Hiring With Courage For Startup Success

“How long do you think it will take to hire someone?” That is a question I get a lot from executives, to which I can only reply, “It depends on you. And since we have never worked together, I can’t even begin to speculate”. It’s a tough market, but not impossible to find people. What makes recruiting tough are the hiring practices of the company. If you are a CEO and struggling with why your team can’t hire anyone, even though there has been a steady stream of candidates that have come in, look deeper into the practices. Below are a few clues indicating a potential problem:

Hiring someone

  • If 5 seemingly qualified candidates have gone through the interview process, yet no hires made
  • If you are using agencies, but you are seeing fewer and fewer resumes from them
  • If you have a position open for more than 5 months that isn’t considered a specialized role
  • If employee referrals are drying up
  • If every candidate considered requires multiple backdoor references
  • If a candidate will not be considered before even speaking with them because they have jumped a few times

The companies that are the most successful in hiring, are those that weigh the risk against their ability to manage. It takes a certain level of courage, but they can look at what they are given and figure out how to work with it. Those hiring managers that are bold enough to take risks and take on the responsibility of managing their employees to their full potential tend to be strong managers with teams that have a fierce loyalty to them.

Look, I run a small company that requires a high-bar. Each person on my team has to operate as well as me (if not better) if my company is to be successful. This is non-negotiable. Some people work out exceptionally well from the gate. If they don’t, we rally to see how we can help them. As one of my directors says, “it takes a village”. And sometimes it just isn’t a good fit, no matter what. The point is, we try.

Rigid hiring practices seems like it should help ensure a company’s success, but it is far more apt to be detrimental. With startups in particular it can be crushing. As a hiring manager in a startup you need your core people, but how imperative is it that they are tested in algorithms if the later hires won’t be asked to write one?
Have you ever noticed athletic people can be really good at one sport and then they pick-up another only to be fairly successful in the new one? How is that possible? Athleticism transcends to whatever the activity. Intellect does as well. I am delighted when we work with a VP of Engineering and we ask, “What is more important to you, direct experience or intelligence ?” and they go with the latter. Granted, the company that wants the direct experience also wants smart people, but the difference is that suddenly we need to be checking off a litany of boxes before we can even consider a candidate.

The longer you wait for the perfect candidate, the less likely you are to hire. If you think that it will take too long for the person to get up to speed, imagine how long it will take to find that perfect candidate.

Managers need to take responsibility for hiring and that includes the risk. There will be some wins and some losses. You’ll learn from the losses, but the risks that convert to big wins will be something even more rewarding. The best part of the risk is the loyalty you will get from the employee that knows that you saw something in them.

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