It has been another hectic but incredibly rewarding year for the Software practice at Erevena. Once again, we feel hugely fortunate to have partnered with some of the fastest-growing, pre-IPO software companies in the world. Over the past 12 months we’ve helped many of them to hire EMEA leaders, including Airtable, Immersive Labs, WalkMe, Grafana Labs, ReliaQuest, Contentful, Samsara and many more.
The most striking market observation from the past year is that candidates have never enjoyed such high levels of optionality and EMEA GMs are no exception. With global levels of venture funding reaching an all-time high in 2021, there is an unprecedented number of hypergrowth, heavily funded SaaS companies in scale-up mode and simply not enough good candidates to go round. We have observed some common themes that translate into important lessons for companies wishing to attract and convert the very best people into these roles:
- Be realistic about what you can attract
Everybody would like the hire the EMEA leader who built the latest household name in region, but not every business can attract them, especially in the current market. We meet a lot of CROs who want to build their EMEA organization from $20m to $100m+ and only want to meet candidates who have seen and done it all before. But these candidates are getting called every week by companies who are bigger, more heavily funded and have a more mature starting point in region. Therefore, it’s not a deliverable search strategy in many cases.
Our advice is to focus on what success looks like for your business over the next 2 years. This might be $20m-$50m ARR, for example. Find someone who is great at that part of the journey and worry about $50m-$100m when you get there.
- Build a tight process with candidates experience at the core
This year, more than any, we have witnessed more companies lose great candidates because of poor interview processes. Again, because of the levels of optionality that quality candidates have, undefined or long-winded processes, generic feedback and general unresponsiveness can cost you dearly in this market. Candidate experience has never been more critical and if you want to fend off the competition, yours needs to be the process they enjoy the most.
Some things to consider:
- Find an appropriate balance of interview and ‘sell’
- Try and keep the list of interviewers to a sensible number (any more than 4-5 people with a voting right on the search can be problematic)
- Make it one person’s job to handle all of the interview logistics (arranging meetings, sending zoom links, chasing down feedback internally) and give them clear instructions on how time critical next steps are
- Ask the candidate who they want to meet as part of the process, especially in the latter stages
- Keep momentum. Aim to collect feedback and agree next steps with candidates within 48 hours of their latest meeting (and ideally within 24 hours).
- Move fast when you like somebody
It is not realistic in this market to hold off making a decision until you have 2-3 candidates you want to hire. Candidates are moving too fast and you have to modify your mindset accordingly. Textbook processes (where multiple candidates end up at final interview stages simultaneously) do still occur, but over the last 12 months they have been far less common and you need to be flexible in your approach. We have seen companies enjoy a lot of success with the ‘first to the finish line’ approach. Meaning, when a candidate has got through the entire process with positive feedback and their references check out, you move to secure them rather than delay their progress to wait for others to catch-up. The latter is risky in this market and whilst, as a search firm, our plan is always to provide optionality, candidates have typically been more staggered in processes due to the nature of the market in recent months.
- Gather recent (and reliable!) data points on compensation
Many of our clients have been surprised by the extent to which financial demands have changed in the SaaS market over the past 2 years. Candidates who were previously looking for a $5m opportunity on stock are now looking for $10m+. The top end of the market (those in the fastest-growing public companies) are sitting on $15-$20m which makes it very tough to persuade them to move.
Take advice from multiple sources (your search partner, investors, etc.) at the beginning of your search to make sure you can afford the people you want.
To summarize, it’s a tough time to hire great sales leaders and GMs. Anybody worth their salt who is remotely looking at the market is flooded with opportunity quickly. But the pointers above will help you put your best foot forwards and increase your chances of hiring someone great.