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April 8, 2024

How Paraform helped Vellum hire 2 exceptional engineers while also nailing diversity

Akash Sharma
CEO and Founder @ Vellum

Vellum is on a mission to be the main platform companies use to bring AI into production. They finished Y Combinator in 2023 and raised $5M from top investors including the co-founder of Dropbox, co-founder of Hubspot, Rebel Fund, Eastlink Capital, and more.

The three co-founders of Vellum – Akash, Noa and Sidd – previously worked together at a recruiting startup for over two years. Now their own company is serving customers like Ogilvy, Lavender, and Vimcal, just to name a few.

This article is about Vellum’s experience with Paraform, as told by the company’s CEO, Akash. The company hired two Full Stack Engineers, each in under 35 days.

How is working with Paraform?

Akash found the platform streamlined and easy to use. Everything in one place, one Slack channel, one web app. This made it natural to manage all of his interactions with the various recruiters.

“There’s zero downside in trying Paraform. Once you understand how it works, you can see the value in how it’s differentiated.”

One of the problems he found with standard agencies was an explosion of threads. People from agencies contacted him via too many different mediums, with plenty of inconsistency. This quickly turns into too much to manage. Another issue was getting enough diverse candidates in Vellum’s pipeline.

“Paraform essentially solved that problem for us.”

The responsiveness of both recruiters and Paraform’s support team was helpful for Akash. Being able to squash logistical and technical issues quickly was just one accelerant. Vellum was able to hire top Full Stack Engineers in just 35 days.

Going months without such a critical role is simply lost time for a startup. Akash said this could have turned into a major loss of momentum for a company. Using Paraform helped Vellum avoid that friction, and Akash thinks it might be because:

“Paraform scales outbound hiring while keeping it personal. You can convert your story at a larger scale in a more human way.”

When you grow to be big enough you could potentially rely more on inbound applications and referrals. But until you reach a certain size, these usually don’t cut it. Previously having come from a recruiting startup, the three co-founders of Vellum are in touch with the harsh realities of recruiting – and have found Paraform to be a solid choice.

What are your best practices for using Paraform?

Akash offered three great pieces of advice for companies who recruit with our platform. As he puts it, “Hiring is expensive. Hiring is time consuming. Hiring is painful.” These are three practices for users seeking to mitigate those pain points:

  • Be responsive to recruiters, candidates, and other helpers.
  • Keep a good working relationship with people on the other side of the table.
  • Remember that Paraform is a two-sided marketplace, not an automation.

“It’s not a machine that’s just doing random work for you.”

The ability to interact with recruiters on Slack helps Paraform users keep engaged during the whole process. Ultimately, filling a critical role is a big coordination effort. You need to take into account that you’re working with a lot of different parties in the process. The faster you get them what they need, the faster your own blockers will be fixed.

A fourth piece of advice that Akash shared – not really a best practice – is what to do when you know you have a tough role to hire for. He says it’s worth spending some money on; avoid losing time spent working on your goal.

“If you know your role isn’t going to be filled, you should probably call the Paraform guys.”

How do you screen for exceptional talent?

As CEO, Akash is responsible for maintaining a high bar for new hires. He has a substantial amount of traits that he looks for, rather than relying on traditional indicators like school and company alumni status.

That prestige can sometimes even be an anti-signal. Not always, of course, but it’s a possible indication of credential chasing. Akash wants people with excellent skills and traits that are relevant to success at Vellum.

A deep curiosity. Ability to think from first principles. And sufficient experience in order to hit the ground running. Assessing these things requires a second interview, which Akash and his team structure as a deep dive/technical challenge.

Initial interviews are more of a loose screen, which is a standard and necessary practice. It’s smart not to overwhelm yourself with interviews. Going back to Akash’s comments about momentum – any time not spent on the core business is potentially decreasing your shelf life.

His favorite interview question is:

“What brings you more joy? Winning? Or not losing?”

For his team of engineers, it’s way more important that they’re glad to not lose. It’s a more motivating posture. There are lots of ways that startups can fail, not least of which is a lack of energy. Akash finds that a mindset committed to not losing is more rugged and aligns with a customer-centric attitude.

Any time a customer has a bad experience, that’s a loss. Engineers who hate to lose are going to squash bugs personally, and swiftly. And at the end of the day, that pressure to avoid losses is going to result in a product that we can all be proud of.

Vellum knows it’s difficult to find high-caliber candidates that bring a valuably diverse perspective to the team. So he “called the guys at Paraform” and their Software Engineer - Frontend / Fullstack role got filled in about a month.

By tapping into our platform’s network of startup recruiters, Vellum was able to scale their team and continue their strong momentum.

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