March 9, 2022

How to Hire and Scale Your Startup with Sherveen Mashayekhi

This week on the Scale Academy Podcast, Ned Arick and Hilmon Sorey are joined by Sherveen Mashayekhi, Co-Founder and CEO of Free Agency, to talk about how Free Agency facilitates hiring and how to scale your startup.

An Obsession with Talent

Sherveen starts by saying that he has been obsessed with talent for his entire career as a product person and a technologist. It all stems from an asymmetry and how we as a society operate; we put people at a disadvantage. The way companies hire is very intentional- agencies, comm consultants, recruiters, etc. Sherveen began to think about how to give that same intentionality and purposeful process to talent. He felt people should be doing more. Listen at 00:01 to learn more about the birth of Free Agency and how the idea came about.

Leveraging Supply and Demand

As Free Agency grows, they will increase talent liquidity. They help people take advantage of the scarcity of talent by teaching them to not settle for the network connection or to take more interviews instead of just the one or two they would normally take. The other part is that scarcity does not need to be present in order for Free Agency to work; Free Agency works because job search is so broken. Free Agency helps people decide to invest in themselves. Learn more at 03:07.

Benefits to the Company

AT 04:40, Serveen explains that Free Agency has the same incentive as the candidate in the company, “right butt, right seat as quickly as possible.” For example, a recruiter who is making a fee off the company wants as many clients as possible with similar jobs just to try to find someone who fits so they can get their contingency fee, and they are likely not offering the best client experience. At the same time, with the executive search, things are a little different because the scarcity of the talent and the executives means that the search needs to treat everyone well because their reputations matter. But in general, search firms and everyone serving the employer side don’t actually serve the employer interest because it is more about a moment in time, a work flow, a top of funnel problem; whereas with Free Agency, they are focused on putting the right person in the right seat, having the right compensation conversations at a place that is going to make them happy. They want to make their clients happy so that they will refer their friends and come back for their next job search. That is their incentive.

Go-to-Market Strategy

Sherveen explains that Free Agency’s go-to-market strategy has really been about hand-to-hand combat, meaning that they are a team of talent agents and they can only take so many people on at a time. They don’t need a ton of clients at any particular time because it is a concierge’s experience for the people they do have, and so it has always been either a manual motion or a referral motion so far. It is them picking who they think will be a great client. Their strategy is to tell people that they are not investing in themselves, but they should be, and here’s why… Continue listening at 06:36 to learn more.

When is the Talent Ready for Free Agency?

Sherveen explains that it is important to constantly be evaluating the market opportunities; don’t just assume that you are happy because you are where you are. Sherveen will often reach out to potential clients to ask them if they are ready to look elsewhere. Are they happy where they are? Are they ready to fall in love with something else? Are they interested in something else? Do you still have room to grow where you are? Would you move if given the right opportunity? If the answer to these questions is yes, then they are ready for the service. Continue listening at 09:10 to learn more.

What Drives Talent to Look Elsewhere

In Sherveen’s opinion, he does not feel it is about compensation versus something else; he feels it is about real things versus fake things. Right now, Free Agency does not offer life coaching, so prospects who might be a little more lost about what they want are probably not a good fit for Free Agency at this time. However, when someone comes in looking for a different version of happiness, Free Agency is very practical. They start from practicality, and if passion happens in line witht that, then that is great. Continue listening at 12:25 to learn more.

Real Versus Fake in Job Descriptions

Sherveen is not often sympathetic to employers, but in the case of job descriptions, he feels most of the time they just have no idea what they’re doing when creating one for the first time. He does not feel there is a lot of purposeful deception, but rather this is a sorting problem where both sides are trying to figure out how to get in front of each other. Listen at 16:28 to learn more.

A Better Way to Convey Opportunity

Jobs are more complex than what you can write down. Instead of just a description, a conversation needs to be had. If we want to optimize in this area, we need to figure out how to enable more conversation without more pain. Find out more about how Sherveen feels about this at 19:36.

Does the Interview Process Have to Change?

In Sherveen’s opinion, the speed of the interview process does not need to change, but the effectiveness does. Speed would be less important if the interview cycle was more meaningful; effectiveness and duplicativeness are much more important. Learn more at 24:41.

Coordinating Conversations

Sherveen explains that Free Agency constantly helps people have conversations with companies they are already talking to where they’re morphing the role to make it a better fit, as well as helping people meet companies that may not even be thinking about the position but the candidate fits them really well. And the trick to all of this is to facilitate it in a way that feels good. Continue listening at 27:27 to learn more.

Scaling Free Agency

Sherveen explains that scaling Free Agency consists of three fundamental things: scaling the talent side, scaling the software side, and scaling the career operating system. For a more in-depth explanation regarding each of these components, continue listening at 28:26.

The Biggest Piece of Advice

When Sherveen sees founders go wrong, it usually stems from them interpreting the data incorrectly. A lot of people look at the wrong thing as either validation or invalidation, and they over complicate it. Learn more at 33:47.

Anyone who wants to get in touch with Sherveen can find him on Twitter or email him at sherveen@freeagency.com. He is always happy to help.

Key Snippets

00:01 An Obsession with Talent

03:07 Leveraging Supply and Demand

04:40 Benefits to the Company

06:36 Go-to-Market Strategy

09:10 When is the Talent Ready for Free Agency?

12:25 What Drives Talent to Look Elsewhere

16:28 Real Versus Fake in Job Descriptions

19:36 A Better Way to Convey Opportunity

24:41 Does the Interview Process Have to Change?

27:27 Coordinating Conversations

28:26 Scaling Free Agency

33:47 The Biggest Piece of Advice

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