Unrelated image from pexels.com to make this post look nicer in social media shares.
Unrelated image from pexels.com to make this post look nicer in social media shares.

Recently I went to a Victoria BC Startups meetup about diversity and inclusion in recruitment called Lever talks Diversity and Inclusion in Recruitment. What I learned the most about was how hiring funnels work.

I first learned about the concept of funnels from sales funnels, where you start at the top with lots of people who are simply aware your product/service exists, and work your way down through getting them interested in your product to making a decision about whether to buy to eventually making a sale, with fewer people at every level. That’s normal for sales (and for any other funnel, like hiring), not everyone who is aware of your product is going to want it. Many of them may not even have a problem your product solves. Some people go with competitors, some people just keep doing what they’re already doing, some people are ready to buy but at the last minute they lose their budget or their boss decides to change direction, all sorts of things happen. Because of that, you need a lot of potentials at the top of the funnel to make sure anyone makes it all the way down to the bottom.

Sounds a bit like hiring, doesn’t it? ;) The big difference with hiring is that you either need to get people into the top of the funnel before you have an open position for them or you need to fill that funnel up extraordinarily quickly once you do have that open position.

The big thing I learned about that is that lots of people don’t think exactly like me. I’m sure that’s all kinds of helpful :)

More precisely, what I learned is that it’s normal to start talking with people before you actually have a job to fill and that doesn’t make you a time-wasting jerk as long as you’re honest about not having an open position right then.

The reason I had so much trouble with that idea was because I don’t usually bother talking to other companies until I’m Capital D Done with my current company and am actively interested in a new job. Since I thought that way I assumed everyone else did too, and because of that I figured talking with potential hires about a job that didn’t exist yet would be a mean-spirited waste of their time. I mean, they could have been talking with someone else about a job that actually existed and started making real progress toward their goal of finding a new job instead of wasting time on maybes with me. I’m not saying it was perfectly rational to be that worried about wasting people’s time, just that it was a thing I worried about.

But apparently it’s also normal for people to start talking to other companies well before they reach the Capital D Done stage, which makes it not a jerk move to talk with them about a job that doesn’t exist yet – as long as you’re clear about the job not existing yet, of course. I’m harping on that point because I feel very strongly about not jerking people around and because that’s the big thing that makes talking with people without having a job opening to interview them for work for me – I have to know I’m not jerking them around or I just feel weird about the whole thing.

Honestly, it’s probably smarter to start looking around before you desperately need a change, but the flip side of my not wanting to waste candidates’ time is that I don’t want to waste hiring managers’ time either. I assumed they only started talking with people because they had a job they needed to fill, which would make it a waste of their time to talk with them before I was sure I wanted to leave my current job.

I never really thought about how much time it takes to fill a hiring funnel (have you ever tried to hire an experienced developer in Victoria? It’s hard!), so I never realized how useful it actually is for hiring managers to have some people already in the funnel. If you have that then when it’s time to hire you don’t have to start from scratch, you can interview people who you’ve already talked to, who you already think could be a fit, who are already interested in your company. That sounds pretty great if you’re looking to hire, which makes it not at all a jerk move to talk to hiring managers before you’re sure you want to change jobs – again, as long as you’re honest.

In short, the moral of the story is that not everyone thinks the exact same way you do and that as long as you’re honest about what you have to offer you’re not being a jerk :)