Endless working hours, midnight coffee instead of fresh morning brew and never-ending brainstorm; well that was the new normal when you started building your startup.
Now comes the hardest part: Expanding your team to make your startup the next big thing.
So here we bring you the ultimate hiring guide for startups.
When to hire?
Premature scaling is the #1 cause of startup death.
There are a few parameters which will help you to judge whether it’s the right time to hire for your startup or not. These are:
Availability of Financial Resources
“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.”– Jeff Bezos
Expanding your team would require expenditure. If you are looking to branch out to different locations, there is an additional cost attached to it.
The bottom line is once you start hiring you are looking to assert credibility and non-payment of dues hurt this credibility.
Ask these questions before hiring someone
- Do I have enough capital or recurring revenue to sustain the new recruit for at least 3 years?
- Will the expenditure positively affect the performance?
“Nothing works better than just improving your product.”– Joel Spolsky
If the need arises to escalate your work and you feel like it would be difficult to improve upon the product in a given time frame, then it is advisable to get some helping hands which could provide the much-needed assistance.
However, we don’t advice you hire someone just because he’s good in general and is available.
Hire the first 20 employees deliberately with the startup’s future in mind and always be sure of what position the new recruit will hold.
After all, new recruits can make or break your startup dream.
What to do for Hiring?
The best strategy is to follow NAIM – Network, Attract, Innovate, & Motivate.
Networking is just like breathing for startups. The more you network, the more you grow.
It is among the most inexpensive and effective strategies to make your startup visible to the world. Most of the entrepreneurs prefer networking as it lets them meet more like-minded people with similar ambitions who result in benefitting the venture in some way or the other.
Networking is important for your business. You never know what you’ll discover, what new connections you make, and who’d love your idea. It is a golden opportunity to meet potential employees and collaborators who’d help you fulfil your dream.
So if you’re planning to expand your venture by hiring new employees, the first thing you should focus on is networking. Go to startup talks, attend seminars, write press releases, etc.
Before expanding your team, answer a few questions by putting yourself in the shoes of a prospect hire.
How is this company any different from the ones that exist within the same co-domain?
The startup must be providing some improvements over existing solutions or creating new solutions altogether.
How will I benefit from working with this company?
Research what other players in the market are offering and draft a job offer which makes you more attractive. Injecting your startup’s personality in the description also helps you to stand out of the crowd.
It is also important to showcase the vision of the founders to prospective employees. If you are convinced in your vision, don’t shy away to bring out that presentation you showed your investors.
It is essential to think of strategies about how to engage the future employees so that they feel they can grow with the venture.
It is not that you need to go over the top to attract top talent. You just need to be good at tapping what the candidates need at that particular period in their life.
An undergraduate student might be looking for experience in the industry, a graduate might be looking for new avenues and a professional might help as a consultant for you if provided with suitable perks.
You should be enthusiastic about the future of your product.
Once your prospect employee feels enthusiastic about the idea it is easy to accommodate him/her. Try to list out how you could achieve certain landmarks and what is being done in that direction.
Who to Hire?
“You can have the best strategy and the best building in the world, but if you don’t have the hearts and minds of the people who work with you, none of it comes to life.”– Renee West
It is important to find employees who embody the work ethics you see in your existing employees. A single hire is enough to make or break a project.
It is essential to find an employee who shares the same passion and vision as you and your existing team. But you shouldn’t confuse ‘hiring for culture fit’ with ‘hiring a person just like you’ as the latter will lead to a lack of creativity, diversity, and experience in the company.
“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?”– Thomas John Watson Sr., IBM
It seems that the dilemma for a startup begins with the question – A chance to the experienced person or a freshly minted graduate?
Experience is a quantifier of excellence, but excellence demands price and commitment. It is not an easy task to hire a professional at a wage that is not damaging to the startup itself as well as retain the professional.
On the other hand, hiring a graduate who is in need of gaining experience would not be hard to bargain and retain too.
The final decision, therefore, should depend on the complexity of the work at hand.
The entrepreneur shouldn’t compromise on hiring a non-experienced person when it comes to a job which surely needs to be handled by someone who knows about it.
However, most of the times, the funds don’t allow the entrepreneurs to do the same. The alternate way out here is to hire a motivated, intelligent employee who has a good personality and provide him with all the training he needs.
Include pre-interview assignments and behavioural interviews. Hire the new employee based on his existing skills, ability to learn, and ability to blend with the team. When hiring fresh graduates focus on the fundamentals more than the specific knowledge.
Focus on their intelligence, personality and diligence. Note their reaction when you ask them to do something they haven’t worked on or even heard of before.
There are some skills which are inherent.
Soft skills are interpersonal skills which are used to describe anyone’s approach to life, work, and relationships with other people. Unlike hard skills, these are not professional job-specific skills like accountancy, graphics designing, etc.
Some examples of soft skills are
- Communication Skills
- Work Ethic
- Creative Problem Solving
- Time management
- Conflict Resolution
- Team player
You can’t train a person to be enthusiastic or have motivation to excel. You can’t train them on taking feedback positively and working on it to improve themselves.
According to a study by LeadershipIQ, only 11% of the new hires that failed in the first 18 months, did so because of deficiencies in technical skills.
Soft skills matter more than anything else. Hire an employee who can represent your company to the world.
Pro Tip: No matter how experienced or motivated the candidate be, never hire him if he’s a person with a bad attitude. Such negativity could be fatal for your startup.
How & Where To Hire From?
One of the frequent questions we receive from entrepreneurs is how to stand out and attract more potential employees in a clutter of job offers where big brands are the only clear winners.
Well, this is where your marketing and networking skills come into play.
The Job Description
What most of the entrepreneurs fail to understand is that copying a job description or using a boring template can never make you stand out of the crowd no matter how good your intentions are.
Write a job description which clearly explains what makes your startup different and special to work with. What all benefits can you provide? Can you provide them with good training? Will they get the responsibility and authority they’re looking for? Who all will they be working with? What are their achievements?
Make sure you check the job descriptions of the competitor companies and do some research on what the prospective employee is looking for in a company before writing the job description.
Also, make sure you draft the job description and its promotion strategy based on the platform you’re posting it on. Now even Facebook lets you post job offers on your page. But the content and the marketing strategy you’ll use on Facebook to attract more applicants is different to what you’ll use on LinkedIn or any other job portal.
Focus on offering jobs to people within your network. They have more probability to join your venture when compared to others as they’ve already seen your work and your vision.
It could be a standard connection like alma mater, previous encounter at an earlier job, or someone you met in the startup conclaves and seminars. Your network is among the most inexpensive and effective ways to find the right person to fill up the position. Also, this form of hiring does not require you to set up a process where you have to go through the entire screening process.
Use social media not just of informal networking but for formal job offers as well.
Advertise your job offer to the target audience and stand out of the crowd. Advertise on Facebook, on Twitter, on Linkedin, and even on Instagram stories. This will not only bring you more applicants but also will help you showcase your startup’s personality to the world.
In your startup journey, you will experience both the lowest lows and highest highs; but the important thing is just to keep going at it, day in and day out and make your vision a reality.
For doing this you need the best people and this should be your top priority as the single biggest constraint on the success of the startup is the ability to get and to hang on to the best talent around you could find.
The best companies out there placed equal weight on character attributes rather than the brand value of educational institute, specialized knowledge or even experience as you are not hiring a hand, the whole person comes with it always.
“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”-Steve Jobs
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
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An experienced developer and tech entrepreneur. Kanishk loves to write about machine learning, entrepreneurship, and tech trends.