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4 Ways Hiring Practices Evolve as Companies Scale Past Startup

In Hiring Strategy — by Erin Engstrom

evolution garden sculpture

As organizations grow, they mature. Founders and employees learn what works and what doesn’t. They put systems in place to become more effective and efficient.

This happens across all functions, and hiring is no exception. According to Tom Armour, co-founder of High Return Selection, a recruiting consulting firm, there are generally three distinct hiring phases tied to a company’s growth:

“In this phase, hiring is usually done by word-of-mouth and connections,” says Armour. “Founders hire by speaking with their friends, customers and other employees. It’s usually fairly easy to find the first 20 people. This method slows when the company reaches approximately 20 employees.”

Under 100 employees
“The founders remain hands-on and have usually gone through a number of problems: poor hires, dismissals, unreliable workers. They’ve also hired a few leaders and have begun to experience the need to make sure their culture is protected.”

Over 100 employees
“The organization has a team of managers and often has an established process for hiring. Hiring systems are becoming routine. They have job descriptions, ad formats etc. They also have the ability to train from within and hire people who better fit, are self-regulated, self-motivated and quick learners.”

As organizations increase their headcount, successfully navigating the transitions between these phases requires an evolution of hiring practices. Here are four ways hiring practices evolve as companies scale.


As Armour notes, there comes a point when founders can no longer staff their organizations full of people solely from their own Rolodex. This is where job boards can be incredibly helpful. With recruiting software like Recruiterbox, you can actually post your opening to any job board, and post to multiple job boards with a single click.

You may also want to consider a niche board for a more targeted approach. At Recruiterbox, we’ve hired all six of our remote hires from We Work Remotely. We’ve had such great results that we’re using this job board to make our seventh remote hire, too.

Social media is another valuable sourcing too. Private security firm Homeland Security Protective Service recently crossed the 50-employee threshold. Since developing its social media presence, the company has noticed an increase the quality of its applicants.

“It seems to promote our brand and type of employees that we already have,” says office coordinator Tony Mena. “Future job applicants get a feel for the company’s workplace environment and achievements before even applying.”


There once was a time when ClickTime waited until there was a pain point to make a new hire. But the timesheet management software company now takes a longer view to hiring, according to head of talent Sarah Dabby.

“We’ve started asking questions like, ‘What are the company’s overarching goals, and how can our team help us reach them? What are critical gaps that need to be hired from the outside, and what can we leverage internally? How can we sustain our growth, and create a solid foundation for future rounds of growth?’”

When growth is the goal, it’s smart to think like a chess master and see several moves ahead, while remaining intently focused on the present configuration.


Dabby says that in the past, ClickTime sometimes got ahead of itself and was a little too future-focused while evaluating candidates.

“While it’s easy to get swept away in envisioning our company’s future, we’ve been dedicated to making sure each hire is a fit for the company right now – not just a fit for where we might be a year or two down the road,” she says. “We’re very honest with our candidates about where we currently stand, and select people who are really excited to tackle the company’s current challenges. Interestingly enough, we’ve found that these candidates are the ones who are best at helping us succeed and grow, because they’re engaged, excited, and happy to show up at work every day.”

Matthew Mercuri, director of human resources at Dupray, has onboarded 40 new employees across six countries in two years. Following this quick expansion, the steam cleaner and steam iron manufacturer revamped its approach to candidate evaluation. Whereas once they looked for the most competent people, with the highest ability level, now they pay much more attention to the fit within our company. To gauge fit, they’ve adopted a top-to-bottom approach.

“The board, C-level executives and owners of a company are far less likely to change,” he says. “Moreover, these people set the values and mission of the company. Additionally, the hierarchy becomes far more defined when the amount of employees increases. Thus, you need to identify a talent management strategy which reflects these individuals. Does your COO like to be challenged? Does your CEO need loyal employees? Once you identify the type of individual who will most likely fit the personality of these people, your strategy will be perfectly suited for your company.”


Though Veterans United Home Loans hasn’t drastically changed its hiring process over the years, the lending company has brought in technology to make it more scalable – a necessity when you’ve grown eightfold in six years, like they have. 

“One thing we struggled with as the company surged past 50, then 800, then 1,500 employees was getting through all of those candidates in the most personal yet efficient way possible,” says human resources director August Nielsen. “The technology we added drastically improved the hiring process, whether it was our applicant tracking system, our pre-employment assessment tools or our online reference checking tools. Each addition further optimized our hiring process.

“However, the process wouldn’t be unrecognizable to our 2011 selves. It’s just better. Successful companies have always attracted the right talent pool, so as a company grows its focus should be on improving the hiring experience instead of changing focus altogether.”

No matter how seasoned a company becomes and how much its executives learn, hiring will never be completely fool-proof. There are hundreds of potential hiring mistakes to be made, mistakes that even companies like Google, with famously awesome employees, make to this day. But by refining the way you source, plan and evaluate, as well as adding to your technology suite, you can build a workforce that will help your organization scale from a startup to a mature company with staying power.

Image courtesy Ilion

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