We Rediscovered these 7 Startup Hiring Tricks
So you started a company and now you need to hire some people. Or you have a bunch of employees already and you need more, here are 7 startup hiring tips:
1. Emphasize the importance of hiring and recruiting to your existing team. In a startup, your biggest expense is typically salaries, and many of your staff are wearing many hats or doing the work of 2 or 3 people. Therefore hiring the right people is essential, and everyone from the CEO on down needs to care and focus on getting the RIGHT people in the door, and (not to be underestimated) on selling them on the company. Thinking this is “HR’s job” (if you have an HR person/s) or just the hiring manager’s responsibility, is a big mistake. It’s not about referral bonuses (which can be helpful but are often just a distraction), but about an organizational emphasis on adding employees who are better than the average person you have now.
2. Screen well, but verify you’re not missing anything. You may have one or more people screening resumes or LinkedIn profiles to help streamline things, and it’s unfortunately common that they’ll discard profiles or resumes of people the hiring manager would think could be great additions. Remember your startup is going to change and adapt over time, and you’re looking for great people who can meet immediate AND long-term needs, so spend some time upfront to make sure your filters are neither too fine nor too coarse. You don’t need to check every box every time.
3. Don’t rush through the process. When the need for a [fill in the blank] is intense and you have what appears to be a good candidate that is really into your opportunity too, it’s tempting to skip a step or two to fill the need. Be careful – you also need to take time to make sure they understand your product, people and process. This may require a demonstration of your software or product, lots of questions and more. The majority of hiring mistakes I’ve been involved in can be traced back to a rushed or incomplete process of assessing fit – not only by us, but by the candidate too.
4. Get the right team members to interview, and mix it up. Will this potential employee interact with sales and should they meet someone from that group? Or might they at some point in the future? Get a broad range of feedback on the candidate and think creatively about different ways to assess their skills and aptitudes. See (3) above and be careful not to base your interview schedule on who’s around (“the VP of sales is traveling, I’ll have you meet the intern instead”). Train your team on how to interview – many of your employees may not have before, but could also have some great ideas to offer. Coordinate ahead of time so that you’re not asking the same questions (or that you are – sometimes that’s actually helpful, but either way know what the plan is and don’t waste time), and are in aggregate able to get a good view of the fit and skill set of the candidate. You’re a startup and when you are growing quickly too many interviews can be a big time drain for your team – but I’ve also had employees tell me that they really enjoyed interviewing and it gave them a lot of new perspective. Mix it up sometimes by having two on one interviews; try new things and see what they yield.
5. Find great people who aren’t looking for a new job. Great candidates do apply for jobs via job listings, but often the best people aren’t looking for new jobs and are at least passively happy in their current jobs (passively meaning, they don’t know about your great opportunity yet!). Tap LinkedIn to find these people, and avoid overfocusing on finding people who work at competitors currently (I’ll write more about that some other time). Often there are better gems to be unearthed at supplier or partner companies in adjacent verticals to yours.
6. Test skills instead of asking about them. Hiring an analyst who needs to know the difference between Excel’s VLOOKUP and OFFSET? Don’t ask them about it, give them and the other 10 applicants an Excel take-home test. Get a link to their blog to assess their everyday writing skills if they’re supposed to be writing every day. Presentation skills? Let them prepare something new and show you. These take time to setup and execute but should be scalable across many candidates and will yield dividends. And remember, paid internships can be a win-win for both parties since it lets you both assess fit and is something for junior positions that can work well. Please don’t do it disingenuously though, if you have no full-time position planned, unless the candidate is fully aware of that. If they continue their job search they likely won’t focus on the internship as much and won’t maximize their chances of success in your organization.
7. Be prompt, and use a tracking system! If you can afford to set up and use a candidate management/tracking system like Jobvite, definitely do so, but even a well-managed shared Google Spreadsheet that can be updated in real time is better than nothing. Make sure you know who’s in the pipeline, if they are waiting on or have a clock ticking on other offers, what the next steps are and for goodness’ sake, get back to candidates promptly, early and often. There is nothing worse than losing out on a great person because you were too slow or two of your team each thought the other one was following up and didn’t. Oh and of course, if it’s your thing, track and make sure that your interviewees sign those non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before you talk to them!