For startups, the hiring process is a lot like speed dating in your thirties.
Time’s running out – but you just can’t bring yourself to accept a compromise in quality.
Your success hinges on the people who make up your team. You already know that they need to be smart, diligent, ambitious and likeable. But there’s much more to a candidate than those four qualities. And don’t forget that you need to put in work to attract The One, too.
Ready to meet the perfect teammate? Here are eight foolproof tips for hiring at a growing startup.
#1 It’s not just them – it’s you
When you’re just starting out, all you strictly require is the talent and passion to grow your business. Each new addition has the power to redefine the office culture – which remains a flexible thing until the company’s size and maturity reach a certain point.
Understand what you’re offering. You won’t keep a candidate if you can’t provide them with a truthful insight into the company. Awareness of the culture you have built is essential – there’s limited time to spend getting acquainted with colleagues at interview stage, so candidates will count on you to paint this picture. They’ll use it to decide whether they could truly feel a sense of belonging at your startup. Honesty and self-awareness are highly respectable qualities.
#2 Know your skill set non-negotiables
Working day and night in pursuit of your entrepreneurial passion? Your team feels like your family – and you want it to stay that way, even as the company expands. This can tempt founders to follow an ill-substantiated gut feeling, or to inflate their assessment of the candidate’s potential: “but he’ll fit in so well with the team”!
Need your new hire to hit the ground running? Pick the job advert apart before you post it. What does the role actually involve? What core competencies must the candidate have already mastered? What would they be able to learn later?
#3 Keep an open mind
Hiring people you already know won’t work forever. The benefits of guaranteed loyalty and good fun risk taking on a cliquey or juvenile appearance as your company matures. Diversity is important – not just to secure fair representation of genders and ethnicities, but personality types too.
One jerk can ruin an entire team dynamic – but research shows you can only maintain five intimate friendships, so don’t feel the loss too sorely if your new colleague doesn’t fit the bill. A gregarious PR pro on a team of web geeks might be just what you need to convince charismatic future candidates that there’s a work spouse waiting for them at your company.
#4 Attack of the clones
So you need a copywriter. This person must have a degree in an essay-based subject, two years of experience in the profession, and familiarity with the principles of SEO. Eventually, if the business takes off, you’ll need a dozen more.
The original copywriter is a rock star. You’d gladly hire people just like her – but you shouldn’t. Replication results in redundancy. For a well-rounded marketing department, you need a copywriter with people management skills, one with an eye for perfect social media puns, one who’s a fountain of creative campaign ideas and one who never loses patience with the interns during training. Hire people with a variety of soft skills and the capacity for self-direction. These people can carve their own invaluable niche: if a company has too many clones, few can fulfill their true potential.
#5 Respect isn’t just for your elders
Nobody likes a dictator. Managers should meet their future reports, not just the directors. If you’re planning to fill a senior position, test the candidate’s people skills thoroughly by allowing their team to interview them, too. Listen carefully to the feedback. Terminate a reign of tyranny before it starts: hiring one bad boss could cost you dearly when their subordinates become disengaged.
#6 Offer a helping hand with scheduling
Top talent won’t be unemployed. In-demand freelancers won’t move in-house. Make it possible for your candidates to go through the interview process. There’s no need to make testing easy, or to cut corners – you want a qualified individual with the stamina to work at startup pace. But treating them well now will pay off when they eventually sit down at their desk.
Don’t take up too much of lunch hour with your screening call; make the first meeting an informal breakfast or drinks; if the final stage requires your candidate to take leave, offer generous compensation. To test their skills and commitment to the process, consider setting a task to complete. Keep it between two to five hours long, depending on the seniority of the position, and allow at least a week before the deadline.
#7 Don’t miss an opportunity
It takes an unconventional person to thrive in a startup environment. That means you need to branch out from conventional recruitment tactics. On mainstream job sites like Indeed or Monster, there’s tough competition to snare the best talent. Larger and more established companies will survive the salary filter. Your snappy ad copy will be lost in a tide of opportunity.
Give interns and freelancers the chance to create their own full-time niche, advertise on niche job sites, and consider career-changers who can bring fresh perspectives. Go ahead and poach from larger companies if your luxury coworking space or freedom to define the role could tempt an A-player over. People attract people – so up your presence at networking events, show your personality on social media and weigh up the cost of a stand at a top university careers fair.
#8 Hiring doesn’t stop after offer
During probation, you’re on trial as well as your new hire. One in four workers walk away from a new job in the first 90 days because it isn’t a good fit. You’ll keep an eye on your new employee’s ability to pick up new skills, demonstrate proactivity, and generally contribute to your business in a valuable way. In return, they will look out for a structured onboarding process, clear and collaborative goal-setting, and continuing opportunities for development (beyond the first week). The point is, the right person can suddenly become the wrong person if they don’t receive the support that every employee needs to thrive.
Companies with a great track record of hiring and keeping top talent never lose track of the hiring process. Every email you send and every event you attend are opportunities to attract potential employees. Develop a procedure for thoroughly evaluating candidates so that interviews run seamlessly. Then, invest in your team’s growth. If you’re impressed at interview, imagine what that person can contribute if he’s consistently motivated by his belief in a dazzling career with your company.
About the Author
Lydia Woodward is the Head of Content at YourParkingSpace. She loves reading, writing, swimming, technology and marketing.