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June 1, 2000 -- Recruiting for Internet startups

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, June 1, 2000. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM US Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4) every Thursday.

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Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts and URLs as they appear live. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

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Threads (reconstructed after the fact):


Greg Donovan

Bob Fleischer (Home Page)

Sudha Jamthe (Home Page)

Dan Kalikow (Home Page)

Morris Pataky (Home Page)

David Ratzan

Ron Rothenberg (Home Page)

Richard Seltzer (home page)

Jeff Stenger (Home Page)


Richard Seltzer -- All -- As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. It appears that the "View Occupants" function in this chat room isn't working today (for reasons unknown). That makes it all the more important for you to speak up and let us know that you are there. To get moving quickly, it would be best if everyone indicated their angle on this topic. Are you a startup in hiring mode? Are you looking for a job or have you recently been through the job hunting process? Are you a recruiter? Also, please let us know where you are. In the recruiting realm, geography can matter.

Dan Kalikow -- Hi, Dan Kalikow signing in... I'm in job-search mode -- a web program/product mgr|consultant in the internet space. Interested in seeing how the other side (recruiting) works... Boston area (live in metro-west, have worked in Cambridge) You know, it's aMAzing (when reading their websites) how difficult it is to find out WHERE some companies are, in real-space.

Jeff Stenger -- Dan, I agree. Do you think companies intentially down play their physical location?

Dan Kalikow -- Jeff, re downplaying location -- don't know. I've seen companies in GOOD (i.e., popular locations forgetting this.

Bob Fleischer -- Hi, Richard! (and hi Dan!) -- I'm "just curious" about this topic.

Sudha -- Ron, what do you do? What kind of job are you looking for?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome -- Bob Feischer. Glad you could join us. FYI -- I hear that Ken Olsen's company, Modular ( closed its doors this last week. I feel bad for Ken and all those folks. But those who are recruiting -- that's about 50 experienced, skilled people suddenly looking for jobs.

Sudha -- Bob: What do you do? Do you work in Compaq?

Bob Fleischer -- Yes, I'm in Compaq's Professional Services group -- we're setting up a "wireless" program right now -- does that qualify as a "start-up"? :-}

Sudha -- Bob: Guess it does, as long as you are looking to build your team from scratch and have same issues as us :-) I helped build the online division of Harcourt in a previous life and now have my own startup. I see lot of similarities in recruiting and team building, though a larger company has a certain image beyond your group which might sometimes help.

Companies that are hiring

David Ratzan -- I work for a technology start up in Cambridge, MA (Trenza Corp.). We are in the process of recruiting technical staff. I'm also interested in hearing and sharing experiences with recruiting.

Jeff Stenger -- I have a small software development firm and have been recruiting technical and sales staff over the past couple of months. I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences and sharing my experiences with recruiting. I am based in Chicago. We do custom web database programming.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Sudha, Is your new company,, still looking for technical people and also for busdev folks?

Sudha -- Richard: Yes, coola is in the new mobile space and we are looking for all kinds of people. We need technical people with C, C++ and Java but more important is that they shd be people who can learn quickly. We train them in palm programming. Its a challenge as there is no official palm programmer out there!

Sudha -- Morris: As an employer, I have a different challenge. Since we are in a cool new space, I find immediate interest from lot of candidates. The challenge is that we are picky to get the right candidate who will not just learn the new technology but who can them contribute new stuff with right attitudes.

Morris Pataky -- Su, even though the market is tight, if you look, then you will find. I think that for a company like yours, the problem is belt dealt with by hiring a recruiter that can look for you, and who knows precisely what you are looking for in terms of skills, and personality.

Morris Pataky -- I started working for which is an internet start-up in Cambridge. My main reason for taking the job was that I knew that it would be a real challenge. It seemed that the company wasn't competitive in many areas. To my surprise, I've been able to hire 15 people in two months, and we didn't have th best benefits, or best salaries.

Sudha -- Morris: You knew everyone for years from your previous recruiting job. So, you just had to look thru your database and call them! 

Need for a company to "have a story"

Morris Pataky -- Finding the right resumes on a search site is only half the battle. A company must have a story, and the caller must have a certain tact that differentiates him/her from the tons of other callers trying to reach the candidate. The connection you make on that first phone call will definately set the mood for the rest of the relationship, and even determine wether or not there even will be a relationship.

Jeff Stenger -- Morris - what do you try to communicate on the first phone call?

Morris Pataky -- First thing you want to do is to gauge the mood of the candidate you are calling. Has he been swamped with calls, is he tired of it? and so on. Many times the right candidate is not just the right one for you, but is also the right one for many other companies. You shouldn't just dash into a song and dance about your company. He may not be ready to listen. The most important thing to communicate to a candidate is that you want to talk, openly, honestly, and for the both of you to figure out if this is worth pursuing. 

The Internet startup recruiting challenge

Richard Seltzer -- Typically, when startups get their initial funding, they have to staff up very quickly, they need the best people -- with great skills and also the ability to work independently and in a possibly chaotic environment, they also sometimes need to pay with a combination of stock and cash, to conserve cash. The risks are great, the hours are long, and the potential rewards can be large, if the company succeeds. And the recruiting is crucial to success.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, David. Can you say anything specific about the kinds of skills you are looking for? I believe that one of the major challenges in recruiting for startups tends to be that you need new skills -- ability to do things that maybe few people have done before; that the experience needs to show the ability to learn quickly and become an expert in new technical areas quickly. When recruiting, that's a tough challenge. At the same time, you may be in "stealth mode", not in a position to give out lots of details about your business and its plans, so as not to attract the attention of competitors. That makes the game even harder. Have you found ways around that? Do interviewees and recruiters have to sign non-disclosures? Have you been able to capitalize on friends of friends of friends?

Dan Kalikow -- When asked, I've willingly signed NDAs for a couple of the co's I've interviewed with.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- are there significant differences recruiting for non-technical management positions vs. recruiting for programmers? What do you have to do that's different? How would you find a VP of BusDev or a CIO? I suspect that you wouldn't go to a Monster for that. 

Online recruiting/job resources

David Ratzan -- Because the market is so tight (particular for exellent programmers), we have started to work with headhunters. Does anyone have advice about things that work, what to watch out for, etc.

Richard Seltzer -- Re: headhunters -- how does a company learn about such services and what they cost and how reliable they are and how long it might take for them to get results? I understand that time is critical. Does the typical payment schedule for a headhunter take that into account? Wouldn't you be willing to pay far more to get the right person tomorrow than to get that same person a month or two from now?

Jeff Stenger -- Dan, what resources are you using to locate a job? All - what have you found that works? I have used job boards and personal networking. I have tried HotJobs, Monster, Dice, ComputerJobs, and one or two others. I've had the best response with ComputerJobs. Does anybody have experience with job fairs for recruting technical staff? I talked to a company called that sponsors job fairs.

Richard Seltzer -- Do you know of Web sites with good information about headhunters/recruiters? I know of one Boston-area business that acts as an aggregator for recruiters -- The founder is a member of Web-net -- David Jaynes. He wasn't able to join us today. I understand that to sign up for their services, you have to sign an agreement to pay 20% (I believe of annual salary). Then they'll post your job announcements where they will be seen by hundreds of recruiters. Do you know of other such services? Or other ways to get in touch with recruiters if you need to hire people? Also, is there any way to let recruiters know that you are looking for a job?

Richard Seltzer -- Jeff -- How do outfits like Monster and ComputerJobs work from a recruiting perspective? Do you have to pay a fee to get access to resumes? And do you have to pay another fee to post jobs? And if so, what's the cost (order of magnitude)? Also, what's typical experience in terms of how long it takes to find someone with clearly identifiable skills?

Jeff Stenger -- Richard - It's usually $100 - $500 to post a job and about the same cost to view resumes. I have only posted jobs so far. I probably should try reviewing resumes, but I'm a little skeptical about the quality. Has anybody tried this?

Jeff Stenger -- Richard - The resumes start coming in very quickly after posting a job. The quality varies. I have found that the volume is greater with large boards such as Monster and HotJobs, but the quality is better with more narrowly focused boards such as ComputerJobs.

David Ratzan -- As far as using job postings ... one of the challenges is dealing with being emailed tons of resumes, 20% of which are relevant. Each resume requires a look and a response, an it's easy for key staff to be tied up in recruiting rather than building the product.

Sudha -- Jeff: I've tried earlier. It works best when candidates respond. Filtering thru the resumes is very time consuming and many might not be current.

Dan Kalikow -- I've gotten a LOT of interest from postings I made on Monster and Dice. This interest is about half from recruiters, half from HR folk & Principals in companies paying to access those databases themselves. I'm interested in knowing what hiring companies, and recruiters, think of those types of site?

Morris Pataky -- MonsterBoard is the best search engine out there for resumes, but it's a tool, and not a solution to hiring problems.

Jeff Stenger -- Morris - Do you mean Monster is best when reviewing posted resumes?

David Ratzan -- As with Dan, I would say that a good percentage of our job postings have been answered not by people looking for jobs, but from recruiters looking for business.

Sudha -- Richard: The job post at web-net site is an example of the demand in the job market. It started as a free networking tool and we had to automate it as employers post jobs -all levels daily.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- have any of you tried That's a site in California, run by John Sumser, with a wealth of info about electronic recruiting. (This topic seems rich enough to continue for another week. I'll try to get John or an associate of his to join us then.)

Sudha -- Richard: Sites such as or Cruel World (formerly which target employers are more reliable for me. allowers the user to post their resume and sends them jobs via email once there is a match based on keywords.


Dan Kalikow -- Part of the problem in retaining folks post-startup is that they may just be the kind that love STARTing things and who will want to move on to the NEXT big thing, despite retention pkgs. At least that's what my daughter tells me...

Sudha -- Dan: People who've been thru the exercise once are very valuable. Yes I find that they usually are not seriously looking right after they cash out from a previous IPO or acuisition. But, I seek people once a company has an IPO or is aquired because these people get excited by new opportunities that remind them of how it was when they started in their startup few years back, when it was small and there was room for their creativity.

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- Yes, I suspect that are are some folks who just like starting things, who enjoy the adrenalin rush at the beginning, and the opportunity to make money fast, and who would be bored crazy in a regular 9-5 job, which the startup (if successful) will evolve into. Just as there are management folks with an entrepreneurial flair, who just like to start companies, and then move on and start new ones.

Morris Pataky -- In my opinion retention is an inexact science, but the three best tips to retaining employees are:
1. A good retirement plan 401k
2. Listening to them, and trying to do your best for them
3. Reward for long-term employment

Sudha -- Dan: A competitive package to retain the employee is very important for any startup. It is natural that a company would want their initial employees who stay longer to get max. stock options. One new approach startups take is to offer 6 monthly additional options for all based on performance. has done a great job defining startup packages and retained employees well.

Richard Seltzer -- Is recruiting in this space significantly different from traditional recruiting? Are the candidates more interested in quick in-quick out, try to make a bundle, rather than a career?

Dan Kalikow -- Re quick-in-quick-out: my daughter works for a net startup in the Valley; they just went public. Their turnover just got higher, because they no longer offer pre-IPO stock. Is this an issue for others too? I'd expect so.

Morris Pataky -- I think that you can't get in the heads of every hire you make, or it will get to your head, :). One has to try to create a good environment overall, and management needs to keeps a hand on the pulse of their team, but beyond that it's difficult to say. Job satisfaction is relative. 

The age barrier

Richard Seltzer -- Are startups more likely to be able to hire folks fresh out of school, who don't have families and hence are more willing to take a risk; but who, at the same time, have limited work experience? I'd expect that it would very, very difficult to run a company (that needs to move very fast) with a high percentage of people for whom this is their first regular job. Just as managers need experience managing, everybody needs experienced being managed.

Ron Rothenberg -- I meet many older (> 40) job seekers who claim they can't even get by the recruiters, particularly if their last job wasn't a very technical one.

Richard Seltzer -- Ron -- That's strange. If I had a startup, I'd be going out of my way to look for experienced people. The 40+ job seeker is more likely to be a self-starter, to know what's expected of him/her, more likely to have commitments and to make commitments, to stay with you for the long haul.

Ron Rothenberg -- I remember 20 years ago, programmers over 40 were rare and old-seeming. Now there are more of them. 

People who are looking for jobs

Richard Seltzer -- Ron -- Is your interest in this area from talking to all your friends and business contacts? Or are you perhaps going to do a startup of your own?

Ron Rothenberg -- No, no more startups for me. I have been looking for a job.

Richard Seltzer -- Ron -- Yes, what kind of job are you looking for? From your participation in previous chats, you seem knowledgeable in just about everything having to do with Internet business; plus you're an expert in real estate; plus you seem to have technical skills.

Ron Rothenberg -- Sudha - I do everything -- I had a long career in software development, but have been doing financial services, writing (columns and books on technology and real estate) for the last few years. Now I am looking to get back into development. had a great deal of trouble getting recruiters to understand this -- I am going back to school at Sun this summer to brush up on my unix and java skills.

Dan Kalikow -- From my own experience (grin), I've found that generalists/ consultants with lots of SW/internet experience, knowledgeable about (but not up-to-speed in) the very latest web SW tools but well in tune with technology & business, sometimes don't get fully considered for prog mgmt positions that don't require actual implementation, but management of implementers, products, customer relationships. Seems a waste.

Defining jobs

Richard Seltzer -- I suspect that one of the biggest challenges in recruiting startups is defining jobs -- what really needs to be done and how many people with what skills will it take to do it? And you need to answer those tough questions in an environment when your requirements change daily, as new opportunities open up or you realize that one or another approach is a deadend. I'd think, in that sort of environment, you'd want generalists, rather than specialists, people who learn fast and are flexible, and people with the experience necessary to quickly adjust their expectations and with the insight and self-confidence to speak up when they see problems or opportunities.

Sudha -- Richard: Thats a great question on defining job reqs: I believe in getting the right people and let them build rest of the company. Defining a job very tightly for a startup may restrict us from getting the right candidate. I believe in placing people where they are best and let them define who else is needed.
As Morris mentioned earlier, having an honest, open conversation with the candidate to understand what they bring and where they want to grow will help define this.

Ron Rothenberg -- my favorite requirement is 5-10 years of Java programming, when java hasn't even been around that long. Dan Kalikow -- Ron - does 2.5 yrs of Java at 80 hrs/wk count as 5 yrs? 


Richard Seltzer -- All -- This topic seems like a good one. I do want to continue next week. In the meantime, please send me email with pointers to related resources -- online job sites, recruiter sites, sources of info for people who need to hire people or who want to find jobs. I'll then include your recommendations with the transcript to this session, which I'll post in a few days.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- We'll definitely continue this topic next Thursday, June 8. Please join us then and spread the word. And please send me your followup thoughts, questions, suggestions at, for inclusion with the transcript. I plan to post the edited transcript in a few days. Check

Richard Seltzer -- All -- thanks very much for joining us today. And please come back next week. 

Followup messages

From: Sudha Jamthe <>, Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 13:16:17 -0400

Next week I think you should include specific topics and invite guests to cover each:

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

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