Sometime ago I started as a manager at a high-tech startup. It is a busy time with long days, seven days a week. We build a business from scratch, and I spend at least half my time on hiring new team members. The competences we are looking for are scarce, and the market is already very heated. Fortunately, we have good financial funding, otherwise it would be impossible. Finding the right people has the highest priority. The first employees have an incredible impact on the growth, the direction and the culture of the company and ultimately the success of the company. In other words, we can not afford mistakes. Yet I wonder how to build our all-star team. Especially for the managerial roles it is best to attract the right people. What could we improve on our recruitment?
The headhunter replies:
Starting a startup is a great adventure. Anyone who has ever started it will recognize that in addition to finding customers, financiers and product development, building the team and assuming the right core team is one of the biggest challenges. In practice, I use a number of guidelines on how to interview and accept the candidates.
A decisive approach is therefore of great importance. Make sure potential candidates do not have to wait weeks before a first acquaintance takes place. Make sure you have a ‘talent scout’ at the beginning of the procedure that coordinates the procedures and brings the right candidates to the attention of the core team. Make sure that they do not become lengthy procedures – you run the risk of losing the best candidates. Make sure you can switch quickly in the offer phase and make sure you get a suitable offer.
Before that happens, however, you will need to know clearly what the candidates you are looking for must meet. It is necessary first to form a clear picture of the company and the culture you want to build. Define the essential skills that the startup employees must have. Use a ‘holistic’ approach to your recruitment. Involve all aspects of the candidate in your assessment: technical skills, communication skills, personality, learning ability, experience. Assess candidates for much more than just great coding, sales or managerial skills. A lot will often not be read directly from a CV.
People must complement each other and balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It is essential that they have the right attitude, flexible, versatile and a big ‘drive’: a start-up mentality.
However, do not get caught up in skills and experience. Often you see that because of all the urgent needs that need to be fulfilled, job descriptions are made that only a Superman / Wonderwoman can meet. However, in the reality of real life these do not exist.
Make sure you choose people who are intellectually curious or have worked in similar startups, so that pioneering is less intimidating for them.
Think “out-of-the-box” when it comes to interviewing – and involve the entire team. Make it a mutual acquaintance. A standard environment and standard questions are not always sufficient. Make sure you get to know key candidates better, even outside the office environment. For example, go together for lunch or dinner. What can also have an in-depth effect on the acquaintance is, for example, if the candidate provides a presentation about a project he has worked on.
An important part of the interview process should also focus on selling your startup. The candidates do not talk to you for nothing. Maybe they now work at a large company where their impact is not as big as they would like. Perhaps they are attracted by the potential of the share package, or want to experience a faster development in their careers.