Feedback from the entire portfolio of Spero Ventures is unanimous on one front: hiring great talent is more competitive today than it has ever been. This is a refrain I’ve heard annually for roughly a decade (2012 – 2022) in tech. Candidates for tech jobs have more options with more employers, and this competition for talent has led to higher offers and more flexibility. This is not surprising as software companies have increasingly permeated every industry and turned a broad number of historically different jobs into various versions of information processing.

Against this backdrop it’s worth exploring what can an employer do to try to be more competitive in the war for talent. There are some obvious answers to start with: 

  1. You can pay more for talent. My own opinion on compensation philosophy is employers should do research (procure a product like Carta Total Comp) to determine what is the competitive compensation for all roles (filled and unfilled) at their companies and strive to pay a market-to-above-market rate compared to companies of similar size (by # of employees, funding, or revenue). You cannot buy employees’ love; attempting to do so is the path to a mercenary company culture. But, attempting to pay below market compensation to save capital is increasingly futile. Paying market-rate compensation is a simple best practice and is table stakes in recruiting (necessary, but not sufficient), and it’s also an essential step towards establishing equal pay for equal work. In fast-moving startups market-rate compensation doesn’t always happen (mostly due to inattention), so it’s worth mentioning upfront. 
  2. Build your recruiting muscles in-house sooner. These muscles are a combination of human capital and software. A Head of Talent is a role I’m seeing more startups hire for sooner in their company life, and I’m supportive of that trend. Good recruiters will increase the top of the funnel in your efforts to source new talent, and, when done well, can help your company make a strong first impression on a candidate that might be passively considering new roles. But, recruiting is a high volume job inside of companies, and needs to be augmented with a software exoskeleton to scale outbound efforts beyond what an individual recruiter can do alone. Which leads me to:
  3. Prioritize best-in-class candidate experience. 

What is candidate experience? It’s every touch point that a job candidate has with a prospective employer, and while it’s a small portion of what a company does, it’s 100% of the company that a candidate sees and uses to make the very important decision of their next career move. From the very first outreach email through to the final offer letter, a candidate is evaluating a potential employer the same way that an employer is evaluating a candidate. It’s a two-way street, and savvy employers understand that making all their touch points with the candidate delightful is a highly-leveraged way to get more candidates excited about their roles and more accepted offers.

This is why I’m excited to announce our most recent investment at Spero Ventures: Guide. Guide is on a mission to improve the candidate experience in job searches and help employers win more candidates. Guide creates beautifully designed software that helps walk a candidate through every step of the hiring process with their customer, the employer. 

Common pitfalls that mire the candidate experience for most employers today include: failing to help candidates understand who they are interviewing with and when, failing to communicate what are all the stages of the interview process upfront and setting poor timeline expectations, not communicating where a candidate is in the process at any given time, and relying on a generic Careers page to sell the company culture instead of describing the exact team that the candidate would be joining. Any recruiting process is fallible and will naturally hit rough spots. Guide helps recruiting teams understand where their process has friction by soliciting timely feedback from candidates to help recruiting orgs iterate and make their processes tighter and more enjoyable. Guide helps companies create delight at every part of their recruiting process, so all parts of a candidate’s Guide are customizable to match corporate branding and create a unified feel.

Guide sits at a very interesting strategic position in the recruiting flow. There is a robust market for products that organize the employer’s view of the recruiting process. This is the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) market, of which companies like Lever and Greenhouse have generated good attention and customers in the market for fast-growing startups. Everything that happens in the ATS is about the job applicant: where they are in the process, who will they meet next, what needs to be sent to them and properly communicated, etc… but job candidates have never before had a view into the ATS besides the phone calls and emails that recruiters dribble out. Guide is the lens into the ATS that candidates can view from their prospective to answer their questions and help them prepare for the interview process in a clean, well-organized way.

I am delighted to be partnering with Troy Sultan and Austin Cooley, Guide’s Co-Founders. This is the second product that Troy, Austin, and their team have built specifically focused on software for recruiters. Their first product was sold to Gem, and helped recruiters organize their outbound efforts at the top of the recruiting funnel. Guide is a perfect complement to the success of Resource/Gem’s approach: now that it’s easier than ever to reach candidates outbound, companies need Guide to make the best possible impression at every step of the funnel in recruiting candidates in order to stand out in the noise of recruiter communications. The challenge is no longer reaching candidates; it’s winning them.

I’m delighted to join Guide’s Board of Directors, and Spero is co-leading this financing with Meka Asonye at First Round. You can read more about the financing on Techcrunch. I love the mission of improving candidate experience so more candidates get more transparency in the recruiting process and end up in the right roles for them. Guide’s current customers love them because Guide candidates strongly prefer companies that drive their candidate experience process with Guide, and happier, more informed candidates lead to more wins.