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Hiring for Startups

This post had been pending for a long time. I intended to write this some 6 months ago post the Startup Saturday event on ‘Hiring for Startups’. I have been in the business of helping startups hire students/freshers for both internships and full-time roles and was often shocked at how founders treated the ‘hiring’ business. Many still show a step-motherly treatment towards hiring. Having a good team is the biggest asset for any startup.

Hiring for startups is a different ball game all together and what works for one startup may not work for the other. As a founder, one needs to plan ahead and spend considerable time and efforts hiring. A lot of startups fail not just because of the lack of money or technology, but often due to the absence of a good team.This post is a gist of my learnings during my time with Internfever and the brief stint with eKincare.

1) Never ever get disappointed with ‘no-shows’

You’d be surprised that there is always 30-40% no shows for interviews even at the big MNCs. If you thought no-shows happen only with students & freshers, you are mistaken. We have seen No-shows happen even when hiring for positions with 5-8 years of experience.

As a startup, you have an advantage. Have frequent conversations with the prospective , know their expectations, learn about him/her and their family and build a rapport. Maybe just catch up over a coffee before you invite them for a more formal discussion.

2) “Hiring for startups is like hiring for a cricket team”

I loved this hiring comparison by Niranjan, CEO of countryoven.com . You don’t need eleven all-rounders in your team; there should be a couple of all rounders, good batsmen, fast bowlers or spinners and a strong wicket keeper (strong batsman who could do wicket keeping 😛 ).

Determine who and what the startup actually needs and create positions and hire accordingly. Estimate how much difference hiring for that position would make and bring in specialists. Have lean teams and bring out the best in them. Hire people with multiple interests/skills but with competency in one area. If you have a rockstar coder who wants to do product photography, let them do it.

3) The magic number ‘ 3’

During my research days at the University of Cincinnati, my prof always told me that when it comes to research, you will always take 3 times more (time & resources) to finish the task. I have observed it holds good for startups too; product design/development, marketing campaigns, hiring etc

If you are looking at closing a position in one week, be assured it’s going to take 3 weeks.

Also, hiring involves 4 steps; sourcing, screening, interviewing & hiring. Set your target number of hires and multiply (backwards) each step with 3 to get the number of candidates you have to source.

Let’s say your objective is to hire 1 engineer, you have to

  • source at least 27 profiles
  • screen 9 candidates from the pool and
  • interview atleast 3 candidates
  • hire 1 engineer

This accounts for all the no-shows, last minute drop offs and everybody else. Sometimes, the candidate may accept the offer and not show up on the joining date. Be prepared.

4) You cannot lure people by offering a fat pay check

People look for an opportunity to create something new and revolutionary at a startup and not the pay check. It is the people behind the startup that matter.

As a founder, you should be so excited that at least 1% of your energy and enthusiasm is rubbed onto your prospective employee . Show them the beautiful picture you have in your mind for the company and the people in it.

5) Network – online & offline

Leverage the network of family and friends you may have. Tell them that you are hiring and share your expectations from a potential candidate and maybe they would be able to suggest someone they know.

Use the power of social networking. Explore sites like Linkedin, Github, Stack Overflow, Behance and several others. If you find someone interesting, ask people in your network to connect you with them. Catch up for coffee and speak with them. They may or may not be actively looking for a job but if you are able to sell them your idea…

6) Fire on time.

At startups, you don’t hire people. You look for people who are passionate about their work and believe that they can truly create a difference. Use interviews as an opportunity to generate free PR. Treat every candidate as a king (whether you reject them or hire them)  and even if he/she doesn’t join due to any reason , they will take it upon themselves to refer someone else.

Happy hiring!

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