Bad Hires Happen: Preparing Before You Make Them

A lot of time, money, effort and productivity goes into hiring great people for a startup. But inevitably, not every hire your company makes will work out. Some people just don’t work out from the start, and others fade in the longer term. When hiring, take measures to prevent bad hires and have solutions ready for when they happen.

Never Stop Perfecting Your Hiring Process and Strategy

Above all, it is important to never stop perfecting your interviewing, hiring and retention strategies. Startups must constantly evaluate and adjust their interviewing and hiring processes, and learn from experience how they find, qualify and identify their best hires. Because people are not a quantifiable entity, this can be especially difficult. Hiring is one of the most challenging and highest priorities companies face, so no doubt mistakes will be made along the way. But experience, repetition testing, and adaptation will lead to better results over time.

 

Get Multiple Opinions and Perspectives

We are naturally drawn to people like ourselves who share our views, experiences, values and belief systems, all of which are important. They are important for hiring the right fit, but they are also biases that come into play when making hiring decisions. Having more than one perspective is the best way to see through these blind spots. Get as many people as is practical involved in the hiring process to gain a 360 degree perspective of who is being interviewed. No candidate is perfect by any means, but even if a great candidate comes through your door, your team should know as much about their flaws and shortcomings as possible.

 

Give Them Projects Before You Hire

Nothing is more telling than inserting a candidate into the actual work situation. Many companies have taken to serving up projects to candidates, and some even go so far as to throw them on the team for a few days to see how things go. Although this short timeframe does not paint a complete picture of your candidates, at the very least it can give you a glimpse of who you might be hiring, how they fit the team’s culture, and what to expect when on-boarding them.

 

Give Them A Contract Trial Before Hiring Full Time

Similar to handing candidates a project before hiring, many companies opt to bring on great candidates as contractors for a limited period of time, giving them the opportunity to be thrown into the actual mix, get their hands dirty and provide a real world view of the hire to both the company and the candidate. Although not all candidates take kindly to this approach, many see an equal opportunity to determine whether they like the company as well. In the end, if either party is dissatisfied with the arrangement, the relationship ends, the company has no obligation and the candidate has a short contract gig to show for it.

 

Hire With An Exit Strategy Built In

With the evolving trend of talent moving from company to company after 2 or 3 years, some forward thinking organizations have begun hiring with this trend in mind. Rather than bringing a candidate on and hoping for the best, companies are hiring for a fixed amount of time, building in the scope of work and expectations over that time period. At the end of that period, both the hire and the company can choose whether the employee should move on to a new venture or explore options for staying.

In the end, nothing can protect a company 100% of the time from making  bad hires. Sometimes employees will leave after a few months, and sometimes you have to let people go. But preparation goes a long way towards minimizing your risk and handling the situation when it arises.

Startup Hiring – Be Transparent

Startup Hiring – Be Transparent

Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring

With the level of competition for talent in today’s tech world, early stage companies must work hard to attract the talent critical to their success. Companies put hundreds of hours into hiring, spending thousands of dollars to attract and retain the right people, with good reason; the right hires make a direct impact on a company’s success and growth. But all of this time, effort and money may be spent in vain if companies are not honest with the candidates they hire about work, expectations and the company’s state of affairs. Understandably, companies want to paint an attractive picture for talented candidates because, well, they want to attract them. But as important as attracting candidates is, being transparent with them is key.

It Creates The Right Expectations

Working for startup companies is difficult enough as it is. Working for one without clear expectations, cloudy roadmaps and unknown or unanticipated structural issues can be a recipe for failure. It’s understandable that a company would want to make the right impression in an effort to attract top candidates, but expectations are powerful and setting the wrong ones early on can result in a difficult onboarding, a poor work experience and a shorter tenure for employees. Be clear and accurate when describing to potential employees the state of company affairs and expectations for performance.

It Attracts People Who Can Handle It

An accurate picture of the work, expectations for employees and a clear view of the company’s state of affairs may indeed scare off some of your potential hires. To that, I say, good. Employees who can’t handle the realities of your company and flee from accountability are the last thing any early stage venture needs. Anyone worth hiring should know going in that startups are no picnic. The flip side to this is painting a rosy, less than accurate picture of things, and anyone worth hiring should know better.

It Opens The Door For Improvement

Setting clear expectations and being open and upfront when hiring can actually help to address issues and problems you are facing. Issues cannot be addressed unless they are known and acknowledged. Being upfront with candidates can result in finding great hires who may know how to navigate issues, and can even help address and overcome obstacles.

It can be uncomfortable for founders and managers to set clear expectations for candidates for fear of losing out on good people. But in the long run, a transparent approach to hiring will yield happier, more prepared and more productive hires.

It’s Not Always The Best Hires You Need

It’s Not Always The Best Hires You Need

bets

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.

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!

Hiring for Tech Companies: 5 Predictions for 2015

Hiring for Tech Companies: 5 Predictions for 2015

Hiring for Tech Companies

Hiring for Tech Companies

We spend a lot of time at the forefront of the technology and startup communities. Every year brings new trends, obstacles and changes to the world of human resources, with 2015 promising to be both an exciting and challenging year. We’ve listed some of our predictions for tech startup hiring in 2015 below.

1. The Decline of The Resume Will Continue
Companies continue to look for new ways to recruit, new ways to evaluate people and new ways to hire. And if there is one thing that founders, hiring managers and recruiters agree on, it’s that the resume is little more than an entry point for candidates. Even as an entry point, the game is changing. Portfolios, projects, personal websites and LinkedIn profiles are the resumes of today. It would be a surprise if the resume was still a necessity in 10 years.

2. Tech Positions Will Be The Hardest to Fill
Finding capable, passionate and available tech talent has been a pain point for early ventures (and established ones) for quite some time now. The war for talent is the result of many factors and market conditions. Regardless of the causes, the trend is pegged to continue. There are many shifts taking place in education and self-directed learning resources, and salaries continue to increase in an effort to attract talent, but many of these initiatives have yet to create a significant impact on increasing the supply of talent. We may soon see a day where technical professionals are readily available, but for now the tight market continues.

3. More Talent Will Start Their Own Companies Rather Than Join Another
The media in 2014 was full of stories about new companies, innovative technologies, VC fundings and tech IPOs. And with the availability of resources for new entrepreneurs and the hip factor of being an entrepreneur today, more and more people are shifting from working at a startup venture to starting their own instead. This shift will continue to squeeze the talent market thin, making it more difficult to locate and secure talent willing to work in a tech startup environment.

4. Data Scientist Will Be The Job of The Year
The data scientist may very well be the next battle waged in the war for talent. A unique blend of skills and experience, the data scientist must be a programmer, analyst and subject matter expert all in one. Finding the mathematics skills is one thing, but finding professionals who can take those skills and apply them to organization-specific data and uncover valuable insights is another ball game altogether. Yet the value of the right person in this role is undeniable for most organizations. The data scientist may very well become a necessary staple of every company in the near future.

5. Talent Acquisition Spend Will See Its Highest Year Ever
Human resources departments, internal recruiters and executive search firms are going to work harder than ever to produce results. The demand for talent continues to increase, and the pace of growth for the pool of available talent continues to lag behind the growth in demand. More dollars must be spent, more incentives offered and more creative strategies deployed in order to secure the right people.

Is your tech company ready to start hiring in 2015? We are the premier executive search firm for high-tech companies, working with both startups and established companies to acquire sales, marketing, technical and operational talent across the technology landscape. Contact us today if you are looking at hiring for tech companies.

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