Do you see it on LinkedIn? Almost every post is about open roles companies are trying to fill. It’s plain to see. Recruiting right now is tough.
The current buzz phrase making the rounds in recruiting is, “The Great Resignation.” Employees are checking out, taking a break. At the same time a flood of high-growth tech companies are hiring like crazy. Geography is no longer a barrier so candidates have options.
It’s hard to attract and retain great talent.
This is an especially hot topic for customer success (CS) leaders. You may be one of those managers or recruiters that have a large number of open roles that should have been filled yesterday. You can see the impact of not having these people in place.
Your team is looking to you for answers.
How are you going to get the candidates you need?
As a customer success leader at a fast-growing startup, I’ve had these same problems. In just two years, I’ve quadrupled the size of the CS team at Kustomer, having mostly relied upon referrals. However, we were behind in our hiring recently, and I had to step up my game.
Here are several key strategies I used to fill a large number of roles.
Disclaimer: There is no quick fix here or a magic spell I cast to fill the candidate pipeline. It’s a lot of work. But it’s all about keeping your eye on the prize: There is nothing that you can do that will have a greater impact on your customer success organizations than building the best possible team with the best possible people.
Key Hiring Strategy #1
Make Your Recruiting Team Your Best Friends
When you have an open role, it’s easy to just go to your recruiter with a passive, “Hey, so here is the job description. Let me know when you have some great candidates for me to review”.
This isn’t going to cut it anymore. Your role as the hiring manager needs to completely change.
Here’s how you can best partner with a recruiter to find the best candidates.
- Create a pitch deck. Even if you don’t have a recruiter, create a pitch deck on the role you are trying to fill. The pitch deck should clearly state why your customer success role is better than all the other roles out there.
Here’s what you can include:
- The basics: what skills and attributes you are looking for and how much experience is needed.
- The philosophy of the leader – what kind of leader are you?
- The culture of the team – how would you describe your culture? What is the mission of the team? What are the values you live by? What are the rituals that you’ve put in place?
- How is the customer success candidate onboarded? What does it look like and how do you determine if they’ve been successful?
- How do people grow their careers at your organization and what are some examples of the career paths?
- How does the company perceive customer success?
- What types of technologies do the CS team members have access to?
- What type of training is available? What additional resources are available for personal growth?
Arming your recruiter with this type of information helps them sell your team to the candidate. And it can help you keep those top candidates from looking elsewhere.
- Be in lockstep with your recruiting team. In the wild west of hiring, you need to move quickly. To do that, you and your recruiter need to be perfectly aligned.
You will have candidates that may have a few offers on the table, so you will need to work together to speed up the interview process. For one of our recent candidates, we condensed the interview process into two days as they had a competing offer on the table. We ended up beating out the other company. Why? Our flexibility and agility. Everything was pushed aside for the recruiter and I – even client calls – to get the interview process done.
Additionally, our recruiting team has had a lot of success with a tool called Fetcher to provide us with possible candidates based on the job description.
Key Hiring Strategy #2
Don’t Rely Entirely On Your Recruiters – Get Out There And Recruit Yourself
At the end of the day, you are the one responsible for not filling your open roles and you are the one that will take the heat for missed targets. Here are some of the tactics that I’ve used to recruit candidates directly:
- Go where your candidates are. To generate buzz for open roles I posted wherever and whenever I could across a wide variety of customer success communities and job boards. These include Gain Grow Retain, The Customer Success Forum and The Customer Success Leadership Community. I even changed my signature on the Gain Grow and Retain community to point to our job listings.
- Tell everyone you know about your openings. Start by spreading the word internally within your company. Use elements from your pitch deck to shine a bit more light on your open roles. You may spark some interest from an internal candidate or they may know someone who would be a great fit. One of my recent hires came from an internal referral. Another hire was someone we promoted from our support team. Be sure that the teams across your company know the possible promotion paths into your team.
- Reach out to candidates directly on LinkedIn. When we had a candidate shortage I was spending 30-60 minutes a day reaching out to possible candidates on LinkedIn. I don’t have a paid LinkedIn account. I used the basic search and sent a short message with the role when I added connections. I ended up hiring someone using this approach and gained a number of great CS connections.
- Build your personal brand. I remember one of my former startups taking offense that I had received a top customer success influencer award. There was a feeling that I was focusing more on my own stature than representing the company. There is nothing further from the truth. I have a personal purpose to help others in customer success and that means sharing what I’ve learned so people can leverage it or at least not make the same mistakes I did. People find what I share useful and I’ve received recognition for this which I appreciate. I’ve also been able to connect with hundreds of people and build a strong personal network of people that I very much appreciate.
A by-product of this is that people know who I am and have a sense of what I stand for. That is very beneficial when I’m trying to recruit candidates to join my team in a competitive market. Building your personal brand is a secret weapon, and I enjoy doing it.
Key Hiring Strategy #3
Create New Roles And Prepare to Hire Outside of Customer Success
You may have had a strategy of hiring people with more experience as you didn’t have the time to develop people. This most likely isn’t going to work if you have to fill a number of roles in the current climate we’re in. It’s also not a sustainable long term strategy.
We created junior customer success roles that we called “Customer Success specialists, or CSSs.” We looked for people that had the basic skills and right attitude but may not have the experience for a customer success manager role.
For our small-midsize segment, we created a pooled customer success approach. We have these people proactively reaching out to customers based on their use of our product and conducting other types of strategic engagements and one to many approaches. This is a perfect role for someone that is just getting their feet wet in customer success. We hired two perfect candidates for this role and look forward to seeing them grow within our company. These roles are also perfect for bringing people from other functions into your CS organization.
Finding the right candidates in this current climate is extremely challenging. You need to partner with your recruiting team, get out there and spend some serious time recruiting and create junior roles where you can develop your talent.
You also need to be creative and persistent.
I know from experience – I’ve had to reach back out to a candidate who had rejected our offer for a counter offer. We helped a candidate secure their work visa even though there were complications and it took us several months
There are great candidates out there, but it will require you to throw out the old playbook and get your hustle on.
No matter what, keep at it, and good luck!