New Hire Just Quit
Poor hiring decisions can be detrimental to a startup’s growth. A recent article by Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes highlighted the financial impact of a poor hire as equivalent to 30% of the employee’s starting salary. For startups, the financial impact is clearly greater, and even more so from a productivity perspective. Yet the reality is that no matter how thoroughly you prepare for interviews, grill and vet candidates, and define requirements and responsibilities of the position, there will always be unconsidered factors, overlooked job responsibilities, unexpected future pivots, and uncontrollable external circumstances. And as with every aspect of running and growing a startup, the only way to move forward from this situation is to in fact, move forward.
So your great new hire just quit? The fault will not always be yours, but the only course corrections that you can make will be on your part. Here are some things to think about when recovering from a departing recent hire.
Was your hire really passionate about the work?
Why it’s important: Startups are often more demanding, time consuming, and stressful than other jobs. Passion for the work, for the product, for the company and the startup philosophy are essential for an employee to survive; without it, it can be difficult to justify the demands of the job after the initial onboarding, despite the long-term opportunity.
Why you overlooked it: Top Talent with the experience and skill sets you need is already difficult enough to find. So when you run across a candidate with the experience and skill sets that match your needs, it is easy to rationalize the pitfalls or overlook the candidate’s level of interest and excitement around the company, product and work.
How to move forward: When you find the experience and skill sets that you need in a candidate, don’t stop there. You may be hesitant to do so, but make them aware of the challenges ahead, of the problems they will encounter in the short and long term, and of the demands and stress of the job. Past experience and work history will also be a good indicator. You have already found a candidate with the skill sets and background that you need. If they stick around after hearing the challenging reality, you know that there is more than just opportunity and a decent job driving their decision.
Did you hire someone who could handle startup pace and pressure?
Why it’s important: Again, startups are notorious for demanding environments, large workloads, and high levels of stress. And while passion is a great tool to help candidates handle these pressures, everyone has their limits. Make sure your demands fall within your hire’s threshold.
Why you overlooked it: You already found the skill sets, the experience, AND the passion?!? On paper and in interviews, candidates can demonstrate all three of these. But knowledge base and interest mean nothing without the ability to execute. So ask yourself, ‘At what point did they demonstrate that they could get things done quickly and efficiently?’ Did they answer your questions correctly? In vetting for doers, words rarely provide an accurate indication of this trait.
How to move forward: Doing your research on the candidate’s work history is essential. Speaking with former employers and managers about their work history will build a story about the candidate, and uncover their true nature. If that doesn’t have you convinced, try giving them a pre-hire assignment with a slightly impossible deadline. How they react, approach the assignment, and communicate with you will give you an idea of how well they execute under pressure.
Did they perform their due diligence? Did you help them do so?
Why it’s important: Top Talent is tough to come by in the tech world. This leads many founders to try painting a rosier than reality picture and scenario of the company, the role and its responsibilities. Founders in search of talent may leave out unattractive aspects of the organization that may cause a candidate to pass on the opportunity.
Why you overlooked it: Although candidates are also responsible for doing this, it is ultimately the company that is harmed by a bad hire, so in the end, it is on you to make sure that they have done their homework. Did you take steps to ensure that they researched your company, asked the right questions; the tough questions? Did you give them the true answers? Were they really prepared for reality, or were their expectations set by an inaccurate description of the organization?
How to move forward: Be as honest and forthcoming with candidates as you can. Yes, you have to sell the company, the product, the perks and the payoff, but you must also make sure they aren’t scared off by the hard truths, struggles, and downright ugly aspects that every startup deals with. And the last thing you want is a new hire who is anchored to rosey expectations that will inevitably lead to dissapointment.
Are the responsibilities of the position too much for one person?
Why it’s important: Again, everyone has their limits. More so, there is only so much time in a day, and there is only so much that one can focus on with expertise. Startups need and demand dynamic individuals, and they should. But stretching someone too thin and into areas that they aren’t focused or familiar with, on top of everything else, can be too much, and can damage the work that they should be focused on.
Why you overlooked it: Let’s face it: startups are strapped for resources. Money, time, people, help, advice, exposure, customers, data… There is never enough. This is especially true of the human capital element, especially in the technology space. Startups must run as lean as possible nowadays, but that doesn’t mean that one person can do an impossible amount to work just because the company needs them to.
How to move forward: Run lean, hire smart, and be realistic. You can get someone to work 80 hours a week, but if the workload is too much and too broad, you are ultimately setting your hire up for failure. This can be difficult to correct sometimes, because you have to find the balance between giving too much responsibility and hiring someone that can handle the expected startup workload. In the end, this may simply be the pains of scaling a company, but putting focus on managing it correctly can go a long way.
Was the hire really competent enough for the position to begin with?
Why it’s important: Your employees must be competent. That doesn’t require much explanation.
Why you overlooked it: Let’s face it; we are only as good at judging potential hires as our own perspective and biases allow us to be. Some people can see right through others, and others struggle to accurately assess the candidates that walk through the door. And even more difficult a task can be objectively evaluating those individuals that we like a lot.
How to move forward: Don’t rely solely upon your own judgement, especially when you like a candidate right off the bat. Getting several perspectives on a candidate will help paint a more accurate picture of who you’re talking to. And what looks like Top Talent to one person may look unqualified, incompetent or uncultured to another (perhaps not to that extreme, but you get the point).
Are there internal issues within your company that need to be examined?
Why it’s important: Every company has its own issues to tackle. From management structure, to operations and systems, to the overall strategy of the organization, there will always be something that gets overlooked or swept under the rug. Talent will know this going in, but if there are severe problems that become obvious when a new hire starts, it can be a huge red flag that such large issues have not been addressed or mentioned.
Why you overlooked it: You’re busy. Your hire is busy. Your other employees are busy. Chances are, everyone already has enough to do without dealing with internal issues. And it can be easy to dismiss glaring problems as just the growing pains of scaling a company, regardless of whether they are, in fact, just growing pains or are rooted in more severe problems.
How to move forward: Get feedback from your employees, from your new hires, from past candidates, from whoever will give it. Of course, take everything with a grain of salt, but if you speak with enough people, the true issues will emerge through repetition. And aside from uncovering problems at the company, your employees, both new and old, will feel heard and valued. Win win.
The bottom line? Choose your hires carefully to begin with. Accept that no matter how much you prepare, there is always the chance that you made the wrong choice, albeit a chance that is minimized by thorough preparation. And when the unfortunate scenario of a bad hire falls upon you, learn what you can from the experience and move forward. We all know that every startup hits roadblocks, but actually living through the journey is a different story. Live, learn, and move on.
Millennium Search mantains a great track record placing top talent in executive, technical, sales and marketing roles for today’s emerging and high growth technology companies. As a guaruntee, we offer protection against the early depature of the placements we make. If you are looking to take your talent aquisition efforts to the next level, contact us today to discuss our solutions!