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A Note From The Editor
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As of December 2017, the latest unemployment rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics was 4.1 percent. This was great news for talent. But, for employers, it meant that they’d have to stand out even more from all the other job offers rock-star candidates might receive.
Here, I’m borrowing the term author Jeff Hyman uses to title his new book, Recruit Rockstars. Hyman argues that the best way to attract quality team members is with job invitations.
Unlike traditional job ads, job invitations focus on the needs of the candidate, not the employer. Job ads list everything a candidate must have. Job invitations tell talent what a company has to offer.
“Just as in marketing, the key is to open up the candidate funnel by drawing candidates in,” Hyman told me via email. “[Job invitations] provide enough context, yet leave candidates wanting to learn more.”
Get them invested in your company.
Switching jobs requires time and energy. Traditional job ads don’t show talent why they should put in that investment. Ads require potential employees to research a company’s mission, culture and values. Why would those people do all that work if they already had a satisfactory job?
To gain talent’s interest, Omer Molad, CEO and co-founder of job interview assessment platform Vervoe, makes the company mission the heart of his job invitations. Molad’s Melbourne, Australia-based company has never paid for advertising or done formal recruitment marketing. But it always receives a large number of qualified candidates.
“[Featuring our mission] helps them easily figure out whether Vervoe is for them,” Molad said in an email. “If they buy in, they’re all the way in. This sets our funnel up for success from the get-go.”
Hyman followed up on his own comment by pointing out the changing nature of jobs. As startups grow, it’s likely a candidate will have a different role several months down the line, he said. If this person hasn’t got a solid “connection” to the company, chances for a departure increase.
At the beginning of your job invitation, then, describe what makes your company special. Include information about its mission, its vision for the future, the culture and benefits. Perhaps most importantly, feature employee testimonials about the best aspects of working for the company. Having current employees comment will make your company’s positive points that much more credible for candidates.
Drop that list of requirements.
Listing dozens of required skills in your job ad scares off talent. This list may be an effective screen to deter subpar applicants, but it also pushes away potential rock stars. Candidates who don’t have every required skill might not apply, to save time.
Instead, paint a picture about the job’s responsibilities. In the job invitation, walk candidates through a typical day. Describe the people with whom they’d be working. You might even describe an interest, such as hiking, that the whole team has in common. If the position involves working with clients, give an overview of what those clients do and how the employee would assist them.
Most important: Explain how the job fits into the bigger picture of the company. Tie its responsibilities to the company mission. Describe one task the employee would be doing every day that supports the organization’s visions.
Start talking specific goals.
Great employees always strive to improve. When they see a set plan for progression in a job invitation, they’re more likely to be excited from the beginning.
At San Francisco-based recruiting software Lever, each job invitation includes an impact description. This entails a list of what candidates can expect to accomplish within their first month, three months, six months and year of employment.
“We get strong, positive feedback from candidates about this approach,” director of recruiting Amanda Bell said via email. “It shows that we’ve fully thought through how [candidates] will ramp up and have an impact even within the first 30 days.”
When writing an impact description, consider what’s realistic within each time frame. For example, after 30 days, an employee should be through onboarding and comfortable with most aspects of the job. Explain what that would specifically mean for the position. What training will have been completed? What tasks will this person have mastered? The more detailed the description, the better.
Ask for feedback.
Solicit feedback at the end of the job invitation. Encourage candidates to share their ideas in a cover letter or during the interview. Perhaps, even provide writing prompts, such as, “If it were up to you, what is one change you’d make at our organization, and why?”
Promoting a two-way dialogue from the very beginning builds a solid foundation of openness, trust and transparency between candidates and the organization.
After processing a candidate’s feedback, incorporate that feedback into the job interview. Ask questions that dig deeper into his or her ideas and suggestions. This will show potential employees that their ideas are heard and valued from the beginning — setting a good precedent for a candidate’s long term employment.
Our Company Had a Miniscule Budget for Finding Talent. So We Decided to Get Crazy.
Betabrand, my online clothing-retail platform, recently needed a new VP of digital marketing. Normally, a company like ours would hire a headhunter and pay tens of thousands of dollars to fill the position, but that option didn’t sit well with our shoestringy startup culture. So, we turned our garage door here in San Francisco into an irresistably shareable social media post that generated outside awareness and hooked more than 20 great candidates in under a week.
Cost: $1,000. Opportunity to amuse people on Facebook: priceless.
Happily, the ad got a wild reaction — both from people walking by and an extended audience on social media.
And the response grew. Hundreds of people commented on the photo (above) that we shared on our Facebook page. And the comment thread was used widely.
The upshot? We succeeded in getting the attention of marketers without paying a dime to a talent recruiter. About a month after we put up our most recent help-wanted hack — that purposely pathetic garage door sign advertising our opening for a VP of marketing — I was pleased to introduce to my team the winnning candidate, Doug Hoggatt.
The Case for Your Startup Hiring Former CEOs
A common mistake most entrepreneurs make when setting up their management team is filling it with people they feel are easier to control or won’t make them look stupid. That typically means an older, former CEO would never get a reasonable look as a direct report to the CEO of most early stage companies. But, is that fear justified?
Why most entrepreneurs avoid hiring former CEOs.
First, their inferiority complex kicks in. I don’t want a former CEO to come in and identify all my shortfallings or tell me how to do my job. Second, they think there must be something wrong with the candidate. Why would a former CEO be interested in this non-CEO position? Third, they think the former CEO likes to manage others and won’t get his or her hands dirty rolling up their sleeves with the execution work that is required. Or, lastly, they simply conclude that an older person simply doesn’t have the energy to put in the work required at an early stage startup.
Why that is the wrong perspective.
My immediate reaction? That is rubbish. Yes, there may be some candidates who could validate the above hypotheticals. But, in recruiting, there is never a “one size fits all” perspective, as everyone is truly different and should be assessed on an individual basis. Have confidence in yourself to keep your new hire in check. Maybe the CEO just prefers the marketing tasks, and has no problem focusing on one department. Maybe that candidate likes getting early stage businesses off the ground and has no problem putting in the long hours required. Don’t forget, there is only room for one CEO in a company at a time, so when CEOs are looking to make a move, they may have no choice but to look at other executive positions if the right CEO positions are not open.
Why past CEOs can be great hires.
First of all, only a CEO truly understands all the different areas of the business and how they work together. So, for example, hiring a CTO who used to wear the CEO hat means not only does he or she understand the needs of the technology department, they also know how those needs impact financial budgets, recruiting, product marketing, etc. Instead of having an executive who has lived in a vacuum of one department their entire career, it can often be better to find someone that has a broader vantage point when making decisions.
Secondly, former CEOs are not threats to you. They can actually be material assets for you. Your business is bound to go through uncharted waters in your growth curve. Who better to help you navigate those waters than someone who has been there and done that before. So, instead of taking time to assess various routes — with potentially wasted investment dollars — you can confidently move much faster and waste less “experimenting dollars” in the process.
Third, with lots of CEOs being a jack-of-all-trades, they are great utility players to put out fires as needed in other areas of the business — for which they were not originally hired. Maybe your COO just quit. In steps the former CEO to fill that role until a new person is hired. Or, maybe your head of HR is struggling with creating the right culture or dealing with lots of employee turnover. The former CEO can share how they solved those same problems in their last company. Former CEOs often have lots of tools in their tool box and can help you fix whatever needs fixing.
Why you shouldn’t be intimadated by former CEOs.
Whose problem is it if you are worried about being intimidated by hiring a former CEO? It’s yours. Hiring a former CEO doesn’t mean you are losing control. You are still the boss. Be confident in yourself and your decision making, just as before. Only now, you have someone with experience in the office that can help you toss around new ideas — not hurt or impede your efforts. They aren’t here to make you look stupid or take your job. They are here to help you. And, if it doesn’t work out, you can always make a change down the road. Remember, always hire people smarter and more experienced than you are. If you are the smartest person in the room, you have a problem.
To be clear, I am not saying there isn’t any justified merit to the entrepreneurs’ concerns raised above. Those concerns are often very real for several candidates you will meet. But that doesn’t mean those concerns should prevent you from interviewing other candidates who can impress upon you that those concerns are nothing to worry about. And, more importantly, can impress upon you that you are hiring somebody with the proven skill sets to help you take your business to the next level, having done exactly that in a prior company. So, don’t be afraid of hiring someone smarter or more experienced than yourself. That is the holy grail of hiring — when you can find them.
5 Best Practices for Hiring Superior Employees for Your Startup
This story originally appeared on Bizness Apps
A company is only as good as its employees. It doesn’t matter if the CEO has the most creative, innovative business plan of the century — if they don’t also have people working alongside them who are dedicated, determined and hardworking, then their dream can’t become a reality. When you’re just beginning your entrepreneurial adventure and are trying to establish your startup, the thought of hiring employees can seem quite daunting. A million questions will probably run through your head: How will I find the best employees? How will I know who the best candidate is? What if I hire the wrong candidate?
We won’t lie to you — finding the most superior employees for your startup can be a stressful process. However, there are several practices that can make the process easier. These are all tried and true practices used by CEO’s of major companies when hiring employees. If you aren’t sure how to begin, pick one or many of these top five best practices for choosing the best employees for your startup.
1. Cultivate your workplace culture
A common mistake that startups make in the hiring process is focusing too strongly on their candidates and not strongly enough on themselves. At first, this may seem counterproductive, but think about it; how can you find the employees that suit your company best if you haven’t fully developed the workplace culture? While someone’s qualifications, talent and experience are all important factors in the hiring decision, one of the best hiring practices is to fully develop your startup’s workplace culture. Dan Denison defines workplace culture as “the underlying values, beliefs and principles that serve as a foundation for an organization’s management system as well as the practices and behaviors that both exemplify and reinforce those basic principles.” These values and principles must be fully developed prior to starting the hiring process in order to find the most superior employees who are not only qualified but also fit with your workplace culture.
2. Stick to pre-qualifications
When you begin hiring in this economy, it’s not uncommon to be flooded with applications. While there are many factors that influence a hiring decision, there are some basic pre-qualifications that you should have set and should not deviate from. These should be basic qualifications that you expect from any employee at your startup; by having these set in stone, you can easily filter out the applicants who don’t have them. This way, you won’t get distracted by fancy work experience or special skills before seeing if the applicant meets your basic requirements.
3. Employment background check
An employment background check is arguably one of the most critical steps when beginning your hiring process for your startup. It doesn’t matter how much talent or valuable work experience a candidate has if they aren’t being honest about it. Every employer should background check their potential employees before hiring any of them. Employment background checks include verifying a candidate’s employment history, criminal record and much more. These background checks ensure that you are not only hiring an employee who is the best fit for your company, but also one who is honest and trustworthy.
4. Use alternative interview methods
Interviews are a popular and commonplace hiring practice. They are a crucial aspect of any startup’s hiring strategy. However, the standard one-on-one interview where an employer sits across the desk from a nervous employee and asks the same boring questions doesn’t always yield the best results. Instead, we encourage you to think outside of the box for your interviews. By using alternative interview methods, you can get a better idea of which candidates would fit in with your existing employees and workplace culture. Try a group mixer with all of the candidates, as well as a few current employees to get the ball rolling. This hiring practice can make all the difference and truly help you to pick superior employees.
5. Talent over experience
Most employers hire employees by using a multifaceted approach. The first step is usually to filter through all of the applications and find which candidates have the most experience in the field. However, this strategy can backfire, especially when hiring for a startup. Of course, startups need employees with experience, but because they don’t yet have a solid reputation, startup employers should focus on having creative employees on their team. If there are candidates for the job who exhibit high levels of talent and creativity, those candidates can be infinitely more valuable than a candidate who lacks creativity but has experience in a similar field. A very useful practice for hiring startup employees is to focus on their talent rather than solely on their experience.
As a startup employer, it’s incredibly important that you have a solid hiring strategy. If you stick to the tips listed in this guide, you’ll be able to cultivate a strong and specific hiring strategy, which will undoubtedly lead to hiring employees that are a perfect fit for your startup. Use employment background checks, alternative interview methods and prioritize talent over experience. While the hiring process can be stressful, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming if you follow one or more of these proven hiring practices.
3 Pragmatic Tips for Startups Making Those Critical Initial Hires
Nearly every business is guilty of making a less-than-stellar hiring decision at one point or another. A whopping 95 percent of companies surveyed by Brandon Hall Group for its Talent Acquisition study have admitted to this mistake.
While a bad hire can potentially slow down growth at any company, it can actually have a fatal effect on a startup. According to a report by CB Insights, the third leading cause of failure by startups studied was that they hadn’t built the right team from the beginning.
Creating a strong team means that each new hire (or promotion) must be made strategically and with great care, as the margin for error can oftentimes be quite small. Here are three tips to help you build a pool of talent that brings your startup to the next level.
Define your company culture first.
Startups, by definition, are small operations. They may even comprise just one person, so there might not be much of a company “culture” in place just yet. But when your culture does form, it will be a combination of your organization’s values, beliefs and behaviors that have developed over time. The process of figuring out what this means for your new company makes that first hire that much more important.
Before you start looking for a new addition to your company, then, take the time to define your business’s values first. What mindsets and characteristics are needed to fuel your mission?
Peter Holten Muhlmann, CEO of Trustpilot, one of the world’s largest online review platforms, explained to me via email how his company does this: “All your hires need to imbibe the company culture, the value of your brand and ultimately transfer it to your product,” Muhlmann wrote, “so that it is obvious to your customers what you stand for. A strong, value-based work culture built on integrity will raise the bar for your hires down the line for years to come.”
This CEO should know. Trustpilot employs more than 600 employees of 40 different nationalities across its seven global offices. If there is one thing he has ingrained in the workplace culture, he said, it’s that the success of his company — and the online review space in general — is completely dependent upon transparency and authenticity.
This is part of the reason why the Trustpilot platform remains “open,” meaning that its reviews aren’t moderated and brands can’t suppress negative reviews. It’s also why the task of maintaining Trustpilot’s core values and honest consumer feedback belongs not just to the company’s “compliance department,” but to every employee.
For your startup, you should set objectives for short-term and long-term strategies to build the culture you want. This is why you should define values from the beginning, then use that knowledge to guide your hiring decision. The alignment of values must take place before new employees are brought on board.
Outline job roles and personality preferences.
By the time startup owners realize they need to hire someone, they’ll often be experiencing an overwhelming workload. With such a full plate, you may find it tough to know exactly which roles and responsibilities need to be filled. Since most new launches have not had the time or pressing need to clearly define job roles or organizational structure, it is important that entrepreneurs do so before bringing on a new hire.
Checking off technical skills needed is easy enough, but finding someone with the necessary soft skills to excel in the position is what really matters. Some 93 percent of employers surveyed by Wonderlic for its Hard Facts About Soft Skills report emphasized that they considered interpersonal skills and critical thinking vital to look for in a new hire. However, finding that perfect cocktail of hard and soft skills can be a challenge.
Big data technology has a solution, of course. AI-powered recruitment solutions like Harver can do wonders to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to making that initial hire. The system measures both aptitude and attitude by using big data to scour through candidates’ profiles and match their skill level to job descriptions. From there, it uses machine learning to evaluate the person’s soft skills, problem-solving abilities and alignment with the company’s values.
This leads to more informed hiring decisions and a vastly improved likelihood of finding the right matches. As Harver’s CEO Barend Raaff explained to me via email, “The costs involved with replacing employees can be huge,” he wrote. “We believe that a new hire should fit two categories: skill match and personality match. Aligning both these elements is the key to making informed hiring decisions and reducing turnover.”
Take a step back and critically examine why you need to bring on a new hire. What responsibilities will he or she have? Why those responsibilities? And what skills will be necessary to fulfill this role? Failing to define these criteria will make it more difficult to find the perfect fit. So establish the personality and skillset you need, right from the beginning.
Understand How to Develop Talent, Not Just Find It
Unless you have a huge budget to hire someone with years of experience, one of your greatest challenges in hiring, as a startup, is being able to spot potential. Furthermore, startup leaders must understand how to properly develop the people they actually bring on board.
When you bring on younger talent with less experience, make it a point to check in and monitor that person’s development. A performance-management system like 15five can make it easier to accurately assess employee engagement across the board. The tool uses quick surveys to acquire feedback and keep up on issues like morale and performance.
Along the way to reaching your milestones, you can set goals and priorities, along with recognition systems. 15five opens up channels for employees to share their thoughts and suggestions with upper level management.
Overall, job stagnation is one of the top reasons why employees leave a position, according to Glassdoor. Entrepreneurs thrive on growth and improvement. If you can commit to promoting these goals for your startup, its outlook will only grow brighter as time goes on.
So, don’t fall victim to making a hasty hiring decision you’ll later regret. Setting a clear vision and defining important requirements is the way to identifying the perfect candidate; enacting a system that continues talent development is the way to keep that talent long-term.
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