Searchlight Meetings: a secret hiring process used at Facebook and Dropbox

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Getting the attention and time of engineers and other employees is a challenge for recruiters. One best practice is to have a meeting where you get a few people together to help by giving referrals. There are lots of names for this: a blitz, a sourcing session, a searchlight meeting, etc.

It is a lot easier to just send an email to your team to ask for referrals, but putting in a bit more effort should yield far better results. Here are some things you can do to make sure your searchlight meetings are more successful.

Just a Bit of Time

Everyone is busy, so limiting the time commitment is the simplest way to get your team engaged. Promise to work efficiently and get them to commit to 30 minutes or an hour. Sure, people are busy, but an hour a month for recruiting is probably less time than they spend in interviews.

Make it Fun

You can turn these sessions into a game with just a bit of effort. Music, booze, maybe a leaderboard, and prizes can all help. We’ve heard stories of some companies giving away iPads every 15 minutes. You can use the limited time to your advantage here: urgent and frenetic can be fun and efficient.


Make Roles Clear

Which roles are you targeting for your searchlight meeting? Make sure each employee understands what those roles are. For example, sometimes QA engineers code, and sometimes they don’t. Don’t underestimate referrals from people in working other roles, but do make clear what you’re looking for because they don’t know the domain as well.

Make Filters Clear

There is so much rhetoric about “hiring the best people” that it is often hard for employees to understand exactly what that means. Be explicit by saying things like “better than the average hire”, “better than you”, “someone you’d work for”. There are also practical issues like whether the candidates are actively looking or if passive candidates are ok. What about people that aren’t local? Are you open to remote work? What about contractors?

There isn’t a single right answer to these questions. You need to decide what is right for you and then communicate those filters to your team.

Build a Culture of Referrals

This one is a big topic, so we’ll follow up with another post on just this topic (subscribe in the footer to get them emailed right in your inbox).

Building a culture of referrals and strong recruiting is going to help a lot to get your team involved in searchlight meetings. Generally, your company should have all-hands meetings, and if you do, talk about recruiting goals. Say thank you to employees that make referrals. Keep them in the loop when a referral is interviewing. Get new employees at the company to participate in searchlight meetings during onboarding. Talk about referrals helping boost culture and quality.

Bringing it all together at RelateIQ

The original idea for YesGraph actually came from searchlight meetings at Facebook and Dropbox. The process was great but the tools used (typically spreadsheets) lacked a lot of information about candidates, like who else they know at the company. YesGraph keeps all that data and makes it much easier to make referrals.

We’re started helping companies run searchlight meetings and just had a great session at RelateIQ, a powerful new CRM tool. They really pulled out all the stops: most of the team participates and enjoyed an amazing spread of Belgian Ales and Chocolate & Cheese Fondue. They queued up 10 jobs in YesGraph, and the team spent 5 minutes on each, sometimes generating hundreds of referrals for a single role.

They made it clear upfront that they want incredibly high quality people. They knew YesGraph could help drive the many referrals, so they could afford to be really selective. Overall, we had a great time.

This is also incredibly helpful for us at YesGraph to see real people using the product. We got a lot of wonderful feedback, so a big thanks to the team at RelateIQ!

Interested in doing a Searchlight Meeting?

We liked it so much in fact that we want to do a lot more of them. If you’re in the Bay Area or Boston, get in touch to let us help you organize a searchlight meeting with your team. Even if you’re not local to us, get in touch and we can help over email and the phone. Just sign up for YesGraph and email to get something set up.


Do you have your own stories from successful searchlight meetings? Let us know in the comments.