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Guiding Philosophies for Recruiting World Class Teams in Tech

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Holly May
July 10, 2019

As the Head of People at a fast growing tech startup in San Francisco, I’ve had the pleasure to meet hundreds of candidates and refine the way we approach hiring and talent at Datavant.

These are my guiding philosophies, which may help other teams who are developing their approach to talent acquisition.

  1. ABR: Always be recruitin’ — it never stops, you never know where you’ll find the next great person. I’ve recruited at friends’ weddings and spun up career conversations with the spouse/+1s I meet at company events. Ask people what great people they know. You’ll be surprised at how often this generates a lead.
  2. Selling from the start — great people can work anywhere, we want them to want to work at Datavant the most. Build rapport from the start. Share content about the company, vision, hiring philosophies, and what it takes to succeed.
  3. Speed wins — this is the easiest and most in-your-control way to stand out. Speed and responsiveness tell candidate they matter and we care. Slowness tells them they’re not important priorities. Many recruiting processes at less nimble companies have weeks elapse between touch points. Our goal is 24 hour response time on all candidate touch points, no matter what. And for our whole process, we aim for phone screen 1 to verbal offer in 2.5 weeks, and only deviate from this due to candidate constraints.
  4. Know what makes your company different — There are dozens of dimensions that candidates may use to drive their choices: mission, industry, product, geography, role, culture, manager, mentorship, fun, short-term compensation, equity, caliber of talent, growth opportunities, and more. At Datavant, we win on rate of growth, impact on the world, and caliber of team. We don’t win on all attributes (and we don’t try to), but on those 3, we’re world-class. More on “Why Datavant”.
  5. A world class team should represent the world — we embody an open borders approach to talent, we sponsor visas and immigration support even as an early stage company, despite the administrative and legal costs. We want our team to reflect the world we aim to improve, not the bubble we live in.
  6. Diversity matters — Both the kinds of diversity you can see with your eyes and those you cannot matter. It’s critical to show a candidate the cross-section of team members they’ll have. We are building a warm, welcoming, and inclusive workplace (ice cream happy hours more often than bar happy hours; family-friendly work social events, etc). The team has a wide aperture on what constitutes diversity. Different mindsets, backgrounds, political and philosophical views, different kinds of prior employers, and educational backgrounds all shape a multi-faceted team that will find effective solutions faster.
  7. Know what the candidate needs to say yes before offering — We tell candidates how our offer closing process works so they’re not surprised; throughout the process, I try to uncover what they really want and need in their next role — easily covered in a behavioral interview or debrief after an onsite day. Our approach is to encourage a winning candidate to lean into a verbal agreement before papering it.
  8. Make offer-granting a joyful celebration — We start enveloping them in warmth and knowledge as soon as the proverbial ink is dry. This is a big, emotional moment for a new teammate. Hiring managers excitedly announce each new hire to the full team, usually within 30 minutes of offers being accepted, and invite every employee to send the new Datavanter a welcome email (we call it ‘digital welcome hugs’). Shortly after, we send a light-hearted box with tshirts and branded hoodies, a noise maker, maraca, and bright colored candy and other Datavant swag. Then we start the onboarding process with pre-readings and company info so they starting to ramp up before day 1.

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