Step-By-Step Guide to Recruiting and Tools

Name Tim Shieh Platform Associate at Pillar VC

Recruiting is one of the most valuable ways startup founders spend their time. Here’s a step-by-step guide with action items below.


  1. Write a job description that captures who you’re looking for and why this role is exciting. Remember to pay attention to how potential candidates will perceive your culture and brand at the beginning of the application process. Use this job description template to get started and read our guide to writing a great JD here.
  2. Create an interview rubric with a grid of the “need to have” and the “nice to have” skills. Socialize this rubric with your team to make sure you’re aligned on the requirements of the role. Then, you can map assessment approaches to these skills. In addition to the clear job skills candidates will need, consider these underrated qualities to look for in candidates from First Round ReviewHere’s an interview rubric template on Google Sheets to get you started.
  3. Create a budget for the role based on market rates. Keep in mind these are dependent on function and geography. You can find our guide to compensation data here.
  4. Map out the interview process by aligning internally on who needs to meet with the candidate in order to make a hiring decision. For a small team, that might be this person’s direct manager and the CEO. In bigger organizations, a recruiter might take a first pass at explaining the role to the candidate before being passed onto the hiring manager. Consider defining different interview roles. Are there some skills everyone will vet for (e.g. values fit / culture add) and others specific interviewers will test for (e.g. technical ability)? This is also a good time to figure out when and how you will sync to compare interview notes.

Sourcing and Tracking

  1. Now that you have your job description, post the application link  to your website and third-party job platforms such as Linkedin, AngelList and Handshake.
  2. Set up a spreadsheet or ATS system that keeps track of applications as they come in. Here’s an Airtable template we like to use. We’ve also compiled a list of ATS systems by price points below.
  3. Now that the application link is up, it’s time to dial up outbound outreach. Use LinkedIn to build an initial target list of people who fit your target profile and identify backgrounds of your potential hire.
  4. Source candidates through direct messages (Linkedin Messaging , Twitter DMs or Email). Great candidates are in careers they love – your job is to convince them to make a change and join your rocketship.
  5. Call on mentors, advisors, investors and board members in your network. Share your job description and ask them to make introductions on your behalf.
  6. Promote the role on social media (Linkedin and Twitter). Other communication channels may include a newsletter or Slack community.
  7. Post your job in communities and groups where candidates spend time in such as student clubs and industry interest groups.
  8. If you’re a company with a following, hiring through your community is a great way to engage your followers and finding someone passionate about your product and brand.

Bonus Tips

  • Take Linkedin to the next level with Linkedin Premium Job Slots and Linkedin Recruiter. 

Linkedin Premium Job Slots promote roles to passive candidates in their feed. Linkedin Recruiter is more expensive, but helps you filter for search terms and candidates with backgrounds you’re looking for. Ask your investors if they already have seats in Linkedin Premium or Recruiter they could share with portfolio companies.

  • Make your 1:1 outreach messages personal and non-transactional

Share a piece of information that’s relevant to their current role. Let them know that you’re looking for people like them; you’re flattering them, but also letting them know that you think of them as a candidate, whether they choose to apply or to refer you to someone in their network.  Once you’ve built up a relationship with someone, you can then make the ask of if they’d consider making a change in their career. 

  • Highlight a project the candidate will be excited about in the job posting.

Instead of a standard “we’re hiring” message, focus instead on what is something exciting the company is working on. For example, if you’re looking for a full-stack engineer in Python, the caption might highlight a cool project that you’re working on in Python, with a call to action of “do you want to work on this too?” This gives prospective hires a better understanding of what they might get their hands on and tangible experiences they can take away from spending time at your company.

  • Consider hiring a part-time consultant to handle the administration and scheduling of recruiting.
  • Consider working with an external recruiter or search firm to expand your network for high-impact roles or a functional area where you’re under-networked. Read our guide on working with a search firm here.
  • Remember you are selling the opportunity just as much as you’re evaluating candidates. Communicate the vision of your company and why it’s a compelling opportunity for someone to leave their current position. Do this by sharing how the company is doing financially, how it’s positioned to win the market and adding credibility through your investors. Explain the long-term roadmap and how this person will help drive overall company goals.

These are some go-to tools for sourcing and tracking candidates.

  • ATS Systems
  • Sourcing (Tech)
  • Sourcing (Biotech and Life Sciences)
  • Sourcing (DE&I)