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Successful Vancouver startup retools recruiting strategy

George Psiharis, VP Business Development at Clio

Image courtesy of Clio


Like most startups, Clio had the objective of growing and expanding its business. The Vancouver-based tech company, which specializes in web-based practice management and billing for law firms, company did expand past its startup roots, growing to 70 employees by the end of 2013.

But there were a few issues the executive team began to notice and brought to light during a company retreat last November.

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"What we realized was if we wanted to hit our growth targets, we needed to reach our hiring targets by improving our recruitment process," says George Psiharis, vice-president of business development.

The problem was that they were only known within a very specific field; that is, practicing lawyers primarily in North America, explains Mr. Psiharis.

Beyond those borders, however, there was very little brand recognition. Clio wasn't attracting the pool of quality applicants they felt they should be.


Childhood friends Rian Gauvreau and Jack Newton founded Clio in Edmonton in 2008. They moved to Vancouver with four employees and the company soon targeted a niche market with their cloud-based practice management platform for law firms. Clio grew rapidly, and now has over 30,000 customers in more than 60 countries, with additional offices in Toronto and Dublin.

"We grew based on fantastic word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews of our product from legal technology thought leaders," says Mr. Psiharis who joined Clio's founding team after completing an MBA at the Sauder School of Business.

The Solution

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Mr. Psiharis and his colleagues decided on a two-pronged approach to their hiring challenge: offer a cash-incentive referral program and use social media to get the company's name and profile out there.

There's now a $100 bonus for employees when a referred candidate makes it to a first interview. If the candidate gets the job, the employee then earns a second bonus of $1,000.

Next, Clio needed to boost its brand recognition among the candidates it wanted to see walking through its doors.

"We're supposed to be one of those exciting software service companies that people are really almost fighting each other to get into, with lots of growth opportunities and we weren't quite seeing that," says Mr. Psiharis.

The company took to social media to solve the, using Twitter and LinkedIn. The hashtag #teamclio allowed employees to post photos and stories to promote their dynamic and interesting workplace in order to attract potential employees.

Current Clio employees, particularly the company's designers, also put together a showcase of their work in a blog -- called Clio Labs -- to help demonstrate to an external audience the type of projects the team has been involved in.

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Both the referral program and the social media effort were rolled out in January 2014, only weeks after the recruitment challenge was identified. the results were visible almost immediately.


In the fourth quarter of 2013, Clio hired six people. In the first quarter of 2014, less than three months later, the company made 31 hires, 14 of which were selected through the company's referral program.

"Instead of having to go and hire recruiters and spend money on identifying candidates, we're now seeing a pretty rapid transition to having an inbound pipeline of people who are really interested in the company and qualified in so many different ways."

Although the original challenge was to recruit and hire relevant talent, the social media solutions also pushed the company's hiring brand into the external market and expanded its presence.

"It's creating better choices for us in terms of the applicants, but also really revolutionizing our hiring brand, which is huge," says Mr. Psiharis.

Jeff Kroeker is a lecturer in the accounting division at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.

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