Candidates Don’t Get Past The First Interview
Having trouble finding candidates who make it past the first interview? Most companies point towards the available talent as the cause for this issue, but that is not always the case. Hiring is difficult enough, so creating and troubleshooting your process is key. We’ve broken down some of the most common reasons advancement isn’t repeatedly made past the first interview.
Are You Getting The Right Candidates?
When potential candidates for your opening just don’t seem to make the cut, the first thing most companies identify as the problem is the source of the candidates. It is often the case that a company is simply not speaking with the right people for the position, but the real question is why. Common problems include leveraging the wrong channels to search for candidates and poor messaging of the position and company. It could also be the case that the offering presented by the company is insufficient to attract the caliber of talent needed for the job. Utilizing testing strategies in this area can help reveal issues if they exist at the candidate source.
Is Your Candidate Screening Process the Problem?
The hiring process can impede a company’s hiring efforts, beginning with the screening process. Hiring managers can make the wrong determinations based on applications, resumes and phone screenings. They can get boxed in to targeting a specific skill set or experience that they feel is crucial, and end up placing too much emphasis on a small factor while negating more important things. In the end, you could be getting the right people to apply only to have them turned down by ineffective screening and pipeline management. This will inevitably happen in many cases, but if the issue is systemic, it must be corrected.
Are Your Interviews Effective?
The interview, while a critical part of the hiring process, can be ineffective and inefficient. First, interviews are not necessarily a great way to measure how well suited a candidate is for the job; more often they simply measure how well they can interview. Hiring managers must look past the interview itself and get to the core of the candidate. Getting to the bottom of the candidate is no easy task, especially when the candidate and the interviewer do not see eye to eye. It can also be the case that hiring managers become overly critical in the search for perfection. Expectations during interviews can be too high, and can lead to a no pass rating across the board. And it can also be a problem when only a single person conducts the first interview round. Multiple opinions can uncover a better picture of candidates and solve many of these issues.
Is The Job Opening Clearly Defined?
Sometimes, the problem doesn’t rest with the candidates or the hiring process, but with the job itself. Ambiguity and a lack of clarity around the position and the work itself kills the hiring process. Hiring managers end up trying to match their candidate pool with needs that are undefined and work that is unknown. This would seem like something that should never happen, but many companies have this problem. They know that they need talent to fill the void, but if the position is outside of the current team’s scope of knowledge, it can be difficult to define needs. The solution is to give details of the goals that this hire should be able to work towards rather than solely skill sets, parameters and accomplishments. A helpful way to improve this is by seeking the help of former founders, advisors and industry experts, as well as experienced recruiters.
As a recruiting firm for startups and technology companies, an integral part of our process is adjusting course based upon ongoing results. We strive to deliver the right candidates the first time, but there are scenarios where success is dependent upon our ability to adjust, examine the process and identify appropriate changes to our approach in order to deliver candidates that will not only advance beyond the first interview, but accept the offer. If your technology company is having trouble delivering on talent, speak with our team of experienced executive recruiters today.
Great teams make great startups. But for most early stage companies, the need for something does not mean that funds are available. Startups have plenty of picking and choosing to do, especially when it comes to getting the right people.
A solution to this issue is often finding contractor talent to fill the void. For startups in the early stages, contracting employees comes with many benefits. But like anything, there are downsides to using a contracted workforce in the beginning. This doesn’t mean that startups should stay away from contractors, but rather, they should know the implications of contracting versus hiring, and vice versa.
Hiring Full-Time Tech Talent For Startups: The Pros
The most significant benefit of hiring full-time employees is that your company is paying for dedicated resources. Managers can set the specifics of the work, as well as when and how they work, and do not have to compete with an employee’s other work or priorities. For the workload and its direct impact on progress within the early stages of a company, this is a huge advantage.
Besides the work itself, bringing tech talent in-house gives startups the opportunity to begin creating a technology-centric culture, something that experienced founders and investors will say is critical for technology companies. Whether it’s within the leadership team or across the early workforce, a technology-centric team not only creates the right culture, but keeps the product at the center of the company’s focus.
In many cases, In-house talent also leads to longer tenured talent. And when building new technology from the ground up, keeping the same people on the project is a huge advantage. Introducing a new employee to an existing project means dealing with a learning curve; introducing a different style to the technology and languages and can result in holes in the technology. Staff consistency keeps progress consistent and more seamless.
Less intuitive but nevertheless an advantage, keeping technical talent in-house keeps your company’s early users and customers that much closer to the technology behind the product. This means there is a direct line from the customer to the technology, be it delivering the technology to the consumer or garnering feedback from users, leading to both a customer-focused product and a technical team with a stake in the game. Both lead to better product adoption and progress.
Hiring Full-Time Tech Talent For Startups: The Cons
The most obvious downside of bringing on full-time tech talent is the cost. In-house teams, while incredibly valuable, are expensive. From salaries to benefits to workspace and equipment, the cost of the in-house technology team adds up quickly. For most companies, the cost of the team is the most justifiable spend they can make, but justification does not magically create funding.
Besides the expense, there are also obligations that come with a full-time staff. Specific taxes and insurance, as well as the impact of federal, state and local laws, are additional burdens that companies with full-time employees must bear.
Repercussions can also come into play with the exit of an employee. In the US, terminated employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits as well as comparable temporary medical coverage for teams larger than 20. And even beyond the financial and legal obligations, former employees are also a knowledgeable voice of your company and can create an impact with their departure and actions thereafter, be it positive or negative.
Contracting Tech Talent For Startups: The Pros
Right at the top, cost is a huge plus for contract talent. As far as billing rates go, contractors cost more per hour but will save a startup money in the mid to long term. Contract labor can be utilized for only the work that is needed, meaning talent can be acquired even if the company can only afford or needs part-time labor .Companies also have no further obligations to contractors other than paying for hours worked, which means no built-in long-term costs. There are also no benefits to cover, no workspace or internal managers needed, and no taxes or insurance to cover.
For many startups, the temporary nature of contractors can be a big plus. If runway is an issue, hiring contractors gives the company a labor force that can be let go quickly and with little repercussion, allowing for quick cost cuts if needed. Hiring contractors is a big plus if a company has a very specific need or specialized skill set outside of the primary technology for a short period. And companies can let contractors go in the unfortunate event that work produced is not up to par.
For both contractors and companies, the arrangement can also lead to better outcomes in some situations. The majority of technical professionals tend to enjoy more interesting projects, as well as variety. Operating as a contractor can give tech talent the opportunity to take on a number of varied jobs, pursuing both well-paying and interesting work simultaneously. For companies, this can lead to a more engaged and passionate hire, which tends to result in higher quality work with more successful outcomes. This is especially true for contract teams.
Contracting Tech Talent For Startups: The Cons
For bootstrapped startups, the attractive price tag of contract labor can be an instant draw, but there are also potential repercussions to the company, over both the short and long term.
For one, the ability a company has to quickly cut ties with a contractor is also enjoyed by the contractor. This means that if the relationship gets rocky, the work deviates from expectations or your talent becomes unengaged at any time, the contractor can walk away.
Contract labor inherently implies a short-term job, whether it be six months or two years. This can mean that the implementation of work disregards or fails to anticipate the long-term goals of the product and company, leading to roadblocks and setbacks in the future evolution of the product. Work in the short-term is priority, but a long-term vision is still essential for a startup’s success.
Contractors also lack a stake in the game, if you will. And while they may be incredibly talented, they may lack passion for the idea, vision or product, which can stifle creativity and innovation around the product, both early on and in the long run. This is not to say that contractors lack the capacity for innovation, but incentives do matter.
Last but certainly not least, technology companies should have technology at the core of their organization. And the most impactful part of every organization is its people. To outsource what should be the core of the company is a recipe for failure. The business roadmap and technological vision for the company both need to be present within its leadership, and, for many companies, also within its internal workforce. Contracting technical talent means there is no internal culture being created, which can have a large impact on a growing company’s future.
Which Approach Is Right For You?
Both full-time employees and contractors have their value, their downside, their strengths and accompanying burdens. There are needs and times that require an internal staff, and others that are obviously suited and acceptable for using contractors. So when deciding which direction to pursue, take great care to consider the needs and situation, and the impact of either approach on the work, the company and the bottom line.
Hiring Startup Product Managers
A great product manager can make a huge impact at a startup. Essentially the executive of the product, this person puts the dedication and focus towards the product that is needed to fight through the early stages of the company. Naturally, filling such a high-impact position means finding the right person for the job, which can be daunting. Effective and successful product managers have a wide breadth of skills and traits. Knowing what these are, why they are important, and what they look like can help your startup identify the right person for the job.
So what does top product management talent look like?
Above everything, product managers must have superior communication skills. Communication is at the core of everything that this role involves, making it essential at all times. Product managers have high-level discussions with the founders regarding the company’s vision and direction. They must then take this information, assimilate it correctly, and break it down into the detailed needs of the product, delivering the correct details and instruction to the technical, marketing, sales and customer service teams. They must then take the results and summarize, simplify and report. Product managers are in constant communication with partners, early adopters, customers and users as well, taking critical feedback and translating it into business and product needs. And after all of that, they must report this back to the founders, have conversations around moving forward and about course corrections, before starting the process all over again.
As the name implies, management skills are also essential. When we say product management, we mean everything product. That most often includes its ideation, planning, design, development, launch, marketing, sales and customer service. If anything touches or affects the product, then it is the product manager’s business, making it their job to manage. This job includes the planning, creation, execution and delegation of the product roadmap. Product managers are often brought on to take the management of these things away from the founders to clear up time for bigger fish like fundraising and hiring.
I recall seeing an article listing product management as a startup position that requires no tech skills. This statement is far from the truth, especially at a startup. The reality is that product managers, while not bracket deep in code all day, must have an understanding of what technologies and tools the product is being built with, how it will function, how it can expand and how the technology and language is limited. After all, their role is to plan, execute and delegate the product roadmap, and this includes interfacing with the technical staff. Utilizing customer feedback to prioritize projects would be very difficult to do without a clear understanding of how the tech works. On top of that, understanding technical issues that arise is critical to figuring out their solutions, something a product manager is sure to encounter.
The initial ideas and direction come from the founders, but every successful startup has quickly turned to its users and customers for direction. Feedback, especially from early adopters and users, is critical for shaping the direction of the product and pivoting to suit the needs of the product’s market. Today’s product manager must put a sharp focus on users, collecting feedback as well as user data around the product to locate shortcomings, identify opportunities and increase the product’s user base. Their roadmap should revolve around the user and its demands.
Product managers should focus on users, but must rely on data to make decisions. Quality data is a product manager’s most valuable asset at a startup, giving them the ability to quantitatively prove their hypotheses and move forward quickly. It can also help them disprove these same hypotheses, learn from these failures and do so quickly. Gone are the days when these professionals could rely on intuition, gut feeling and experience alone. Today’s product manager must have data structuring, collection, and analysis skills, and must understand what the data means and how it can be used.
Ultimately, everything that the product manager does must result in growth, revenue and business success. This means that they need to understand the company as a business and the model that it employs. They are ultimately responsible for creating a product that will attract and retain users and customers, and must understand how they can affect the company financially.
Product managers for startups must have all of the above skills and traits to be effective. Ultimately, needs from product management will vary among startups based on the business model, product and existing skill sets within the organization. Before beginning your search for a product manager at your startup, figure out exactly what it is that you need, what the profile for an ideal candidate looks like, and what experience, skill sets and expertise they must bring to the table. Role definition is not easy, and not always straightforward, so get help defining this role for your company. Get feedback from your existing team to better understand your needs, ask your investors and advisors for help and get the assistance of an executive search firm with experience in hiring startup product managers. However you go about defining the role and hiring your product manager, make sure you find the right person for the job the first time.
Employment Tests for Startups
Testing during the hiring process has become a prominent practice, both in and outside of the technology industry. Hiring tests range from evaluating aptitude, personality and character traits to determining strengths, weaknesses and skill sets. Years and years of research, testing and analysis have gone into seasoned evaluations like StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs and DiSC assessments, giving employers a great set of tools to help in what is the most challenging part of growing a company. With that said, hiring tests do come with faults and limitations. Not all tests are well crafted, and not all situations call for them. We have taken our experience with companies using hiring tests, and whittled it down to the following pros and cons of hiring testing.
Many of these tests are actually more valuable once a hire has been made. Some of the more useful ones can give managers and co-workers a better picture of how a new hire works and operates, what motivates them, and where their passions lie. And in this regard, these tests can be extremely valuable. After all, one of the more, if not the most, important criteria for hiring is cultural fit. Information from personality and character testing give managers and employees better information around assimilating new hires into an organization. Aside from this, there is some value that can be gleaned by using these before you make a hire.
When administered and utilized correctly, well crafted testing can also provide useful metrics to help evaluate candidates on various aspects and traits. Using uniform evaluations across your pool of talent potential gives employers a certain level of objectivity, which most interviewers (and recruiters) know can be very difficult to do. Well designed hiring tests are especially good at extracting information about candidates that can be difficult, if not impossible, to gather through interviews, references and resumes.
Using the information from hiring tests allows hiring managers to perform an analysis using defined metrics, rather than using comparisons of one candidate to another or personal opinions alone. This can help hiring managers avoid evaluating future candidates based on an initial or very likeable candidate, which can often allow for personal bias.
Using these evaluations during the hiring process is especially helpful when fielding a large volume of candidates. As long as managers have a clear understanding of the data, what it conveys and what it does not, hiring tests can be another tool in the arsenal to help them sift through a large volume of resume-qualified professionals.
In our experience, one of hiring tests’ biggest weaknesses is the way in which employers use them. Hiring is a difficult process that requires a lot of time, money and energy, and the results of making the right or wrong hire can have a dramatic impact on your company. Hiring tests can be a very useful tool for hiring managers, but when relied upon too heavily, great candidates can get passed over and unqualified ones can get too much focus. Undoubtedly, some candidates are not the right person for the job, and tests can reflect that, but too many times great candidates have been passed over simply because of testing results.
Another downside of testing comes from the fact that, like everything else in the hiring process, they are controlled by individuals. A test is only as good as its administrator. Issues like administrator bias, unfollowed procedures, and other mistakes can skew the data, decreasing the reliability of the results and the test itself.
Tests can also create an uneven playing field among candidates. There is a clear disadvantage to candidates who have little or no experience taking these tests, and conversely an advantage to those that do.
The content and the analysis process of an evaluation can present issues. Questions themselves can create issues because of bias, as well as poor question and answer structure. The method of analysis can also be problematic. It comes down to whether or not your company uses an effective test with a valid and reliable track record. Along the same lines, some tests can undervalue certain aspects of candidates that you may find important and valuable, and can even mistakenly rate certain positive traits as negatives. The opposite can be true as well.
Using Evaluations In Your Process
When used properly, employment tests for startups can be an important step to identifying the right hires for your company. Here are some tips to getting the most out of them:
- – Use them as another tool in your belt, but not as a gateway into your candidate pool.
- – Before choosing any assessment to use, do your research. There is a great deal of literature online around the various tests on the market. Forums are another place to find information.
- – Try searching for cheat sheets and test rubrics online to see what resources are available to candidates for these tests.
- – If you want to take the research further, try administering your prospective hiring test to a few of your current employees. Get an idea of how the results compare to the reality of the successful hires you have in place.
- – Once you have chosen the right test, ensure you have set procedures in place when deploying and administering them so as to get accurate data across all of your candidates.
- – When administering them, make sure that directions are clear, simple and straightforward.
- – Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what the results mean, as well as how the data is analyzed.
- – Most important, make sure that you don’t rely too heavily on these tests when making hiring decisions.
- – If you’re having difficulties incorporating a hiring evaluation into your process, seek the help of other founders, executive recruiting firms and company advisors to guide you.
Startup life requires the management of multiple projects and roles at once, but many necessary tasks require complete and undisturbed focus. Anyone who works for an early stage company should know this going in, but it’s not always easy to turn off the rest of the world while hammering through the work. Luckily, startups can turn to their own industry for help. There are a lot of great applications and technologies available to help professionals become more productive and stay focused. Here are three great ones for blocking out the rest of the world, err the internet, and getting things done.
Focus Booster is a time tracking tool that helps to improve focus as well. Using the Pomodoro technique, Focus Booster allows you to plan intervals of both work and rest, resulting in more complete focus on the work at hand. Although difficult to implement in high distraction environments, the app can be a great tool to keep you working at high efficiency when needed, and may even help to train better focus. Both a web app and download are available, so using Focus Booster does not require an internet connection. And best of all, it’s free to try!
Even the best of us get sucked into Facebook news feed updates, Buzzfeed’s infinite gif reels and CNN news headlines (ok, maybe that last one is just me). Enter StayFocused, a Google Chrome extension that lets you limit the time you can spend on the sites that waste your time the most. The extension is highly customizable, allowing you to pick and choose the sites you want to block, as well as the amount of time you will allow yourself to visit them. There is even a nuclear option that will block sites permanently for a set period, should those kitten pictures be just unbearably cute that day. You can create recurring settings based on day and time, and can set a challenge that users must complete before being allowed to edit the settings. There is so much more, but you will have to check it out to see.
Some bad habits are obvious time wasters, but there may be things you read, places you visit and people you talk to that waste way more time that you thought before. Rescue time brings the data on you, to you. While it touts other features like website blocking, the true value lies in the ability to visualize and analyze how you spend your time. It also allows you to log highlights throughout your day to better track what you accomplish. The program runs fairly light in the background while you work, causing minimal issues, and then follows up with reports.