Talent Sourcing 101: How To Fill the Top of Your Hiring Funnel

Get ready for the long haul. In our latest 2022 State of the SaaS Talent Market report, companies are experiencing a significant increase in time-to-hire this year than in previous years.

For external search firms, they averaged a 68-day process pre-2021, only to see that time frame nearly double to 130 days in 2022. And for internal recruitment teams, what was a 77-day process in prior years has increased by 23 percent to take nearly 95 days.

State of SaaS Talent report shows the increase in time it takes to hire new talent

With that increase comes significant impacts to your business. It pushes out the timeline from identifying key responsibilities for this role, to meeting goals and of course, building out a team and filling your hiring funnel.

Companies looking to mitigate those impacts are starting their searches for key hires earlier, in anticipation for a much longer process. But with the state of the current talent market, just sourcing prospective candidates is like finding needles in a haystack.

How can companies succeed in sourcing—and closing on—the people their businesses need to grow?

We recently chatted with Keith Cline of VentureFizz about our report, and how businesses can leverage its key findings to create an effective talent sourcing and outreach strategy.

How to start building your outreach pipeline

The initial sourcing strategy and pipeline build is an integral piece of your search that people often overlook. It starts with the CEO or the hiring manager identifying the top 25 to 50 companies that they really look up to in terms of hiring for this role.

Maybe these companies have a similar go-to-market motion, scale, problem that they’re tackling, or a similar domain experience. Your first action should be to look at companies where your unicorn hire could be sitting right now.

The next step is to surf around on LinkedIn. While time consuming, this process is worth it just to get an accurate idea of who’s out there. You and your hiring team will be able to get a feel for different types of profiles, people’s professional backgrounds , their focus areas, and what’s going to be right for this role.

If you’re unable to find someone who meets your ideal expectations on LinkedIn, you will need to sort out your priorities for these candidates. Consider putting more thought into what criteria are must-haves versus nice-to-haves.

By going through this process, you’re already saving time by adjusting your expectations to fit your prospective candidate pool. From here, you’re ready to build your initial pipeline of 50 to 75 people to reach out to.

How to send messages that get candidates on the phone

To compete for top talent, you’ll need to create a great candidate experience throughout the interview process. And that starts with your initial outreach. Who you connect with and how you approach them reflects your company’s brand and culture.

It’s a fact that the average candidate interviews with nearly eight companies before making a choice. So in being thoughtful with your outreach, you create a genuine opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Additionally, your prospective candidates are likely interviewing with five or six businesses at a time. And if a candidate’s calendar is already close to capacity, they are a lot less likely to prioritize getting back to a business—especially after receiving some generic email from a junior person on an internal talent acquisition team.

Going from identifying prospective candidates to getting them to agree to a phone call with you becomes far dicier and less likely. That said, some of the most actionable and valuable findings from our report include rankings of candidate’s preferred outreach methods. When you take candidates’ preferences into account, you automatically increase your chance of piquing their interest. At the top of this list are introductions directly from venture capital (VC) or private equity (PE) firms, CEO or executive outreach, and peer referrals.

What do these three methods have in common? They can all help attract candidates who aren’t actively looking for new roles.

Using successful methods for candidate outreach

By way of VC/PE introductions or CEO outreach, even candidates who are not actively looking for a new role may be encouraged to jump on a call. They may see the outreach as having the added benefit of broadening their network while keeping an eye on the industry. With VCs in particular, a candidate can build a connection that extends across the VC’s entire portfolio. Even if the timing isn’t right at the moment, it can be an incredibly valuable connection for them in the future.

Peer referrals are also appreciated by candidates because of how inherently personal they are. A candidate may tend to trust the judgment of someone who knows them and thinks they’d be a great fit for an open position at their company. That initial olive branch offering can make them more inclined to jump on a call.

No matter what strategy you choose, explain why you have decided to reach out to them specifically in your message. The more thoughtful you can be upfront, the more you will stand out to candidates who are receiving multiple messages a day.

How to encourage referrals from current employees

A sure-fire way to encourage employees to refer to people in their network is to pay them—or pay them even more than you were before. But oftentimes, your employees will underestimate how many people they know in their network. When asked if they know anyone who’d be a good fit for an open position, most people tend to seek someone by memory in the first 10 to 30 seconds. If no one comes to mind by then, they’re likely to give up and go on with their day.

What we’ll do at OpenView—and what we’re seeing a lot of our portfolio companies do as well—is utilize a feature on LinkedIn that allows you to send everyone in the firm a link to a preloaded advanced search. You can search for specific keywords, locations, job titles, or companies of people that you’re targeting your search to. Anyone with a LinkedIn account—even just the free basic profile—who receives this link will be able to simply click on it and it will populate with all their connections who fit the search criteria.

Another way to take full advantage of your employee’s networks is to take a more holistic approach to hiring as a company. A lot of businesses only look to fill open roles as they come up. Instead, talk to your employees about the type of talent you’re looking to attract. If they find someone in their network that they believe is a good fit for your business in general, encourage employees to make the referral.

We’ve had one company incentivize employees to introduce five people to the business. These people didn’t have to be actively looking, and they didn’t need to be a perfect fit for an open role right now. That’s five more people in the company’s network that they can potentially leverage in the future.

Your people are your business. Make sure you emphasize to your employees that it is in everyone’s best interest to hire the very best people.

How to engage candidates throughout the hiring process

Now you’ve successfully filled your hiring funnel remember that the challenge doesn’t stop there. Candidates are becoming extra selective with the opportunities they choose to pursue. They’re eager to find out if your opportunity is the right opportunity for them, and if it isn’t, they have no shortage of other options.

Follow these three tips to help candidates stay engaged in the interview process, and ultimately be excited about a future at your company:

  • Invest time into selling the opportunity upfront. It’s important to understand that your candidate’s first few touch points with your company are not interviews. We recommend that the first 30-minute call with someone in your company centers around answering the candidate’s questions, selling the opportunity, and setting the hook. Some companies choose to share a candidate sell deck that outlines not only why they’ll like your business, but how it’s the best place for them to come and build their career.
  • Plan on an expedited interview process. If you found a 10-out-of-10 candidate on paper, would you be able to bring them through the interview process within two business weeks? With so much competition from other employers, working in a two-week timeframe may be necessary to keep top talent interested. Align your interviewing team to ensure that your process is both effective and efficient.
  • Be transparent about your business. Candidates are going to want a peek under the hood before they commit to signing. Give them the data they want to see about your business performance earlier in the process. Consider having them sign an NDA so you can share more specific information.
Steve Melia
Steve Melia
Partner at OpenView

Steve works with OpenView portfolio companies to identify and recruit high-impact senior executives and board members. Prior to OV, Steve was a Principal at True Search, a globally retained executive search firm. At True, he led executive searches across scaling venture and private-equity backed technology companies. Steve started his career at Korn Ferry, the largest executive search firm in the world, focusing on CEO/Board and CFO searches for fortune 2000 companies.
Maggie Crean
Maggie Crean

Maggie is a Talent Manager at OpenView. She focuses on helping founders build out their executive teams.
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