The Talent Outcomes Team Application Process & Learnings

The Talent Outcomes Team Application Process & Learnings

An experiment in recruiting a team that knows a thing or two about recruiting

Original art by Guss Navarro

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: people and culture are at the heart of everything we do here at Seven Seven Six. From our founders and their teams, our investors and the communities they support, to this first generation of firm employees, nothing is more important than the humans dedicated to making change in this world. 

Closing our second core fund in late 2021 enabled us to bring our vision for the 776 Talent Outcomes team into reality. While it’s still in early days, we’re excited to share more about what this budding team has been working on, takeaways from our recruiting experiment this last spring, and what’s on deck.

What is Talent Outcomes?

The Talent Outcomes team is a critical function that supports our portfolio companies with human resources, talent acquisition, DEIB efforts, and culture development strategy.

We track every single incoming ask from our founders through our operating software Cerebro. What’s at the top of that list? You’ve guessed it: People & Culture requests. Through this data, we quickly understood it was imperative we establish a team to help founders build thriving, sustainable, and inclusive organizations. And it’s through our decades of experience as operators that we know we can do this work more effectively and efficiently than anyone else.

We’re committed to pushing our industry forward, and how we think about Talent in Venture is no exception. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for more on our perspective soon.

Recruiting for the Talent Outcomes Team

Back in April, we decided to run a recruiting experiment. We were inspired by questions we’d heard several times from our early-stage founders seeking help with their talent needs: 

  • How do I recruit for a role when I’m open to the level or years of experience a candidate may have?
  • What if I want to hire a few people for a newly formed team? It’s basically the same job description, right?
  • I found more than one candidate that I love during the interview process and I think they’d work well together. Can I hire more than one person?

Being curious ourselves as to how startup hiring may play out in this new work era, we decided to try something different: instead of posting individual job requisitions for each potential role on the Talent Outcomes team, we decided to post a general application. Because this was a new function at the firm with many configuration possibilities, we chose to cast the widest possible net. We were curious what would happen when we intentionally broke our best practice.

That said, there were core pillars we wanted to maintain as a part of our recruiting process:

  • Open. Publicly posting job requisitions in VC is still incredibly rare. Because we believe that the best way to maximize returns is to have a diverse team with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences, we continue to host open applications for every role.

  • Inclusive. We’ve been building high-performing, diverse teams for well over a decade. When it comes to inclusion, we know that language and clarity of the role matter. With every job posting to date, we clearly state what the role is and what the role is not. In this wide-net approach, we adjusted to reflect what the function is and is not. As always, we encouraged interested candidates to apply, even if they felt they didn’t meet all the requirements. 

  • Useful. Striving for the win-win-win scenario, we craft every job application with care. We want applicants to learn something about themselves and find clarity in their own journeys through our process. Every task or question needed to serve as an opening for personal growth. Anything we ask of an applicant is meant to be something they could use as an exercise in self-reflection or in building their personal brand. 

  • Cloaked. We developed a process during our Operator-in-Residence application evaluation that helped us to view candidates’ initial responses without their name, title, or pedigree associated. Just the raw responses to the open-ended prompts in the application. We very genuinely don’t care about resumes, where people went to school (or even if they did), or who they know. We wanted to maintain this practice in this application process, as well.

So, we posted the role with open minds, hoping to gain new insights. We received over 250 applications and began our assessment process. As with all things we try here at Seven Seven Six, we are choosing to share those learnings here, in hopes that you all can find some sort of value in your own work.

Lessons Learned

We must admit, shifting our recruiting approach provided more challenges and learnings than we had expected.

Where we could have done better:

  • Having so many different types of applicants with a wide range of levels and areas of expertise made it incredibly difficult for us to prioritize and evaluate what we were actually hiring for. The hope was that reading through a variety of applications would provide clarity on what we were looking for in this early team development. The reality is that it offered more confusion, demonstrating the obvious need for individual job postings that clearly articulate the role, approximate level, specific skill sets needed, and – yes – compensation.

  • We overestimated the time savings we thought we’d earn back by having one application for multiple roles. We took much longer than we had planned to evaluate the applications, turn around feedback, and invite candidates to interview with the team. The result is that it took us double the time and we only hired one person, creating the need to go back to the market and start a new process from scratch to grow the team further.

  • We still need to work on broadening our amplification channels for posting jobs. When it came down to our top applicant pool, we discovered that many candidates were within our first degree networks. Speaking personally, this particular job posting was certain to host many familiar faces; People & Culture is my strongest community. As the hiring manager, I was genuinely surprised to see the names of the finalists once they were revealed. The list included former managers, mentors, friends, coaches, former colleagues – heck, even my aunt made the first round cut, unbeknownst to me. I was torn when I saw these results: happy to have so many talented people in my life that wanted to work at our firm, but also frustrated that we didn’t reach more people. There must be more than a handful of HR professionals I don’t know (yet)!

What we committed to:

We also want to call out the things that were really, really hard but worth the effort. We were challenged at times and debated wavering. We’re glad we didn’t. 

  • We rejected referrals. We continue to simply offer our careers website to apply and leave it at that.

  • We didn’t second-guess our process. This was an experimental job posting and application process. Much as we may have wanted to shift course midway through, it was important to understand all of the learnings on the backend so that we could ultimately better support our founders.

What worked?

For all of our failures and learnings in this process, we’re very proud of our results.

  • We maintained our early—and now best!—practices. By keeping open applications, writing inclusive and clear job descriptions, seeking to provide utility in each process, and hiding personal identifiers in the initial evaluation, we were reminded of why challenging status quo hiring practices is something we love. We continue to find joy in getting to know our candidates in this way and are rapidly growing our networks of incredible, capable humans. These commitments take time and energy, investments we’ll continue to make.

  • We decided to start with a leader. After much hemming and hawing, we finally made the realization that we needed a true industry leader with deep People & Culture expertise to help us build the roadmap for this team. Building the team haphazardly without a vision wouldn’t set anyone up for success. Once we made this distinction, we reread all of the applications and were able to quickly pull out the candidates that we wanted to learn more about.

Meet Our New Talent Outcomes Leader

With all of that, we’re excited to share that we have found someone phenomenal to lead this team. Our new Talent Outcomes Partner is Chris Vanzetta. Chris has built an incredible career leading HR & Talent teams for over a decade at companies like Target and Reddit. He knows firsthand the challenges of building young organizations from inception through hyper-growth.

We cannot wait for you all to meet him, hear more about his vision for Talent Outcomes at Seven Seven Six, and learn how he plans on growing this team in the future!

The Seven Seven Six 2% Growth & Caregiving Commitment

The Seven Seven Six 2% Growth & Caregiving Commitment

Why caring for our founders makes good business sense

Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of providing counsel to business leaders on all varieties of plans and decisions. Each relationship was unique and spanned a different period in a company’s lifecycle, covering both times of exciting potential and intensifying challenge. With a background in People & Culture, I gave advice to leaders that was different from what they were used to hearing in times of uncertainty: “This is hard, and you can do this—but you aren’t much help if you have nothing left to give.”

Founders often adopt the “leaders eat last” mentality, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that resilience and a forward-thinking mindset can beat incredible odds. 

No matter what the challenge is, leaders are better equipped to handle it if they invest in personal care and growth. Still, we all too often see founders prioritize their venture dollars to maximize business results. Rarely do we see founders directing dollars to their own wellbeing. Oftentimes, they’re neglecting themselves and their family needs in service of the business. And the way we see it, that mentality puts founders at risk of experiencing a host of issues: burning out, having marital issues, experiencing loneliness, feeling disconnected from friends and loved ones, not processing grief, deprioritizing physical health, and more—all of which present real risks to a company’s success. In short, you can’t make a company thrive if you are barely keeping it together yourself.

We believe in investing in leaders who put their people first, and this needs to start from the founders themselves. It is our responsibility to cultivate that mindset. The Seven Seven Six Growth & Caregiving Program will therefore commit 1% on top of every check the firm writes* to non-dilutive capital earmarked for “founder personal growth” and an additional 1% to “caregiving.” These dollars will sit in a separate pool of funds for exclusive use by our founders for several years after the initial investment.

Since every founder is unique, we have loose guidelines for how this money can be spent. For example, the personal growth funds can be applied toward anything from enrolling in therapy or coaching sessions, buying a new surfboard, or out-of-pocket medical costs. Flexibility and inclusion are at the heart of the program, and we encourage our leaders to make the call on where these resources can have the greatest value.

We’re operating under the assumption that our founders are high-integrity adults who know what they need to grow and develop, both personally and professionally, to achieve maximum mental and physical health. Plus, in our view, people who are lifelong learners and devoted to achieving balance and integration in their lives tend to be more agile, allowing them to adjust quickly to changing environments. These characteristics in a leader can translate into life or death for the business. 

Likewise, the caregiving fund can be applied toward anything that allows our founders to best support the people they love, through both the abundance and devastations of life. Most existing policies and programs are limited in their support of only two major life events—the birth of a child and the death of a loved one. Taking it further, founders rarely apply company handbook policies to their own lives, fearing the business will derail without their watchful eye and constant participation. 

We believe that there is far more complexity to the human experience and, yes, that includes for founders. Accordingly, this part of the program was created with the intent to support leaders throughout the course of the beautiful and heartbreaking moments they may encounter on their journeys, from childcare to plane tickets, to visiting an ill loved one. Whatever the case, these dollars will go toward supporting founders as they seek to find balance and presence in wherever they are most needed. 

Drawing on our own lived experiences through bringing children into the world, losing people we love, and supporting our communities through dynamic personal challenges, we know how compelling a program like this will be.

We believe that it’s our founders’ job to care for their employees and our job to care for our founders. 

Seven Seven Six’s founding team members have worked together closely for the past six years, never straying from our commitment to supporting employees, founders, and our communities with flexible benefits and policy changes. We’ve fought for paid family leave, charted new territory with policies like miscarriage leave and support, and simply done the right thing when we’re sitting across from someone sharing hard news. Now, it only makes sense that we’re the team prioritizing this in our firm from the onset of the very first fund. 

We also believe in open-sourcing goodness. We’ll track, measure, and share the program data to help maximize our impact and encourage others to join in the development. We drew inspiration from the Felicis 1% program and are hopeful more venture capital firms will make similar commitments following our example.

We view this as the first of many opportunities to evolve our industry and build a more compassionate future—one that embraces the human experience to achieve great success. 

*based on first check at pre-seed and seed stage investments

The Operator in Residence Application Process & Learnings

The Operator in Residence Application Process & Learnings

Historically, venture capital (VC) has proven itself to be a very difficult industry to break into. Barriers include bias, closed networks, and even the recruiting process itself. Because we set out to build a VC firm differently, we knew we had to provide open and equitable access to operators specifically looking to transition into investor roles.

A few weeks ago, we introduced you all to our new Operators in Residence: Cristina, Hiram and Travis. We also revisited our reasons for creating this program and the goals we hope to achieve over the course of the year. We committed to giving you insight into how our process played out, and share some templates to help you adopt our approach. This is the first step. Open-sourcing our work is central to our firm’s identity, and we invite you to help improve it.

đź’­ Our Intentions

When building from scratch, you have no choice but to start with the fundamentals: Why are you creating this, whom do you aim to serve, and what are your goals in bringing this solution to life? There were many different paths we could have taken to develop this application process. Clarifying our intentions was critical to implementing the process quickly. After much discussion, we established the following:

  1. Open. Sadly, publicly posting jobs in VC is incredibly rare. We believe that the best way to maximize returns is to have a team that better reflects the world in which we live, which means increasing opportunity and access for all. These were the most obvious reasons to have an open application process.
  2. Inclusive. Because we’ve been building high-performing, diverse teams for over a decade, we know that language matters. Job postings with cold, biased, or neutral language deter candidates looking to join a company with an inclusive culture. This job posting was our opportunity to demonstrate to our candidates who we are and what we value, and to give them a taste of what it would be like to work alongside us in the year ahead. We clearly stated what the role was and what the role was not. We encouraged interested candidates to apply, even if they felt they didn’t meet all the requirements. In the application questions, we were intentional about creating space for an applicant’s authentic voice. Each question left plenty of room for creativity. The goal was for every prompt to feel like an invitation, because that’s exactly what this program was designed to be.
  3. Useful. We understood that each applicant’s time was valuable, and we aimed to be respectful and thoughtful in asking for a commitment from others. Recognizing that our applicants would be people who were at a crossroads in their careers, we genuinely wanted applicants to learn something about themselves and find clarity in their own journeys. Even a job application could be a two-way process, with both parties learning something new. Anything we asked of an applicant was meant to be something they could use as an exercise in self-reflection or in building their personal brand. Every task or question needed to serve as an opening for personal growth.
  4. Cloaked. We’re well aware of the many biases entrenched in traditional recruiting processes. This is true in many industries, but even more so in the land of venture capital, with many top-tier firms relying on pedigrees affiliated with only the top five ivy league schools. We know from experience that pedigree requirements filter out people with incredible talent and aptitude. We don’t care what college candidates—or founders or anyone else we work with— attended–or if they attended at all. It was important to us to reach beyond our existing networks for these roles, so we committed to a cloaked evaluation for the first stage. Practically, however, we were just a three-person team, and hosting an entirely opaque application process during a global pandemic would have been nearly impossible.
    • What we came up with was a “cloaked(ish)” process, meaning we chose not to ask for resumes as a part of the application process. We believe that resumes are outdated and only tell one part of the story (frankly, the least important bits). We let candidates own their narrative and tell us who they are in their own words, rather than presenting a series of stacked logos on a timeline.
    • We also needed to hire an external project manager to ensure we had a system set up on the backend to collect responses and pull out unique identifiers before our first round of assessments. Once that was established, we collated responses and assessed them in cloaked tranches, only revealing their names AFTER we had selected whom we wanted to move forward to the next stage. Having an external third party also allowed us to remove ourselves from the assessment process when a candidate was known by a Seven Seven Six team member.

From these commitments, we built an imperfect but revealing application and evaluation process that yielded an incredibly diverse applicant pool unlike anything typically experienced by a venture capital firm—or even by most tech companies. We had 1,100 applicants, with 83% self-identifying as underrepresented in venture. This tells us a few things: (1) the talent pipeline has never been the problem in VC, (2) standard recruiting processes prevent great candidates from entering this industry, and (3) if we really care about inclusion, we need to share our process and invite others to help make it better.

🕵️ The Recruiting Process

Our recruiting process consisted of three distinct rounds: the initial application, the project, and the interview. Throughout the three stages, we managed a comprehensive evaluation process designed to reduce bias, reset anchor points, and surface top talent.

Round 1: The Application

The initial application was designed to truly showcase our candidates—and, in the process, eliminate the need for resumes. Before drafting our short essay questions, we considered our goals and assessment criteria. We identified the two primary buckets that we believed would enable us to best assess the candidates’ qualifications: Identity & Skillset and Perspective. Within those two buckets, we outlined the information we hoped to gain in the process. Last, we considered the data collection needed to help us understand if we were attracting diverse candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

  1. Identity & Skillset
    1. Tell us who you are without using your resume.
    2. Show us who you are as an operator.
  2. Perspective
    1. How does your unique perspective shape the way you view the world?
    2. How do you perceive yourself?
  3. Data Collection
    1. Did we actually attract a diverse talent pool?
    2. What types of operators were most interested in our program?

After we created our strawman, we drafted application questions. We could have used the questions from the framework above, but we know that in order to build an inclusive application process, language truly matters. How you ask a question is just as important as how a candidate responds. Your job posting and your application questions should be crafted with intention and care. Our language needed to reflect our firm’s culture. Here’s what we came up with:

The Questions

Identity Question: What would you like us to know about your identity? This is your opportunity to proactively share anything about yourself that has helped to shape your perspective. We want to know anything that you feel has helped to develop who you are in this world of work. Tell us the story of you!

Why did we choose this question? 

  • We invited our applicants to share whatever they felt was important for us to know about who they are in this world. We felt this was far more compelling than surfacing a series of tick-boxes with demographic questions. 

What were we looking for?

  • We honestly didn’t know how people would respond to this prompt. Our hope was that they would share what was most important to them, but we had little expectation of what that might entail. This was our most experimental question.

What did we learn?

  • Identity is deeply personal. Some people chose to share their professional backgrounds, while others focused on their demographics. For many, this essay included what their childhood was like, who their role models are, and why they made different choices in their careers. This question was the most impactful, in an extremely unexpected way. We felt as if we really got to know these people. It allowed us to enter into our first conversations with a profoundly deep sense of connection. We’re convinced that these conversations never would have happened in a traditional recruiting process, and we plan on using this question in every future application.
  • People who went light in detail on this question rarely made it through to the second round. We discovered that vulnerability and openness were critical traits of the people we were seeking to add to the team.
  • We had applicants with incredibly unique backstories: race car drivers, microbiologists, pro athletes, elementary school teachers, dentists, fighter pilots, founders, journalists, and seasoned venture capitalists at top-tier firms. We saw a ton of parents, self-described “army brats,” and “third-culture kids.” We read the words “I was the first in my family to x” and “as the only person in my family to y” in application after application. Candidates came to us from all over the US, including Cincinnati, Detroit, St. Louis, Miami, and rural Kansas. The best part? Nearly all of them were qualified, and all of them, no doubt, will make great investors one day.
  • We are certain that some great candidates may have been screened out at this step because they chose to respond with a more traditional answer, but we knew we were looking for those who spotted the invitation to go beyond just listing resume accomplishments. 

Skillset Question: What is something that you have built or created to help solve a problem or an inefficiency within your own organization or for your industry at large? Share anything about your creative process that you would like in order to give us insight into how you build things. If you believe it’s additive, feel free to include links that direct us to your work or demonstrate the impact of your solution. (Please do not create anything specifically for this application.) 

Why did we choose this question? 

  • You’ve heard us say this over and over again: we fundamentally believe that the best operators make the best investors. World-class operators know how to identify problems or inefficiencies and can quickly operationalize solutions that serve the entire organization. This is precisely the type of support founders want from their investors. As an Operator in Residence (and as an investor), a candidate’s experience in architecting solutions is invaluable in supporting the Seven Seven Six founders. We wanted to learn more about how applicants became operators who stepped in when their organizations needed creative solutions.

What were we looking for?

  • We wanted to see their work in action! This question helped us to determine the candidates’ ability to translate their work into a format that helped others. Builders gonna build, and we were eager to hear their passion and commitment to their craft. 

What did we learn?

  • Skills are ridiculously transferable. It was fascinating to learn about solutions or programs that people had designed for a tech company that were rooted in a learning or experience from a completely different industry. How did working at an oyster farm influence a candidate’s construction of a metrics dashboard? How did a former kindergarten teacher wind up building a community support feature that gamified patience? The responses were stunningly articulate and demonstrated the agility of gifted operators. 

Perspective Question: We believe that unique perspectives help us to make better investments and support our portfolio companies in unparalleled ways. Many industries can benefit from this, but we’re curious to learn how your own unique perspective will improve the VC landscape.

Why did we choose this question? 

  • To be a successful investor, you need to have a perspective that is unique to you. We wanted to learn more about how these candidates were translating their lived experiences into their investing perspectives.

What were we looking for?

  • We had zero expectation for applicants to show up with a robust and fully articulated investor thesis. We wanted to hear the raw motivations behind their desire to move into the VC industry. We were hoping to read something that made us curious to learn more. 

What did we learn?

  • The drivers for this cohort of candidates were awesomely unique. Because we were reviewing questions in cloaked tranches, it was really interesting to read about the perspectives outside of the context of the other responses. Was this the kindergarten teacher or the head of production at a unicorn tech company? We honestly had no idea, and that made reading these short essays really, really fun.
  • We also learned that there are critical perspectives that are starkly absent from the industry at large. We heard voices in these responses that will help the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs achieve their potential in ways that the current majority of investors simply cannot.

Self-Perception Question: Coaching is a large part of the work that we do to support our portfolio founders. If you were your own career coach at this moment, what advice would you give yourself? Describe where you are in your journey, and what’s led you to apply to Seven Seven Six.

Why did we choose this question? 

  • This question was created to help us have insight into our candidates’ self-awareness and commitment to creating change in their lives. 
  • We were also hoping that this prompt would help us understand how someone might coach our portfolio companies. Good answers did not need to explicitly discuss this dynamic, but they did need to give us a clear picture of how they might show up in a coaching role.

What were we looking for?

  • Vulnerability. Anyone can write a few short sentences in the third person and give themselves a pep talk. What we really wanted to hear was what made this particular fork in the road the one that would change their life forever—regardless of Seven Seven Six, this opportunity, or even their ability to get a job in VC. What was holding them back? What was propelling them forward? 

What did we learn?

  • The people who really, truly leaned into this question were surprisingly open, honest, and reflective. It was obvious that some were writing this piece for themselves, almost as if they were hearing their own words of urgency for the first time. We felt humbled and honored to be reading this alongside them, and we found ourselves rooting for them in ways we didn’t expect. This was the last essay we read from candidates, and it left us feeling very optimistic about the future of our industry. 

Demographic Questions: 

In addition to the four essay questions, we also asked two questions related to demographics: (1) Do you consider yourself to be underrepresented in venture capital? and (2) What would you consider to be your primary function(s) as an operator?

Why did we choose these questions? 

  • The operator question would help us out later in the process when we were balancing the skill sets on the team to best support our portfolio companies.
  • As for the “underrepresented in venture” question, we needed to know if our job posting and sourcing strategy was effective in reaching diverse applicants. 

What were we looking for?

  • For both questions, the only thing we hoped to gain was data. These questions were not a consideration or factor in the first or second round of assessments and remained hidden for the reading of the four short essay questions. Only after the project round did we take the “area of functional expertise’ data into the selection process, ensuring we had a well-rounded team.

What did we learn?

  • Cross-functional misfits were the norm! While we made the primary function question a multi-select, we expected candidates to select one or maybe two boxes. Applicants felt that they had many areas of expertise and were comfortable identifying themselves as operators who moved fluidly across organizations. 
  • Another interesting finding was that most applicants selected the “People & Culture” box, feeling connected enough to the work to identify as an operator with this area of expertise. However, true People & Culture specialists (despite the fact that they are probably some of the few operators who truly work across every part of the organization) were the only cohort who earnestly selected just one box. 
  • 83% of applicants viewed themselves as being underrepresented in venture capital. At first, we were proud of ourselves for reaching diverse pools of candidates. Upon further reflection, we realized that this demographic data simply reflects the state of the industry itself. 

Round 2: The Project

After our review of the 1,100 applications, we invited 113 people to participate in the next step. We challenged applicants to provide an example of what it would look like if they productized or operationalized their own experience and wisdom to serve a startup. We let applicants lean into their own strengths and provided a fairly open prompt that yielded a wide variety of results, from slide decks and dashboards to movie trailers. 

Why did we choose this prompt? 

  • Seeing operators clearly and articulately bring their work to life was very important to us. We didn’t want to create more than an hour’s worth of work for the applicants, so we encouraged them to highlight projects they’d worked on previously. And because we believe that potential investors can build their own reputations for being helpful to founders outside of having a job at a VC firm, we encouraged the operators to open-source their work. By sharing with the world, they would help other early-stage founders build their companies and would elevate their personal brands. 

What were we looking for?

  • Outstanding communication and craftsmanship. The applicants may have stolen our hearts in the first phase of the application process with beautiful writing or compelling storytelling, but could they back it up with true expertise?

What did we learn?

  • We were awestruck to see our candidates come to life through these projects. We felt very connected to each of them even before this stage; seeing their faces on a Loom video or listening to their baby babble on a podcast with them was truly a delight! The thoughtfulness of these submissions was very much appreciated. 
  • Because we left the prompt for these projects so wide open, it was challenging for us to assess them. The variety alone was enough to cause us to have to compare notes earlier in the process than we had planned. We were flexible with ourselves, but next time we may consider putting more boundaries in place to better rate and rank submissions. 
  • Many people actually open-sourced their work. We weren’t sure how candidates would respond to our encouragement to put themselves out there, and they showed up! We’ve heard from some candidates that although they didn’t get the gig with us, they were able to land jobs or advisory roles because they open-sourced their work. Music to our ears!
  • The best submissions had a few things in common:
    • They wove in the applicants’ unique voices and perspectives.
    • They stepped into the shoes of a startup founder and found the unique intersection of what that founder would want and what they as applicants knew well. 
    • They practiced showing and not telling in their communication. 
    • They were courageous in taking chances.

Round 3: The Interview

From this group, we narrowed down our candidate pool to 21 before moving on to interviews. The finalists had live interviews with some combination of the founding team members. In our interviews, we focused on learning more about where these people envisioned themselves developing in the next year and shared more about what we were building here at the firm. 

While typically the “in-person” interview provides the most tangible insights into who candidates are and the dynamic between team members, we really felt as if we knew the people on the other side of our screens the moment they logged on. It was almost as if we were dialing in to reconnect and share a laugh with an old friend.

After the interviews concluded, we compared our notes, reviewed our founder requests, discussed the benefits to our portfolio for each particular area of expertise, and –at long last– made decisions on our final three. Thankfully, we had a 100% acceptance rate and are proud to be working alongside Travis, Hiram, and Cristina. 

đź“‹ The Evaluation Process

The evaluation of candidates during this new application process became a creative exercise in and of itself. We mentioned earlier that in an effort to reduce our biases, we decided to bring on an external project manager. We contracted Samuel Lazarus to help us manage the logistics of creating and maintaining a framework that allowed us to view the four essay questions in cloaked tranches. Sam’s background in creating hiring mechanisms that screened for potential over paper was helpful and his commitment to ensuring a fantastic candidate experience was felt through every step of the process.

We’ve shared Sam’s assessment tool here, designed specifically for this Operator in Residence Program hiring effort. Sam (and we here at Seven Seven Six) invite you to try recruiting for one role in your organization with this approach. Tell us what worked and what didn’t; all feedback is warmly welcomed!

TEMPLATE: Seven Seven Six Operator in Residence Application Assessment Tool

🏫 Other Lessons Learned

All in all, we’re very happy with how things turned out. We’ve hired a phenomenal team and have met some truly gifted people who are now a part of the extended Seven Seven Six community. In the spirit of sharing openly with you all and, specifically, those who are aiming to use a process similar to ours, we want to quickly share some other lessons learned. 

Where we could have done better:

  • Broadening our reach and amplifying our job posting in other communities. It was obvious in the applications that there were certain communities that really caught wind of our posting (shoutout to everyone who helped us amplify). It was equally as obvious that we did not reach all potential candidate pools. We aim to have a more pragmatic approach to outreach for next year’s cohort. 
  • We did our best to ensure our application was accessible to all candidates, and we recognize that we could have spent more time on things like color contrast, adding subtitles to our video prompts, and offering alternative modes of applying that didn’t involve submitting written essays. We intend to revisit these investments in the future.
  • We’re still working on getting personalized feedback to all 113 folks who made it to the project stage. We overcommitted and are struggling to get those notes sent out. We intend on honoring this commitment, but we understand that effective feedback is given in a timely manner. (Thanks to those of you out there still waiting to hear from us!) We’ll better assess our bandwidth next time around. 

We also want to call out the things that were really, really hard but were absolutely worth the effort. We were challenged at times and debated wavering on these things. We’re so glad we didn’t. 

  • We rejected referrals. We are proud of our networks, and it was incredibly challenging to tell people we know and respect that we would not be taking their referrals directly. We offered the website to apply and left it at that. Because we were running our opaque(ish) process, many referrals were screened out long before we even knew they applied. For applicants that didn’t make it to the second round, we never even saw their names. (This made some people very cranky with us.)
  • We didn’t second-guess our process. Even when it was killing us and we wanted to peek at the backend to see who our mystery candidates were, we didn’t. Even when a friend asked us where they were in the process, we didn’t check. We didn’t push anyone through that didn’t meet the threshold. Our biases were checked daily and some healthy conversations were had across the team and our stakeholder groups.
  • We took the time to collect real feedback on our application and job posting. Not a quick “hey, can you read this for me,” but real feedback from many people in and out of our networks. The feedback we received was invaluable. We’d like to thank the following people who truly helped co-create what we’ve shared here today: Mac Conwell, Kirsti Chou, Megan Ruan, Alaina Beaver, Lars Schmidt, Stacy Donovan Zapar, Simmone Taitt, Ben Ramirez, Kofi Frimpong, Chris Vanzetta, Jessica Yuen, James Day, Anke Huiskes, Melissa Moore, Tim Salau, the team at Sunshine Sachs, the team at Plural, the team at Hack Diversity—Jody Rose, Alexa Goldman, and Angela Liu, and, last (but certainly not least), Katelin’s 94 year old grandmother Sally. (Hi, grandma! đź‘‹)

We discovered loads from this process and have plenty of inspiration and motivation to make it even better for our next cohort of Operators in Residence. We hope this helps you and that you’ll improve upon it, sharing what you learn along the way. There is so much work yet to be done to create an inclusive industry and recruiting process. This is just the beginning…

🧮 By the Numbers

1,100 Applicants in 8 Days, 6 Questions

1,100 → 113 (~10%) Moved on to Round 2

113 → 21 (18.5%) Moved to Round 3

21 → 3 (0.27%) Overall Acceptance Rate (average acceptance rate of 2024 Ivy League schools is 7.2%)

Announcing Our 2021 Operators in Residence

Announcing Our 2021 Operators in Residence

In mid-November 2020, we shared our firm’s very first job posting. It was an invitation to join the Seven Seven Six Operator in Residence Program. Not knowing what to expect, I anxiously told Alexis and Lissie that we would be successful if we got 100 applicants. Hosting an open application process is rare in venture, with most firms hiring talent from their limited personal networks or earning social capital by hiring friends. Our application process was different and we knew it. We didn’t ask for resumes, LinkedIn links, or MBA credentials. We asked for builders. And we asked for their perspective.

Their Work in Action:

The team started with us in late January and have spent their first few weeks getting to know each of our founders, sitting in on pitch meetings, and are beginning to dive into their support work with the Seven Seven Six portfolio companies.

An example from last week was when a founder shared in an Office Hours that they were struggling with hiring their first designer. Cristina quickly jumped on the line with them and walked through their interview process, their candidate pipeline, job description, compensation, and candidate profile. She identified their points of disconnect and made adjustments with them live in a working session. She followed up the next day with a “How to Hire Your First Designer” guide that can be used by any of our founders (and any of you!). Immediate and actionable feedback — in a productized and easy to translate package — is exactly what our founders ask for.

In addition to the hands-on work with our portfolio, the Operators are getting a front-row seat to every part of building this new firm, including reviewing deals, launching a new fund, and learning about the mechanics of venture capital. We’ll host formal AMAs and fireside chats with seasoned investors, putting equal emphasis on the learning track as much as the building track. 


The Future:

There is so much we’re collectively looking forward to in 2021. To start, we recognize the incredible talent in our applicant pool and are actively building out a community to keep these people in our orbit. The goal is to bring these operators together, enable meaningful connections, share resources, and, ultimately, do what we can to support everyone on their individual journeys to venture capital. More on our Operator Community soon!

Most of all, we’re looking forward to learning together. In just a few short weeks, Cristina, Hiram, and Travis have already brought so much to the Seven Seven Six team — experience, enthusiasm, and perspective. We feel that if we continue on this path, we can easily scale this program every year, creating deeper levels of support and inviting many more unique voices into our industry. For now, we’re going to enjoy the work in front of us and do our best to make our time together meaningful and rewarding.