How a Tech Co-founder Attracts Heavy Hitters with The Sourcery

John Witchel

20+ Technical candidates sourced by The Sourcery

5+ Years worked with The Sourcery

3+ Companies


John Witchel has been a Chief Technology Officer, Co-founder, and VP of Engineering at startups like Prosper, BrowserCam, SendMe, Common Assets and Insikt.

Currently President and COO at GitPrime and Board Member/Advisor of CrowdStreet and UserTesting, he has worked with The Sourcery since 2010 to make key hires at three companies. In this case study, he shares how he developed his own secret hiring sauce in collaboration with The Sourcery.

The True Costs of Conventional Recruiting

1. Candidates Are Too Good to Be True
“The recruiting industry is a Machiavellian, eat-what-you-kill, spray-and-pray business. Every once in a while, a recruiter throws a seductive resume over the transom. You know it’s too good to be true but you just can’t resist. You make an offer. Suddenly, the candidate asks for three times that. This person has not been prepared to interview or to actually get the job. Turns out, a commision-only headhunter is pitching the same candidate to ten other companies at once. The recruiter doesn’t care. If they can shoehorn someone into your job and get paid 15 thousand dollars, they’re off to Vegas”

2. No Trust Is No Way to Start a Relationship.
“A good hire should last five years or more. Even if you manage to hire a candidate sourced by a headhunter, you’ve started a five-year relationship with a series of low-trust conversations. You don’t trust the headhunter. The headhunter doesn’t trust you. The candidate doesn’t trust the job or the headhunter. No one trusts anyone. Everybody is hustling. Very quickly, it becomes a say-anything culture. Burnout, uncertainty, and low trust are created right out of the gate. It’s exhausting. In the headhunter world, people talk a lot about percentages of first-year placement. That’s wrong. They should be talking about the value of long-term placement.”

3. $35k Would Be a Bargain.
“If you told me I would need to pay $35k for a Senior Engineer, and I could see into the future and know for sure this person would work out, I’d do it all day long. A successful Senior Engineer can singlehandedly create millions of dollars of value for a company. The problem is the unknown probability that an engineer sourced by a headhunter will work out. Because they didn’t come in via a personal referral or through someone with whom you’ve had a long-term working relationship, you just don’t know. Often, as soon as you make an offer, you realize your mistake. ‘Oh, this guy has personality issues.’ ‘Oh, she has communication issues you didn’t pick up in the interview.’ ‘He wants to work remotely from Tahoe six months a year.’ You’re like, ‘Who is this person I’ve just spent $35k to hire?’”

4. It’s Demoralizing to Lose The One.
“It’s time-consuming to move a pipeline of candidates through not just your own schedule, but through the calendars of busy engineers. When no one can come to a consensus after all that, it’s demoralizing to your team. They feel even worse when a candidate everyone wanted to hire accepts an offer from a competitor. So you really need to make your interviews count. You can’t just push everyone you get through the pipeline. It’s too expensive in terms of lost productivity.”

5. There’s No Such Thing as a 90-Day Guarantee.
“Recruiters often say, ‘If the candidate doesn’t work out in 90 days, we’ll replace them at no charge.’ These are engineers. They’re a closed group. Most of the time, you can’t even get comfortable in 90 days, let alone do a meaningful assessment. Even if you could evaluate an engineer in 90 days, which you really can’t, it’s impossible to hold recruiters to this guarantee. They already got paid on the deal. They’ll say, ‘Bummer! I’ll get on that.’ They won’t. It’s unrealistic to expect someone to behave in a manner that’s not in their economic interests. If a recruiter is paid on placement, the only thing you can say is, ‘I’ll never work with you again.’ They don’t care. They care about candidate flow. They know that a candidate with 10 years of Java experience will get placed with or without me. They’re on to the next person. The guarantee is worthless.”

6. In-House Recruiters?
“Love them. They are definitely part of a good process, and in-house recruiters are economically efficient. But if you have a technical requirement or a hard-to-find skill, your job posting may fall outside the recruiter’s comfort zone, causing you to get stuck at the back of the line. They’ll try to help you. But they have hundreds of jobs they are trying to fill across all divisions. When yours is the tricky one, it can be hard to get the attention your job posting needs. That’s the nature of the beast.”

Why The Sourcery?

They Made Me a Better Recruiter.
“Over the years, I’ve placed more than 20 software engineers through The Sourcery. They do a fantastic job of minimizing hiring overhead. I was okay at recruiting before I met them. Now I actually consider myself a pretty good recruiter.”

A Flexible Approach to Hiring

The Sourcery’s Business Model Aligns with Ours
“The Sourcery’s business model is aligned with ours. If you say ‘no’ to a candidate, it’s okay. If you get backed up, or if there’s uncertainty within your organization, it’s okay. The Sourcery just keeps on doing their job. They don’t shop candidates around. Candidates know they’re not being hustled, which creates trust. That trust makes it easier to close candidates.”

We Only Speak with Pre-Qualified Candidates
“By the time a candidate shows up on my desk for the first phone call, not only are they qualified—meaning they’ve met our minimum criteria—but they’re also ready to interview with us. They know what what we have to offer and they have a sense it could be a good fit. We speak to genuine candidates. They’re not just fishing for offers. I’ve never gotten a bad candidate or a misfit from The Sourcery.”

Our Secret Sauce Is Momentum.
“The Sourcery helped me understand recruiting from the candidate’s perspective. The truth is, everyone hates interviewing. Yes, even the most talented, capable engineer who will get 10 offers in the next 3 weeks hates interviewing. So the secret to making great hires is momentum. Here’s what I do differently after learning from The Sourcery:

1. As soon as I get candidate, I’m on the phone with them as fast as I can.

2. Once I have them on the phone, my job is not to asses them. My mission is to get them excited about us, so they want to interview with us.

3. I get them scheduled for an interview on the spot. I set expectations that this will not be a protracted experience. ‘We just want to figure out where you are on the continuum of Script Kitty to Ninja Expert. Bring some code, we’ll take a look and talk to you for 45 minutes. You’ll talk to some other engineers and later in the day we will give you a yes or no.’

4. After the interview, if it’s a yes, I say, ‘It will take us 1-2 days to get you a written offer.’

That’s my spiel. Everyone who hears that says, ‘Yeah, I can live with that.’

Once I incorporated momentum into my hiring process, my hit rate went way up.

Big companies like Google and Facebook still make candidates run the gauntlet. You might get a yes, no, or maybe in two months, after they’ve finished asking you how many angels fit on the head of a pin. Having a quick and clear process makes us stand out. We have a good placement rate, thanks to The Sourcery.”

The Results

Keeps My Team’s Spirits High
“If you’ve been burned by candidates who didn’t work out, it’s hard to maintain your enthusiasm for interviewing. Engineers stop wanting to do it. My team wants to interview candidates. Every candidate from The Sourcery is solid and ready to interview. The process goes smoothly.”

The Sourcery Increases Our Batting Average
“The Sourcery is less expensive on a placement-by-placement basis. But their true value is they increase our batting average.”

The Boss Can’t Argue with ROI
“Every time The Sourcery places someone, I get an email: ‘This candidate cost you $x.’ I love it. When I get their invoice and have to send it through my internal process, occasionally I’ll get a note from a manager. I’ll send them the email from The Sourcery: ‘Here’s my placement cost.’ They’ll say, ‘Ah! That’s great.’ The conversation is over after that.”

Higher Retention Is Baked In
“If I were to ever have a hire-and-fire situation, The Sourcery would be on the phone instantly to ask what happened. The long-term success of every candidate really matters to them. If you were to do a retrospective analysis of how many candidates were hired and stayed with us for more than three years I think you’d find The Sourcery’s numbers in the high 90s.”

John Witchel They Made Me a Better Recruiter. Over the years, I’ve placed more than 20 software engineers through The Sourcery. They do a fantastic job of minimizing hiring overhead. I was okay at recruiting before I met them. Now I actually consider myself a pretty good recruiter.”
John Witchel
Tech co-founder
John Witchel

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