Most of us assume that we could easily recruit the best employees for a startup because we think it’s fairly easy to spot highly intelligent, creative workers with great personalities. Unfortunately, there will always be “paper tigers” -- people who come across well in their resumes but who don’t know how to blend in and work well with others. It’s for this reason that you should always hire new employees on an “at-will” basis so you can easily let them go if things don’t work out well.
The following list is loosely based on an excellent Entrepreneur.com article entitled, “The 14 Steps Needed to Recruit Your Early Startup Team.” (Some suggestions have been combined with others -- and a few original ones have been added).
Best Way to Find the Right People as You Get Ready to “Hit the Ground Running”
- Know which positions are most critical to fill first and have an idea of what you can afford to pay the best qualified people to get the job done;
- Carve out adequate time to fully comb through the best websites containing possible candidate profiles and resumes. Remember, this type of project requires your undivided attention and shouldn’t be something you occasionally address in between other projects and meetings;
- Know where your best workers might live in terms of having reasonable commutes and know exactly what recent job experience they must have to be granted initial and follow-up interviews;
- Make sure your job description makes it clear which background requirements are “must haves” and which ones might be negotiable;
- Ask trusted mentors or friends in competitive startup fields which websites have provided them with their best job candidates. Next, create a list and then personally review the types of candidates you’re seeing – before actually writing down names and contact information. Also, make up your mind ahead of time if you’re going to remain open to people who’ve just weathered lengthy periods of unemployment. Keep in mind that recent years have been tough on a great many talented people;
- If you can afford it, go ahead and pay a recruiting firm a reasonable fee to send you candidates for one or two of your top positions. Just be sure to “shop around” first so you’ll know if the fees they’re quoting to you are fair ones. Let them know that if they can help you now while money is still rather tight, you’ll place more job openings with them in the future -- assuming these initial positions are filled successfully;
- Advertise, advertise, advertise. After conferring with your mentors, decide which websites offer the most promising candidates and post all of your job openings with accurate descriptions right away. Assume that others will be bidding for the same candidates and have in mind the salaries that should be both appropriate and competitive;
- Never be lazy about checking references. Try to reach someone who directly worked with the former employee, your job candidate. Also, see if you can’t put them at ease enough to learn some of the less-flattering information that people don’t usually include in letters of reference. For example, try to find out if this person was a “true leader” who always carried through with her/his assigned projects;
- Be prepared to sell both your company and the job to each applicant. Remember, the people you want most are probably being courted by several other companies. Make your workplace sound as promising as it truly is – and accent the possibilities for advancement for your most dedicated workers;
- Consider using Skype or another video format for your first interview with people. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from non-verbal communication. If this isn’t possible, at least do initial phone interviews to help you “weed out” the less desirable candidates;
- Be prepared to make a mistake or two. If you carefully follow all of this advice, you may still come up with a bad apple or two. Let go of your anger quickly and privately. If you hired everyone on an “at-will” basis, your troubles should end quickly. Nevertheless, be polite when letting people go -- you never know if one day (far into the future) you may be interviewing with this person for a position you really want.
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