Vinayak Ranade on Referral Based Hiring

Vinayak Ranade

CEO, Drafted Inc

Referral based hiring is a new trend in the industry today. Hence, we have Vinayak Ranade CEO of Drafted Inc., talking on referral-based hiring in this article of leader stories. Vinayak an MIT graduate prior to Drafted worked at KAYAK as the Director of Engineering across mobile products. But they didn’t have a dedicated talent team, so Vinayak ended up running technical recruiting operations for a large part of the company.

He got to see firsthand that hiring the best team is 10x more important than any product feature he could build. Drafted’s best hires came through referrals, and there was no great way to scale that across the organization. So when he left KAYAK after the acquisition by price line for $2B, the next step for him was obvious – he had to solve this problem.

First referral network

Drafted is building the first referral network. In a world where referred candidates are 7x more likely to be hired, stay longer, and perform better, businesses can’t afford to underinvest in the best hiring strategy. Drafted enables that.

Misunderstandings in referral hiring

Vinayak states that the most common misunderstanding about referrals is that they are bad for diversity. It’s true that if each person only referred their best friend, then this would create a homogeneous workforce. The best talent teams don’t make the mistake of sacrificing referrals in search of diversity. They know that referrals are the #2 source of underrepresented minority hires, and that all you need to do is ask people to refer someone that doesn’t feel exactly like them, and you’re well on your way to using referrals as a strategic tool to improve on diversity.

Hiring the best team

Ironically, the most important challenge for any business, and even for Vinayak, was hiring. It is currently hiring, and it will be hiring in the future. There is no other challenge that cannot be solved if you hire the best team for the job. In the early days, hiring is hard for most startups, because you don’t have a known brand, you may not have revenue, or customers, or investors, and for anyone joining your, team this is frankly, insanely risky. Later on, as you grow, there is always someone who will offer a higher salary, better benefits, or easier commute than you can, because startups are always under-resourced. So the key is to create a team so compelling, and so inspiring, that people want to join your team because they love the people on your team, they love the work that you’re doing, and they want to be a part of it even if it means giving up some of life’s comforts.

Drafted for everyone

According to Vinayak, Drafted works for any team that is hiring. Everyone needs good introductions to good talent. Whether you are trying to find a co-founder, or whether you are trying to hire 1000 people at a huge company, introductions always win.

Lean customer development

Vinayak is a HUGE believer in Lean Customer Development. If you haven’t read the book by Cindy Alvarez, it’s a must read for anyone trying to break into a new market. Drafted followed a lean development approach by finding people who shared their pain points in hiring (i.e most savvy executives and recruiters around town) and got introductions to them through their network (intros always win). Before they sold them anything, they really tried to understand how to solve the problems they had and went back to them again and again with different solutions and improvements until one day, one of them said without asking “this is amazing. I would pay $1000 / month for this!”. It wasn’t some kind of hustle or sales magic. It took a long time and a lot of iteration and building real authentic relationships with dozens of people. There’s no substitute for hard work here. 

Attracting  good people via good people

Vinayak says, The future of hiring is networked. Whether you are hiring local or distributed, whether you are hiring full time or freelance, good people attract good people. We are living in a golden era where everyone is connected – the companies that win at hiring will be the ones that learn to strategically leverage their entire company network to accomplish business hiring objectives.

Scaling referral based hiring

Drafted is the only company that can help you understand your own company network and scales referral based hiring.

Author – Nandu Krishna

Strategic Partnership Lead at Xobin