Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses have a unique advantage in the modern employment world. Their product is entirely digital and online, giving the company unprecedented amounts of mobility and flexibility in all aspects of business.
This flexibility includes hiring, including the opportunity to hire and work with fully remote employees during a time when remote work is not just a benefit; it’s near-essential. On top of that, SaaS businesses can scale up to meet the needs of their product with a rapidity rarely seen in other industries.
The trouble is, there are as many challenges as there are benefits for SaaS hiring.
- Rapid growth precludes the opportunity to sit back and think about the future, leading to false starts and dead-end decisions.
- SaaS success can lead to stagnation as the business coasts without putting time and energy into further development, leaving the business in an easy position to be undercut or outdone by a new competitor.
- A considerable number of employees are sub-par for the industry and don’t have what it takes to cut it in the fast-moving SaaS world, yet it’s challenging to filter them out during the hiring process.
It’s all too easy to suffer in hiring and let that poor foundation affect the rest of your business, hampering growth and hindering success even in an already successful SaaS business. Luckily, with adjustments to your hiring process, you can create a scalable and effective pipeline for applicants to candidates, to employees for your SaaS company. Here’s how.
Step 1: Understand Your Foundation
Before you can discover and implement a successful pipeline, you need to understand both the origin point and the destination. You can’t build a road from point A to point B if you don’t know where A and B are, after all.
Some questions to ask yourself include:
- What does the big picture look like? Where do you want your business to be in five or ten years?
- Why was your business founded besides making money? What need does it fill, and how can it expand to better fulfill clients’ needs and related desires?
- What growth model are you trying to promote? Are you rocketing as high and fast as possible before settling down, or are you planning for a “slow and steady” approach?
- What does your current hiring process look like, and how does it align with (or fail to align with) your goals?
All of this requires thought and decision-making amongst your company’s leadership, and it may require debate and discussion. However, it must be done before you’re able to fully implement an effective hiring pipeline.
Step 2: Start by Optimizing Job Ads
In many cases, the first thing a candidate sees about your company is the job ad. These people are on job listing sites looking for new opportunities, and they may have no idea what your company is or what it does. All they know is, when they searched for a role, skill, qualification, or certification, your listing appeared as one in that area. Thus, your job listing needs to do everything in its power to attract them.
Understand exactly what you need for a given role.
Before you begin composing your job advertisement, you should talk to the team leads and teams responsible for the area where you’re hiring. Your conception of what they need might not align with the reality of the situation.
Discuss with them precisely what they would need to improve their department, and strive to make it happen through your job listing.
Narrow down your list of requirements to what is actually required.
All too often, the list of requirements for a job is copied from other job listings, which have themselves been copied, and on and on until the original is years or decades old. Minor alterations try to keep them relevant, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Things change.
Some common issues we’ve seen include:
- Requiring more years of experience in a skill than that skill has existed. For example, a programming language that only debuted two years ago shouldn’t require 3-5 years of experience in it.
- Requiring a higher level of education than is necessary. It’s pretty infrequent that your job truly needs someone with a Master’s degree.
- Requiring certifications. If your chosen candidate is genuinely competent, you can sponsor their test and assist in getting them the certificate. It’s the skills that are important.
Our method is this. Start by building a “grocery list” of everything your ideal employee would have. Then, go through and remove anything that can be trained after getting hired. Anything remaining on the list that is “nice to have” rather than 100% essential can then be moved to a “bonus skills” section of the job listing instead. This process should leave you with a relatively small selection of required skills but makes it easier to filter because anyone who doesn’t meet all of them is guaranteed not to be an appropriate hire.
Include tangible information on pay and benefits.
There are many pros and cons, and a lot of discussion, about whether or not it’s a good idea to include a salary range in your job listing.
The truth is, in today’s job market, it’s near-essential.
Right now, there’s a growing labor movement and an awareness of the value of skilled workers. People are, more than ever, in a favorable position to demand what they are truly worth. Many skilled candidates will choose not to apply to your job opening if you aren’t openly discussing pay and benefits because those are of primary importance to their decision. You’ll be left with the desperate, the under-qualified, and the poor hires.
You don’t need to pin down an exact salary and selection of benefits; in fact, being open to negotiation is a good thing. However, you should be open about the pay range and primary benefits, so candidates will know whether or not it’s even worth their time to apply. Remember, skilled candidates – particularly developers for SaaS companies – know what they’re worth, and they don’t want to waste time.
Avoid factors that risk adverse impact.
Adverse impact is another way of saying discrimination, whether overt or accidental. There are many different things that, when included in (or left out of) your job listing can lead to adverse impact.
We’ve produced an entire guide to this over here, so give it a read before you start composing your job listing.
Step 3: Offer What Candidates Really Want
Competing with a high level of base pay can win some candidates, but studies often show that income alone is not enough. Many candidates, particularly millennials and younger, will happily take a lower base salary if they have the benefits they genuinely care about.
The trick is determining what those are and how to offer them.
- Create inclusive benefits. Offering maternity leave is good, but offering equal paternity leave is better. Same with childcare benefits.
- Acknowledge differences in culture and offer flexibility in work hours and scheduling. Not everyone wants or needs Christmas off, particularly if they come from a culture that celebrates different holidays; allow them to take days off work when relevant to their culture, not when relevant to yours.
- Offer flexible working situations, including fully remote work. A SaaS business doesn’t need everyone working in the same office, particularly now, where in-office work can be physically dangerous. Instead, invest in collaboration tools and build a culture around communication through multiple channels.
At the same time, it’s worth avoiding the “benefits” that aren’t really benefits. How many tech startups promote their break room ping pong tables but never give their employees the slack to take more than five-minute breaks?
There’s one major trap here: trying to one-up the competition. In SaaS, there are likely anywhere from half a dozen to a hundred different companies competing in the same space and thousands competing for talented developers. Candidates are spoiled for choice. If you try to analyze what everyone else is doing and offer what they do plus one, you’re very quickly going to burn through even the most substantial stack of venture capital with nothing to show for it.
Instead, focus on what the specific candidates you want actually want for themselves. One single competitive benefit can outweigh a dozen benefits in a different package if it’s what truly matters to your candidates.
Step 4: Find Candidates Where They Live
Metaphorically. Don’t actually go door-knocking; that’s intrusive and weird.
You have a killer package and an excellent job ad; now, you’ll need to get it in front of your ideal candidates. So, where do those candidates look for jobs?
Some jobs are easy. You can post on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or Indeed and build a candidate pool in days. Other jobs aren’t so easy. For those candidates, you need to look in different places.
- Tap your existing network. Like attracts like; your current employees have networks of friends, professional acquaintances, and communities they’ve joined to pool skills and learning opportunities. Sometimes the best source of quality candidates is already in your contacts list.
- Look on social media. And no, we don’t mean just posting to Facebook and Twitter. Check specialized groups and communities, like Facebook Groups, Twitter Chats and Hashtags, LinkedIn Groups, and niche forums.
- Check niche job boards. Virtually every skill set or role will have a niche job board somewhere. Often times, posting on these can get you a better candidate pool for less effort and expense than posting on general job sites.
- Seek out passive candidates. LinkedIn, and personal/professional profile sites, are great for this. You know what you want in a candidate, so look for people who meet those qualifications, even if they’re already happily employed in another role for another company. Sure, it might be poaching, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
When you reach out to candidates, particularly passive candidates, make sure you’re customizing your outreach. Most skilled professionals get bombarded by form letters and template outreach from recruiters, so they’re conditioned to ignore it. Customize yours, and follow up at least twice before you write them off; they might not be in a position to respond right away, but they will if you remind them.
Step 5: Refine your Hiring Process
All of the above helps you build a candidate pool as closely aligned to your needs as possible. That brings you to the hard part: combing through it and picking who to hire.
You need to refine your hiring process and your hiring team to do so. It can be worthwhile to invest in AI-powered applicant processing systems, but don’t overly rely on them. Instead, make sure you have real humans with talent and awareness of what you need to review the candidates.
As for the process, it can help to build narrowly-targeted interviews along with interview scorecards you can use to judge a candidate as objectively as possible.
While you’re at it, review the process from top to bottom, look for bottlenecks in the process, and do anything you can to remove them. Any inefficiency delays hiring and thus hampers growth.
Once you have this process in place, hiring will be a breeze. Well, as close to a breeze as it can typically get. You still need to verify every step of the process, monitor vital metrics along the way, make adjustments periodically to keep up with changes in hiring as a whole, and keep in line with the overall strategic vision for your company. Things change, and if you try to resist that change, you’re as likely to hurt the company as you are to weather the storm.
A modern, agile hiring process for a SaaS business removes the ponderous weight of tradition and focuses on what really matters. It’s all in how you determine what that is, convey it, and find people that match your real needs.
Have any questions or concerns regarding scalable hiring processes for SaaS? Please feel free to drop those down in the comments section below. We’d be more than happy to get a conversation started and those questions and concerns answered.
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.