1 to 500: Recruit + Retain Top Talent Like Former Ziprecruiter SVP of Sales

Posted by: Team Outlander

Posted on 08/31/2022

1 to 500: Recruit + Retain Top Talent Like Former Ziprecruiter SVP of Sales

Recruiting and retaining talent is critical for scaling your startup.

As your business grows, hiring a team to turn your vision into reality creates an inevitable founder dilemma: how do you find top-tier candidates and inspire them to join you? How can you effectively screen for rockstar candidates at scale? And once you’ve assembled your dream team, how do you keep them inspired by your vision long-term?

Luckily, we hosted former SVP of Ziprecruiter and people expert Kevin Gaither for an Outlandish Speaker Series, where he shared his tried-and-true recruitment best practices and lessons from his mistakes along the way.

Recruitment Dos + Don’ts

From his time at multiple early-stage companies to growing Ziprecruiters’ sales team from 1-500+ employees, Kevin likens recruitment to dating. So, regardless of your recruitment method, keep “swiping right” until you find a candidate who excites you, avoid trying to force a fit, and beware of settling because you’re tired of looking!

Here are a few key aspects to always consider when evaluating potential matches:

✅ Define what great means. 

Before you start swiping, understand what a “great” fit for this position means in quantifiable ways. First, think of your ideal candidate, then make a list of the specific characteristics, experiences, skills, etc., that will help them succeed in the role

✅ Create benchmarks and systems for evaluating employees. 

Now that you’ve outlined your ideal candidate, it’s time to date! While interviewing, evaluate your potential hires against your ideal candidate. Using your ideal candidate as a rubric will enable you to screen and rank potential hires efficiently and effectively at scale.

🛑 Try cloning a top performer. 

When looking to expand a team, searching for a clone of already existing team members is a mistake. Using a real person as your screening rubric often leads to dead ends and potentially overlooking even better talent from a different background. Instead, reflect on what characteristics, experiences, skills, etc., enabled your top performers to succeed in their roles, then evaluate which potential hires share those qualities. 

🛑 Force yourself into liking a candidate. 

If recruitment is like dating, hiring is like marriage. In both arenas, Kevin’s advice is the same: don’t take the plunge unless it’s love! In HR-compliant terms, don’t settle for a candidate that doesn’t excite you. If a potential hire requires extensive internal convincing, they probably are not the best fit for the job.

Retention Dos + Don’ts 

After finding a rockstar candidate, it’s time to put a ring on it! The hiring process is arduous and time-consuming, so retaining your dream team is a top priority.

From the day they enter the office to their promotion to high-level management, it’s essential to create the best possible environment for employees to keep them inspired long term.

✅ Prioritize onboarding.

From the first day on the job, employees should have explicit schedules with proper training in all aspects of the business with clear delineations of how their role fits into the puzzle. New employees are not set up to succeed without adequate onboarding, which will inevitably upset the balance of their teammates, too. After the strategic decision to hire a top-tier candidate, avoid the tactical mistake of poor onboarding at all costs.

✅ Set clear expectations. 

In order to both motivate and provide security for employees, it is essential to have clear expectations on goals, firing thresholds, and company culture norms. Likewise, employees expect their performance to be reflected in promotions and pay raises. So, setting clear, quantifiable benchmarks—via sales numbers or other measurable metrics—allows them to run towards concrete goals from day one. 

🛑 Prioritize results > culture. 

Prioritizing performance alone sends the implicit message that it’s every person for themselves—quickly killing team-wide collaboration and individual motivation. Success at the expense of company culture is a sure-fire way to lose rockstar employees to companies led by more empathetic leaders who value their high-performing employees as human beings, too.

🛑 Jump straight to firing employees. 

While it’s sometimes inevitable, firing talent should be a last resort. Get curious about why your rockstar candidate is falling short. If they looked so good on paper, what is getting in the way of their success under your leadership? In the interim, finding different roles for struggling employees should be the goal of managers.

Organize for culture

The team you hire will directly impact your startup’s capacity to adapt and grow, so being thoughtful from recruitment through retention should be a high priority for founding teams. And as your company grows, you must build recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and employee retention processes that can scale with your organization and set each team member up to succeed in executing your vision.

The tools Kevin Gaither amassed through years of experience provide a vetted framework. Still, the specifics on how you execute these Dos and Don’ts will vary based on your company’s specific context and experiences—just like dating!

For more expert advice on building and scaling your startup, check out our event library and Field Notes.

Team Outlander

Kevin Gaither, Former SVP of Sales, ZipRecruiter



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