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Top Talent Acquisition: 4 Steps to Hiring the Best Talent in the World

It’s hard to hire great people.

Millions of employers say that every time they need to hire someone new.

Recruiting the best people to work with is just like dating: all the best ones are taken!

The best employees are already working somewhere!

If you are in a committed relationship how hard would it be for me to get you to divorce your wife or husband? That’s freaking impossible unless you really hate them.

They are already locked down and treated insanely great by some employer.

After working at Facebook, Mint and now AppSumo … I know that the best people output significantly more and can grow a business 100x more than a just-okay person.

So how do you hire the best people in the world?

You can post lazy-ass Craigslist job postings or you can make yourself appealing so the best people come to YOU.

So how do you make yourself sexy enough that the best people are attracted to you? Or in terms of relationships, how would you break up a happy marriage?

Let me show you 4 simple things you can do today

1- Look for people you already like

This solves the good interviewer / bad worker problem. You already know the work is good so you don’t have to hope that they didn’t fool you in the interview.

For hiring a customer service person: go and complain to companies you like. See who gives you great service. Those that do, talk to them about potentially working for you.

For hiring a designer: check out the work that really appeals do you on and reach out to that person.

For hiring developers: Ever use some software you were really impressed with? That’s your person.

For hiring marketers: Ever seen a marketing campaign that blew you away? That’s your homie. Hit up the marketing person from that company on LinkedIn.

Look at the people you’ve worked with from other companies that you were always impressed with.

This is how I hired the CTO at AppSumo. Chad was a customer at my previous company and I always enjoyed working with him. So I reached out as I was planning to do AppSumo and ta-da, he’s now sitting next to me working.

Look at the communities of where great people hang out. See who is the most helpful or produces noteworthy content:

-For developers, check out Github or Hacker News.

-For marketers, check out Growth Hackers or This is how I ended up working with Natedogg who’s a great young marketer!

-For social media people, check out the comments or forums on relevant blogs.

-Look at who has great answers on Quora or LinkedIn.

Most of these people WON’T be available right away (remember the best are already taken).


a) Start the relationship now. Reach out with a compliment and see if they are available.

“Hey {first-name}

Really love the {thing they created}.

Was curious if you are open for new job adventures or paid freelancing work?

Keep doing the great things you do!

b) Keep in touch with them every 6 months. I use to remind me, add in your BCC field.

c) Connect with them on LinkedIn

d) Ask them for a referral, see #3 below

I’m going through the hiring process now, and honestly it sucks. I should have reached out 12 months ago. Even if I wasn’t ready it would have started the relationship building with potentially great people. Why do you think I’m writing this email? I wanted to do something different while hiring vs posting jobs on Craigslist.

Ultimately the best people are working and aren’t going to quit immediately so you have to plant seeds today.

2- Look for people that already like you

The hardest part of hiring can be onboarding and getting someone who fits into your company culture. Find someone who already understands your company’s focus, your customers, and your product.

– Reach out to your current customers who already use your product.

– Your friends that you already have in your network. Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup, Church, Etc.

– Your mailing list or blog of people who consume your information.

– Your Twitter followers, check out to search their bios.

3- Ask the best people you know for referrals

My friend Patrick recently got a job at Google. Patrick is an insanely great engineer and the first thing they did was ask him for a referral. He recommended me, blush. Check out the email they sent.

Google is one of the greatest companies on Earth, copy what works for them.

Most great people aren’t available right away but maybe their friends are.

The KEY thing while asking someone for a referral is to make it specific.

BAD ask for referral:

“Hey friends

Can you refer one person for our marketing role?”

Better ask for referral:

“Hey Jim

Who’s the first person that comes to mind when I ask who’s the best developer you know?”

Best ask for referral:

“Hey Jim
I saw you know Anton Sepetov on Linkedin. Love to chat with him. Think he’d have a great time working with us.

Can you forward the email below?

Hey Anton,

My good friend Noah came across you on LinkedIn and wanted to chat.

He’s a great guy and definitely someone you should have in your rolodex. (do people still have these?)

Anyways, I’ll let Noah follow up with more details.”


See how they got progressively better?

The first was a huge ask with nothing specific.

The second was a bit easier for the person to process.

The last one made it a no brainer for the person to just hit forward on his email and you both get what you want. I did the work for Jim. I found the person I wanted and I created the email to make it easy for him to forward.

Great people tend to associate with great people. Also, there’s a trusted implication when someone refers someone they’ve worked with already.

If a candidate rejects you or is unavailable, ask them who they know that’s the best in that position. This is essential!

Personally, I discourage offering money incentives to your employees for referrals. They should WANT the best people to work with them. And it’s lazy.

Fun and unique incentives for everyone else are highly encouraged.

For example, at AppSumo if you refer someone we hire we offer a first-class ticket to visit Austin to spend a day working on your business with me. Check out our openings here, on our hiring board

4- Make a Sexy (Jobs and About) Page

Do the best people look at jobs pages? Think about that.

If you’re in a relationship, do you go on dates with other girls? Nope.

If you’re content with your job, you aren’t going to think of browsing jobs pages. But you may consider the about page of a company you like…

The best people are content in their jobs so you want to plant a seed of how much fun they’ll have and stay in touch for when they are ready.

Ask yourself this on your jobs page: How can you make a jobs page people WANT to share?

What’s your story about how much fun it is to be working at your company?

At AppSumo we built a custom bar in our office.

I saw this listing on Craigslist

Would you want to go there to work? I wouldn’t!

If you don’t have a bar, that’s fine. Make it appealing to the people you want to appeal to. Sell the badassery of why someone should be excited to show up to work on Monday.

Then the person can always think, dang well if this doesn’t work out I always have those fun guys at AppSumo available for me.

One of the best things I’ve learned during this recruiting process is to look at the recruiting process of the best companies. All of them have appealing jobs pages.

They sell a story. They make you realize your wife is not that hot. This girl has a whisky dispenser built into her, like what!

Make your pages genuinely you.

Don’t try to be whacky if you’re not.

For example, as a law firm, you can say you work your asses off, get paid very little but do work that is the most meaningful thing you’ve ever done.

Tell the story of your company and the story of why this position is valuable to you. Even if you don’t have the resources of Google.

Add your faces on your page.

Add your attitude.

If you don’t have the job available now, let them join a mailing list FOR WHEN YOU DO.

AppSumo (my company) has been up to 20 people and as low as 1 employee (myself). The valuable lesson I’m learning now is that I should have had job openings for positions we were likely to hire for in the future. It would have made the experience now much easier.

Do you have the jobs you may need listed on your jobs page?

MailChimp smartly does this:

Bonus: Do retargeting for people who visit. Why? No one does this. If you do what everyone does for recruiting, you are fighting a fair fight.

Make it unfair.


Hiring is fun but it’s a short term cost vs long term investment.

In the short term you can keep doing things yourself but there’s a local maxima you are going to reach in output.

Hiring is a long-term investment where you can leverage your time and others to grow more and get more things done.

The important thing is investing in your hiring process so you can work with world-class people.



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21 responses to “Top Talent Acquisition: 4 Steps to Hiring the Best Talent in the World”

NateDogg 2.0
December 19, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Noah, have you ever been used as a stepping stone to other companies? If so, any thoughts as to sniffing that out ahead of time, or is the best advice really, “use them while you have them”?

Steve Yang
November 12, 2015 at 10:01 am

Cool insights

The google referral part is really useful!

Abhishek Jain
October 28, 2015 at 2:02 am

Well it is one of the most difficult task to attract anyone. But attracting people becomes easy when you are 100% natural and present in your own way.
Thanks for this post!

Masha Winget
November 13, 2016 at 4:25 pm

For employers, knowing what makes students want to work for them is crucial.

August 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Thank you provide me the best tip to run business online

Chad Schoonover
July 22, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I work freelance and I’m always most interested in hearing about the challenges that I’ll get to dive into on a new project.
A big fat worm like perks is nice on the hook, but don’t forget to put the big bait out for the hungry creatives.
Then again… “tacos”.
Great write up.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I look forward to reading more.

Alvaro Pizza
July 8, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Hi Noah:

I think you left the most important one out. You want the best future employees at your company? Why don’t you educate them instead of letting universities do it?

I can put you the example of FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich. FC Barcelona has “La Masia”, the best development academy for football players in the world. Also half of Germany’s world cup winning team came from Bayern Munich’s football academy. English teams like both Manchester’s (United and City), Chelsea, Arsenal, spend way more money than Barcelona and Bayern buying players from other teams and their results are way poorer.

So, why not open an academy where you can train the best in the most important area where you’ll be hiring if your app grows as you expect? That’s the ultimate “playing the long game” move.

sidonie sawyer
May 23, 2015 at 12:11 pm

after reading all this, I still don’t know if you’re hiring writers – dumbo me = so let me know! muchas gracias!

Sean Smith
April 9, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Great post bud – all great ideas for hiring! You definitely have great methods, I’m sure we will work together at some point but in the meantime if I see anyone for any of these positions I’ll point them your way. Keep killing it over there man, I’ll keep pushing SumoMe down people’s throats as long as you and your team keep making it consistently killer.

Peace and tacos!

Sergi Benet
January 6, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Reading your stuff makes me feel greedy. I’ve never read so many useful tips before and I feel bad because I don’t want to share it in order to keep it for myself. I’ll try to be a better person in 2015, share your stuff and recommend your company to the best minds I know. I will apply too as soon as I’m ready, I’d love to join the team in the future.

December 28, 2014 at 10:17 am

Awesome Noah! I am a marketer and a BD insane!! And why I am inteigued to work for U… Is if U can keep a Marketeer glued tills end of such a long post… I am
All in excited to work for U!!!

U gotto try another Madly In Love Guy!!!

Michael Simmons
December 28, 2014 at 12:06 am

Wow! Amazing post Noah.

Raphael Scartezini
December 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

Great article!
For me, the most effective way is doing a brief project with the candidate, especially if he/she is already employed (if they are world-class…)
One of those thousands small projects we all have.
Do it as freelance with the candidate.
It is safer for both sides!
From the company point of view, the hardest part is staying hot for long…they usually get very ugly, very fast!

Yasmin Anderson-Smith
December 8, 2014 at 6:16 pm

This was actually quite good. Love your suggestions for finding great talent.

Mark Evans
November 14, 2014 at 6:36 am

Curious about what you think about using services such as ClearFit as a way to leverage technology to identify the best talent? Given the importance of hiring the right people (not necessarily the best) for a fast-growing company, can technology provide an edge or provide a different perspective?


November 9, 2014 at 10:05 am

Dude, I dont see the red dry wine in your bar…wtf? I wont come and work with you unless you fix that!!!

Honestly, I’ve just added a few more sumo apps to my blog and Noah, I cannot thank you enough for what you do man! It really makes a difference! You are a game changer and please do focus on hiring the best people (as you’ve been doing so far) because in the long-run it helps us all!

Cristi Vlad

Rick van der Valk
November 7, 2014 at 6:40 am


As a designer, I strongly recommend recruiting designer solely based on their Dribble portfolio. While that sure is an indicator they can make ‘pretty’ products, it in no way shows how they got to that design, or what the requirements were.

There are lots of fellow designers I graduated with that make visually appealing stuff, but that don’t have a foundation. It’s like building a movie prop house. The front side looks pretty, but the foundation and quality of the work is unproven.

This was just a rant that came up while reading about the Dribble part, because I think there are too many designer putting out work that’s pretty but that sucks.

Thanks. If you ever want advice or want to advice, feel free to contact.

Tony D'souza
November 5, 2014 at 8:24 pm

“They make you realize your wife is not that hot.” You were managing to avoid overt sexism nicely until here ;-p

November 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

This is pure awesomeness, thanks for sharing these great ideas. We do indeed have a bar in our Palo Alto office, and we’ve got a pretty sweet hiring process, hope to some of you this will be a valuable complement. Because once you attract the best people in the world, you’ll want to figure out which of them are the best addition for your team 🙂

November 4, 2014 at 9:16 am

Great post. I’m so tempted to apply (again), but in our last chat, you asked me why I wanted to work for AppSumo instead of going all in on my own business and projects.

I wanted to work for you because I follow you, I agree with your ideals and believe what you believe, a friend recommended that I apply, and I love the idea of working at a place like AppSumo. So it looks like the above article works both ways ^_^

But… I didn’t have a good answer beyond that.

And still don’t.

Thanks for the focus, Noah.

Matt Banner
November 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Terrific Post Noah! I think one of the most important things that you mentioned is the following up part. Persistency is everything, and many people are afraid to follow back up with someone because they never responded to their initial e-mail. This results in failed opportunities to connect/network with someone.

There are many variables that play a part in why someone might not respond to your initial email (whether it be them simply skipping over it, too busy, not in a good mood, etc).

The one thing I say is, it doesn’t hurt to follow back up! The worst that can happen is they can either respond and say they aren’t interested, or just ignore your e-mail again!

Looking on the bright side of things, the potential from a follow up is much more valuable.

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