Hiring Startup Teams should not be viewed as a herculean task
Hearing the word “hiring” sends a signal of growth, growth of the company to people in the recruitment industry. “Hiring” is a word which can be split into two parts “Hi” & “Ring”; which essentially means a company will only hire somebody for a job role when the stakeholders in the company is aiming at reaching new Heights. Ring here reflects the founders, employees and other stakeholders of the company bound together strongly.
I have come across numerous candidates who even don’t know the literal meaning of the word Startup. Few of them did relate the word with my “Startup Mzansi”. Before identifying the challenges faced by a Startup in their hiring, it will be appropriate to define Startup too. So, a Startup company is an entrepreneurial venture designed to develop products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty. Often Startup companies deploy advanced technologies, such as internet, communication, robotics, etc. to solve a crucial problem and get the edge over the others. The exact definition of Startup is widely debated. The definition according to Steve Blank is “a new business venture designed to develop a scalable business model.”
An obvious question must be hovering your mind, even after going through the definition of Startup. How , one can differentiate between a Startup and an Established Organization and decide which one to join and pursue ?
Startup Vs Established Company
Joining an established brand is both, inspirational and tempting. But, Startups are leaving no stone unturned while attracting and recruiting best talent available from the marketplace. Startups are not only offering Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPS) to early hires but also providing them flexible work hours, freedom to bring pets on work, open culture, weekly incentive schemes, quarterly appraisal process, free delicious meals, freedom to interact with top management, idea incubation platform, choice between casual and formal attire, fun parties & events ,etc. Even offering the above perks to incumbent employees, the decision to choose Startup over established brand depends on individual’s liking for quick professional & personal growth, passion to excel, varied Job roles, willingness to learn, liking for creative office environment, attraction of stock options, diverse work schedule, high level job opportunities, fun team events, participation in every decision making from scratch, etc.
Before starting up, every founder must spend good amount of time in deciding which type of skills are required to do each task. A technical founder or co-founder in a company that is based on technology is a definite plus. If the founder is from a technical background, then it becomes easy for him to quantify skills required to do the technical jobs involved in the development of the product.
Hiring in a Startup depends much on the stage in which the Startup is currently working. If you are in the initial stages where you are struggling with funds and you cannot pay much, you will even have to settle with average people at times. When your startup has a few million bucks in the bank, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to hiring. Because of this, you will look for the smartest person out there to hire…you know, the person with a ton of experience who has done what you want to do… such as executives.
Here’s the catch. BeWare of it !
Now, what I have learned is that although those highly paid people may have done well in their last job but it doesn’t mean that they will do well with your company too. In many cases, they do much better in big corporate environments. What they lack is the ability to move fast and do so without relying on others. Many a times these corporate executives are used to farming out the work instead of figuring out how to do things on their own. It’s very common for an entrepreneur who is just starting up to feel that the experienced chaps will make Entrepreneurial Vessel sailing. But unfortunately, every Startup Founder is not fortunate enough. When a startup is young, these are the people who I recommend you stay away from. Instead, hiring hungry individuals who haven’t gotten that big break in their career yet are the ones who will fight and do whatever it takes to succeed. Plus, you can hire them at a much lower cost. Maybe later on, you can hire the big corporate executives, but I would suggest you to drop the idea when the startup is in the initial stages.
Hiring Challenges faced by Startups
It’s an open secret that talent availability is among the biggest challenges that South Arican startups face today. And, this challenge stems from two facts; one, that we still perceive working in a startup as an alternative (less successful) career path, and two, there’s a genuine lack of employees who possess the right skills to work in a particular domain (a good example being, dearth of data analysts and of people trained in Python – a much needed programming skill).
When you talk about hiring the right candidate for your startup, challenge is surely in the cart. Every founder wishes to get the best of it, and this mostly results in bringing in a lot of stress along. Most common questions that come up are “How can I get the right candidate to work for me at the least cost and the least time?” “Where can I get help for this?” “Where should I find the perfect match for the job role?
- Shortage of Time: Things move at a really fast pace in a Startup and so every role that needs to be filled comes with a short deadline. There is no work without people and not being able to fill the position within time leads to slowing down the pace of the entire team at times.
- Right Attitude: Attitude is one of the most important things for a person. Many a times, the company finds a really skilled person but has to say no, simply because their attitude did not appear to be right for the company.
- Salary: Most Startups are not able to pay as much as the established companies. This is one of the biggest challenge to hire better candidates at a lesser price.
- Lack of tools that could find out efficient candidates: Even after the presence of so many recruitment portals, searching and shortlisting desired candidates is still a big challenge. The job portals stack up startups with the bigger known firms and MNCs. The websites that are dedicated only to startup hiring are usually not much known among the masses, leading to a gap discovering the skilled candidates.
- Having a Cultural Fit: Everyone cannot get along with the “free-for-all” culture that is a startup, and some of the startup hires do not like it rather they get frustrated when work isn’t handed to them, but they have to actively find out various tasks and look productive. It is about the approach of an individual where they should start finding problems to solve.
- Self-Starters: A startup looks for the candidates that can take initiatives on their own. These people are highly motivated and have the ability to lead from the front. They are fast learners, grow really fast in their professional life and in the process of growth they also do a lot of good work for the company. Unfortunately, these people are very rare to find.
Why should a candidate join a Startup?
There are a lot of challenges in hiring for startups but at the same time there are even many advantages for candidates joining startups.
- You’ll have more responsibility as well as authority: There is absolutely no doubt that if you are working with a Startup then they will give you full authority for your role but with authority also comes the much needed responsibility for your work.
- Opportunity to handle various things at one time: The beauty of a startup is that they give you an opportunity to take care of different things altogether. If you join a startup in its initial stages, you may even get to handle two or more roles at a time. This will act as a great learning opportunity to you and will add up to your learning.
- You will learn from true innovators: Startup founders are great leaders and innovators because they have the ability to innovate, find creative solutions for various problems and above all they know how to make things happen. So there is a lot that you can learn from these people.
- Flexibility: Startups give you the flexibility to work as per your comfort, may it be the working hours or the workplace. You could even work from home at times. This is something that you will never get if you are working for a big MNC.
- Growth Opportunities: Even if we talk about the growth opportunities. They are much more as in comparison to the well established companies. The reason is simple, imagine if you would have somehow joined the core team of Zomato 7 years back. Can you even think where would you have been by now? Solution to a challenge is creator of opportunity. Startups have to look beyond the obvious tools of hiring talent, rather, I should term it as “Right Talent” as they cannot afford to hire even a single “Not fit candidate”. Startups has limited recruitment budget so they should look for some unique ways to filter candidates from large availability of the talent pool. Traditional ways of shortlisting candidates and conducting interview process is only going to strain their finances and time. It’s time to employ new , innovative ways to hire talent which can interest candidates.
What attracts Employees to Startups?
- Strong Investor backing: Strong investor backing acts as a seal of approval for startups because someone has done a due diligence on the company and determined its worth, before putting in the money. And, quality talent accepts this as a metric for high quality and joins the company.
- Adequate branding: Startups should employ pull rather than push model. Funded Startups can invest in branding themselves through advertisement, but what about the newly formed Startups who has just raised seed fund. Many Startups follow the Emailer & Social Media strategy to reach out to their clients and prospective employees. You can keep on doing emailers about your idea, growth and funding on the database sourced from job portals to attract talent. Do not send emailers for the various openings. They themselves will come to your website and apply on various Job Positions . When attracting talent, you need to employ a pull model, not a push model. And, when you invest in branding, employees hear about your company and want to work with the brand.
Hiring strategies you can adopt at your startup
- Hiring failed entrepreneurs:Failed entrepreneurs can provide you the advantage of behaving as entrepreneurs who can take ownership of work within the Startup. It will be good for Startup , since there are no set tasks so the employees have to work in a fast paced challenging environment.
- Orthogonal Hiring:This is a strategy of hiring smart intelligent people into roles they wouldn’t otherwise consider.
- Hiring based on growth in previous role: Knowlarity adopts a strategy in which, if there are two candidates with the same skill set, capabilities and experience, with one coming from a humble pedigree and the other from a high pedigree, it would hire the former. Here’s why; if the former candidate has been able to neutralise his initial disadvantage in the past few years, he will surpass the latter candidate in the next few years.
To put in simple words, while the talent hunt may seem like a herculean task for the startup ecosystem in Mzansi, it is fun too, while hiring candidates for Startups.