Recruiting top talent for web3 companies can be a challenging task.
Since the game is different from hiring in Web 2.0, the best in the business has managed to stake out some guiding principles for winning at talent in Web 3.0. In this special piece, we managed to gather insights from some of our favorite Web3 founders to share their magic.
As a bonus, we also added the guests’ favorite questions to ask during job interviews (see below).
Founders, Web3.0 Talent Acquisition enthusiasts, you should love this one!
Written with Web3-specialist recruiters
We were really lucky to talk to world-class web3 players
Left to right:
- Jason Shah, currently leads the product team at Alchemy, one of the major web3 infrastructure companies. And before that he lead product teams at Amazon, Airbnb, Microsoft, and Yammer. Learn more about him in this really great podcast with Lenny Rachitsky.
- Christopher Grilhault des Fontaines, the Co-founder & COO at Dfns, a developer tool providing secure, in-app wallets allowing teams to build and roll out user-friendly apps for crypto and DeFi, think of it as “Banking lego for crypto”.
- Myriam Bouclier (Talent Acquisition Manager) & Thomas de Phuoc (Co-founder & COO) from Kiln, a platform that aims to democratize institutional staking.
- Mathilde Néau, an experienced recruiter and now founder of Woody, a new gen job board dedicated to web3, gaming, design and AI tools.
What are the Web3 specific challenges
Web3 faces 3 specific challenges when it comes to hiring:
- New technology/industry = talent scarcity
As a relatively new technology, the talent pool is very limited, there are typically way more frontend developers out there than cryptographers or blockchain engineers. Even talent who come from web2 and who can be precious to web3 projects, such as security, infra or devops engineers, are in high demand across all industries, so much so that even the recent layoffs that we have seen recently from Google, Meta, or Amazon didn’t let go these profiles. When you have good ones you simply keep them. All these reasons make it very difficult for companies to identify the very few who are (or can be) good for the job and convince them to join their mission.
- It's cyclical
The world of web3 and blockchain technology is constantly evolving, and this extends to the hiring market as well. One trend that has become increasingly apparent is the cyclical nature of web3 hiring. When the prices of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are on the rise and there is a lot of success and press coverage surrounding NFTs and startups fundraising, there tends to be a flood of talented individuals applying for jobs in the industry. However, when the market takes a downturn and there are scandals like the one with FTX, the number of job applications tend to decrease significantly.
“As web3 becomes more popular, we experience an influx of applications, whereas when its popularity wanes, there is a significant decline in activity” Thomas de Phuoc at Kiln
- Salary expectations can be very high
Web3 salaries are sometimes very high for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is that jobs that are common to both web3 and web2, such as infrastructure or DevOps, are already in very high demand and are crucial for big companies like Stripe, Salesforce, or Google. This means that salaries for these roles are already quite high in the industry. Additionally, as said earlier the talent pool is limited, which inexorably drives up salaries. Furthermore, we are in a post-covid era where remote work is becoming the norm, and companies are more willing to hire individuals from all over the world. But companies that raise the most funds are typically American ones, where salaries are some of the highest in the world, which highly contributes to the high salary standards in the industry.
“We still don’t have enough norms for Web3 positions in France, salary expectations are often indexed to the US market“ Thomas de Phuoc at Kiln
Convey your mission & impact throughout the hiring journey
Like any other web3 company, DFNS is facing these challenges, still, it has managed to assemble a mouth-watering combination of top talent to build the keyless wallet infrastructure for Web3.0, as emphasized by it’s Co-founder & COO, Christopher Grilhault des Fontaines, in his recent LinkedIn’s post.
It was not a coincidence, but rather the outcome of a meticulously planned and expertly executed strategy, combined with a great deal of maturity about the level of effort required to attract these top talents.
Christopher explained to us how he succeeded in poaching top talent in an industry dominated by hyped names and tantalizing salaries. DFNS started from day one by building an employer brand that brought >3000 applicants to their doorstep over just a couple of years. Putting in that kind of effort early gave them the liberty to maintain a super-competitive acceptance rate of less than <0.5% and only allow game-changers to their team of 40 (at the time of writing).
While the crypto industry and DFNS's pioneering product position have certainly played a role in attracting such strong candidates, the company's founders have also thought carefully about which elements of their employer brand will be most effective in attracting top talent. Just as he would for his product’s brand.
There are the must-have hygiene elements that wouldn’t surprise anyone: a detailed and well-written career page. A beautiful website, that drives trust through social proof, well-known logos, prestigious investors, and that describes well the product and the ambition of the project. As well as best practices like when a new prospect is exposed to Dfns they shouldn’t walk away without an impression of the strength of the mission, the prestige DFNS has earnt already (Techstars, Future40, …), the financial runway available to make a great hiring decision and the strength of the culture of working there. Throughout the hiring journey - which may start from an outreach message or the website, and ends with interviews - the candidate is gradually exposed to several strong arguments that can convince him to join the project.
Thomas de Phuoc (Co-founder & COO) and Myriam Bouclier (Talent Acquisition Manager) at Kiln, a platform that aims to democratize institutional staking, explained that they did embrace the same idea to such an extent that they prepared all their managers to the practice of sourcing talent, interviewing, and convincing them to join, through internal trainings. Especially when the team scales and founders can’t be doing all interviews anymore, but still attach a great importance to keeping the bar high both on skills and culture fit.
Another example of this “nothing is left to chance and every effort counts” mindset, is when new employees at DFNS pick up their 60 pages handbook, they quickly realize that it sets the tone for their entire employee experience at the company and that they haven't seen anything like it at other companies, even the big names. This reflects the maturity of the founders on the importance of talent management, from attraction to onboarding and employees' well-being.
This is time-consuming work, however, to get the results they have, lies in the art of identifying which of those elements will act as a lever delivering RoI-positive results to the attractiveness of the employer brand. Be it a career page (or even a notion page) rich with info that pulls candidates, or an expensive job board, or a time-consuming outbound technique on Twitter. In any case, invest enough, do it fast, and do it well.
If you have what people are looking for, you need to make sure that they are quickly aware of it. Then the question is: what web3 talent are looking for, what do they care about? They are looking to learn a lot, probably in web3 even more than in other industries, they want to have a lot of impact quickly, and move quickly in their careers. To attract top talent in this space, it's important to offer a compelling mission and the opportunity to build something meaningful together.
In the same vein, when we asked Jason Shah from Alchemy, THE web3 development platform, about whether it’s easier or harder to recruit for web3, he insisted on the mission & passion: “I would say it's different. It's easier because there is such a strong mission and so much passion for the space that finding people that want to work with us isn't actually that hard. But it's harder because what we are looking for is much more particular than in web2. Web3 requires a very unique skill set that combines strategy and execution at a pace and ambiguity that is hard for most people to manage". Thomas from Kiln concurs with this statement “web3 is very divisive, either people love it or they hate it, which makes selling the opportunity either easy or impossible - and you quickly move on to next talent. In a way, it makes things easier for us when it comes to recruiting”.
Web3 recruiting is a two-way street, they also want to see mission, traction and community engagement. Alchemy really lucked out because of the centrality of their product which adds contributions to the blockchain, good talents were all around our ecosystem. Jason Shah @Alchemy
At Alchemy, for instance, most of their recent hires were drawn by the opportunity to make a big impact in the Web3 space and saw Alchemy as the best place to do so, says Jason, who’s leading product teams. Hiring managers and founders need to come to terms with that.
Rely on nurturing industry newbies
Web3 is a jungle, there are a lot of unknown things that need to be created. And you’d rather go into it with people who have been in other jungles and seen things so that they can prevent you from making irreparable mistakes. Christopher Grilhault des Fontaines @Dfns
Christopher related 2 insightful anecdotes. The first one was when hiring their latest infrastructure security engineer (a profile that remains very rare and coveted in the Web3 space) whom he had first reached out to in one of his reach-out campaigns a year earlier. By the time he hit the same profile again one year later as part of a reach-out campaign to 62 very targeted talents, DFNS had matured and started gaining renown in the space. Christopher received a reply back from the talent the same day and managed to sign him within 72 hours. That agility in closing those top opportunities comes with the clarity of who fits well.
The second one was when the founders realized that hiring a top-notch CTO would be crucial to building the technology they aspired to and attracting other top tech talents to the team. Christopher didn’t hesitate to spend 45 days sifting through over 15,000 profiles to identify the best-fit candidates, and then reached out to 300 of the most promising CTO candidates. Even before their funding was secured, DFNS was willing to offer a salary that was double the candidate's existing salary in order to get the conversation started. This high-stakes approach paid off, as it enabled DFNS to bring on board a talented CTO who has in turn helped attract top talent.
Many people talk about the 10x engineer or C-suite member who can have a tremendous impact on a company's progress but finding these top-tier candidates can be challenging. Typically, most founders fail to translate that potential impact into the effort needed to scout these profiles. Christopher has a rule of thumb that anyone earning more than $100k is not likely to be found through off-the-shelf talent solutions without putting in the extra effort.
At DFNS, they also know precisely what kind of talent fits the bill because they are aware of what they require. They deliberately look for people who have experience building innovative products and are able to think on their feet and do things differently. They avoid candidates who are used to building more traditional, linear products, as they may struggle to fit in with the team's way of working.
As innovators in the keyless crypto custody space, their team is often designing new ways of building products that need quick thinking on their feet to do things differently than the norm. Such a team requires a special kind of person, these are people who have built things in the wilderness before or have worked with people who have. Christopher contrasts this with the metaphor of a talent, albeit good, but used to building railroad-like linear products. That profile would typically struggle to fit into an innovative way of doing things.
Jason Shah from Alchemy raised another interesting point of view. For him, Web3 technologies such as blockchain and decentralized finance, are rapidly evolving, and the skills required to work in this field are constantly changing. In such an environment, the archetype candidate for a web3 job is the autodidact, someone who is self-taught and able to continuously learn and adapt to new technologies and trends. Autodidacts possess a strong desire to learn and a willingness to take initiative in developing new skills. They are also able to navigate the vast amount of information available online, filtering out what is relevant and useful. In the fast-paced world of web3, this ability to continuously learn and adapt is crucial for success. Employers are looking for individuals who are not only knowledgeable about the current state of web3 but also those who are eager to learn and stay ahead of the curve. The autodidact is well-suited to this challenge and is likely to excel in a web3 career.
Given how quickly the needed skills are evolving, the archetype candidate is clearly the autodidact. Jason Shah @Alchemy
Thomas from Kiln balanced a bit this idea: everyone talks about finding the perfect plug-and-play candidates who hit the ground running, building something with their established skills. While it's important to find candidates with established skills who can hit the ground running, it's also important for Web3 companies to have a balance of these kinds of talents and candidates who can learn quickly and adapt to specific use cases.
According to Thomas & Myriam since the skills needed in the Web3 space are constantly evolving, humility and curiosity are the key traits for candidates who can thrive in this environment. These traits may not be always present in candidates with a lot of experience and established ways of thinking. Whereas curiosity in particular can be stronger and more obvious to test for younger profiles. This is one of the reasons why Kiln invested in young talent, and put in place everything needed to help them learn and grow.
Jason from Alchemy echoes this idea “we move so fast that we need experienced people who can hit the ground running. That said, web3 requires so much unlearning for experienced people that sometimes someone who is young, hungry, and open-minded is a better fit but they're still people who are strong enough that they can come in and start executing on Day 1. We have many people who are early in their careers but make an incredible impact through the combination of raw talent, clear direction, and training and development over time”.
It’s one thing to choose from 2 different candidates, but it’s another one to find them in the first place. In the Web2 space, recruiters rely on soft signals, such as a candidate's CV and career goals, to determine their suitability for a role. This has changed radically with web3. We wanted to know on the sourcing side, how difficult it is for sourcers and talent acquisition managers to find talent in this new world. We asked Mathilde Néau, an experienced recruiter, one of the very few with a great experience in web3 hiring, and now the founder of the job board woody3.xyz. For her sourcing in web3 ”is more challenging because you need to upgrade your skills as a recruiter and navigate new channels to hire web3 talent. However, once you're comfortable enough, I would argue that it is easier for one reason: ‘proof of work’ is everywhere. If you're hiring a data analyst, you can quickly check the latest dashboard he created on Dune Analytics. If you're hiring a community manager, you can also spot the DAOs he contributed to and check his Discord interactions. If you're looking for an expert in communications, he certainly wrote a few articles on Mirror.” This results sometimes in some unique sourcing stories like when she hired a token economist she found on google scholar: “I spotted an academic paper he wrote about the power of incentives and token engineering and reached out via email”. Or when she found “this Product Designer thanks to a collection of NFTs he created on Foundation”.
Once having spotted the right person, Mathilde & Jason encourage going out of the classic recruitment box, i.e. DM them, either on their LinkedIn inbox or by email. No need to innovate much here.
The best people hang around other skilled and passionate web3 experts, get to know the web3 spots like: Polywork, Twitter or Discord where your ideal candidates are likely to hang out. Mathilde Néau at Woody
Building the dream team in the Web3 space is a formidable challenge due to the high demand for top talent and the competitive nature of hiring in this field. We hope that some insights from experienced Web3 founders leave our readers with the principles needed to assemble a combination for success in this exciting and rapidly-evolving industry.
- What’s one use case in web3 you’re most interested in?
- What is your best experience as a web3 user, and why?
- What web3 products do you use and love?
- What is the most challenging thing you have had to learn about in web3?
- If you could change one thing about web3, what would it be?
- Have you ever created a community or joined an active community as a contributor (if yes, tell us which one)? Which company created the best community in your opinion?
- How did you enter the crypto world? And what was your path to improve?
- What projects or protocols attract you the most? Why?
- What are your favorite (web3-specific) questions during interviews?
- Adresse smart contract deployed? Why this contract? What does it do?
Did you know ?
At Crew we are building a Recruiting CRM for modern teams, and we are very fortunate to have many web3 clients from which we learn a lot, among which: Kiln, Crew3, Kaiko, Voggt, Comet and many others.
Want to give it a try too ? Visit now crew.work!
📚 Hiring guide Alert 🚨 : Also, to help founders, managers, and recruiters we have built the Ultimate Hiring Guide, in collaboration with world-class recruiters, and the guide includes: tips, templates, and tools to get you up and running in no time! It is 100% free, and available now here.