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Startup Founder and Recruiter-in-Chief: Converting Candidates to Employees

Updated: Jan 17

In my last post, I discussed the screening and interview process we went through at RecruitLoop. We had identified not one but two great candidates. We assumed the hard work was done. Negotiating the offers should be the easy part, right? Wrong.

Negotiating the offer

Time required: 20+ hours

This process was, surprisingly, almost as fraught and time-consuming as the process of selecting the actual candidates.

To understand why, it’s helpful to consider the process from the point of view of the highly qualified person you’re negotiating with. When a startup makes an offer to someone like this, they are, essentially, asking the candidate to make some pretty huge leaps of faith, including:

  • Taking a ‘significant’ salary cut;

  • Potentially relocating to a different part of the country; and

  • Taking a career risk on a company that has yet to be established.

Sure, you’ve done your best to sell them on your company’s vision and potential. But eventually, the numbers and the hard reality do factor in.

We didn’t take a cookie-cutter approach and we always kept in mind that we’d found truly great people, who fit our culture and who we believed would make a significant difference to our company.

Looking back, here are a few things we did right:

  • We were completely transparent about what was and wasn’t possible.

  • We shared external benchmarks for salary and equity to add objectivity to these sensitive discussions. The salary tool on AngelList was immensely helpful for comparison—at least once we removed a few outliers.

  • We invested the time needed to understand their priorities, limitations, and circumstances.

  • We always negotiated in good faith. The negotiation process isn’t just about getting someone to say yes. It also gives your potential hires insight into who you are as a leader. Our ultimate goal was to bring our desired candidates on board with no hard feelings on how it all went down.

I believe this was a fundamental part of building a strong relationship with candidates before they actually got started.

Nailing the hiring process

We consider the ‘hiring’ stage to begin once a candidate has actually accepted the offer. This process also requires a significant chunk of time. Be sure to involve a lawyer if you haven’t already, since you’ll need the following:

  • Offer letter

  • Proprietary Invention Assignment Agreements (PIAA)

  • Options plan setup

  • Confirmation that you’ve followed various HR compliance steps

We managed this process using Zenefits, which took 99% of the hassle out of ensuring compliance.  After you upload your offer letters and legal agreements, Zenefits manages e-signatures, storage, and compliance documents, making sure your new hires are ready to hit payroll.


Onboarding new employees is really a two-pronged process. First, there’s the logistics of getting new employees up and running (tactical on-boarding). Then, there’s the softer process of sharing company norms, and understanding each other’s work and communication styles (cultural on-boarding).

As an entrepreneur, it might be tempting to fast forward over through this part to get to the exciting moment when you will get to work with the fantastic people you just hired. But getting this part right will determine how quickly they can ramp up and deliver what you need.

  • Our tactical list included steps like:

  • Adding hires to GoogleApps: email, calendar, GoogleDocs

  • Adding hires to shared Dropbox folders

  • Adding hires to our Yammer account

  • Creating logins for SaaS services, including email marketing, CRM, and Google Analytics

  • Sharing the most important and up-to-date documents on strategy, product roadmap, priorities and more.

  • Making sure they had a desk in our co-working space

Being able to use cloud services definitely made the whole process less painful.

Although it consumed a significant amount of time, the process was extremely worthwhile.

We made two awesome hires that we all felt confident would take our company to the next level. And we learned valuable lessons about how to make this process go more smoothly in the future. In my next post, I’ll share my key takeaways.

Guest b​logger Michael Overell is the co-founder and CEO at RecruitLoop, a marketplace for elastic recruiting. You can follow him @mboverell. This article was originally posted on the RecruitLoop Blog to document Michael’s experience to make his first two key hires.


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