Human Resources Today

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How to Hire for a Startup

How to Hire for a StartupIt's a pivotal moment, really. The point when you finally hit the magic budget number and you can add to your startup team. But chances are you have no idea how to hire. No offense, but it's true. Sure, you've worked in companies before and added to your team. You've interviewed before. How hard can it be? Talent is one of the biggest challenges in startups -- and most of us know how much it matters but we don't make any effort to learn how to hire for a startup.

Hiring can be one of the most important -- and oft overlooked parts -- of any startup or high-growth business. It seems easy: write a job description, post it and wait for the masses to apply. Interviews are just conversations and offers are easy. Who wouldn't want to work for you?  But, there's so much more to it, and as a leader, it's your duty to know the major aspects of your business -- especially before you're able to hire all of the experts in sales, marketing, finance, product development, engineering, etc. You may still be doing some of that on your own.

And recruiting? Well, sure, you can farm it out to an agency. But if talent is one of the most important ingredients to your growth, don't you want to own the process (and save money)?

Here's how to hire for a startup:

Know the Legal Basics

It's really important to know what laws apply to you before hiring. There are federal and state laws (depending on where your company is based), laws that apply to companies based on size and those that apply to companies with federal contracts.

You also can't discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Some states also laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  A basic legal immersion for you and your leadership team can help to minimize risk.

Understand Your Finances

Can you afford that next hire or hires? You don't know until you really run the numbers.

You need to have a good sense of fair market value for compensation (see the "Know the Numbers" section in this post I wrote for The Daily Muse), and then add 20%. You're not paying them more, but an employee typically costs about 20% more than their salary once you factor in additional costs, such as benefits, taxes and insurance.

Budget first before jumping to post that job description.

Be Clear About Roles

Speaking of job descriptions, you may be eager to share how cool your startup is, and how much fun the team has together. That's all good, but what really matters is the jobs themselves.

Candidates want to know what they'll be doing and what a typical day might look like.  You don't have to describe every specific task but even if the role has some ambiguity, spell out major responsibilities so expectations are clear. The best job descriptions include responsibilities, behaviors (how the successful candidate might behave or handle certain situations), what the company culture is like (strengths and weaknesses), and future prospects for both the position and the company.

It may be tempting to get cheeky or creative, but don't do it at the expense of the job itself. Otherwise you'll be wading through hundreds of resumes attracted to the cheeky instead of the work -- many of whom won't be qualified.

Create a Defined Hiring Process

What are the steps in your hiring process? It's important to be clear, define each step and the desired outcome. If you're doing phone screens, what are you hoping to learn in order to determine who moves forward?

Don't let interviewers ask whatever they want either. Have a set of questions that clearly gets at the job itself -- both skills (Do candidates have the level of programming proficiency they claim?) and behaviors (When a crisis happens the day before a major launch, how would they handle it?).

It's important to ensure that you never ask any questions that address:  arrest records, garnishment records, marital status, child-care provisions, pregnancy or plans for future childbearing, physical or mental disabilities, age, nationality, race or ancestry.

And ask similar questions of all candidates so you can compare them fairly.

Create Clear Rules for Selection

I once had a startup leader tell me she hires with her gut. Don't do that, ever. It's risky, unfair and leads to bad-fit decisions.

Instead, have a defined set of criteria to determine who moves forward in the hiring process and why. Compare candidates to that set of criteria rather than to each other. Who's the better fit?

And if you're doing background or reference checks as part of the hiring process, make sure you get permission from the candidates to do so.

Ask for Help, But Don't Pass Off Responsibility

You've got an accountant to do your taxes, programmers to make sure your product launches successfully and a sales manager to drive revenue. Why are you trying to create a recruiting strategy alone?

It's not to say you can't recruit yourself -- you CAN. But get some guidance and advice to create a hiring process that works for your business and your market.

On the flip side, don't just hand off the process to an outside agency. This is YOUR company. You have to have a vested interest in the process and a long-term stake in the game. Agencies can be expensive, and it's hard for them to really get to know your business.

Want more help and guidance on this topic or a list of laws to consider? Contact us and we're happy to help.

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.




Talent and HR News Roundup: Building Your Team Edition

Talent and HR News Roundup: Building Your Team EditionStartups and high-growth companies always struggle when they hit the bumps in the road recruiting and managing talent.  Part of the challenge is that most founders aren't experts in people and human capital management. Like finance, sales and product development, managing the strategy for a growing team is a specific area of expertise. In this week's news roundup we focus on some great articles about building your team, steps to avoid and the perspective of the job seeker.

1) Zynga Layoffs: What Happens When Startups Grow Too Fast at Entrepreneur:

It's tempting to move quickly and grow fast. After all, you have products and services to push. And let's be honest -- you need to make money.  The first default might be to hire, hire, hire. But expanding your workforce too quickly can have negative consequences.

2) Edward Snowden: No Degree, Lied on His Resume, Promptly Hired for $122K a Year... at The HR Capitalist:

When you're growing quickly, it's easy to bypass steps that take extra time and take bigger risks. But when it comes to talent, bypassing background checks or thinking employment law doesn't apply to you is a huge mistake -- one that even big companies make.

3) The Secret to Building Dream Teams at Talent Management:

Just like job seekers think if they talk, they can interview, managers and startup leaders think hiring is as simple as asking a few questions. It's actually more of a science than you think and the bigger you grow, the more important it is.

4) 3 Steps to Negotiating a Startup Job Offer at The Daily Muse:

If you're trying to figure out how to convince that perfect candidate to join your company, get in their head. What are they thinking about when deciphering and negotiating the offer?

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.



A Gold Isn't Guaranteed: Why Skills Are Only Half Of the Equation

As the London Olympics continue on, we're glued to our televisions, mesmerized by feats of power, athleticism and raw skill.  In particular, watching gymnastics always results in shock and awe: "did a fifteen-year old really do that?" Yesterday, the women competed in the individual vault event and American McKayla Maroney was the overwhelming favorite to win gold. So overwhelming, that the announcers couldn't stop talking about the "inevitable" win. And then she didn't.Her first of two vaults was fantastic, but on the second she missed her landing and basically sat down on the mat. Contrast that to the vault she did in the team finals that was just shy of perfect (though there's debate on that too), and it seems shocking that she fell.   But this isn't about her jump, the scoring or a comparative analysis. Over at The Atlantic they got some handy GIF guides for that. (Yes, you'll see all the videos of the falls). It's an issue of skill being just one factor. Like any professional at the absolute top of her game, Maroney was in the zone last night--you could tell by looking at her. But after it was clear she'd have to settle for the silver, it was one particular sentiment from the announcers that struck me. They called Maroney "the best vaulter in the world"... "just not tonight."

And that's the thing--when she had her near perfect vault in the team finals, it was a different scene, a different set of circumstances. She had the team on the floor to pump her up. There wasn't a guarantee the women would win gold. Her performance was essential to strengthening the team's score. The announcers weren't sure how she'd do. Contrast that to the individual competition where she was the only American on the floor--her teammates were in the stands. And the announcers (well, everyone quite frankly) assumed, and said as much, that gold was a sure thing.

But skills are only half of the equation--and we should all remember that. Think about the college football players who perform great at the NCAA level but fail famously in the pros. So much of the success of talent is about how we behave in the moment and the environmental and cultural factors that support skill deployment. There's no guarantee that a professional who was a star in one environment can replicate that in another.

When it comes to talent--there are no guarantees. We can't assume we've struck gold with a particular hire. Instead, we should get better at looking at all the factors, the environment, behavioral strengths, potential risks or how and when weaknesses occur.  Maroney's young, she'll have another chance. And she lost the gold as an individual. But if you bet on gold for a key hire in your company, and they famously fail, there's much more at stake--the team, profits, the company--and maybe even your job.

Job seekers: show you're more than a set of skills.

Recruiters, hiring managers, executives: don't just look for skill. Look for skill plus circumstances.