The best business lessons are learnt while not at business. The subconscious mind is continuously learning things from our day to day activity we perform and indirectly help us do better at work. I couldn’t help mulling over the hiring process while shopping for vegetables at a grocery store. My dad was instructing me how to handpick quality vegetables and I followed every single tip he gave me. So, there is more than just recipe to all the good food that mom cooks. Quality Ingredients.
A product is a collective effort of a group of people. Product is output, people are input. At a startup execution of an idea is key. There are no processes in place governing quality, people are entrusted. Hence, it is important to hire the right set of people. A good hire delivers, is easier to retain and attracts more people to join.
From what I learnt while picking up the right ingredients for a good recipe, I could connect some of those factors to the hiring process.
Look for the most recent experience they have had. The past 6 months can play a key role. Know what they have delivered, learnt and contributed. They should show a sense of excitement with how they have spent their past 6 months professionally despite any constraints they might have had with the employer.
If you are diving into a new technology, check for the willingness and their belief in the technology you have chosen. Just the way, good aptitude always doesn’t guarantee great programmers, availability of skill doesn’t mean they are the best fit. Are they open minded, see your goals as theirs and ready to plunge on the opportunity?
I love the idea of a startup staying lean. But ask any startup and they would say they have so much to do and not enough people. It’s very important to understand for a startup (cash rich or not) growing number of people does not proportionately increase output or business. In fact, startups with large overheads and excess in people make them lose their risk appetite. Knowing how much to hire and spend time hiring is extremely important. You cannot hire for the imaginative future. Keep team size to minimum. It is easier to do better under constraints.
One of the best way to keep costs low is to hire people with different experience levels. Experienced, Freshers and Interns. Avoid being on a desperate look out for Rockstars that you think you cannot do without. A good team composition will give you better sustainment capabilities.
Not all the time you would manage to find people in hirable position and at times you can do without hiring. Never miss out on thinking about the alternatives. Outsourcing, crowd-sourcing and help from friends and family. These are short term alternatives you can experiment.
Campus Placements, HR consultants, Job Portals, Networking, LinkedIn, References and Blog/Website are all sources that bring in new people. Not all of this works for everyone. In my experience, references and our website has attracted more quality people ready to work for us than any other source. You should be able to pick the right source for you typically depending how much and how soon.
This is the part where you actually want to evaluate skill-set and attitude. Quality can be brought in perspective with what you have in hand currently. Make sure they are at par or above. Every hire is a unique interview process at startup. Don’t interview a designer the way you would interview a developer. Allow people to exhibit skills and get beyond the resume.
Put to use:
Having people at work who are eternally waiting for something else to happen to take up their job more seriously is dangerous. Everyone at a startup has enough to do, a sales guy does not have to wait for the product to release before he could do anything valuable. If you have people not yet put to right use, you shouldn’t be hiring.
Conclusion & Suggested Reading
Hiring is a process the founders have to be closely involved in. It is an art that grows on you as you hire and learn from it. The next time you are involved in a selection process where you put a lot of thought, you would have learnt something new. It will help you do hiring better. If you have other analogies or experience that go well with hiring please feel free to share them in comments section.
I liked Dharmesh Shah’s take on the first few people that you should have at a startup.
Another interesting post that highlights Hiring Criteria and of course Joel Spolsky’s post on The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing