It’s Not Always The Best Hires You Need

It’s Not Always The Best Hires You Need

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Let start right off the bat by saying, Yes, you do need good people. What you, your company and most other startups out there do not need is the very best people. Most founders know this idea to be true, but can fall into the trap of trying to hire as if it’s false. You interview one person who sounds good, followed by another who is slightly different but also a good fit. You do that enough times, and you start raising your standards too high. Looking for the best can turn into a slippery slope of raising the bar, setting too high of standards and trying for more than your need. This is not always the case, but if so, it is not difficult to get out of this mindset. Because really, what is ‘The Best Hires?’

The Best Hires are Unrealistic
Of the tens of thousands of tech startups in operation right now, the reality is that only a few end up with what we consider the best tech talent. This does not mean that you shouldn’t aim for A-players, but looking for perfection early on can lead you down a bitter, lonely and employee-less road. Realism is crucial for startups, especially when it comes to getting talent.

The Best is Picky
Ok, they aren’t necessarily picky; they can just afford to be. When you have that kind of experience, expertise and caliber of skill, you also have the attention of every Tom, Dick and Harry (startup, tech company and recruiter, I guess). Naturally, top talent gets to pick from a very large pile, of which your company is an option out of thousands. So even if your company is great, if you’re not the most interesting, you’re going to have to pay for it.

The Best is Expensive
The cream of the crop, the top of the top and the best of the best come with a price tag, one with which they can find a job within 5 minutes. It’s a simple supply-demand equation that most bootstrapped startup have difficulty overcoming. In reality, the most well-funded and interesting startups and tech companies can nab the elite of the industry. They can afford this mindset, but many cannot.

The Best is Unnecessary
You may be thinking, ‘Well, we will just have to allocate a higher budget towards our employees then.’ Touche, perhaps, but the truth is that, for most startup organizations, the best of the best is simply more than they need. There are too many articles and blog posts out there shouting how if you don’t get the absolute best people, your company will either get set back two years or crash and burn at the earliest inconvenience. Such is more inexperienced recruiter sales pitch and less startup reality. Yes, you still need good people, but more importantly, you need the right people and team.

The Best is Not Always The Right
Cultural fit is the most important aspect of your hires. For a phrase like that to be borderline cliche, and let’s be honest in that it already is, you know that its truth rings loud and clear. What you never hear is a founder or manager saying ‘We need the very best person, even if our entire team hates them.’ The point being, just because a candidate is great at what they do, does not mean they are great for what your team does.

The Best is a Distraction
The time you spent looking for the unattainable, unaffordable, unnecessary or unconformable could have been spent looking for the right people at a lower cost using the right, albeit still high, standards. Look for employees with startup or small business experience, ambition, motivation, integrity and the skills and knowledge that you need right now. Find like minded people with similar passions and a belief in your vision. And don’t worry if they aren’t the ultimate rock stars of their profession.

You don’t need the best people. You just need really good people.

Hire Attitude

Hire Attitude

Hire Attitude

Energy at a startup is critical. It is reinforced by product launches, customer milestones, press recognition and so on. But at its core, the energy must come from you and your team. Your employees are working against all odds as startup employees, putting in long hours to hit tough deadlines and operate within an all-around stressful environment. For your employees, the right attitude is paramount. As they say in the sports world, working at a startup is 90% mental and only 10% physical. The startup game is a marathon, one that requires of its leaders and employees the right attitude to survive, much less thrive. When hiring, talent is important, but attitude is everything.

So what does attitude look like? No, you don’t need to see bright teeth and smiles 24 hours a day. But a positive outlook and demeanor is essential. You want a person with demonstrated mental toughness; someone who remains resolute in the face of obstacles. Startups need people who can handle tough times and stressful days and still keep their eyes on the prize.

The impact of the right outlook on an employee’s work results is apparent. Attitude gets things done when things get tough. Attitude keeps people moving when adversity arises, as it does often for a budding company. Attitude keeps employees alive at times when hope seems lost. It’s a dramatic picture, yes, but startup life is not all excitement and games. It’s difficult work under stressful conditions, tight deadlines, unanticipated changes and responsibilities across multiple fronts.

A single employee’s attitude impacts more than just their own work. Each employee contributes to the state of the team as a whole. Morale reflects the culture, and one person with the wrong attitude can make an impact all around. Employees contribute their energy to the whole as well as take from the whole, so putting the right people in place is important. Employees value talent in their team members, but value a positive environment even more.

The attributes of experience and integrity are all a vital part of the startup employee recipe, but will mean very little without the right mindset to accompany them. When an employee has the right attitude, it will be reflected in the morale of the team, the work they do and the things they create. It’s why cultural fit is so important, why passion is a nessecity and why, when working at a startup, attitude is everything.

Craft Company Narratives, Not Job Descriptions

Craft Company Narratives, Not Job Descriptions

Company Narratives

“Hello Dan. I wanted to reach out regarding an opportunity for a senior web analyst position in your area. This person needs to have experience with Google Analytics as well as MySQL and SAS, and a strong understanding of SEO and Paid Search initiatives to drive leads and customer acquisition. The company is a small SaaS startup, and needs someone who is a self starter with an entrepreneurial mindset and passion. Can you tell me more about yourself and your experience?”

Well, thank you. You sound like the other 5 recruiters that called me this week looking for the same thing, describing skill sets and needs about which you have little understanding. Not to mention you have almost no detail regarding the company, what they do, how they’re growing, what the team does, and so on. You then proceed to send me a “more detailed” job description, which essentially regurgitates the bland information presented to me on the phone. In most cases, after probing further about the company and the situation, I am left with little pertinent information

Now consider if I had been approached with the following conversation:

“Hello Dan. I am reaching out regarding an opportunity with an early stage company in the media space. The company is a 2 year old VC-funded team of 15 led by two successful founders with backgrounds in enterprise software. They currently have a product coming out of beta testing and are 6 months into a strong push towards user acquisition while continuing to improve the product. They have established a few partnerships for lead generation with modest success, and are engaged in paid advertising, but have struggled to drive the volume needed. They have reached a level of growth that requires a person with experience in customer acquisition using a data-focused marketing approach to step in and direct their efforts. Does this sound like an opportunity that aligns with your background and your career goals?”

Umm, yes please. Let me tell you about my experience working with small companies to drive lead acquisition through digital channels, or about the several cases in which I consulted with early stage startups to define their web analytics strategy, measure performance and identify opportunities to alter experiences and messaging that resulted in lead increases. Let me tell you how those experiences would align with your needs to help your company move forward.

What’s the difference? As evidenced by the first example, most recruiters hand me a job description with a laundry list of skill sets and requirements for years of experience, while expecting me to tell them a story that verifies all boxes in that checklist are met; all before I really know anything about what I’m getting into. The latter example tells a story. It paints a picture of reality, offering a near tangible look into what a job with this company would require, and whether I would have an interest.

When hiring, good recruiters and hiring managers stop giving job descriptions, and start crafting company narratives.

The typical job description simply gets lost in a massive ocean of open positions. So you need a software engineer? That’s cool, who doesn’t? And that’s what it looks like. Furthermore, presenting a laundry list of skill sets, required experiences and generic responsibilities does little to inform me of the life of the job, nor the company that would employ me. It does, however, give me a checklist that I could easily use to eliminate myself from consideration, even if I am the right person for their needs.

Deviating from the job description in pursuit of a crafted narrative does several things, the first of which is delivering a unique experience. Most startups will tell you that a significant challenge in hiring early on is the lack of brand reach and its impact on attracting talent. Telling the story of the company, team and role delivers a unique experience to the potential candidate, making the role relatable to actual experience. It conveys the excitement of entrepreneurship, growth and innovation, which will be unique to each and every company. Best of all, company narratives allow your candidates to place themselves within the story and invest emotionally in the idea of being a part of it.

Job descriptions present boxes to check off regarding a generic experience. Narratives allow us to insert ourselves in a company’s story and share in that dream of success. And for an early stage company, hiring dreamers is a must.

Hire Great Candidates Faster; Here’s How

Hire Great Candidates Faster; Here’s How

Hire Great Candidates

The dynamic of the hiring relationship between companies and candidates is shifting. Unemployment is down, wages are increasing, the tech industry continues to grow and more talent is opting to start a company rather than join one. So when a great candidate comes across your desk, acting with speed to qualify, interview and hire them is more critical than ever. With offers coming from every which way, keeping candidates engaged is difficult; something that can be improved with a more timely process. This presents many challenges to companies, where the norm has been widespread sourcing, longer interview processes and lengthier negotiations. Optimizing these processes while maintaining the quality of hires is an undertaking, but not impossible. Below are several ways hire great candidates faster and keep candidates engaged while maintaining talent standards.

Prioritize Hiring

Every company worth their weight in gold places talent acquisition as one the the highest priorities. Make it higher. For early stage companies, every hire is critical and has a make or break impact. So cancel meetings, adjust your schedule and push everything else aside when great candidates come across your desk. Talent might understand that you are busy, but that doesn’t mean they will wait around or ignore other opportunities.

Focus On What You Really Need

Laundry lists of skills and requirements can kill your hiring process, much less prolong it. Narrow down your requirements to the core, put all of your focus on those needs, and leave everything else alone. Sure, there are nice-to-have resume items, but if your candidates are the right caliber of talent for your company, chances are they can handle acquiring additional skill sets. This not only helps with the speed of your process, but will lessen the chance of alienating quality people that otherwise might have passed.

Engage Quickly

There’s no secret sauce to this one. The faster you engage candidates, the sooner the process can begin. A quick response can also decrease your candidate drop off rate, keeping more people in the process from the start.

Be Responsive

Nothing speeds up the process like being on the ball with communications. This is a simple fix as well, and logically pretty straightforward, but of course easier said than done. Yet ask any professional recruiter with a successful track record, and they will tell you that timely communications, even if just to say ‘message received, will respond soon’, is not only critical to keeping relationships moving but to keeping communications fresh and process moving.

Get the Team Engaged Early

Culture and team fit should carry a lot of weight when hiring, so it makes sense to get good candidates in front of your team quickly and early on. Should they not mesh well with the team, then you can end the process quickly. On the other hand, if there is cohesion between your team and candidates, then you will have strong signals early on.

Be Transparent

People are smart enough to know when they are being strung along, especially when it comes to interviewing. Keep candidates informed about what’s going on, where they stand in the hiring process and what you need from them to move forward.

Give a Real Offer Sooner

Lengthy compensation negotiations can kill a deal more easily today. On top of being a frustration for some candidates (though not all),  lengthy negotiations also allow candidates to continue other conversations, giving them time to negotiate with others as well. This is not to say that you should throw realism to the wind. But the lower you start from the end figure, the longer the road to get there, leaving the window open for other factors to come into play.

When it comes to recruiting and hiring, we simply cannot overstate the importance of moving quickly. In our history as a search firm, we have seen perfect matches break down simply because things were moving too slow. Whether another offer came to the table, a better position opened up elsewhere or candidates simply lost interest, time too often kills deals. If you are ready to hire great candidates get in touch with us today!

Visibility for Your Job Openings

Visibility for Your Job Openings

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Visibility for Job Openings

Your product must be visible to the marketplace of potential customers before it can ever generate users. The same goes for your job openings. Without proper visibility in the talent marketplace, your opening are left unread and unfilled. It may seem difficult to get job openings seen by the right talent, especially as a bootstrapped early stage company, but there are plenty of ways for your jobs to gain more attention, get more reads and attract more candidates.

Your Company’s Marketing

Marketing delivers more than customers. Any efforts to gain exposure for your company will also put your brand in front of potential talent. Granted, your company will be one within a sea of many, all with talent needs, but if your company can differentiate itself well, good marketing combined with a sexy product can get you noticed by passive and active seekers.

Your Own Network

When seeking employees within your own network, it is important to be cautious and set aside personal associations and feelings. That being said, your network can be a great place to get the word out about job openings and introductions to the talent you seek.

Current Employees

Your employees, both present and past, can be your greatest asset in getting exposure for your job openings. Not only should they be great supporters and advocates, but they are also most likely to be connected with the kind of professionals you need.

The Talent Community

Getting your job opening in front of active job seekers is easier than ever nowadays. From the number of free and inexpensive online job boards to sites like Craigslist and AngelList, the options for putting your openings in front of people are numerous.

Investors and Advisors

Your investors and advisors, especially VC firms, have a big incentive to help you grow your company, and at this stage of the game, growth means hiring. Some are better equipped than others, but most will be willing to help in some way.

Recruiters, Internal and External

For early stage companies, recruiters are your best resource for having your job openings seen by the right people. They will provide the right exposure for your openings and, if you find the right recruiters to work with, they can also act as a great barrier to keep back the wrong audiences. The key, of course, is finding high-quality executive recruiters.

Visibility for job openings is critical, but only a small step towards getting the talent you need. If you are in the market to hire, contact us today to find the right people for your company.

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