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Usman Sheikh

How to Recruit A Players for Your Startup

Feb 19 2013, 06:00 AM by



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Hiring “A” players for any organization is challenging. At startups, the challenge is further compounded by a lack of awareness, time, dedicated personnel and inherent risk. However, many startups do not have a plan in place for hiring top talent like they do for customer acquisition and fund raising.
Without A Players, a Startup's Chance of Succeeding Is Greatly Lowered
Startup hiring is usually reactionary in nature. It is usually after hitting some milestone event, such as the need to raise funding, winning a key customer or securing a critical distribution channel, after which the scramble to hire begins. The following steps provide some guidance in laying the necessary groundwork to enable recruitment with greater success:

  • Create a 12 Month Recruiting Plan: The purpose of creating this plan is to provide your company with visibility on possible future requirements and to start sourcing activities in advance. This plan helps a team see where its critical gaps are, and key milestones to be reached before each new team member is brought on.

  • Define Your Values & Brand: A Players are not necessarily attracted by a title or salary. To bring them on to your team they need to believe in the bigger vision and the startup's plans for making a dent in the universe. The only way to communicate this succinctly is to think through your company's values and what it stands for.

  • Clearly Outline the Opportunity: Take time to craft a thoughtful job description which does not have terms like “Rockstar” or “Ninja” in it. Do not list every single competency or skill under the sun. Keep it short. This takes a lot more effort but brings bigger payoffs. Highlight benefits that are not cookie cutter (like a coffee machine or free lunches). Put some thought into what sort of benefits would help people to improve themselves further.

  • Create a Hit List: A Players are usually passive candidates and do not come through traditional channels. This requires your team to create a list of people that would be good fits for the company. Apart from the usual networks such as LinkedIn, do deep searches on platforms such as Twitter, Quora and Stackoverflow. The best companies go to great lengths to attract the right candidate. Take a look at this dedicated video that was recorded for an A Player.

  • Have a Referral Strategy: Incentivizing current employees, friends and your network to forward candidates is a great way to extend your network. Referrals are the strongest channel for high quality talent and this is amplified in a startup setting. It is not necessary to incentivize only with cash compensation. Think of ways to integrate your product/service, a dream holiday or even an over the top gesture.

  • Simplify Your Application Process: Being a startup you have an edge over larger companies who have clunky application processes. These scare most talent away by the sheer size of the forms and information they require. Keep your application process as lean as possible. If possible, use Apply with LinkedIn to simplify the process even further.

  • Determine Culture Fit: A startup culture is very fragile in its infancy and the addition of someone who doesn't fit into it can be disturbing for the whole team. Hence, during the interview stage ask questions such as "What was the worst company culture you worked in?" "How did you cope in that culture?" Using such questions you can draw parallels to your own company's culture and see how the candidate fits.

Recruiting top talent is very difficult. It takes a considerable amount of time and resources to get it done right on a consistent basis. However, the payoff can be the differentiating factor in helping your company succeed.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Growing Your Business, Benchmark Series, DIY

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