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The "Hiring For Growth" Framework

Video Summary

We all know that growth is driven by the people behind it. But, hiring for growth is very challenging. Do you know the types of talent you need at your stage of the company? How can you asses if the talent you're talking to has the skills you need? And, where do you find talent? Dominic Coryell has taken it upon himself to research hiring practices at a wide array of companies to provide a valuable framework to help you manage these challenges at each stage of growth.


As a Partner on the 500 Startups Distro Team, Dominic worked with hundreds of companies on their growth strategy. Prior to that, Dominic was the Co-Founder of YC Backed Talkable and started his career early in college starting Garment Valet as an 18 year old.

What you will learn?

  • Understand what kind of ‘growth hacker’ you really need to hire
  • Know what a data-driven marketer is and why you need one
  • Understand Dominic’s framework in hiring the right people
  • Find out what skills you need to look out for in your ideal candidate
  • Learn how to assess those skills
  • Create tools that you can use to hire the right people

Dominic Coryell:
Yeah, it’s great to great to be here. Today, I’m excited to talk about hiring for growth. This, like Vasile said, will be a lightning talk. So very short. The purpose of this is to give, is to share a framework that I’ve built that I used with lots of companies, at 500 Startups and companies that I made myself that you guys can just swipe and copy.

So before getting started, really quick, just a show of hands, how many people here are currently trying to fill a marketing role? Or plan to in the next 60 days? Okay, great. So actually quite a few hands. So this should be really useful.

The way that this came about is, I just kept getting this question, “Dom, I need a growth hacker.” And this question became kind of like the bane of my existence, a, because I don’t really like the term growth hacker. But of course that’s what people refer to it as. And also it became like a little bit annoying and I’ll get into that in a second.

But first, you might be wondering why am I getting so many questions like this? Well, it’s probably because when I was at 500 Startups, I worked with their portfolio companies to help them get ready for demo day. Lots of them got money. What do you need as soon as you have money? People, right? So it was a natural fit.

Before that, I was the founder of Talkable, which was the SaaS referral engine that built the product that many of these brands here ran their referral programs on. So I worked with marketers non-stop and they would always ask me this too.

So, in doing that, coming back to this question, “Dom. I need a growth hacker.” The reason this became somewhat frustrating was because the natural question after that is always, “Well, what do you need this person to do?” And I was usually met with some sort of like vague answer like, oh well grow our user base, right? Like, okay that doesn’t really help me.

So then I started to like think about, if I was frustrated, how frustrating must it be for founders or other marketers to not necessarily know what they’re trying to hire for as well either, right? So if you think of this like classic term growth hacker, I would break it into three somewhat equal parts of marketing, engineering, product, probably a little bit more heavy on the engineering and the product front. But breaking it up into this was very helpful because then when I started to talk to the people who are asking me, this was not actually the role that they needed. This is very much like now what is referred to as a Growth PM or a Product Manager Growth in some fast-growing sophisticated companies.
What breaking this down help me do though was I learned that what they really needed was in this in this purple circle. They needed marketing, more on the marketing side. So what they really needed was data-driven marketers. And you might not think that there’s really a distinguishment between growth hacker and a data-driven marketer, but I think there is, right?

So data-driven marketer, of course has a very like strong analytical background, but then they can be broken down even further into performance or content. Right? So now we’ve actually drilled down a little bit more and we know specifically the type of marketer and some of the qualities that they might have. This is still not yet concrete enough and that’s where this framework comes in.

So the first thing is figuring out specifically what skills does he or she need. How can I assess those skills across a wide variety of candidates? And then also where do I get a wide variety of candidates? And how do I do that?
So if you want every document and resource that I’m talking about, it’s linked to the website hiring for growth.com so you can just swipe it from there.

So the first thing is like the skills that I need, right? So figuring out the skills that somebody needs, you think this would be for a relatively easy, but it’s actually quite hard to do. The way I like to do this is back into it. So I always come up with this like formula for goals, right? I need X done which is some outcome to happen by Y, so some time line, with Z resources. So some ROI or investment perspective there.

Then what are the channels that I actually need the people to run or develop right? So I will refer back to the bullseye framework from the traction book because then I’m able to pick several of the channels that I think are going to be the skills that this marketer needs to do.

Then I outline them or I lay them out onto a graph that looks something like this where I measure on the x-axis the speed to the desired outcome, and then on the y-axis, I measure the, how measurable this is. So something like viral content when done well is very fast, but very not measurable. Or something like cold outreach is very measurable, but it doesn’t happen as fast.

So now I’m able to decide essentially what skills I need based on my timeline and then I can start to figure out what type of marketer I need. Another way to do this just to kind of like fact check is if you look at hiring data from Indeed across all different ranges of companies based on the stage they’re at, most commonly, what you’ll find is that in early stage companies, people usually are hiring generalists. If you break it down between B2C, B2B, if you’re a series A company, you’re probably starting to get into that real specialized performance marketer that you need. Whereas if you’re in B2B, you’re probably really focused on product marketing so you can explain what your actual product is doing and have your customers be successful.

I won’t read through all of these but this is just a good check and balance to see where the market’s at for other things.

And keep in mind too that there’s this notion of a t-shaped marketer. I’m sure most of you have all heard of this. This is credit to Brian Balfour who runs Reforge but basically what we’re saying here is that every marketer in your company should have an understanding of user psychology as well as a very good quant skills, and then they should be t-shaped. So rather than having the shotgun approach where they know a little bit about every channel, they should have one or two channels that they really really know well.

This is very much different than a founder. Like most founders like myself for example know enough to be dangerous in like little things here and there, whereas most of the marketers and like more sophisticated companies are like extremely talented in one or two channels that they develop.

So now that you have these, you know, these skills mapped out to your growth goals, the really hard part becomes assessing them. So in this skills assessment, I’ve built two tools. And these are the tools that are on the website that you can you can copy. The first is a thinkthru exercise and the second is a scorecard.

So this think through exercise, don’t worry about reading the text here. It’s just an example. This is where you actually take those skills and you break down small micro challenges that you would actually be able to assess somebody on. So usually it should take about an hour. We can talk a little bit more about what types of micro challenges you might do in a few slides, but you come up with these micro challenges and for the candidates that you want to assess, you send them this thinkthru exercise. Lots of companies already do this of course, right?

What lots of companies don’t do is they don’t have a scorecard to compare all the candidates apples to apples. And this is the really valuable part. It always amazed me when I was hiring people that I would get into about five people and the first candidate that I thought was so amazing was actually no longer that amazing. And the only reason I knew that was because I took such granular level of detail. In each one of these micro challenges that gets drilled down on a point value so that after you’ve done about five, you have a really good understanding of what the type of person is that you really want to hire.

It’s sometimes very hard to do five too, especially if you’re like a young company because it takes a lot of time. But I get a specific as even asking the person like what is the date that you can get this done by and then actually recording when they actually send it in as well too. And for example when I was hiring salespeople, what I would do is I would go through this entire exercise with them on the phone and I’d say okay, so it’s great when do you think you get this done by? And then I would purposely never send it to them because I feel like a good sales person should follow up and be like, oh, hey, you know that exercise. So like right there I eliminated about 40% of candidates who I think would probably didn’t have healthy habits for salespeople.

So anyway, the scorecard’s good. If you’re trying to think about different challenges then these are in this presentation which will also be online. These are just some ideas of micro challenges that you might need to measure for those skills. So like for example, like run a regression on campaigns, analyze funnels, etc. So you can kind of swipe and steal all these types of challenges as well. And that website hiring for growth, I think I’m going to just build out lots of different challenges because that’s usually what people find the most valuable.

Then the really hard part of course is finding talent, right? And there’s no real secret sauce here. Every business has a hard time finding the right talent. It’s really like the hardest part of business. There’s your traditional sources where it’s like your referral network, of course, you should tap that. Job boards, you know, kind of hit or miss.

But then there’s this notion of recruiting, right? And the companies that are doing the best job of hiring people usually have some sort of like internal recruiting department. Or they are working with some sort of specialized recruiter in that industry. So when thinking about recruiting, if you’re going to be building this in-house, the notion that, like what I’ve gotten really interested in is how to apply account-based marketing to recruiting. So essentially what you’re doing is you’re identifying the ideal candidate and then you’re creating, you’re generating leads. For people, that might be that way. So you basically are handing this ideal candidate just like you would hand a customer persona over to your marketing department and you’re getting your marketing department involved with the recruiting. And this works for hiring marketers, engineers, salespeople, etc.

And then what you really want to do is you want to employ or some sort of like product marketing for these leads so that they know about your company. They feel charged up about it. By the time they do an interview, then they become advocates for your company as well too because they may not necessarily need a job, but they may know somebody that does. So you’re really widening your funnel if you can apply this and do this the right way.
My friend Trent who was one of the early hires at Hired, the talent marketplace, built this recently where he was explaining all the different tools that you might use in building your account-based recruiting type, you know, engine. And so this will be helpful for people who are trying to build this if you want to break out and look at all the different tools that you can use in this. This is a full stack.

So all the tools, everything aside, the last thing to remember here is don’t forget the cheese, right? I just love this picture of a mouse smoking a cigarette. But candidates, like always remember what’s in it for the candidates too. It’s the same as, the same as talking to customers. Lots of times people when they’re hiring marketers, they don’t make the job as appealing the way that for example is sometimes with engineering jobs, that sometimes they can be very appealing. So just don’t forget about like what’s in it for the candidate. What are the problems they really want to solve on a day-to-day basis that you can give them the opportunity to do that for?

So what did we learn? Know your skill requirements. Use scorecards to assess. And then also apply account-based marketing to recruiting or account-based recruiting. And other than that, if anybody is hiring, if anybody’s hiring marketers who want to talk about account-based recruiting, I’m trying to build out a challenge for performance marketers, so just, I’m pretty easy to spot. I’m the guy in the pink pants. So that’s it. Thank you guys very much, and that’s great. Thanks.

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