Startups: Passionate Employees Are Essential

Startups: Passionate Employees Are Essential

Passionate Employees

Every day, I wake up, and love being an entrepreneur. It’s what I’m passionate about, and drives me to push through obstacles, pour my heart into my work, and drive companies forward. I can’t imagine doing a lot of the things I’ve been involved with if I weren’t passionate about them. I’ve been involved in successful projects and failed ones. There were never guarantees, and the risk is always high when approaching uncharted territory. But the reward has always been living a fulfilling life.

Passion Is An Absolute Necessity

I think that having passion for my work is critical, and believe that this is true of anyone who works for a startup. I’ve said it to candidates that I’ve interviewed, businesses I’ve partnered with, and companies I’ve hired for. At a startup, every hire is critical. The work that your early employees are doing will make or break the bottom line. Passion is critical for the success of these early hires, and as a result, your startup; here’s why.

It’s Hard Work

Startups are notorious for long, stressful hours. Your employees should know this going in. The passionate employees will put in those hours, because they believe in the cause and where you’re going. They are doing more than just working; they are following their dreams.

Cash Will Be Tight

Every startup will have cash flow issues at some point, and will rarely have the capital that they think they need early on. Founders must watch and evaluate every dollar spent, and early employees will have to work for lower salaries and sweat equity. There may even be days when cash is strapped and your company can’t make payroll. Employees with passion will work for the lower pay in the short term in exchange for the long term payout. They are working with you to achieve long term goals and be a part of something bigger.

Change Is Inevitable

At some point, it is likely that your startup will have to pivot in some way. You will change directions, will need to do so on a moment’s notice, and will have to bust your ass to get it done. Employees with passion will do what it takes and change when needed, because they are emotionally invested in the success of the company.

You Will Encounter Failures

It’s a hard reality, but the fact is most startups fail. All of them encounter roadblocks, obstacles, and dead ends. There are no guarantees for an emerging organization. Passionate employees will stand by your side despite the risk, because in the end, they are there for the experience, regardless of the outcome.

When Employees Lack Your Passion

At a startup, there are so many things that can and do happen. Things go in one direction or another. You may have issues with funding, difficulties with technology, absurd deadlines, employee departures… or a million other things go wrong unexpectedly. And I have noticed something about startup employees who are not invested in the company’s success. When the going gets tough, the people without passion take off. In the challenging times, their focus shifts to the money, their career or job security, or anything except working through the challenges ahead. And at a stage where every hire is critical and affects revenue, an employee departure can shake an emerging company and hold back progress.

Identifying Passion In Your Hires

So how do you know if a person has the passion you need? In my experience, the traditional interview doesn’t quite uncover that information for you. You need to go deeper than testing their skills and knowledge, deeper than the behavioral screenings and tests of logic. You have to dig into their past, their experiences, and the motivations behind them. Find out what they value and care about. What makes them happy? What do they get excited about? What leaves them fulfilled in life? It’s more than just getting answers to these questions though. It’s just as much about how they say their answers as the answers themselves.

Sometimes, Your Gut Is The Best Reference

Sometimes, you have to ask the right questions, and dig into a person to uncover the truth. But other times, passion is just something that you can see in a person’s eyes, hear in their voice, and see in their actions. Sometimes, in your gut, you just know. It’s what I have found in my experience and has served me well, not only for my own hires and businesses, but for the hundreds of people that my firm has placed at startups. However you do it, you will be thankful that you did. Because those employees, the ones with the passion like your own, are the ones who stick around, work hard, and will drive the success of your company.

Amish is the Founder/CEO of the premier executive search firm for the high-tech industry, Millennium Search LLC. He is an investor and advisor to many startups around the globe. He is also a crowdfunding expert, personally managing and advising Kickstarter campaigns that have successfully funded and received major press. 

Sales Reps & Startups: Too Much of a Good Thing

Sales Reps & Startups: Too Much of a Good Thing

Sales Reps & Startups

Sales Reps & Startups

Something I’ve come across all too frequently is the young company who, in an effort to scale, hires too many salespeople in a short time frame. After what is always a difficult process of raising funds, this tech startup quickly jumps into building a large sales force. Yet the company often does so without considering its ability to support this expansion, nor does it predict the consequences of hiring too many, too quickly.

I first encountered this issue years ago while working at a tech startup. Sales were growing strong in the Northeast and the company was looking to expand. With the assumption that existing success could be replicated in other regions, the management team began hiring sales reps in California, Texas, Florida, and Chicago. But what seemed like a sound decision ended up holding back progress over the next few years. In reality, the business couldn’t support such a rapid expansion of its sales force.

Now, as a recruiter for tech startups, I see this happen repeatedly. When building a new sales team, startups should determine if they are expanding too quickly, and consider the impact of such a move. The way a business scales its sales team impacts the success of those hires, and affects how you allocate resources in other important areas of the organization.

Hiring too many sales people early on will have an impact first and foremost on the success of the hires themselves. The notion of building a larger sales team often fails to account for the ability of the business to handle such a large addition of employees. The issues begin with the capacity for the company to train these employees, which is a large undertaking, even for a small sales team. This especially comes into play for the early stage startup, where the product and strategy may lack full conceptualization or definition. In such conditions, it will be difficult to shape a single sales rep, much less an entire team.

The management of a large sales force early on can prove difficult as well. With no prior learning experience to draw from, and a relatively young support and management staff, addressing critical issues with the sales team can be incredibly challenging. Working through obstacles with a small team early on allows for lessons to be passed on to future hires, and for more senior salespeople to become mentors in the long run.

And don’t forget the impact that scaling your sales force too soon can have on that group’s quality results over the long term. Early stage startups know too well that their early hires need to be top performers. And for sales professionals, top talent is drawn to where the action is. Yet startups must work hard in the beginning to generate demand and awareness for their product or service. If there isn’t enough demand to go around, what could have been your top performers might jump ship for better opportunities.

The financial impact of unnecessary hiring is apparent for early stage startups. In a process that is already time and resource intensive, attracting the right talent can be difficult early on, and can result in even higher costs. Given the financial constraints that most tech startups face, wasting capital on unnecessary hires can have a significant impact. An unnecessary hire also means that the hiring manager’s time is wasted, along with the training party’s time.

Beyond the direct cost of hiring, consider the opportunity cost of unnecessary hires. The capital needed for both hiring and paying employees is obvious, but consider where that capital could have been better utilized. Early stage startups have several areas of business that require focus and resources. Using resources in one area often means sacrificing in other facets of the business early on. Scaling a large sales team can be a distraction from other areas that should be receiving the focus otherwise. Consider what your hiring and training manager could have been working on had they not been focused on unnecessary hires. Consider where else the capital put towards hiring would have gone otherwise, and the returns that could have been made. It may seem like a sales team lacking in size would hinder your growth, but so can a lack of development and progress in other areas.

Looking back on my time with my former employer’s tech startup, a more pragmatic approach early on could have saved them valuable resources. Perhaps adding a single additional location or vertical would have improved the development of the company’s business structure. Rather than hiring 15 new sales reps, they could have expanded more slowly, focused on branching into a single marketplace, and used the knowledge from those successful expansions to provide direction in new markets in the future. They also could have avoided the unnecessary hiring and subsequent loss of several sales professionals, leaving themselves with resources to be used elsewhere. Had there been more focus on minimal hires rather than a larger team, the company could have focused on hiring the right quality and fit for their needs.

Hiring too many salespeople in the early stage of a company can have an effect on several aspects of the business. The number of people you need and the timeline for hiring will vary from startup to startup, but the benefits of maintaining a practical hiring pace will be apparent, regardless of the company.

Steady growth allows for executives to gradually monitor the needs of a sales team and adjust accordingly. As I have experienced, expanding too quickly can cause an unnecessary waste of resources. Early stage tech startups should focus on the quality of salespeople hired, and not necessarily the quantity. Hiring top sales people at a steady pace can not only help ensure the substantial growth of a quality sales team, but can save a company time and money in the long run.

Mark Cergol, a senior executive recruiter at Millennium Search, has over 20 years of experience in software sales. Working with a variety of companies, including early to mid-stage startups and large publicly traded organizations, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the tech industry. The knowledge and network of long-term relationships Mark has built through the years gives him an edge on the competition, making him a top recruiter for technical sales and marketing positions.

Five Questions to Help Your Job Posting Attract Better Talent

Five Questions to Help Your Job Posting Attract Better Talent

Help Your Job Posting

Help Your Job Posting

At times, the hiring process can be frustrating. For instance, there may be occasions when your job posting doesn’t receive much attention. Equally troublesome would be an abundance of hopeful candidates, none of whom fit the bill. If you find yourself wondering why the top-notch talent isn’t biting, it may be that you haven’t been using the right bait to capture their interest.

If your hiring efforts aren’t attracting the right type of candidates, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the job’s title and compensation reflect realistic expectations?

Especially when there are financial constraints, a startup or similar growing company may seek to hire senior level candidates at mid-level salaries. Although the current market is flooded with candidates eager to work, a smaller income package is not likely to attract higher experience levels. Top talent is often already employed. It generally takes a strong compensation package to lure them away. Alternatively, it could be tempting to over-inflate the position by giving it a greater title than the job’s responsibilities entail. Top talent is not likely to fall for a hands-on, lower salaried job description just because the title implies management levels. This approach could instead result in lesser experienced candidates seeking higher salary levels to match the title’s insinuated meaning. If you are a fledgling company, it may be that you are getting the candidates your company warrants at this point in its life cycle. By using realistic titles to match expected responsibilities, and salary ranges that are in-line with the industry, you could create better odds for attracting appropriate candidates.

2. Is the job description too general?

Not only do generic job postings tend to blend in with the masses, they don’t give the right candidates a motivating call to action. To create a posting that will target the top talent desired, it is helpful to first focus on the core, non-negotiable requirements these candidates need to have. Determine what this new employee should accomplish in their first six to twelve months. What skills will be most helpful in reaching those goals? Breaking down the skill set wish list into qualities a candidate must have, versus those you are willing to live without, allows you to be specific in the creation of a more effective job description. Highlighting the importance of a candidate’s certain expertise could entice top-notch talent to contribute to your organization. By emphasizing highly desired skills, and sharing expectations in your job description, you can better minimize interest from unqualified candidates.

3. Am I marketing the role correctly?

Regardless of the accuracy and intrigue of a job description, if it isn’t promoted to the most appropriate channels, its effectiveness could be compromised. Where is your desired top talent spending their time? By researching your audience, you can better determine the correct type of job boards, online communities, alumni groups and multitude of other options available for advertising your opening. Recruiters are an additional resource, with experience in different sectors, specializing in a variety of role placements. This could prove to be advantageous in promoting your job and placing the right candidate with you. The correct channel for a job posting is just as important as the correct message. By getting the word out to the appropriate places, the top talent you need has a better opportunity to see your message.

4. Am I communicating with my recruiter effectively?

When using a recruiter, they should know who you are looking for and where to find them. Sharing your full range of desired qualities, specific items to avoid, job responsibilities, and resumes of similar successful hires can all be useful tools to the recruiting process. Feedback on rejected resumes, or on candidates accepted for interviews, will provide insight that can be helpful to a more refined search. By keeping communication clear and ongoing between both parties, you give your recruiter better tools to work with in order for them to deliver the quality candidates you desire.

5. Is my company interesting enough?

Top talent can often be found juggling competing job offers. One of their key considerations may be whether or not a company is interesting enough to work for. You may be interesting. But, with so many startups and evolving firms in the marketplace innovating our world, are you interesting enough to win the talent competition? Spreading the right image for your company can help attract the type of employees you desire. If you are a startup gaining traction, prior success by your company’s founding team can increase a candidate’s confidence in the opportunity. By using the job description to highlight the interesting ideas your company is developing and how its structure keeps those ideas moving forward, you can give talented candidates a reason to move forward with you.

When you are dissatisfied with the caliber of talent that your current job postings are attracting, remember these five points. Be realistic with your expectations. Define the most valued skills for the candidate’s success. Research and target the right channels for your audience. Communicate with your search partners. And emphasize your company’s most interesting qualities. Taken together, this approach can help begin to minimize the frustration level of your hiring process.

With these tips we hope to help your job posting reach the eyes of the right canidates.

Sandy Bleich, Senior Partner at Millennium Search, has over 25 years of global experience as a technology executive. As a recruiter, clients and candidates have consistently recognized her as an excellent communicator and valued partner.

Retained Search vs Contingency Search: Which Solution fits your Needs?

Retained Search vs Contingency Search: Which Solution fits your Needs?


Finding quality talent can be a challenge, especially in the tech industry. Sourcing and hiring qualified people are time and labor intensive. Employing a recruiting firm allows companies to take advantage of the correct resources needed to locate skilled and interested candidates as well as access to larger candidate search networks for a much lower cost. Recruiting firms usually offer two routes for finding candidates: retained search and contingency search. For an efficient search, hiring personnel must take the time to not only properly understand the difference between these two methods, but the needs and wants of the client.

The main difference between retained search and contingency search is the payment structure. With a retained search, the hiring company pays the recruiting firm upfront and may only work exclusively with them. When the candidate is placed, a back-end fee is also paid. With the contingency search, on the other hand, the hiring company only pays the recruiting firm at the time of candidate placement.

The differences between these two solutions often leads to a difference in the priority and resources that a search firm will dedicate to the search. As a result, each recruiting solution lends itself to certain hiring needs.

Benefits of a Retained Search

Because of the payment structure, search firms usually give retained clients a more individualized focus and a higher level of priority. Because a retained search receives this focus and are accomplished with more specific information, a retained search can usually save time for the hiring company by providing fewer, more specific resumes. The client does not have to worry about working with multiple recruiters and sifting through numerous resumes. The retained recruiter has one focused voice and works together with the hiring company, like a recruiting partner. A search firm being retained by a client also adds a sense of credibility to the firm’s work, especially when dealing with candidates who are being pursued by multiple recruiters.

Benefits of a Contingency Search

A contingency search allows for a greater range and scope of search, which might mean reaching more potential candidates. There are often several contingency recruiting firms hired in the search, which creates more competition among recruiters. A contingency search also allows for a variety of different opinions from recruiters as well as different options of candidates. One benefit of using a contingency search is the payment method. A contingency search is usually less expensive, and the payment is conveniently delivered only after a client is placed.

When a Retained Search might be best for your company’s needs:

  • For high level positions – C-level, VP level, Director level
  • If you are very busy and do not have time to keep track of each step of the hiring process
  • When time is a critical factor for the hiring company
  • When the company requires a very specific skill set or cultural fit
  • When confidentiality is of importance to the client (the need for the hire can be revealing to competitors, investors, stakeholders, etc.)
  • When the position requires a higher caliber of talent
  • When the skill sets you are hiring for are scarce in the market
  • If you want dedicated resources to your hiring needs
  • If you want a strategy/plan for identifying, screening, evaluating, and hiring the proper candidate

When a Contingency Search might be best for your company’s needs:

  • When hiring mid or lower-level employees
  • When you are not familiar with a particular recruiting firm and would like to test out different options
  • If many people will likely be qualified for the position.
  • If you have multiple positions being filled
  • When you are considering upgrading talent on your team only if the right candidate is available
  • If your own network is not yielding qualified candidates
  • When you want to compare/benchmark candidates to the candidate you have identified (on your own) to ensure you have truly identified the right person
  • When the hiring manager wants to control processes of screening, interviewing and negotiating with candidates

It is important for hiring companies to identify the benefits of each solution with regards to the payment structure and the corresponding recruiting process. Differentiating between a retained search and a contingency search, and selecting the most beneficial method ensures an efficient and successful hiring process.

Millennium Search successfully places candidates using both Retained and Contingency models. Learn more about our Recruiting Solutions

The Great Balancing Act: Selling the Position while Qualifying Passive Candidates

The Great Balancing Act: Selling the Position while Qualifying Passive Candidates

Qualifying Passive Candidates

Qualifying Passive Candidates

So, you may have found the perfect candidate for the job. You think this candidate has the skill set, expertise and experience you’re looking for and would be a strong cultural and environmental fit to your company. Time to start interviewing! But have you considered what the candidate thinks about you? If passive, the candidate is most likely qualifying your company more than an active candidate would. In order to leave his or her current position, the compensation as well as the culture, specifics of the job, company brand, and understood ability to make an impact should all be appealing.

When interviewing passive candidates, it is imperative for employers to qualify the candidate while also selling the company and position. This can be a difficult balancing act, one that many hiring founders, executives and managers have trouble executing. Sometimes, the employer focuses on their own assessments while neglecting what the candidate needs to know about the position and the company. Other times, it is the opposite – the employer sells a candidate who looks highly appealing without really determining if the fit is strong. In reality, the best passive hires for the C-level come from mutual interest and understanding between the candidate and the employer. Although this can be challenging to achieve, here are some ways to keep candidates attracted throughout the demanding interview process.

They Know Your Needs And Requirements; Make Sure You Know Theirs

You go to great lengths to make sure your needs and requirements align with the candidate’s abilities, skill sets, and experiences. Make a conscious effort to determine their needs and requirements, and make sure they are aware of you doing so. Candidates may be looking for more than just adequate compensation; consider the type of work, company culture, brand appeal, and opportunity for growth.

They Address Your Questions And Concerns; Make Sure You Address Theirs

Good qualification gets the right information from the candidate. Candidates should take the same philosophy, and interviewers should prepare themselves to answer candidate questions in detail and with as much transparency as possible. Just as the candidate should be selling him or herself to the interviewer, the opposite should also happen. Don’t only highlight the company’s good qualities or achievements, but be as honest with information as you can.

They Stay In Contact With You; Make Sure You Stay In Contact Too

Interviews are generally stressful, even for the most confident and well spoken people. Not every conversation needs to be a screening, nor should it be. Have genuine conversations with the candidate. Get their perspective on how things are proceeding. Ask about concerns, and clarify misunderstanding, misconceptions, and missing information. An open communication channel allows for both a stronger relationship and a better impression, which are both paramount when hiring at the C level.

They Prepare For Your Interviews; Make Sure You Prepare Them Too

Good interviews can (and should probably be) intense, but can leave candidates feeling like the process may not being going in their favor. Applying pressure and thorough selection and qualification is necessary, but doing so using unusual or unexpected methods may give the wrong impression. What can you do to help better prepare the candidate? Communicate clearly what the interview process looks like. When sending a candidate to a high pressure interview, tell them in advance and prep them accordingly. This not only allows the candidate to shine, but shows consideration towards them.

They Communicate Clearly And Effectively; Make Sure It Goes Both Ways

Check to be sure that communications from you are clear and convey what is important. Misunderstandings and miscommunications can create unnecessary points of stress and contention where none may even exist. The key to sending the right image of your company is found in how you communicate. Without clarity, the correct message may not get across, and that could deter the candidate from considering any offer.

Of Course, A Recruiter Can Help…

Because striking a balance between qualifying passive candidates and selling your company can be a challenge, many founders and executives find benefit in enlisting the help of a recruiter to manage the process. Good recruiters know how demanding this balancing act can be for employers. Hiring may not be the current priority at your company, which means managing candidate relationships can get put on the back-burner. Having a recruiter on your side gives you a dedicated resource to manage these important relationships, guide candidates through your interview and hiring process, and sell your organization while also helping to qualify for the right skill sets, experience, and fit.

Millennium Search considers managing relationships an integral part of Our Recruiting Process.

Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Hire The Way You Vote

Don’t Hire The Way You Vote

Ah, voting. The day has arrived for the citizens of our nation to gather our wits about ourselves, weigh the candidates on the issues, weed through the rhetoric and political nonsense, and cast our ballot in the name of democracy. Voters face tough decisions this year, and so do hiring managers. It’s a busy time for politics and talent acquisition alike, but the methodology taken to choose the right candidate should differ dramatically between the two. So, how are you going to vote? Hopefully, not the same way you hire.

You Love One, and Hate The Other…

Classic. You’ve got a love affair with that one candidate. On the surface, he represents everything that you want, and sees eye to eye on all of your hot button issues. On the other hand, you can’t stand the opponent. He rubs you the wrong way on everything, from social issues, to economic perspectives and foreign policy. Naturally, you are inclined to vote for your favorite, but you’ve already voted (hopefully). Now, it’s time to hire.

In this scenario, your bias towards your favorite may actually hinder your decision making. When evaluating new talent, it is important to look at candidates objectively, which can be difficult when you are leaning strongly in one direction straight away. So how do we address this situation? Be critical of the candidates that you prefer, and leave the emotions out. When we like a candidate right away, we tend to rationalize shortcomings, even if the candidate clearly lacks qualifications that you need. And don’t rely on your judgment alone. Put the candidate you like in front of others, and see how your perspective lines up with theirs. Collaboration can expose truths about candidates that you may have missed, or even ignored altogether. On the other hand, be sure to do the same with candidates that you don’t initially prefer. Ask the right questions, and stay as objective as possible when evaluating them. Put the candidate in front of your colleagues, and compare their reactions to your own. You may find that the candidate you like is not a good fit in reality, and might even discover the candidate you didn’t like is the right one for the job. Your initial reactions may turn out correct, but it’s good to be sure.

Great Social Policy, So-So On Foreign Policy, But the Economy … Don’t Get Me Started

The dilemma of today’s independent. As an unaffiliated voter, you like one candidate’s stance on social issues, and may even see eye to eye on foreign policy. But economic policy? Oh, that damned economy…

Many voters end up casting a ballot based on most important and pressing issues of the day, even when they disagree on other issues. Selecting candidates to hire requires a different approach. Not every qualification is make or break, but it is important to establish your core nonnegotiables for hiring. Disregarding a lack a qualification in one nonnegotiable area for a high level of aptitude in another area may seem like an acceptable compromise, but in reality, the nonnegotiables are what they are for a reason. There will always be great candidates. You just have to make sure you hire the ones that fit your needs.

Pick the lesser of two evils

Better the turban then the mitre, they say. In the world of politics, many voters feel boxed in by the political parties, and though neither candidate feels like a good choice, their sense of civic duty compels them to make a choice. Voters weigh the choices against each other, and choose the least unappealing choice. A sad but true reality for many a citizen.

Picking the lesser of two evils is a reality for many voters, but it should not be a philosophy taken into hiring. In a competitive talent market, hiring managers may end up with a batch of candidates that come up short of their needs, but think that a choice must be made, and pick the best of the batch. In the long run, picking a candidate that falls short of your requirements can very likely lead to a failed placement, and can be a waste of the time and resources already invested in the process. So, what do you do? Again, you must hold strong with your core nonnegotiables, and make sure that you are being realistic and reasonable with them in relation to compensation and experience. Evaluate potential hires based on them, and if no one meets those requirements, then it is time to start looking again.

In Hiring, Be The Ron Paul Supporter

Despite his absence on the ballot, Ron Paul retains adamant supporters who see eye to eye with him on most of the issues. His supporters stick to their guns, and hope for the change to come someday. The bottom line is that hiring should not come down to weighing choices against other choices. In a bind, it may seem like there is no other alternative, but sacrificing for the sake of hiring can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes. Evaluate candidates for who they are, and not how they compare to others. Stick to your guns, and hold out for the right person. Do this, and you will ensure a better hire in the end.

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