important this is? Be specific about why your company would be a great place to work at, what’s so interesting about the job, or what is it about the scope of responsibilities that will challenge someone. Make it compelling. I believe this job we’re recruiting for is a great job, so I tried to make it sound like it. I wrote our ad on Linkedin which will expire soon, so it’s here.
  2. Remember Karma – How do you like to be treated when you look for a job? Well, that’s how you should treat applicants. Answer every single email application. Even if you get swamped, do it; if you’re late, apologize but do it eventually. You should treat any candidate at any level with respect. Because industries are small, you are more likely to run into senior people again in your career, so act accordingly. Three of the applicants for our VP job included: a well know Silicon Valley blogger who is a good friend, a local industry analyst who knows our space well, and a founder of a software company where I once interviewed to be CEO. Tables turn. Don’t forget Karma.
  3. Don’t rely on ads; leverage your best networks – We have had 75 applicants, many very good on paper, through Linkedin. But our best candidates came through referrals from Mike’s network, and Anthony’s.
  4. Filter, filter, filter – The higher the expectations and the greater the responsibility for the job, the more important it is to be exacting about filtering resumes and not wasting candidates’ or your time. I do believe in the Best Athelete theory which says the best person may not be the one with the perfect functional experience, but instead the brightest, sharpest, highest potential one. With senior people, however, you are hiring experience, so this needs to dominate your initial filtering.

    Occasionally I let a left-of-center candidate through because there is something compelling in her/his background. But experience dominates the first filtering. Executive search people say, “the best indicator of future performance is past performance”.

  5. Bad resumes tell a lot – I hate bad resumes, and that generally means most of them. My three biggest annoyances on resumes are:
    • Lists of skills, strengths, accomplishment, and capabilities, instead of background by job. Experience matters, and not a candidate’s interpretation.
    • Vague chronology. I like seeing jobs by month and year. If you have ever been interviewed by executive search recruiters from firms like Heidrick & Struggles or Korn Ferry, they get precise chronology.
    • Long resumes. This is partially a US thing because in other countries long resumes are common, but I hate them. One of our applicants is a SVP from a Top 10 tech company, and his resume is two pages. Most mortals fit on two pages.

    Cover letters are where it’s OK for candidates to sell themselves, although the degree to which someone reveals some understanding of us matters a lot. Bad cover letters say a lot. If a candidate does not take the time to write a good cover letter, then how much do they really want this job?

  6. Filter with email questions – If you just received 20 resumes, and aside from the one really good resume, and the eighteen that don’t fit, what do you do with the one that’s interesting but borderline? Send them an email asking three tough questions. My favorite question is: what challenges do you think Atlassian faces? This forces some thinking, and is a great question in a first interview as well.
  7. Network with some candidates – I generally make a few Linkedin connections during a search because the person has some interesting skills but we do don’t need them now, or I may know someone who could use these skills. This relates to the Karma Rule above.
  8. Have a backup plan (if you can afford it) – Before starting the search I lined up a great executive recruiter who I have trusted as an employer and as a candidate. I gave us 45 days to succeed on our own. So far, so good. Executive recruiters are painfully expensive, and most of them are not worth it. But at some point, if you have a critical hire, such as this one is for us, you cannot screw around.

I’ll blog Part II when we complete the search.

4 responses to “Tips on Recruiting Executives Part I [On Atlassian]

  1. Pingback: Atlassian is Hiring a VP of Marketing| Zoli’s Blog

  2. Great post. Just some thoughts on the cover letter section…Remember that the prime objective of sending a cover letter with your resume is to land a job interview NOT land the job. If you keep this in mind, you will be able to keep the cover letter brief and to the point.

  3. Pingback: Tips on Recruiting Executives Part II [On Atlassian] « Radiowalker: Tech Business Beat

  4. Nice marketing and business tips, thanks .

    considering a backup plan or lets call it a plan B is always necessary .

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