Are you ready to hire a team of top talent?

Jo Bertram
eqtventures
Published in
4 min readFeb 6, 2018

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When you set up your company, you (and your co-founders, if you have them) are the entire team. Chances are, you’ll be juggling marketing, product, HR, finance and a number of other roles to get your company off the ground. But this multitasking can only last for so long and, as you grow your business, you need to hire experts in each field. You need to surround yourself with people that can do all of the roles you’ve been doing far better than you can, so that you can lead your business effectively. But hiring an all-star workforce is hard work.

From my experiences scaling teams at Uber and interviewing extensively at Mckinsey, I know only too well that getting the right people into the right roles, at the right time is a real challenge. And, while recruiting is one of the most important things a startup does, it often doesn’t receive the attention and resources it deserves. Before you even start talking to candidates, here are my tips for kicking off the process:

  1. Hire for what your business will need 12–18 months out — It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring what you desperately need now to keep the business running. But it will take at least three to six months to find someone and have them start. This person will then have to get up to speed on not only the ins and outs of their role, but also the company — its systems, structure and processes. Before you know it, nearly a year has gone by and your business is two or three times the size and the demands are completely different. Think about what that role will need to look like in 12–18 months and hire for that.
  2. Push yourself to be really specific on what you’re looking for — Consider what experience, competencies and skills the candidate you’re looking for needs. In any startup, the list of requirements will almost certainly include the ability to adapt, develop and grow as the business evolves. If you hire people that lack these qualities, they’ll get left behind. If you only have a rough idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll end up wasting everyone’s time. The recruiter can’t bring you a strong list of candidates based on a vague description, the hiring team will end up misaligned on what to look for and candidates could have a bad experience. No one wins.
  3. Don’t just look for heads — what about level and seniority? — Given how tight finances can be, startups often hire fairly junior and inexperienced teams with bundles of ambition and energy. This can work well, but in some situations one more experienced (and therefore more expensive) person with the right expertise can bring as much value as two or three junior team members. I sometimes hear founders say that someone is “too senior” for a role. I’d always question this view if you’ve got ambitions to grow into a large global business! What seems like a small position now will grow into a really important one in six to 12 months time. Always consider the balance of experience versus cost.
  4. Work expands to fill the time you give it — This fact applies in many contexts, but when it comes to scaling be mindful not to hire too many people too early. It can be tempting to hire an army of people when you feel you’re treading water and need additional support, but it often results in inefficiency. Keeping the balance of work versus resources quite tight means that everyone has to push themselves to be as efficient as possible. Rather than hire full-time employees to carry out manual processes, try and find ways to automate and streamline these processes and consider hiring temps in the interim.
  5. Be strategic about internal versus external recruiting capabilities — There’s no “one size fits all here” but at the beginning of a scale-up phase, you should consider if it’s worth investing in an in-house recruiter or team. This approach can take more time upfront, but it could be more cost efficient in the long-run, particularly if you’re going to be hiring fairly similar profiles over time. External agencies can start working immediately and may have better networks for very specific candidate profiles, for example, but obviously come at a cost.

Once you’ve taken into account these five points, you should have the foundations in place to start hunting for candidates and progressing to the interview process. I’ll be sharing my tips on these in my next post.

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