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 min read

SaaS Recruitment: The Ultimate Guide

SaaS candidates are among the most wanted talent, but armed with these SaaS recruiting tactics you will find and hire them

The SaaS business model and workforce

SaaS business models have been increasingly successful because of several reasons. 

A SaaS business model lives and grows on:

  • Scalability: Once you've build the product, you can sell a subscription to anyone anywhere
  • Recurring revenue: Subscription models consistently generate revenue on a monthly (MRR) or yearly basis (ARR)
  • High profit margins: The cost per additional customer is very low

To succeed with a SaaS product and business model you basically have two major activities:

Build ⛏️ the SaaS product driven by software development and continuous product improvement

Grow 🌱 the base of recurring customers by attaining, converting and retaining users

You see these two activities clearly represented in the workforce of SaaS companies.

The workforce distribution of the biggest SaaS companies as of 2021 is as follows:

(full analysis of the workforce distribution of the top 5 SaaS companies)

Engineering and sales roles dominate SaaS and make up for almost half of the workforce on average.

The challenge of SaaS recruitment

The mentioned roles are typically very high in demand and limited in supply.

That makes recruiting these candidates very challenging.

You can presume that you will not fill open positions for these roles with just job ads.

So you need to add passive candidate sourcing to your sourcing and recruitment strategy.

The roles that are the hardest to find for SaaS companies are typically:

  • Software engineers
  • SaaS sales executives
  • and Business development representatives

One of the challenges with SaaS recruitment is that you might find a lot of candidates that worked at traditional commodity companies, services companies like consultancies and agencies or worse… governments 🙃

In some rare cases they might be a good fit for the job, but typically they are not.

So in most cases you want to look for candidates with product experience (product being the digital solution delivered over internet).

But unfortunately a platform like LinkedIn (Recruiter) is not built for finding people with product experience.

Still the absolute majority of recruiters is entirely dependent on LinkedIn.

Which makes LinkedIn an even worse place to find SaaS talent because it is over competitive.

Candidates are flooded with recruiter outreach.

General recruitment tactics for SaaS recruitment

Since you have to differentiate yourself to win talent for you, you have to look in different places, search smarter and do smarter outreach.

Here are some guidelines to find people with product experience, whether it’s in engineering or sales.

Nail the search

The candidate search seems to be a simple task but is one of the most complicated and technical parts of the recruitment cycle.

A lot of recruiters do not nail the search.

So if you do, you win talent for you that others never reached.

When you search for candidates on LinkedIn you might experience that you end up with a lot of unwanted results as the examples stated above.

To nail the search you can do a couple of things:

🧠 Search in alternative platforms: Many profiles will never pop-up in LinkedIn's search but will on niche platforms. Try different platforms to cover the full range of candidates that other recruiters are not targeting and get richer information on skills data.

☁️ Use a SaaS specific sourcing tool: There are tools on the market that pre-screen candidate profiles based on SaaS specific criteria like product experience, speed of growth of companies they worked at and SaaS keywords.

🔎 Use Google PSE to include company lists: With the Google Programmable Search Engine (PSE) you can search with up to 500 keywords including names of SaaS companies so you can find SaaS talent that has already proven themselves at related companies.

🕵️ Know your search operators: Many recruiters are familiar with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), but many recruiters don't use advanced search operators properly in their search. By using advanced operators you can make your search a lot more targeted.

🎨 Get creative in your talent search: Recruiters often get stuck when they are sourcing for passive candidates because they end up with the same results. When you get stuck, you can use new ways to source talent like using unconventional places to source in, using people analytics or using Google Alerts.

Use the right job title synonyms: Job titles come in many different forms. Sales executives for example go by many names: Sales Rep, Sales Advisor, Account Executive, Client Success Manager, Sales Associate and many more. Include those synonyms in your search. Below you can find a list of synonyms per role.

💬 Know how and where to reach candidates: Every candidate has their own preferred way of being contacted. But many times you don’t find the relevant contact details. By cross referencing profiles and using the right contact finder tools you can find the platform or medium they want to be contacted on.

Recruit the person with the right work related needs

You want to know if the person you are talking to is the right person for the current growth dynamic of your company.

There are big difference in the work environment of startups, scaleups and established companies.

The startup work environment for instance, is one which is characterized by a mission driven nature, visible impact, constant flux, undefined processes and a strong variety in work activities.

Established companies are kind of the opposite. And scaleups are somewhere in between.

To do well and be happy in a usually fast growing SaaS company your needs should be aligned with the work environment you're working in0.

Talent that is the right fit for a startup (or early scaleup) environment usually value:

Purpose (over recognition), matching the mission driven nature

Impact (over expertise), matching the visible effects of efforts

Flexibility (over consistency), matching the constantly changing environment

Autonomy (over reliance), matching the undefined inputs, processes and outputs

Stimulation (over comfort), matching the variety in work activities

When you ask the right questions and you hear candidates talk about what they like and dislike in regards to their work environment, you should be able to get a fair view on their preference for a work environment in a startup, scaleup or established company.

This guide for assessing work related needs can help you ask the right questions.

Recruitment tactics and tools per SaaS role

Software engineers

Common synonyms for Software Engineer: Developer, Programmer

Characteristics

Software engineers obviously come in many forms; front-end engineers, back-end engineers, full stack engineers, QA engineers, DevOps engineers, security engineers and data engineers.

Engineers are excited about complex problems and self learning (44% of developers are self-taught).

Most of them code not only for work but also as a hobby (57% of developers learned to code as kids).

Developers prioritize good work-life balance over salary and benefits.

They value the people they work with: developers mostly leave jobs because of poor management.

Recruitment approach for engineers

  • Do a talent mapping for hard to find roles (how to do a talent mapping)
  • Have your job description reviewed by an engineer, preferably an experienced engineer who is going to work with the future hire
  • Prioritize your search for candidates on GitHub and Stack Overflow since those are the primary platforms where engineers can be found (how to source on GitHub and Stack Overflow)
  • Research candidates by cross referencing their profiles (how to cross reference candidates)
  • Send a (hyper)personalized outreach message based on personal and work related information that you could find on public (!) sources on the interwebs

SaaS sales executives

Common synonyms for Sales Executive: Sales Representative, Sales Rep, Sales Manager, Salesperson, Sales Consultant, Sales Professional,Sales Advisor, Sales Executive, Sales Specialist, Sales Associate, Sales Engineer, Account Executive, Account Manager, Account Representative, Account Associate, Account Specialist, Client Success Manager, Customer Success Manager, Customer Happiness Manager, Client Success Consultant, Client Advisor, Client Relationship manager

Characteristics

SaaS Sales executives are target driven individuals who like the chase new deals and understand the desired business outcome of a SaaS product for a client.

Sales execs traditionally are divided into ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’, where hunters are the sales people going after new clients and hunters are the ones who expand an existing client account by maintaining relationships and upselling.

With relatively young and fast growing companies this divide is less clear and the focus is on getting new clients in, so in most cases you want to focus on the hunter personality.

Sales execs are also tech savvy because they have to understand the basic technology they are selling and the potential impact it has on the client.

But also the increasing importance of data and tooling requires the sales person to understand technology.

SaaS sales leads get excited about progress and a clear growth perspective in terms of new industries, new geographies and new offerings.

They like to work in a systematic way to set up a process for repeatable revenue.

Recruitment approach for SaaS sales executive

  • Create a job offer including bonus incentives like a percentage of total recurring revenue on a monthly or yearly basis and include stock options if that is possible, especially in early stage SaaS companies this is a common way to motivate sales and have them stay longer with the company
  • Don’t rely on job boards since a lot of SaaS sales execs are not actively looking for a job because they get contacted a lot by recruiters proactively, focus your efforts on sourcing passive candidates
  • Include alternative platforms in your search to find your sales candidates: AngelList (for startup talent) and Medium (for SaaS thought leaders)
  • Include names of related SaaS companies in your search, increase the amount of companies you can include in your search with the PSE method
  • Limit your dependency on LinkedIn (Recruiter) because you can get out competed by the many SaaS recruiters on there, instead use a sourcing solution that takes into account SaaS specific criteria like product related selling skills and high growth experience
  • If you encounter incomplete profiles, cross reference the profile you’ve found to find additional information about the candidate so you can nail your personalized outreach
  • Use a contact finder to find public phone numbers and get in touch through direct phone call since sales execs are used to direct contact

Business development representatives

Common synonyms for Business Development Representatives: Business Development Rep, BDR, Inside Sales, Sales Development Representative, Sales Development Rep, SDR, Business Development Executive, Business Development Exec, Sales Development Executive, Sales Development Exec

Characteristics

Business Development Representatives (BDR's) are typically young and driven individuals who are eager to talk to potential clients.

Because they are mostly junior hires, chances are high they are still figuring out their career path.

BDR's are primarily responsible finding and warming up prospects, but they are usually most excited about getting face time with clients instead of transferring warm online leads to sales executives.

They typically want to become a sales executive themselves in the near future.

Recruitment approach for business development representatives

  • Decide on if you need BDR’s with experience or that you focus your efforts on graduates, this will determine the search criteria and keywords that you will use in your search
  • If you choose to focus on graduates, the emphasis is going to be on assessing if they have the right personality, learning capability and drive for the job
  • If you focus on candidates with some experience, include all the synonyms listed above in your search and include other SaaS companies in your search using the PSE method or sourcing tools
  • Paint a clear picture of the potential next role the BDR can develop in, emphasize the career development path in the job description and interviews
  • Include a bonus scheme in your job offering to provide an additional incentive to join the company and to motivate them to reach their targets when hired

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