How to recruit and assess talent for your start-up
July 2, 2021
7 minutes to read
Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.
Securing good hires is one of a CEO’s top priorities, and for startups, the odds may be stacked against you.
I came across a comprehensive guide to hiring startups 101 written by Steve Bartel, co-founder and CEO of Gem. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you read it. It provides step by step instructions on how to go about the hiring process. But, based on my experience, I think startup founders need to meet the hiring prerequisites first before they embark on the process. The prerequisites answer questions such as when to hire, who to hire, and where to find these people.
Art or science?
Recruiting early is more art than science. You find people ready to help you in any way possible and to evolve until you maximize individual capacities. As soon as you get to scale up to 10 people, you need to start thinking about having a process, being creative, and perfecting the recruiting craft.
When to hire
There is always more work than you can handle. There is a perennial feeling of a lack of resources. âWe don’t have enough peopleâ is a sentiment shared by almost everyone involved. But, if you are planning to get people on your payroll, you need to clarify the following things first.
Generate income or raise funds: Only develop if you are successful or have the money. Find out how much lead you have, in other words, how long can you afford to pay for your office rent, utilities, equipment, infrastructure hosting fees, employee salaries, and other costs. operational. Be careful and plan for the worst case scenario. We have all witnessed many startups that oversubscribed and had to endure massive layoffs when uncertainties like Covid-19 hit, while other companies proved their maturity by planning for the rainy day.
Just in time vs just in case: Sports teams or contracting agencies hire reserves, just in case they need them. But a startup doesn’t have such a luxury to hire extras and keep them on the bench. Hire when the position has clearly defined roles, responsibilities and indicators of success. This helps the candidate to start as soon as he is integrated. Sitting on the bench while waiting for the job to show up can be extremely frustrating and demotivating.
Related: Employers need to refresh their playbook in the fight to attract and retain talent
Generalist or specialist
First and foremost, hire independent, scammer people, people who don’t need to be managed. You probably need generalists who are jack of all trades. General practitioners adapt more easily to chaotic situations and are comfortable with heavy context changes. They are trained to spend time on multiple tasks. You can hire specialists when you prefer seclusion and concentration.
If you have a clearly defined problem that needs special attention, like inventing the next fastest wifi chip, you probably need a specialist.
Trained or trainable
A startup is constrained in terms of resources, time and money. When you have the money to hire beyond the first few employees, when you start thinking about building small teams, I prefer to hire a senior chief engineer – a trained candidate and other people who can be trained. It is then the responsibility of the senior engineer to help upgrade the junior members through active coaching and mentoring and the junior members to model the best practices of the senior member.
Short term or long term
Many startups hire entrepreneurs in the initial phase to find a suitable product for the market. I suggest hiring people who have a bit more skin in the game and this can be achieved by hiring contract or full time employees up front. Of course, it depends on your finances, but it pays to hire someone with a long term perspective in mind.
I have found incredible talents all over the world, even non-believers in contract work become believers and then fight for entrepreneurs to be converted full time.
Candidates are more invested in your product when they know that they don’t have to look for another job after the end of the current assignment. The uncertainty and stress of a temporary job consumes a lot of energy and could keep people on edge.
Whether you are building a local or distributed team depends a lot more on what you are trying to accomplish. For example, if you are building a service that requires local cultural and behavioral understanding, it is best to seek out someone who has experienced local challenges.
Related: How to Hire the Best Freelancers When Building a Remote Team
Flat or hierarchical organization
A startup is never really a flat structure. You have the CEO who is at the top, whether it is in terms of his share of ownership in the company, his authority, his responsibilities and his final say in decision-making. The rest of the founding members tend to create the next layer of structure. Initially, there is a good chance that the founding members will work closely together. Think of the high school project partners.
- At this point, any special process or policy is overkill and can reduce team efficiency, speed, and privacy.
- Fewer levels of management encourage an easier decision-making process among employees.
- Each member should raise their level of responsibility and not need supervision.
There is usually a sweet spot around 5 employees. Beyond this point, such a structure could create tension and confusion among employees about ownership and liability. A healthy organization is a hybrid approach, not too hierarchical and not too flat. It determines the extent and nature of how leadership is disseminated throughout the organization as well as the method by which information flows.
Where do you find the talents?
Technological progress is accelerating at a speed that is difficult for today’s local labor market to keep up with. Another challenge in big tech hubs like Silicon Valley, New York or Texas is that it’s very difficult for startups to compete for talent with industry behemoths like Apples and Googles.
Skills throughout the diplomas: There was a time when graduating from renowned schools with computer science degrees was the only ticket to tech-based jobs. This is no longer the case. Companies like Google, Apple, etc. no longer require employees to have a diploma. Equally talented are schools, bootcamps, specialty courses, and self-taught applicants with relevant experience.
World teams: Thanks to the Internet, global talent has become easily accessible. I have found great success in hiring remote talent across the world. I remember that at one point there were people from 18 different countries working in my organization at the same time.
Pivotal talent: Businesses, from manufacturing to sales to customer service, must adapt to constantly changing technology to keep up with today’s highly digital and fast-paced marketplace and require a wide range of skills. and disciplines under one roof. People who switch from various disciplines to technology are promising candidates due to their cross-pollination, flexibility and breadth of knowledge. In the past, I have worked with people who were lawyers or English teachers in their previous lives and who have successfully migrated to software development.
Look where no one is looking: Don’t wait for candidates to search for you to be discoverable. Proactively reach passive applicants who aren’t looking to relocate. Likewise, don’t overlook the power of referrals, personal network and social network. Provided the sponsor is willing to put their reputation on the line for the sponsorship. Have additional information on behaviors, attitudes, work styles, values, etc. people are invaluable soft skills signals.
Hiring talent remains a major concern for CEOs. Employers also spend a lot of money to hire. As an entrepreneur, do your homework first, clearly define your prerequisites. Be intentional, the cost of staff turnover could reach twice the salary of one. Once you’re ready to recruit, share your strengths. Be transparent, inform the candidate of the level of process and structure available in your company.