In 1992 Check Daly assembled USA’s famous Olympic basketball team. Jordan. Pippen. Bird. ‘A Players’ at every position on the floor. They were the greatest team ever assembled. Over 20 years ago in Barcelona no opposing team stood a chance.
Investing in people is the best thing a startup can do. Below are a few notes, learnings and challenges my team and I have experienced while recruiting talent for Favor.
People are complex individuals. We’re all motivated by different things. I try to ask questions and listen. Open ears. In my humble opinion, it’s best to be empathetic. I put myself into the candidates shoes to understand the ‘why’. An amazing candidate may not be amazing at the company. That’s O.K. — but it’s best to figure that out before they’re hired.
“Must Have” Leadership Characteristics
The traits we look for in our leaders are:
Entrepreneurial Instinct: Does this candidate have a deep understanding of the Build -> Measure -> Learn cycle. Are they always thinking of this in their planning process? Do they just assume that methods that worked at other companies will also work at Favor? Or do they consider every problem an opportunity to innovate and follow the entrepreneurship process?
Selfless Drive: Will this candidate run through walls for Favor? Will they be more concerned with the success of the company or the success of their own careers? Will they take responsibility for their own missteps & how that affects the company?
Cultural Fit: Would it be fun to go on a cross country road trip with this candidate? Do others in the company feel the same way?
Charisma: Does this candidate inspire us? Would I personally want to work for this person?
People First Manager: Does this person have the right mix of being fun loving, but results driven (check out this article)? How do they envision getting the job done? Do they have the ability to be player in the earlier days, but also understand the right time to hire, coach and work through their subordinates?
Experience & Willingness to Continue Learning: Have they succeeded in this role before? Have they scaled with a start up at the seed stage & beyond? Are they a smart creative?
A friend explained this to me in a straight forward way: “A Players will create a competitive advantage by working at your company. They are better at the specific role they are placed in than others people in the market. Only about 10% of the work force will be considered an A Player. About 80% will be B Players. If someone is a C Player 2 Quarters in a row you have a problem and need to make drastic changes. A Players do not want to work with C Players. A Players are ready to perform on day 1. It’s not the founder’s job to train A Players because A Players should already be specialists. A Players are expensive, but worth it. A Players want ‘Autonomy’, ‘Mastery’ & ‘Purpose’. That’s the freedom to make decisions, ability to perfect their craft and a clearly defined vision. What’s the north star and how are we going to get there?”
Playbook the Recruiting Process
Processes should be repeatable, measurable and improvable. What’s the recruiting process look like?
Our GM Role Recruiting Process:
Source & review inbounds
Top candidates take assessments
Review and grade assessments
Round two of interviews
Canidate meets the team
Enter offer stage (or repeat process)
Favor’s model calls for building local, specialized teams. In every market we’re in, we hire the same few roles: General Manager, Operations Manager & Marketing Manager. Therefore we identified what characteristics the ideal candidates would have. Then we made a test which screens for qualities that are most important to the success of the role.
For instance, it’s important that GM’s are data driven. So, in one section they are given a raw data dump and are asked to spot trends. They use the metrics to tell a story about the business. Top performing candidates can clearly explain what’s happening in the business and can identify opportunities to improve operations. The test weeds out low performing candidates, therefore giving us more time to focus on the top applicants.
Feed the Pipeline
Hiring is a marketing game. It’s about identifying channels that result in quality leads. Sometimes great people apply through the jobs site, but often it requires out-bound head hunting.
We often ask our employees, “Who’s the best person you’ve ever worked with?” or, even more specific, “Do you have any digital ads friends who live in Austin?” It’s no surprise current employees can be the biggest advocates. Tap into their networks. Give cash or equity bonuses and make public announcements.
Helpful tools like Lever, Greenhouse and LinkdIn Recruiter can help give an edge. Or, using an executive recruiter for key roles. While often expensive, these folks have can help you tap into amazing networks.
Thorough Reference Calls
It’s so easy to skip this step, or have a hiring bias. You’ve already spent a ton of time sourcing, screening, interviewing, selling. The reference checks sometimes get glossed over, but don’t stop on the goal line.
A reference may say something meaning to be positive, “They’re driven — they work 75 hours a week here.” Sure, it’s great they work hard, but are there things they could be doing to stream line and work smarter instead of longer? If references give no specifics or perfectly positive feedback that’s also a red flag. When possible back channel through a mutual connection.
Smooth On-Boarding & the First 90 Days
Hooray! Offer letter accepted. The race is over, right? Wrong.
I’ve had candidates I thought were closed. Accepting is really only the top of the mountain. You still need to climb down safely to the other side.
First impressions are everything. Day one can be your chance to make the new employee feel at home. Intro them to the team. Have a desk set up ready to go. Give them a playbook to read over. Give them access to the tools they need. Clearly set expectations and goals. Have corporate swag? Hook em’ up.
We had 20 employees earlier this year, now we have 40. We’ll double again this year. Recruiting is never actually “DONE”. It’s hard work and takes time, but it’s fun, so embrace the challenge!
It makes me feel really great when we can find the right person for the right job. Lucky for me, I get to work with tons of super intelligent, hard working and inspiring people. It’s like playing on the Dream Team ;)