Are you looking for a CEO? Or a VP of Business Development? Do you need to recruit key people missing from your startup?
Yes is always the answer for startups. They are always recruiting.
Next question: "What did you do with your recruiting process to increase its success?"
Most common answer: "I do it like I always do it." (Or) "We do very thorough team interviews."
Such feeble responses expose a weak recruiting process. It takes forever to find,interview and recruit. That leads to frustration and failure. People hired with enthusiasm disappoint and have to be dismissed. That costs a lot of time and intense emotional stress. Such poor hires can damage, irreparably, a new enterprise.
So here are some tips from serial entrepreneurs on how to convert an ordinary recruiting process into one that hires the winners:
- Put it in writing. Document your words. That forces you to think. It will stimulate your brain. You will see holes and opportunities to improve the process.
- Stage it. Set up serial steps on a time line. The graphic will demand realism as you run into company events (launch of a product), travel (to strategic partner negotiations) and so on. It will give you respect for how long it takes to hire great people. It give you goals to hold the company responsible for.
- Declare it. Announce the documented process to the company. Get everyone involved. Show them how serious you are committed to hiring only great people. This builds pride in existing employees. It triggers enthusiasm and motivates everyone.
- Experts do reference checks. Headhunters start digging into the lives of candidates after the first interview. So should you. Do not treat reference checks as a mere formality, as something done the day before the job offer. You need to dig. Deeply. Find the real person. Spend the time it takes to find and talk privately to people in the company, the division, in the business the candidate is or was from. Do not rely on the references supplied by the candidate. World-class headhunters are brilliant at that. Homemade is often much lower quality.
- Rely on you, not venture capitalists. You have to lead the recruiting. VCs mean well but are not full-time recruiters. They are too busy looking for the next Google and trying to keep their struggling startups alive. So they grab what walks into their offices during startup pitches. Unemployed managers knock on their doors. One of them might fit your needs, but don't count on your investors to do your job. You are looked to by investors to be Recruiter Number One for your startup, whether you engage a headhunter or not.
- Prepare and ask the tough questions. Document your list of questions that penetrate the candidate's abilities, character, skills, the whole person. It is very important. If you are an introvert, you still have to ask the questions that may trigger anger in the candidate. That will tell you a lot about the candidate. The tougher the question, the more you will learn.
- Beware of the blind leading the blind. If the investors want a new CEO, that person is not likely to be the best recruiter, especially if he is a first-time CEO. Then you need a committe of the board of directors to lead the recruiting process.
BOTTOM LINE: The startup CEO needs to become a skilled recruiter. He may need to outsource much of the work to headhunters and contingent recruiters. But he still will be held responsible for creating and managing a recruiting process that delivers outstanding people for the new enterprise. When you can do that, you'll have added an emensely powerful element to your unfair advantage.