Start-Up Hiring for Growth

In the tech startup world, there are lots of challenges. One of the first challenges is making it to your series a funding round. Once that is accomplished, you may find yourself with a lot of funding and a lot of hiring to do. You have hired all your friends and the pipeline of prospective candidates who meet your high standards is starting to slow down.

Here are some things that may help when you get to this critical stage:

#1 Attract the talent you need by selling the company’s potential for growth and its culture.

You may be competing with companies in your specific market and nationally that can offer much more in terms of compensation and benefits. Strong candidates are always looking for an opportunity to have an impact in shaping a business. They are often discontented with feeling like they have been lost in the shuffle in a larger company.

Your unique culture, technical environment, and the fact that you are offering the ability to help build a business from the ground up will help bring in the talent you need, and differentiate you from your competitors for talent in the marketplace. We have been able to recruit candidates from companies like Google, Bank of America, Facebook and other large companies for our startup clients.

#2 Maintain your high standards and raise the bar.

Steve Jobs had a saying that “A players hire A players; B players hire B players; and C players hire D players. It doesn’t take long to get to Z players. This trickle down effect causes bozo explosions in companies.” Managers and leaders should be encouraged to hire candidates that will push them.

#3 Put your hiring plan in place now for future growth.

Once you are at the point of a series A round, your corporate culture has already taken root. Take a good look around and make sure that you are laying the groundwork for your corporate culture to thrive and grow as you move into an aggressive growth stage. This means embracing diversity: making sure that you include males, females, and candidates from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in your recruiting from the start. Especially when hiring technology candidates, look for candidates that are interested in and have an understanding of the business impact of their work. Look for technology candidates who are able to solve your unique business problems in a short period of time, as opposed to looking for tool-centric technical candidates.

#4 Don’t promote internal managers into jobs that they are not capable of doing.

Although you want to reward loyal employees, be careful from the start to promote the right people into leadership positions. Nothing poisons a corporate culture faster than over-promoting legacy employees. Instead, create a plan to pair existing employees with mentors to help them grow into future promotions. If you don’t have mentors who can train a candidate you want to promote, then consider hiring from the outside. In high growth companies, it is essential that the managers you promote and hire are not training on the job. You won’t have time for that.

#5 Maintain a consistent hiring process.

Your hiring process needs to be consistent and rock solid from the start. Every candidate  leaving your company after an interview needs to be highly interested and motivated to work for you. This means you need to be serious about a quality candidate experience from the start and keep it consistent. There has never been more competition for tech talent than right now! Hiring scorecards, competent interviewers, behavioral interviewing, and a consistent means of evaluating technical competencies are all part of the process.

#6 Partner with quality search firms.

In high-growth mode, your internal HR staff (if you have one) will quickly become overwhelmed. Having strong relationships with quality search firms means that your time will be spent talking to qualified candidates, not looking at resumes and interviewing candidates who don’t fit. Specialty search firms will not only understand your industry and candidates, they will be able to mine the large amount of passive candidates they are in contact with. Keep the number of firms you work with small and spend the time with them to make those relationships strong. This doesn’t have to be overly expensive; search firms that work with startups are often willing to negotiate rates in return for exclusivity or equity. They can also recommend the best search services to fit your specific needs: contingency search, retained search, contract recruiting or a combination of all three.

The above guidelines can be a big help in meeting the challenge of rapid growth after raising series a funding. We have found this approach to be cost-effective, and very important in establishing corporate culture and an interview process that works properly for the long haul. This will increase your pool of candidates and allow you to hire the A players that you will need.