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· 4 min read
Vince Fulco


Over the holidays, I stepped back from the frenetic pace of startup MVP building and focused on researching systems and processes.

One of my deep dives uncovered this outstanding primer from on the Jobs To Be Done framework, which they've successfully used for many years of product development. It's a "first principles" version of a design and manufacturing process, developed by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen.

First principles means:

  1. take any existing process (i.e. successful, failing, getting by) and prepare to break it down, regardless of its current usefulness

  2. strip the steps down until no more complexity can be removed

  3. rebuild the process while maintaining simplicity and efficiency (minimal step functions, time and budget)

Current Status of Startup and SMB Recruiting

Most employers at startups and SMBs I speak with are overwhelmed. They grudgingly know they should, but can't find the time and attention, to devote ~25% of their work schedule to recruiting. This critical-for-success job function includes: identifying threats to (or fertile areas for) growth, short-term talent acquisition and long-term prospecting. And yet, one or all of these are not given the gravitas they require.

Moreover, several long-term factors exist:

  1. Hiring remains accident-prone

Due to your company's size and relative youth, a bad hire can seriously diminish growth prospects, poison the whole team's esprit de corps, and possibly lead to complete failure depending on what role the person is meant to fulfill. Let's not even discuss the process of having to fire someone, which is usually dragged out and significantly draining for everyone.

  1. There's a sea of great talent out there

Over-confident and over-capitalized but revenue poor companies are booting tens of thousands of otherwise highly skilled, diverse professionals in all sorts of roles. This is the best time in a decade to scoop up excellent, motivated staff. Recent conversations with employers indicate a single open position is attracting ~500-1,000 applicants.

  1. You can set your business up for better multi-year success

Run through a new framework, your job description will be a more effective instrument ensuring your and the applicants' expectations meet. This leads to an easier recruiting process for all and a more engaged employee post-onboarding. Given the choppy economic conditions for the foreseeable future, successful hires are not a luxury, but a critical survive and thrive requirement.

Position-to-be-filled (PTBF) Exercise

In first principles fashion, let's clarify how to solve short and long-term challenges and more precisely define who the ideal candidate is. We'll also uncover additional problem-solving skills that could be brought in-house, perhaps replacing third party service providers.

  1. What core challenges / opportunities (operational, managerial, budgetary, growth) are we trying to solve?

Lay out, in as much detail as possible, what the challenges / opportunities are and how they affect the rest of the company, specific teams and the growth trajectory.

  1. Candidate stories

Describe an ideal situation with the new hire firmly onboarded and in place. Use the following framework, "When a new hire is maximally productive, I want to be able to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , so I can _ _ _ _ _." Make it as vivid as possible, defining it in one (or more) specific timeframes i.e. daily, monthly, quarterly team workflow.

  1. How will you measure success?

Define the time frame required for a confident assessment that the challenges / opportunities have been solved by addition of the new hire. Also, what qualitative and quantitative measures are required to give full confidence they are the right person. Here, again, be as explicit as possible.

  1. Develop a realistic outlook

Before considering the 30-60-90 day perspective, spend some time forecasting out the next 12-24 months. What other roles and responsibilities could this person take on, esp. given growth prospects? How much flexibility should they exhibit given the company's future needs? How much should be described to them in the interview? Shortly after hire? After it's been determined they are a good fit?


-- Strive for a balance of completeness & brevity so you can be confident you've distilled expectations to their most achievable. Completeness sets you up to exceed them.

-- Complete a PTBF worksheet for every new recruiting campaign. Keep a copy with HR / Recruiting docs and one in the new hire's docs, so you can review during periodic assessments. This is critical for staying honest and clear about what you wanted upon hiring and what was communicated to the employee.

-- Solicit feedback from the entire team to complete this process, helping to uncover anything you missed, ensuring everyone is on board with what needs to be done and who you are looking for (since teammates may know colleagues to talk to). This is a good way to repeat long-term direction and strategy messaging too.

-- Write this doc out as a conversation between colleagues. Simple language, clearly defined and realistic current challenges which a new hire will solve in an appropriate timeframe. The more systematized, the better as the company builds.

Using the PTBF exercise will help you quickly clarify exactly what challenges exist and who needs to be brought on, for current and future challenges. By running through this framework, it's likely more aspirations can be met and all parties will be well-informed and satisfied.

Free recruiting starter docs bundle

I am finalizing a new set of recruiting starter docs for 2023 and will be releasing it later this month. If you would like it, and to keep up on this blog, welcome you to sign up for our newsletter here.


Jobs To Be Done Framework

When Coffee and Kale Compete

Basecamp's Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work That Matters

The original Harvard Business Review article

Sidenote-- / is an emerging startup narrowly focused on delivering tools and services. We have an internal road map with a series of enhancements to make the hiring practices of SMBs and startups much easier and successful.

What's with the blog post images? We are big fans of innovation and trying to bring the world solutions which have never existed before. So we have reached back in history to find examples of the efforts of others. Besides finding enough images for posts is tough!

· 4 min read
Vince Fulco


Having recently dipped into our database of job descriptions (now up to 28,000+) for some text analysis, I was struck by a recurring set of issues which differentiate the good ones from the bad ones.

In short, the good ones are:

-- longer in descriptive material

-- start with a strong sales pitch

-- list specific tasks and/or milestones for the next 6-18 months

-- give a balanced view of the position

To protect the innocent and guilty, I will give some anonymous snippets from our archives, which hit / miss the mark in terms of impact and relevancy.

Make a snap decision easier

A job description is the first chance you get to introduce your company to prospects. Given a compelling story and attention grabbing headline (you do have one, right?), it behooves you to fully describe the opportunity. Applicants these days are well-informed shoppers for all goods and services, including accepting a new role at a company. So give them everything they need to convert their thinking to take the next step and apply. I roughly calculate that 25% of our sampled job descriptions were 3/4 of a standard page or less. This is way too short to:

  • completely describe all that is required in the role
  • all that you are ideally looking for
  • and all that the candidate can expect to gain

Deliver excitement from the start

If you do not exude excitement in your job description, why should the candidate care? A long standing web metric is that only 20% of readers will click a headline for the rest of the content so you better make it a good one. A punchy, energetic, well-targeted headline will convey your desire to have someone of high(er) quality in the position. AKA someone who can really move the needle and make your life easier. Additionally, match the headline to the seniority level in the company and the relative pay scale. This sets expectations and will be a coarse (aka time-saving) and effective filter for who applies. By all means, do not skip the headline as is done below with companies which start with the formal title. Borrrrring!

A couple of poor examples:

Specialist (Corporate Innovation Team) -- this from a well-known startup accelerator!!?!

Digital Content Manager -- this from a company that specializes in marketing?!!?!

Here are some better ways:

"Looking to have direct customer service impact on a quickly growing brand management consultancy?"

"We need a customer sales rep to help our ad agency double revenues. Interested?"

Make applicants feel valued

The right applicant is looking for guidance, a challenge and to know they are expected to grow over the long term. Describe your milestones and stretch goals over the next 6-18 months. Give the prospect an image of a better version of themselves. This also conveys the message up-front that you are not a "status quo is ok" shop and that everyone is focused on ways to evolve the business to be faster, more efficient, more profitable, whenever possible.

A good example:

We are growing fast and looking for junior business development talent to strengthen our team in XYZ. Your contribution will have immediate effect on our client growth and revenues. In the first 6 months, you will perform the following and then be promoted to a more senior role.

You will spend 70% of working hours on business development, market research and ad-hoc requests:

  • Assist team in establishing a database of new leads using various channels online/offline
  • Maintain and update Hubspot CRM to ensure all sales leads and customers are tracked
  • Support pre-sale, during, and post-sale meetings
  • Conduct desktop research to analyze market intelligence and competitor dynamics
  • Qualify inbound leads, and reach out to outbound prospects effectively
  • Document the optimal process from Lead Generation to New Client within a new sales manual

You will spend 30% of working hours on marketing:

  • Assist with creating marketing assets, e.g. banners, prints, and advertisements
  • Assist the owner with brand campaign operations
  • Send out monthly newsletter via Mailchimp.
  • Fulfill ad-hoc analytics requests

Give the applicant the chance to figure out up-front whether they can meet your requirements with a complete list of scheduled tasks, expectations, growth initiatives.

Explain the positives and not-so-fun parts

There is no position that is always satisfying, regardless of rank in the company. Instead of leaving the discussion of difficult tasks (or unpleasant work) to the 1st series of interviews, lay them out against all the positives. A frank discussion from the outset acts as another filter only allowing those who are really intrigued and/or passionate about chasing challenges. These are the folks who relish overcoming the difficulties which happen naturally.

Hopefully the above has given you food for thought and the urge to revisit your job descriptions of the last few months. If you would like more unbiased analysis on them, feel free to sign up for our alpha/beta invite list here...Otherwise look for Part II of the series in the coming months.

Sidenote-- / is an emerging startup narrowly focused on delivering tools and services. We have an internal road map with a series of enhancements to make the hiring practices of SMBs and startups much easier and successful.

What's with the blog post images? We are big fans of innovation and trying to bring the world solutions which have never existed before. So we have reached back in history to find examples of the efforts of others. Besides finding enough images for posts is tough!