When your new company actually starts to grow, the celebration might be short-lived—growing pains are very real, particularly when it comes to staffing up in a shorter time frame than you’re used to.
Every decision you make during a growth spurt impacts your future, but no individual decision matters as much as the people who show up to work for you each day. Curious about how to avoid costly, time-consuming hiring mistakes—and how to streamline the recruiting process overall—we asked 13 founders and YEC members who’ve been there to share their best tips for hiring smart.
Test in Small Doses
Rather than diving all in and hiring a bunch of new full-time employees, give people the opportunity to impress you in small doses. Test a bunch for each position. Give them each a five-hour project, and see if they exceed your expectations. If they pass that round, give them 15 hours, and see if they remain as impressive. If they do, throw them a curveball to see how they handle conflict resolution or criticism. These small tests give you an opportunity to assess communication style, professionalism, adherence to deadlines, and the ability to exceed expectations. Only hire those who demonstrate excellence in each of those pillars.
- Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
Read the book “Topgrading,” and implement its interview methodology into your hiring processes for vastly improved hiring outcomes. Be sure to also include work sample tests into your interview processes. They have a higher predictive value as to how someone will perform on the job than almost anything else. At Hired, we frequently pay people for a project that takes a weekend to do in order to get a better sense of what their work output will look like. Candidates who look almost identical on paper and interview well can provide shockingly different results when tasked with accomplishing something.
- Matt Mickiewicz, Hired
Hire in Pairs
If you have the funds and are preparing to hire lots of employees in a short period of time, inevitably, some of them are going to fail no matter how diligent you are prior to hiring. The biggest issue is lost time from training the new hire and then having to spend that time again training a replacement. One strategy we used effectively was to hire in pairs. Hire your top two candidates. Your chances are greater of at least one working out well. You’ll have eliminated a lot of wasted time by not having to train a replacement. If both fail, you still saved time and will be closer to finding the right person. Plan ahead in the event they are both great, which should really be the least of yourworries. Keep them both since you found two great employees to help the company grow.
- Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com
It sounds like a silly answer, but there is no surefire way to augment the problem of hiring the wrong staff. You will—especially if you’re doing it at breakneck speeds. Consider over-hiring for trial periods, so you can fire easily and quickly. Similar to starting a new company, the common wisdom is to fail fast. The same should be true for new hires. Let them fail quickly and hedge-hire more in the beginning, so you can weed out the weak players without compromising the product or service you’re offering to your clients.
Hire Freelance Specialists
Our business is built around the idea that highly specialized freelancers are often a better bet than a full-time hire, and our hiring strategy reflects that belief. Freelancers are often hyper-specialized, which makes them uniquely suited to some tasks, but not necessarily adept at taking on new ones or evolving in a role. Hiring on a part-time freelance basis in both the short and long-term has given my company a roster of impressive specialists with whom it is either easy to part ways or bring on full-time if there is mutual interest. But, them liking and wanting the job is just as critical as you wanting them for it.
Don’t get caught up on a résumé. You must be incredibly careful to recognize the importance of your culture. Your current team’s chemistry, the very thing that makes them all click and work well together on a deeper level, is at stake. When recruiting, it’s widely recognized that it’s important to look for diversity of thought and skills. However, when introducing new team members, you want uniformity around values and work ethic. If a new team member is introduced and he’s not willing to put in the work or make the sacrifices yourexisting team is willing to make, it can be a very costly mistake.
- Dan Price, Gravity Payments
Make a Checklist
Ask yourself what traits are most important in a new hire. Besides the obvious skills needed for a particular position, what attributes do you need for someone to be a positive addition to your company? When a team is growing quickly, it’s critical to make sure each new member is a cultural fit. Make a list. (I recommend reading “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.) Share it with your hiring managers, and stick to it!
- Brittany Hodak, ZinePak
Don’t Cut Corners
You can hire fast, but do your due diligence. Call references, and take the time to have thoughtful conversations with every candidate. Be transparent with existing employees. Let them know help is on the way, but ask for their cooperation and understanding while you work to find the right candidates to join the team. They’ll thank you in the end and appreciate you keeping them in the loop!
- Katie Finnegan, Hukkster
Take Time to Think
Take the time to develop a well-thought-out recruiting and interview process. Unstructured interviews alone can be a terrible way to make hiring decisions because candidates can easily put on an act. We have candidates go through multiple rounds of individual and group-structured, behavioral interviews where we force them to share tangible examples of different skills from their past. By the time the candidates get to me, I focus solely on gauging them as a culture fit because I know their technical background has been vetted thoroughly by the rest of the team.
- Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture
Pay for a Good ATS
An intuitive applicant tracking system, such as Greenhouse, can immediately make your hiring process easier, more defined and transparent. It simply helps in the management of the talent process.
- Tarek Pertew, Wakefield Media
Give Them a Real Problem to Solve
Have candidates complete a task you’d expect accomplished within the first 30 days of hiring them. For instance, give developers a real development problem you’re trying to solve or have a PR person write a contributed article or draft a media pitch. You could also have a marketing hire draft a six-month strategy plan. This provides insight into how they work through the problem/task as well as the quality of the end product.
- Erik Severinghaus, Simple Relevance
Avoid costly hiring mistakes by hiring your team mindfully. First, know why you are hiring. Is it to grow revenue, develop a product or scale operations? Second, pause before bringing in candidates for second-round interviews. Double-check that their skills, potential, and attitude fit your needs. Finally, it’s rare the very first candidate you meet will be your must-have hire. Narrow down your top three candidates, and put these folks “into the role” with a real business problem you’re trying to solve. Give them 24 hours to come back to you with their thinking. The best will rise to the top. The more often you exercise mindful hiring, the better and faster you’ll be able to grow a highly effective team that can dramatically impact your bottom line.
- Mary Ray, MyHealthTeams
Take Them Out for a Beer
It’s hard to judge a cultural fit from formal interviews. Have your team go out for a beer with the candidate, and see how well he or she fits in. You’ll know pretty fast if you’re happy spending eight hours a day with him.
- Neal Taparia, Imagine Easy Solutions
What is your best tip for hiring for growth?