5 tips to ace your next Recruiting Kickoff Meeting (+template)

5 tips to ace your next Recruiting Kickoff Meeting (+template)

The kickoff meeting - also called a Brief or Intake meeting - is the first and probably most crucial part of the hiring process. It’s a face-to-face or call meeting between the hiring manager and the recruiters (or founders when helping their team) during which they discuss every detail that can help make the job search a success. As well as for both to outline what will happen next.

The interview generally lasts 1 hour, but can be shorter if the team has hired several times for the same position—the criteria are then well known. Or sometimes longer when the search is for a new position or a very unique one.

In any case, the more thoroughly you conduct this meeting, the more efficient your hiring process will be and therefore the faster you can fill your positions and avoid time-consuming misalignment. If there is one task the team needs to spend more time on, it’s this one.

In this article, we will give you a few easy steps to help you ace your next meeting. With a Bonus: A template to conduct your next kickoff meetings (see below).

1 - Set the context and objectives

The context helps get the big picture. The problem. Why do we need to hire this person, which problem are we trying to solve with this new hire?
Then the hiring manager can start articulating what short and long-term success looks like for the role:

  • What specific KPIs do we need this person to achieve?
  • If this is the right person, what her 90 first days will look like / her first 6 months, first year?
  • 18 months from now, what would it be like for the candidate to be successful within the organization?
  • And even more importantly, if they were struggling, how would you define that and what would it look like? Why?
  • Which business outcome should we expect (Revenue increase, more users, fast product shipping, better NPS...)?
  • What is the deadline?

One good practice is to often repeat what the hiring manager is saying, “if I resume, what you are saying is that a successful candidate will be…”, to make sure you have grasped all the information, and you are perfectly aligned about the context.

"One thing I want to do moving forward, I wish I did prior: write the onboarding plan along with the interview plan. It helps you get a granular detail on discussion points on the role and scope of it"
David Hoang, Head of Product Design at Webflow
The other reason to do this is that the really good candidates will ask about organizational context-what worked and what didn’t and why. And they will also ask about future outlook and what needs to happen and how that will be measured.
If you don’t know these answers you’ll be caught flat footed.
Elliott Garlock, Founder at Stella Talent Partners

2 - Define your ideal candidate - build your persona

Once the context and objectives are well-defined, you can now start mapping out the skills and traits the candidate will need to have, in order to be successful and achieve these goals. In other words, you want to build a persona of your ideal candidate.

To figure out what your optimal talent looks like, one technic is to study the top-performing ones on your team. Which traits do they have in common? Which industries do they come from? What are their trademark selling styles? What motivates them?

Make a list of the best people in your company. And confirm that those people are working on the most essential thing in your company and are overloaded with responsibility. If you decide you still need to hire. Spend real time trying to understand and articulate why you like them so much. I would bet it has something to do with their ability to get things done without a lot of direction. You might end up with a much different job spec than the one you have (the one with twenty bullet points).
Ravi Gupta, Partner at Sequoia Capital, in his blog post about hiring.

Here are a few more key questions to ask, to help you draw the ideal persona for this role:

  1. What a superstar looks like, which knowledge should they have (coding language, specific tools, marketing technics etc…), which traits (action-oriented…), and qualifications (degrees, certificates, experiences...)?
  2. If we are hiring in a replacement for someone who left, why did this person leave? To avoid making the same mistake and have someone leaving for the same reasons.
  3. Do we need someone who can achieve results in a leadership position?
  4. Do we need to have an executive-level presence with a strategic thought process to boot?
  5. Do we need a team player? Or are we ok with a lone wolf?
  6. Do we need this person to come into the office? Or can they work from home?
  7. Where do they hang out, what are their favorite websites / forums / blogs / Slacks...

Typically, if you’re looking for someone who is passionate about sports, maybe the hiring manager will say that these people probably hangout out in places like:
- Strava
- Garmin Connect
- Meetups about sport
- Sports Facebook groups
- Events Whatsapp groups

💡 Tips: When answering these questions, think about next steps and the sourcing strategy in particular (where and how to find these great candidates).

Also, note that sometimes the Hiring Manager doesn’t know what he is looking for, typically if it’s the 1st time that he is hiring for this position. And it is ok. The role of the recruiter is to help him, through insightful questions, to get there.

What if you have never hired for this specific position?

For some managers and even first-time founders, they'll hire for some positions without even knowing what they're looking for. And it’s ok, the role of the recruiter is to ask insightful questions to help them get there.

But in this case, how can you build a persona? For example, how to hire a 1st sales rep when the team has never hired one? One common good practice is to spend time with rock stars persons at this position. You can for example contact a more advanced founder, a recruiter in a bigger team, and ask to talk to their best Sales rep. Then ask questions like:

  • Can you walk me through your day-to-day tasks?
  • What do the best sales reps have in common?
  • What do you do better than other Sales Reps?
  • How did you learn about your job? Where did you learn the most?
  • Who was your best manager and why?
  • Where do you spend most of your time online? As a Sales Rep, where do you hang out, and what are your favorite websites / forums / blogs / Slack groups?

3 - Define unique selling points

As we go through the brief meeting, we sometimes forget about the candidate herself. When in reality, it’s the perfect occasion to think about the 1st step of the candidate experience: the 1st touchpoint with your company. Whether it’s the job description they will read, or the email or LinkedIn message they will receive from you, you have only a few seconds to make your point and persuade them to move to the next steps.

That’s why the kickoff meeting is also about building your unique selling points. What makes your offer unique, eye-catching and appealing?

Morgane Conrad, Talent acquisition Manager at Folk, has her famous favorite question at this step: “What does differentiate this role right now within {{CompanyName}} from any other similar role in another start-up?”

This helps a tone for the copywriting, the recruiting pitch during interviews, and even during the closing.

Some questions that can help:

  • What do people currently working in your team like the most about their job? About the company and culture?
  • What do we do in our company that we rarely have seen elsewhere?
  • What are the unique qualities of our company that some people might be attracted to?
    For example, if you are an early stage company, you might be able to attract candidates who want to have more impact in the company, be closer to the product building, closer to clients, and who prefer to work on a wider range of tasks. Whereas if you are a more advanced company maybe you have some complex technical challenges to offer (lot of software engineers love that), or a high marketing budget to play with (can appeal to some growth hackers), or millions of users etc…
  • Is the salary competitive with salaries in the market?
    Several studies have shown that salary is the most important factor candidates consider when changing jobs.
  • Are we open to promoting this person, if they have the right skills? Typically, candidates are receptive to promotions: Juniors who want more responsibilities / Seniors who want to lead / Managers who want to lead bigger teams…
  • Are we open to full or partial remote?

4 - Come up with an action plan

Once you have the context, the persona, and the unique value propositions, it’s now time to come up with a plan. That is often close to the follwing:

  • Define the Scorecard (more on this here)
  • Define the hiring process: how many interviews? Who in the team will participate? Who will fill each part of the scorecard? Are we going to include a technical challenge?
    The process usually involves the following steps: phone screens, on-site interviews and technical challenges, reference calls, an offer is sent out and a hire is made.
  • Define the sourcing strategy: where and how to find great talent (more on this here)

You want to activate:
- Referral: which networks (employees, investors, friends) can we leverage for this position, and how are we going to structure this process (where are we going to add these talents, who will contact them, when?).
- Inbound: A job description needs to be written, based on the context, persona, and unique selling points. And then published on the career page.
(Coming soon: You will soon find on an article on job descriptions in this blog)
- Outbound: what will be the sourcing strategy? Where can we find these candidates (Linkedin, Github, Dribble…), which companies are well known to have best-in-class employees for this kind of positions, what skills to look for (→ persona), what will be the messaging / copywriting (→ Unique selling points).

5 - Practice Peer-sourcing

One underrated practice is to follow the Kickoff meeting by a peer-sourcing. The idea is the same as for a peer-programming: the recruiter and the hiring manager will sit down (or jump on a Zoom call) and start searching together for candidates. The idea here is not to instantly find the perfect candidate, but rather to go further on aligning on what makes a good (or bad) talent for this position.

  • Ask the hiring manager about the best people they know in this role and browse their profiles together
  • Ask what precisely in their resume or LinkedIn profile makes them great
  • Then start using criteria that have been defined together (skills, experiences…) to look for new talents
  • Go through some of them and ask if they seem to be a good fit
    - If yes, ask what precisely makes them great
    - If not ask why not, what are the missing pieces or red flags

The magic starts when you will be hearing the hiring manager say things like “try this skill instead”, or “I just remember, many of the great ones have been through this training” etc…

Note that 1/ some teams do it asynchronously, the recruiter quickly starts sending talent profiles to the hiring manager for review, 2/ whether it’s done live or async, it’s common good practice to have the hiring manager continuing to source, during 2 or 3 weeks at least, in parallel with the recruiter, so that they continue completing the criteria to look for, the red flags to be careful at, as well as the additional sources where great talent can be found at.

As promised, here is the Hiring Kickoff Meeting - The template

Hiring Kickoff Meeting - Template by Crew

This article is part of a hiring guide series, subscribe to the blog to get the next ones right in your inbox