At one point or another, the bane of every startup founder’s existence is hiring. Not only do most startup teams have little to no professional hiring experience, but the process also takes a huge amount of time and effort most startups don't have. Cutting corners and careless decisions, however, can lead to bad hires that could be dreadful for business.
Two weeks ago, I went to a workshop led by Google for Entrepreneurs Global Project Manager, Tawney Hughes. Aimed at founders and HR representatives, the session covered topics like how to create appealing job descriptions, interviewing and selecting candidates, onboarding, as well as discovering what makes for a high-performing team. And let me tell you, there were a lot of questions from bewildered founders.
I decided to catch up with Tawney after the session to dig a bit deeper. Here’s what I learned, along with some super handy (Google-recommended) resources to get your hiring process on track:
You absolutely need a consistent hiring process
When hiring isn’t something that’s done regularly at your early stage startup, putting effort into creating a clearly defined hiring process might seem like a big waste of time. But, as Tawney warned, “inconsistent hiring processes lead to inconsistent results.”
Having structure not only makes you appear more organized and professional to external applicants. It also makes it easier for other team members to take on the hiring responsibility and use the same reference points when making the final decision. It's also advantageous having these processes set up early on for when you start to scale.
At the bare minimum, Tawney recommends considering the following aspects to avoid making expensive hiring mistakes further down the track:
- “Spend some extra time on that job description and make sure it’s understandable to someone who doesn’t know what your startup does,” explained Tawney. "Also, make sure you’re really intentional about your words." Tell a strong story about your company's purpose. Address candidates directly and be extremely clear about their daily functions. Write down specific deliverables. Be specific when it comes to the education, experience, and skills required for the job. And make sure the language you use is gender neutral and inclusive. Tawney recommends startups run their job descriptions through Textio to reach as many candidates as possible.
- “Be clear about the attributes your company is hiring for, and build a rubric around these attributes,” Tawney explained. This helps the hiring team to assess multiple candidates' answers and compare responses fairly and consistently.
- “Use interview committees -- the decision shouldn't be in the hands of one person,” Tawney insisted. Not only does this reduce the chance of unconscious bias, but it also prevents idiosyncrasies. It's also easier for the hiring team to determine whether someone is a good match for the role. On top of that, it allows for a thorough review of all feedback, rather than reviewing it in isolation.
If you hire based on biases, you're making bad hiring decisions
“We all think we have great intuition. We all think we should operate from and trust that 'gut' feeling. But, we’re so often wrong -- this cannot be overstated,” explained Tawney. She stressed the importance of spending enough time on the job description, the expectations of the role, and the rubric. “This will ensure that you're not operating from the 'gut' feeling, but operating from the realistic expectations of the role.”
“Awareness is truly the first step,” she continued. “Give every candidate a second glance -- make sure you're really clear on why someone isn't the right candidate and question that word 'fit.' At Google, we like to think about cultural enhancement versus cultural fit."
Think: What can this person add to our company and work environment, rather than do they 'fit' with us?
"Of course, if someone isn't qualified or right for your team, then don't hire them," Tawney reminded me. "You and your team should feel excited about new talent and believe they will expand and elevate the work you're doing, fill in gaps, and enhance the culture of your team."
A great end-to-end hiring experience is crucial for your employer brand
Sometimes it's crystal clear that the person you've interviewed isn't right for your company. Whether that’s due to lacking the necessary skill set or attitude, you should always respond professionally and make sure the candidate has a good experience.
"Even if you know from the first interview that someone is going to be a 'no-hire' for your company, it's imperative to treat them with respect, clarity, and equality and create a great end-to-end hiring experience," said Tawney. "No matter the candidate, these people will go out and talk -- you want to make sure what they have to say about your company is positive."
"Every person that applies for a role within your startup can either become an ambassador for your brand or a naysayer -- the power is all in your hands! You also never know, someone who mightn't be a great fit for your team right now might be perfect for a position you'll have open six months or a year down the road. It's all about building a pipeline -- so be intentional, respectful, and communicative throughout the hiring process for all candidates," she continued.
Tawney left me with some excellent advice: "At the end of the day, you're working with humans and there are no shortcuts. Yes, hiring is a huge investment of time, but skipping steps and cutting corners can really cause tremendous problems down the road. There's nothing more expensive than a bad hire -- so it's worth the investment of time from you and your entire team."
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