Opportunity Cost of Talent : Why wait for the fish to bite?

Image Coutesy : Maureen Douglas

Around late February of last year, I lost my phone and my numbers, email-ids, photos and music disappeared too. I wanted to replace it immediately, but the prospect of shelling out Rs 32,000 less than cheered me up. I found myself facing the inevitable, economical, buyer’s conundrum: To buy now or wait till the price drops?

Meanwhile, I started using my dad’s archaic phone. While I was switching jobs, the phone acted like a pissed off girlfriend. It promptly hung up during important calls, switched off randomly, and strongly disapproved of Whatsapp.

Every other week, I would haunt the Flipkarts and Amazons, willing the price to drop. A family member told me he could get the same phone for slightly less than the ominous Rs 30,000. My dad told me right there to just shut up and buy the phone.

I watched the price of the new phone fall slowly, but remained resolute to wait it out. Fast forward to November. I’d saved up enough and bought the same model for Rs 28,000, saving a grand total of Rs 4,000 in 8 months.

Now resignedly I can say that it was totally NOT worth it. I realized that the inconvenience of not having the right phone was worth WAY more than Rs 4000. Hell, in retrospect, I’d have bought it for Rs 35,000 too.

The reason I’m writing this incredibly boring story is because of its uncanny resemblance to the start-up recruitment scene. Anyone working in a fast-growing start-up scene knows recruiting for start-ups is a lifeless and thankless job. But if you’ve caught my drift you’ll realise that many start-ups make the same mistake I did.

“Spend Wisely”

Founders, co-founders and sometimes even that poor HR person you’ve hired to handle recruitment (while still magically managing processes, policies, leaves etc) waste precious time recruiting in a market defined by extreme poaching and inflated salaries.

For the ‘right’ candidate, you could end up spending anywhere between 80–120 man hours (excluding time taken to interview and process) to multiple months (!), just searching and searching.

It’s like going fishing when you really need food and then starving yourself waiting for the fish to bite rather than just going to a good restaurant that specializes in cooking fish.

Many a time, you give up and make the mistake of thinking “Hey, why don’t I just get a Rs. 15,000 phone and later I can buy the one that I really wanted.” It’s compromising on talent at the cost of money. I’ve also seen smaller companies hiring large talent acquisition teams, which again, makes no economic sense.

In contrast, the four to eight months of solid, hard work a carefully selected, head-hunted employee can do for you is worth way more than what you might pay the recruiter who placed him there. He or she will help put your firm way ahead of the game and make sure you keep the edge.

To hire a rock star, you go to the rock star

Everyone has access to all the zillions of free and paid portals but without a specialized team to monitor quality, the usual responses on any post will have a hit rate of around 4–5%.

Add to that the stringent hiring system of start-ups — the candidate should be a genius, team player, “not-the-MNC-types”, best fit, funny, enthusiastic, a rockstar, a ninja, Ironman, Batman, technologically superior to an overclocked i7 on steroids and a DBZ fusion of Steve Jobs and Larry Page.

After all, you’re asking someone to buy into your big dream and help it grow together. Like any marriage, the struggle is real. But most importantly, this is not a part of your core business, nor is it a job for your HR. You’re wasting valuable time going through 95 irrelevant CVs.

All the very successful start-ups from Mumbai, Bangalore, NCR use partners for their talent acquisition needs for a very smart reason. iQuest has had the opportunity of working closely with many of them.

Don’t wait for the fish to bite.

Part II, coming soon — will include some numbers for the geeks.

Credits: Amruta Lakhe (writing & editing), Manu Bamba (review), Srujan Routhu (review)