It’s Not Always The Best You Need

It’s Not Always The Best 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?’

The Best is 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

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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

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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 to increase your hiring speed 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.

Hiring for Tech Companies: 5 Predictions for 2015

Hiring for Tech Companies: 5 Predictions for 2015

Back to the future

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 to get the top talent you need.

Don’t Hire Top Talent; Build A Top Team

Don’t Hire Top Talent; Build A Top Team

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Too much thought and focus goes towards finding cream of the crop talent in the high-tech industry. Tech startups need passionate and skilled people on their teams, yes, but many companies take this notion too far, passing over talented individuals in their pursuit for the perfect people. Perfect people don’t exist. Near perfect professionals are hard to find, expensive, generally employed and receive job offers on a regular basis. Passionate, skilled and capable talent is easier found, more affordable and eager to join the right team. And in reality, the team built from the latter group can take your company far if you target the right people.

The Full Stack Rockstar Is No More

No, I don’t mean that LAMP professionals are extinct, but rather that LAMP is no longer the full stack. Getting tech to an MVP level in today’s landscape requires more disciplines than one professional can learn and master. Furthermore, I can’t think of a company in today’s tech world that has built a product with a team of one. To develop products in a reasonable timeframe, companies require a team of people collaborating and working together in a cohesive unit. For this reason, building the right team means building the right culture, which should take priority over acquiring a singular talent resource.

A Team Of 10 Produces More Than 10 People

Finding people who can do the work is easy. The real challenge is finding the right people for your team, culture and company. Overcoming that challenge pays huge dividends for a startup, and most successful companies know this. Evidence supporting the idea that happier employees are more productive is overwhelming. A significant part of that equation is building a team of people who work together well and enjoy each other in close quarters. This makes the cultural analysis a more important component of the hiring process than other aspects. In a well-thought-out team, per employee output should be a multiple of what a single employee could accomplish alone. A dysfunctional team, on the other hand, leads to fractional per employee output.

Focus On The Team Puts Focus On Hiring For The Right Things

When hiring objectives shift from finding the best in the industry to finding the best for your team, companies begin looking for traits more valuable than just accomplishments and skill sets. Qualities like passion, integrity, wisdom and creativity become a higher priority, all of which are difficult if not impossible to teach or train, but necessary and invaluable. Technologies, languages and industries can be taught and learned, but character and aptitude are almost always constants.
There is no question that top industry talent is a scarce commodity and something worth capturing. But should your company have the opportunity to hire industry leading talent, make sure they fit your team, culture and company first. To start building your team the right way, get in touch with us today!

A Jeep Buyer’s Guide to Startup Hiring

A Jeep Buyer’s Guide to Startup Hiring

buyer

After years of ogling pictures and driving other people’s Jeeps, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a Wrangler. Most people want Mustangs or Ferraris, but for me, the dream has always been the Wrangler. It was a happy day.

The process of buying the vehicle, on the other hand, was less than enjoyable. In between the salesman telling me for the 6th time he was going to get my keys while in reality coming back with another bad offer, it dawned on me that navigating a vehicle purchase is not all that different from the startup hiring process. Naturally, I am sharing what I’ve learned with you to lessen your hiring headache and make your next auto purchase a breeze (you’re welcome).

Find Something That Is You

I have wanted a Jeep Wrangler since I can remember. Some people want Mustang Cobras, GTs, Z-1s and other sports cars, but the pinnacle for me has always been a Wrangler. And yes, I could have checked out some of the nicer trucks and SUVs out there, and was nearly sold on an FJ Cruiser instead (I gave it serious thought). In the end, I knew what I had always wanted from the beginning was right for me, because those other options didn’t fit my needs, personality and lifestyle like the Wrangler.

When it comes to hiring for your startup, you are fishing from a pool of hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals. Yes, you will find many qualified people for the job, but if they don’t fit your company, its culture and team, then you haven’t found the right person for the job.

Check Out The Reviews

I’m an amature mechanic at best, and have little authority when it comes to rating cars. I checked out Edmunds, Car and Driver, Kelley Blue Book and Cars.com, and also peeked inside a few forums just to see what the enthusiasts and haters had to say. I know what I need it to do, but can’t necessarily say whether a car will be able to do it.

Check your references. Then execute your due diligence and find other references. Too many companies skip this step. Due diligence is a pain and will never be easy. But past performance and behavior is often a predictor of future performance and behavior, and the observations and opinions of others are your best records of both. So, please…Find your own references to check.

Realize That You Will Get The Good And The Bad

The Wrangler is not a perfect vehicle by any means, and I was well aware of that. The gas mileage isn’t great; the highway ride is not the best, and I know the day will come when I run into the classic soft top issues of rain water and rough car washes. Like any vehicle, it’s going to need maintenance and will probably throw me a repair bill worth an arm and a leg every once in a while. I did my research, and although something else might creep up and surprise me, for the most part I know what I’m getting into.

There is no such thing as the perfect hire, so don’t try looking for one. The best thing you can do is gather as much information as you can, paint an accurate picture of your potential hires so you know what to expect and match up your needs with what candidates can offer. Get the person you need, and be prepared for both the good and the not so great.

Define And Stick To Your Non-Negotiables

The number of features, options, upgrades and modifications available on vehicles today means that, even with the make and model narrowed down, you have literally hundreds of options from which to choose. Ultimately, there were just a few things that were non-negotiable for me. It had to be an Unlimited four-door, be a 4×4, be a low mileage vehicle (I considered used cars as well) and have cruise control. Anything else, I could take or leave depending on the price.

You will come across people with a wide range of experience and talents, but when it comes down to it, you will have to pay for every aspect of your hire. Define your non-negotiable needs and leave everything else as a nice-to-have. This will allow you to focus on your core needs, walk away from candidates outside of your price range and find a Goldilocks hire for your team.

Take It For A Test Drive

I would never buy a car without taking it for a test drive. It could be the coolest looking car out there, but if it’s a poor driving experience, I won’t buy it. I took the Jeep I eventually purchased out for an hour-long test drive, and was sold halfway through.

When you look at hiring from the car buying perspective, trying out candidates before you hire them makes a lot more sense. Many of today’s forward-thinking companies are adopting this approach already, whether it’s bringing them on for a project as part of the hiring process or giving them a contract-to-hire opportunity to test the waters and see if they’re a match. One of the biggest issues with hiring is you never know what you’re getting until you have it, making this a stellar approach.

Don’t Go Over Your Price

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what my non-negotiables were or how much I loved that car if I couldn’t get them to match the price I needed. My budget was my budget, and as hard as they tried to get me to compromise, I knew better. In the end, I ended up at the top range of my number, but it was still within the range.

For all of the talk about offering market compensation to attract top talent, every company knows that the resources you have are the resources you have, regardless of what you need. You must be competitive in your compensation, but if the market demands more than you can offer, it’s time to find another solution; consider less expensive options, reevaluate your core needs or go raise more money. But don’t stray from your budget without serious evaluation or consideration of alternatives.

Hang In There!

I spent 8 hours (yes, you read that right) dealing with the dealership and negotiating. Nevermind the time I spent researching before I ever drove up there. I had to fight for what I wanted, and was ready to walk away quite a few times. Had they not reached my parameters, I would have left a sad, Jeepless man.

Hiring takes work and time. Ask any Fortune 500 company, and they will tell you that their highest priority is hiring. The time, effort and money that companies put in is well worth it because the impact of a good hire and the value that the right talent brings to a company is enormous. So put the time in, get the resources, speak with recruiters and don’t stop until you find the right people.
I’m a few months into Jeep ownership, and I love it (I’m writing to you about it, so obviously). Follow the same process when hiring, and you will be loving your sparkly new employees in no time, too.

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