Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Hiring Strategies for Startups.

Posted on: April 26, 2008

I am this closed to being convinced that the team, and the process of putting together that team is probably one of the biggest issues that a startup faces. While there are plenty of new recruitment firms popping up to target this very market, most of them are just a little better versions of the traditional headhunting firms and plus I am not sure if you want to outsource the task of forming the core team to someone else. Its better to get them from circles you know.

Ofcourse, the issue starts with, “What if there is not a big circle of folks that I know of?”

Well, the simple answer is, “Build it.”

There are plenty of interesting experiences that I went through in the last three months putting together the Startup Lunch Program. It has been quite well received, but not before quite a bit of talking was done with the founders of these companies on what their strategy for talent acquisition need to be.

Lets start with some issues and major opportunities Startups seem to miss out on;

1. One situation was when someone had gone through the list of candidates that had signed up, decided that no one was an exact fit for their requirement and called me to ask if it was worth showing up. I actually thought it was a pretty simple decision and I thought the answer should have been a definite YES. Here’s why.

Finding people in India who understand working for a startup is extremely rare. When a couple of folks are signing up by themselves saying that they would like to come work for a startup, you should immediately meet up with them. Like anyone else, everyone has their own connections, and lets say that you do meet with the folks – most of which might not even be perfect fits – and do make a convincing pitch about what you do, and showcase your attitude towards work, and manage to convince a few of those guys about how real you are, you will have influential folks working within their network pitching about your company to their friends urging them to consider working for you. In the long term it will reap amazing benefits.

2. Not thinking long term. Following up on #1, you might ask “But I need a guy today!”. Well, unless I am brahma and have the powers to instantly poof a guy in front of you, you know its not going to happen. Sometimes you are just plain lucky to meet folks who meet your exact requirements, but not always. If we as startups are stubborn that we want immediate results, can we even blame those we are looking to hire for not respecting ESOPs and asking for industry-par salaries?

3. Start with a Blog. Not your personal blog, but a company one. It doesnt take much. It could be as simple as things that happened in office that day. Do you know the only plus point of working for a startup? Its close-knit, small, personal and very friendly. The attitude is all that makes a startup environment fun to work in, and a blog is the easiest way to express that. if you dont have one, you should start one NOW.

4. Learn how to pitch. I have seen people go on and on and on and on about millions of dollars of projects, the cutting edge technology they use, the profile of the founders etc etc etc. I usually am at the verge of falling asleep by then. Do you really believe that a candidate – unless he is senior enough to understand that – understands all that? Nope. Zilch. Nahi. Keep it simple. As i said, the only thing he is looking for is that it is going to be about something that makes sense, is fun and the people who are running it are sane and logical folks and NOT clinical maniacs who will strap him to his desk and ask him to code for 14 hours straight.

5. Get the branding right before that. Do you want to know the definition of what a brand truly is? A brand is not and has nothing to do with what you say about your company. A brand is what others say about you and your company. figure out how to “enable” others to say the right things, as in the exact and accurate vision, that you intend to convey.

6. Hiring Practice. Never, Never, Never make a bad hire. Never be hasty to make a hire. And always include your current employees when making a hiring decision. At the end of the day the team needs to play together and thats not going to happen unless they can all get along. The decision can wait for a month or so, if required.

7. Whether they ask for it or not, in the offer letter have the provision to issue shares. Remember what I said about long term changes and investments towards that? The more and more you start issuing offer letters with ESOPs, the more and more people are going to read it, go around asking about it and have more awareness about it and the benefits that come with it. So make it a point to had a mandatory section about the ESOP advantages.

But before that, ensure that you have shares allocated towards that.

So, what has your hiring strategies been?

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5 Responses to "Hiring Strategies for Startups."

[…] what can you do to find good hires? Alot! Checkout tips to attract talent by […]

have you ever use startup poetry or art in general to evoke ppl’s interest… of course in addition to the usual pitch.

I am the first employee (not founder) of a startup and was lloking at ways to recruit ppl… write a bit of poetry and felt it could be used…
http://alistairdsouza.blogspot.com/2007/12/paper-monster.html
http://alistairdsouza.blogspot.com/2006/01/hand.html

Very useful and practical article. Thanks for sharing it on your blog.

I am gunning to start working for a Start Up myself in none other than their HR Division. Frankly, I AM the HR division since startups cant afford the bandwidth of so many people managers.

To me, this article provided was insightful as to how to entice people to join further. I have been toggling around with their Branding and completely agree on the “referral/ Word-Of Mouth” vote. I think that to me is the single most important way to get good people on board

Good to Great is a people movement and tis article truly does focus on that

I’m actually thinking of starting the Blog for this Organization as such. Brilliant Idea.

Very crisply written article.

An article worth reading with the most practical details. People generally talk about strategies without taking into consideration the entire package.

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