KITSAP/BUSINESS—Make it clear to anyone you hire that working in a startup is different from what they are used to and separate from the movies and sitcoms.
For the former, you need to ask, “Can you fly coach, function without a secretary, and stay in cheap motels?” You might scare off a few desirable prospects, but it’s worth risking this to avoid ending up with people who cannot function in a startup environment.
For the latter, startups are not about Ping-Pong, free food, fun parties, and a quick path to wealth. A realistic description is that startups take four to five years of long hours at low pay with incredible highs and depressing lows with the constant fear of running out of money. And this is if things go well.
Collect Adequate Data
You’ll encounter two recruiting scenarios when you are compelled to use your intuition. First, a candidate’s education and background aren’t quite right, and others on your team will argue you shouldn’t hire him. Your rational side says, “Don’t hire him. He doesn’t have the right experience,” but your intuition says, “Grab him.”
Second, a candidate’s education and background look perfect, and the rest of your team urges you to grab him. Your rational side says, “Grab him,” but your intuition says, “Pass.”
“You should use reference checking as a means to decide whether the candidate is good and not as a confirmation of a choice that you’ve already made.”
According to conventional wisdom, you should trust your intuition in these kinds of situations. Unfortunately, intuition is often wrong—perhaps you liked a candidate because he was physically attractive, went to the same college as you did, or shared your passion for hockey, so you softened up on the interview questions and reference checking.
Or, maybe you have an inflated perception of your intuition’s quality because you remember when your intuition was correct and forget when it was wrong. Here’s a procedure to help you make good decisions:
STRUCTURE THE INTERVIEWS.
You and your team should decide on the attic! Ude knowledge, personality, and experience are necessary for the position before you conduct interviews. Don’t let employees conduct unstructured interviews because they think they are good judges of people.
ASK ABOUT SPECIFIC JOB SITUATIONS.
Fit and chemistry are important, but so is competence. Start with determining if the person can do the job before you decide you like her. For example, for a vice president of a marketing position, these are good questions:
How did you manage a product introduction?
How did you determine the feature set of a new product?
How did you convince engineering to implement these features?
How did you select your PR firm?
How did you select your advertising firm?
How did you handle a crisis such as a faulty product?
STICK TO THE SCRIPT.
Minimize random questions. You want to get a sample of candidates who answered the same questions to accurately compare them.
CONDUCT INITIAL INTERVIEWS BY PHONE.
One way to create a level playing field for candidates is to conduct initial interviews by phone. This reduces the effect of factors such as physical attributes, dress, and race.
DON’T GET TOO TOUCHY-FEELY.
A half-decent candidate can bluff through questions such as “Why do you want to work for this startup?” More pointed questions are better: “What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of?” “What were your biggest failures?” “What was your most gratifying learning experience?” Again, worry about competence first.
MATCH THE PERSON AND THE POSITION.
Beware of the false positive: hiring a likable person who is incompetent. And beware of the false negative: rejecting a less sociable person who is competent. For example, the best engineers aren’t necessarily charismatic, and charismatic people aren’t necessarily the best engineers.
Take notes during the interview to remember what each candidate said, Don’t depend on your memory because the passing of time and your subjective reactions will make it hard to accurately and fairly assess candidates,
CHECK REFERENCES EARLY
Many organizations check the references of candidates they’ve already decided to hire. This is a setup for a self-fulfilling prophecy because, at that point, you want to hear comments that affirm your decision, Big mistake. You should use reference checking as a means to decide whether the candidate is good and not as a confirmation of a choice that you’ve already made.
Candidates will provide references who will say good things about them (although you may be surprised), but you can use LinkedIn to find people who worked for companies simultaneously. This can provide more of a 360-degree view of the candidate.
The beauty of this process is that its rigid and standardized nature will help you garner better information, improving your intuition. Now you can follow your intuition.