Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring 101: A Founder’s Guide. Part 7 - Hiring marketplaces

Steve Bartel

Steve Bartel

CEO and Co-Founder

Posted on

January 29, 2024

Hiring marketplaces can be a great source of high-quality candidates as you scale, but we recommend you use them only as a Plan B behind in-network hires in the early days.

In practice, most early-stage companies don't find success with the marketplace model due to several downsides (cost, fit, less likely to close). If you decide to use a hiring marketplace, make sure you have the money to do so, do heavy pre-qualification, and use a platform like Triplebyte that also helps with the technical screening.

Potential downsides of hiring marketplaces

While hiring marketplaces can be a good source of high-quality candidates that are looking now, they have a few downsides:

  • Most candidates on hiring marketplaces will lean towards other options that are known quantities or offer more stability and/or more cash.

  • Candidates you meet on hiring marketplaces have tons of options making them less likely to close.

  • Hiring marketplaces can be costly: $25k for an experienced engineer.

If you aren’t careful, you’ll spend a lot of time interviewing candidates that never close. If you do finally close someone, you’ll spend a hefty fee. For these reasons, we always recommend starting with your network.

Pre-qualifying hiring marketplace candidates

The key with Hired or Triplebyte is to do qualification early on to filter out candidates who will never join your startup in the first place. In this case, what you’re looking for are candidates who have a high risk-appetite, care less about cash comp, want to learn, and wear many hats.

While it’s always important to make discovery early, the types of things you’re trying to get signal on will be slightly different for Triplebyte candidates. Essentially, spend less time getting signal on how good they are (Triplebyte should already give you a base-line here) and spend more time testing for how serious they are about joining your startup. This is all about asking the right questions in your initial conversation:

“What types of opportunities are you considering?”

  • Get a sense of the range of companies they’re looking at.

  • Ideally, get them to tell you the company names, but if they’re unwilling to share, ask them rough company size and/or funding round.

  • If you hear a candidate is interviewing at Dropbox / Facebook / Stripe, that’s probably a sign that they don’t want to join a small startup, and you aren’t going to close them.

  • At this point, I’d try to qualify them out to avoid the high cost of evaluating and selling a candidate that won’t likely close.

    • “It sounds like you’re interviewing at Stripe. Stripe is going to be pretty different from a small startup. Are you sure you want to interview with both? Why?” Have them convince you why and listen with a doubting ear.

“We’re a small startup. Have you thought about the tradeoffs of joining a small startup vs. a bigger company like Stripe?”

  • “No? Let me tell you.”

    • “Downsides: Lower cash. Higher-variance. More work.”

    • “Upsides: Higher-upside. Learn more & wear lots of hats. More fun.”

  • “Have you thought seriously about these tradeoffs and whether you’re willing to take a pay cut?”

Moving forward vs. qualifying out

You shouldn’t be doing a hard sell here. If it’s clear the candidate wants to optimize for cash or is risk-averse, that’s fine. Be up-front about the fact that it sounds like a small startup might not be what they’re looking for and offer to be helpful. Qualifying them out quickly is much better than reaching the offer stage only to discover that you can’t compete on cash.

If they start convincing themselves they want to do a small startup and/or convince you they’re serious, this accomplishes two things:

  1. You know they’re serious and can justify spending the time it takes to interview and sell the candidate.

  2. Having them verbalize to you that they’re going to seriously consider a small startup makes the candidate feel more committed to your interview process. There’s something powerful about having the candidate verbalize this themselves as it helps them understand their own rationale and propel them in one direction or another.

Up Next

If you’ve exhausted your options with hiring marketplaces, don’t worry, you still have more resources available. In part eight of our series, we’ll talk about recruiting agencies, when you should use them and when you shouldn’t, and how to pick the right agencies for the type of candidates you’re seeking.

In the meantime…


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