How to Hire the Right Person for your Startup?

Having a small team and a limited budget, making the right choices when hiring can make or break your startup. Working in a startup is a completely different dynamic from working in a corporate environment. Startups are tough environments with constant changes and heavy workload. Here’s a guideline on how you can hire the right person for your own startup.

” The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world.”

Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO

1. The Job Posting

When hiring the right candidate, it starts well before the interview process. The job posting is a critical aspect when finding the right fit. Here are some pointers when writing a good job posting.

Use clear job titles

In the startup world, too many and too often HR managers become too creative with the job titles. Non-traditional titles such as “Unicorn designer” or “Product ninja” sounds good in theory but it causes confusion for the applicant. For those who have the role, it also makes it difficult to put those titles on their resume when they decide to leave.

My recommendation: Use simple and clear traditional titles such as “sales manager” or “call center agent”.

Use clear messaging

Write the description as if you are speaking to the candidate. Job postings are very similar to marketing collateral. Most likely than not, job seekers will have never heard of your startup. You will have a few seconds to capture their interest and seeing a paragraph of hard to read text isn’t the best way to start.

My recommendation: Keep the descriptions short and concise with no jargon or fillers to get your point across.

Don’t mislead the applicant

Too many times, I would see “head of ___” or “___ manager” and automatically assume it’s a leadership role, but the reality is that the company are using these titles for front line agents. This kind of dishonesty not only gives you overqualified candidates who have no interest in the role but also increasing your time to fill.

My recommendation: Make sure the job title and descriptions actually reflects the role. Remember that your posting isn’t the only posting in the market. Being transparent helps with trust and attracts better qualified applicants.

Describe the day-to-day

What I hate about job applications is that they put the most interesting tasks at the top, even if it only accounts for less than 5% of the job duties. When writing the daily responsibilities of the role, make sure it’s actually the daily tasks, and not one off projects you had in the past.

My recommendation: Help the candidate visualize a typical day at work. Make sure to also include KPI’s that the applicant will be measured on.

Sell your company

There are infinite amount of works when working in a startup. This includes work perks such as ping pong tables, yoga sessions, lax dress codes to de-stress. But it also includes many growth opportunities such as flexibility, room to grow, control over their department, more autonomy and much more.

My recommendation: Sell as you’re a startup, not a fully growth corporate business.

2. The Interview Process

Effective interviews bring out the personality of the applicant, and gives the opportunity to verify qualifications, skills and abilities. Here’s how to interview candidates effectively.

Make them do, not tell

Too many times, interviews are mostly spent on generic questions such as “what are your greatest strengths?” or “Name one time __.” What you want is to surprise the candidate with a new situation and see how the candidate adapts to the situation.

My recommendation: Build a case study with a problem or project you solved in the past. As an example, a simple case could be “sales have been decreasing year over year. You have been tasked to solve this issue. How would you do so?” The objective of the case is not to test the candidate’s skill, but to see how effective they can adapt to new problems.

Evaluate EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

Emotional intelligence has 5 categories: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Though I won’t dive into each one in the article, simply put, EQ is ability to read other people‚Äôs signals and react appropriately to them. People with low EQ are likely to get into lots of arguments, not listen to their team mates, and blame others.

My recommendation: Evaluating EQ comes with experience. There are EQ specific questions such as “How would you resolve a dispute between two colleagues?” or “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your supervisor. How did you resolve it?” but these questions can be prepared ahead of time. Ask tough questions and read the body language of the candidate. See if there are any signs of frustrations and continue to push. This is best done during the case study.

Do-er or Leader

When hiring a new candidate into the role, you need to identify what kind of person you’re looking to hire. Are you looking for a candidate with lots of growth potential (ie. a Leader) or somebody who will be happy in the role for a long period of time (ie. a Do-er). Too many leaders and you will have a high churn of employees because you can only fill so many into leadership roles. Too many do-ers and it will slow your startup’s growth.

My recommendation: Evaluate the team and see what’s missing. Those with leadership qualities tend to execute on big ideas and never give up. Those who are do-ers tend to be resistant to change and tend to stay in roles for long periods.

Company Fit

Company fit or also known as “cultural fit” is asking yourself how likely is the candidate to share the same values, beliefs, outlook and behavour of the organization. Take Riot for example, the creators of League of Legends. For some roles, they require the candidate to be ranked Diamond or above (which accounts for the top 3.78% of all players). Riot wants employees who are passionate, love the game, and have a high degree of game knowledge to impact the game positively.

My recommendation: You need to find candidates who are not just passionate about the role, but about what your startup is trying to achieve. You want to find candidates who aren’t leaving for the money, but trying to find a job they’re passionate in.

Do you think you have perfected the hiring process? Let me know down in the comments below.

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