Recruit by objective

Too many startups are still looking towards other startups and their org charts, when they recruit to expand their teams.

While there is of course something to be said about having someone on point to fill the various operational roles in the startup and ensure smooth operations, navigating by org chart is typically a pretty poor way of ensuring that you reach your overall objectives.

What you should be looking to do instead is to staff by objective;

Figure out what the key objectives for your startup is and ensure that you have the right people with the right skills and experience in place to make a success out of them. If that entails restructuring your team and who’s in it, maybe that’s a thought worth having.

When you try to recruit, figure out who you need to have in the team, and who would be nice to have. Recruit the must haves to form the core, and supplement these with contractors or freelancers, who can make an important contribution for a while until they are on to other projects.

That way you can get the best from both worlds, and you won’t get stuck being dragged along by an irrelevant org chart.

(Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash)

Mindset or skills?

What is most important? Having the right skills or the right mindset?

With all the talk about the need for further specialization to drive competitive advantage, you would think that skills are super important. But in reality it is the other way around:

Mindset wins. Every single time.

Now, why is that?

It is pretty simple really:

A persons mindset says a lot about character, values, tenacity, ambition – and pretty much everything else.

It speaks to the core of the person and how that person operates, and it is precisely those things that will help carry you and your team through thick and thin, when you have onboarded that person.

As for skills, they are important too for sure. But they are much more fleeting, and they can be learned, when you need them.

Mindset cannot.

Thus it is super important that when you recruit, you’re recruiting mostly for mindset and less so for skills. Of course it is a balance, but I am sure you get the point.

After all you would rather want a decent contributor with a great mindset than what looks like a superstar but who is in reality rotten to the core.

The first one will grow into doing great things with you and your company. The second one will poison everything around him.

(Photo by kylie De Guia on Unsplash)

Free your talents

What’s the point in spending a lot of time and effort in getting the best people to join your team, if you’re not prepared to let their talents loose for the good of the company?

It sounds like a stupid question, but in reality it happens all the time; great people are onboarded with promises of exciting challenges and an opportunity to make an impact. And a few months later they leave again, disgruntled, hopes dashed and with a really poor experience of you and your company.

Except in cases of a bad hire, it is rarely the departing team members fault that things didn’t go according to plan. It’s mainly on you for not ensuring that they were provided with the guidance, tools and mandate to do what they were hired to do.

Often this comes down to the fear of losing control as a founder. After all, you and your co-founders built the company to where it is today, and it would be a real disaster for anyone to come and mess that up. It’s super understandable, and I get it. But you can’t think like that if you want your company to continue on its growth trajectory.

Instead you need to realize that you have limits. That there are other and better people out there at doing what needs to get done to get to the next level. And that your task is to persuade them to join your company instead of the competition. And then – basically – get out of their way. Within reason of course.

Personally, I have always found that you generate the best results when you’re brave enough to be ambitious in your recruitment and go for people that are better and smarter than yourself and then do your utmost to provide them with the freedom to operate. Why? Because when they deliver according to expectations – or maybe well beyond that – you and your company deliver as well.

So please, free your talents. Or they will move on to somewhere else, where they can.

(Photo by JoelValve on Unsplash)

Falling in love

One of the things I have learned when working to build a startup team is that if you run a recruitment process trying to find the right co-founders, there is a huge risk you will eventually get to talk to people basically looking for a job.

Like in a normal recruitment process? Duuh!

Saying this I mean absolutely no disrespect to the great people, I have met and talked to. Far from it. They are truly great.

What I do mean though is that when you’re trying to find the right candidate with co-founder potential for a startup in a very short period of time, the odds that you will run into the person, who is just deeply in love with the problem, you’re looking to solve – like yourself should be – is really really poor.

That – to me – is a lot of what separates a co-founder from a key hire but nonetheless a hire.

Meeting the potential co-founder during a recruitment process is most likely down to sheer luck. And it’s totally awesome if it happens. Absolutely.

But should you count on getting lucky?

What I have found you most likely will get instead are great people

(1) looking to buy into a very convincing pitch,

(2) comparing what you’re offering with the job they already have,

(3) looking for an economic incentive on the short term that looks like the one they already have in their present role and

(4) have a deep feeling of uncertainty about risking the jump from something they know well and which feels safe into something they know nothing about and just seems fraught with risk and pitfalls.

And it is super natural. Because they don’t know any better yet. And because they haven’t had time to fall in love with the problem, yet.

The learning?

Start super early getting in touch with people, networking, sharing ideas and building that sense of needing to do something to fix a shared understanding of a problem.

In fact, you can probably not start early enough.

Don’t put expectations too high. Don’t demand anything of the people you connect with in the process. Let it grow on them and keep notes of those who look like they’re really getting to the place, where they need to be in order to make the perfect potential co-founder for your startup.

Share the love. Feel it. As deeply as possible.

Why is falling in love with the problem so important?

For a couple of reasons:

First of all, I have a deep sense that falling in love with the problem and – by extension – those who are experiencing the problem is fundamental towards developing and going to market with a killer solution for it.

Second – and this is perhaps the most important part for the individual – is that as times do get tough and not everything is easy, it is the love for the problem and potentially being on a course to solve it that will play a big role carrying you through the hardship – and help you and your team ultimately prevail.

Without it, you instead risk ending up deeply lost.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

How to short circuit recruitment

I am currently recruiting for a Head of Product of our new MedTech X. During that process I have already learned some valuable lessons that I wanted to share with you in case you are also looking to recruit.

Here goes:

  1. Ditch the standard application process. If you are recruiting for anyone outside of a very well defined, niche and/or junior position, forget about asking for applications. Most likely, the candidate you are looking for is (a) not actively looking and (b) doesn’t see herself writing applications all day long.
  2. Trawl LinkedIn for good candidates. The business social network actually has some very good tools for searching for people with specific experience, seniority etc, and their InMail system is rather efficient for reaching out. Just make sure that you’re crystal clear in your headline and that you have a job profile you can attach.
  3. Book introduction calls. Use one of the online calendar services to make it possible for candidates to find a timeslot and book an informal first chat about the job. It is super convenient, it breaks the social ice and reduce any awkwardness, and you get a chance to get a first impression. If that turns out great, just follow up while on the call with an invite for an in-person meeting, and you’re off.

If the role is super important to you and your company make sure that you do all the above yourself. There are a ton of people willing to help you – but at a cost. And there is nothing in there which you can’t do with nothing more than an investment of your time (which is precious, I know).

But the other reason for doing it yourself is the most important one: If it is truly a KEY position – as this one is – you need to send a signal to the candidate that you’re deeply invested yourself in finding the right fit. When you find the right one it will help send you on to great things together.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Recruit with precision

The more I work with recruiting matters, the more I come to realize the amount of effort and work you need to put in in order to get the best candidates possible. It doesn’t matter whether it is for a job opening or for participation in a case competition – it is all the same.

Advertising near and far will get you something. But it is my experience that there is a high noise-to-signal ratio in that way, and that you can quickly spend a lot of time and effort for very little result.

What seems to work better though is recruiting through precision. Basically getting someone to vouch for you and your serious interests. Going that way unlocks interesting candidates who are not really out there looking but may be interested in a conversation. And it has the potential of unearthing all sorts of different interesting profiles that might be an unconventional fit for something but nevertheless a potential fit given the initial screening. It really seems like the way to go.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)