One of the most challenging tasks you’ll have to grapple with as a first time founder is the hiring process of your first team members. As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall, famously said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant“. There’s definitely a lot of pressure to hire right in a startup – much more than in larger corporations. Whereas an average or even weak employee’s impact may go unnoticed in a company with over 200 employees, in a startup, every hire is crucial to the success of the team.
Your company needs employees who are a perfect mix of the right skills, great culture fit, are passionate about the vision of the company and have the tenacity to survive the ups and downs of the journey with you. That being said, you shouldn’t be stuck in recruiting mode forever while waiting for the perfect candidate because there is no such person. So here are 4 key steps that will make recruiting your first few employees a breeze.
Define the Jobs to be Done
Once you identify the need for additional hands to help with the company, it can get very tempting to want to recruit for all the positions you can think of and especially for the mundane tasks you want to handoff. But before diving headlong into recruiting, take some time to outline the jobs to be done by the new employees you’re looking for.
Take a few minutes to map out the structure of your organization as it is now and what it needs to be to achieve the goals you have set for yourself for the next few years;
Based on that, define the most urgent roles that need to be filled. Eg. Having an HR manager might not be a top priority over having a Marketing Manager or a Tech Manager;
Clearly define the roles and what their contribution will be to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. This will be helpful not only in identifying the best fit for each position but also in defining what the salary for each role should be.
2. Create your ideal employee profile
Now that you are armed with the roles you are recruiting for and the hard skills that are required, you need to go even more granular and create the profile for your ideal candidate. Taking a few minutes to create these personas will save you a lot of headaches in the future, help you quickly identify the correct fits and make the onboarding for new employees all the more easier. So ask yourself questions like:
What values and vision do I want to see?
What soft skills and hard skills will they need to have to excel in the role?
What experiences and educational background are important for the role?
Your ideal employee profile can be as simple as: Performance Marketer Role: Age ( 23 – 35), Hard Skills (Google Certification, Google Analytics, web Tracking, SEO etc), Extroverted, Willing to work long hours, Values (Resilience, Empathy).
3. Begin sourcing the (almost) perfect gem
Now, you can start connecting with talent and begin your interview process. For best visibility, publish your job ad on as many platforms as you can. On a startup budget, you are probably not looking to pay premium prices to post your ad or get a lot of applications from people looking for salary outside your budget so I recommend making the most of recruiting tools like AngelList. The talents there are already interested in working with startups and that will make your job much easier. You can also showcase your job offer on your Facebook company page if you have one (which you should!).
Don’t let geography limit your search and opportunity to hire top talent either. If you can put in the right processes, remote work can be a great option as we have discovered at Bridge for Billions. Also, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn to help you identify, connect and eventually ‘win over’ the right employee.
4. Closing the deal on the right person
Don’t be afraid to be very thorough in your interview process. Remember, every new person you add to your startup team will have a huge impact on your overall productivity and even team culture. Take time to do the interviewing process right. Ours includes a short first interview, a business case and a longer final interview with a personality & culture test. And it’s been working great for us! You can have a similar hiring process for your company to screen and shortlist candidates.
On your side, do your best to be completely honest throughout the hiring process. Let the candidates know your expectations and the facts on the ground. If they will be required to work longer hours than usual or accept a lower salary, don’t be afraid to let them know upfront. Compensate this by emphasizing on the vision and other incentives of working with a startup to them eg. great working environment, flexible hours, unlimited vacations etc.
If you keep the above in mind, recruiting your first employees should be less scary and more rewarding. However, the challenges during the hiring process don’t stop after you’ve found the right employee; you’ll also need to work on keeping them. Start with a good onboarding process and help new employees to settle into the company and get easy access to all the information they need for their work. Don’t stop motivating and incentivizing your employees. Remind them of the vision often and give them opportunity to innovate and be creative within their roles.