Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Startup to IPO: Good hiring practices

When you are growing fast it’s critical to have a process to ensure you are hiring the best talent. In small companies there is no room for mediocrity at any level. The old adage “A players hire A players, B players hire B players” is so true, and hiring B players can be fatal to a startup. (especially executives – see my recent post on that)

The most common hiring mistakes I have seen people make are:
- hiring people like them
- hiring in a hurry to get someone into the job
- hiring someone who is “good enough”
- hiring without listening to other people’s input

Everyone makes hiring mistakes (and if you do the most important thing to do is to recognize it quickly and move the mistake on) but there’s a process that can help reduce the number of mistakes which I’ve used at my companies. Most of this is obvious, but often not followed.

The steps are:

Write a job description – be clear about the attributes of the ideal candidate – make sure the interviewers have a copy of this job description

Choose an interview team from a cross section of people who will work around the new employee (above, below and alongside)

Set up the interviews – make sure the candidate knows who they are meeting and why

Follow up with each interviewer as soon as you can to get their independent, fresh reactions

Hold a meeting with all the interviewers (we call it a round table) where each person expresses a) the positives b) the risks (negatives) and c) advice for the hiring manager. This meeting is not a concensus decision making meeting – it’s a forum for everyone to give advice to the hiring manager and through the process to buy in to doing their part to make the new hire successful, or for the hiring manager to get enough information to decide not to make the hire

Make the decision, generate the offer


This process can be light weight and very fast. When you need to hire a number of people very quickly (as we do right now) you can get through the process in just a few days. You just need to be focused, but not skip the critical round table step.

The bottom line in a startup is to hire people who are really smart. IQ and attitude matter more than any other aspect in a young company. If your employee is smart and motivated they’ll learn what needs to be done, especially if you are in a new market where you are having to figure it out as you go along. If I have to choose between IQ and experience when hiring I’ll hire IQ every time. The only exception to this is when you need real experience in a technical field – like the CFO or CTO. Then you must find both!

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