Want to make your company more investable?

Hiring well is more than a catalyst for growth. It’s a foundational capability which enables a company to succeed. It underpins a high-performing team and serves as a window into company culture. A core skill for all leaders, but even more so for Series A founders who must land the kind of talent that has the pick of the market, globally. Furthermore, ‘hiring well’ is a vital predictive indicator of scalability. It sends positive signals to investors, your team and your customers. You are more backable.

Over the next few months, I will share insights on how to attract, assess and land your gamechangers; the ‘top talent’ who will help your start-up achieve its potential. Step 1? Cultivate a hiring mindset.

The hiring mindset

These five factors unlock your hiring mindset and improve your chances of hiring success.

1.Align the hiring team

Before dipping your toe into the hiring market, hiring teams must be clear and aligned on why they are hiring, what is needed in that role, what ‘great’ looks like and what attributes will complement the wider team. This will determine your hiring North Star, which you’d be wise to follow. Before you start the hiring process, select your hiring squad and ensure you all align on the following questions:

  • What key deliverables will this hire contribute to the growth strategy?
  • Why is this hire essential now?
  • What attributes and skills does the candidate need to be able to prove before they arrive?
  • What do they need to be great at to do their job brilliantly?
  • How will we know when they are doing a great job?

2.Sell as well as buy

Hiring is a buying and selling experience with both the candidate and company seeking the perfect match. At Series A, the more senior the role, the more selling you should be prepared to do.

  • Step 1 — Appeal to the candidate’s drivers — ‘What’s in it for me’ — by communicating why you are the right company for their personal ambitions, development and growth.
  • Step 2 — Once you’ve decided you want a candidate, find out what they are motivated by and use these insights to help land your candidate and form a strong alliance, right from the start. A consistently useful question, which gets the candidate to open up about their core drivers, as well as any small — or big — factors that could sway their decision is: “What would make you say no to this role, were we to offer it to you?”

3.Work as a pack

Hiring is best done as a team sport. Working together to divide the tasks will help you deliver a world-class candidate experience and increase your chances of making the right hire. Each person owns their ‘piece’ and adds to the jigsaw to create a clear picture of the candidate’s suitability for the role.

  • Scenario 1 — A candidate has informal chats with seemingly random people who all largely use the same format: starting off with ‘tell me about yourself’ followed by vague musings about what the role is about, when the next meeting will be booked or when a decision will be made.
  • Scenario 2 — A pre-agreed hiring team holds an immersive, varied and choreographed set of meetings, which authentically brings the company culture to life. Each interviewer goes deep on specific competencies and gathers a rich palette of evidence on the candidate. Feedback is given quickly and the candidate’s questions are fielded by a point person accountable for communicating the process timelines, which are clear and understood by everyone involved.

Candidates want to meet the team, get a feel for the cultural vibe and imagine themselves working in the team. During the hiring process, if they see a group that is led by a respected captain who passes the ball effectively between the players, they will leave with the impression of cohesion, consistency, clear communication and care. I know which scenario I’d prefer.

4.Make hiring decisions objectively

Above all else, best practice hiring requires one thing: objectivity. That means making decisions based on accurate evidence rather than gut instinct. That means hiring the right person for the role in your team, who is most likely to help you deliver your growth targets and not the person you like the most — an intrinsically biased perspective which is more likely to exacerbate your own blindspots than complement them. That means starting the search with clear, specific, data-led criteria in your backpocket and being consistent with your assessment approach across all candidates.

For example, instead of focusing on a candidate’s past, focus on their future by asking all candidates:

  • For evidence on how, when and with whom they work best.
  • Their edge. What is the “type of challenge which has got their name on it”? What would those who know what they’re great at, pick them for?
  • Their key motivational drivers at work and what’s most important to them, right now.
  • What kind of person is their best wing-(wo)man. We all need one.

When it comes to the hiring decision, ask other interviewers “why did the candidate match what you were assessing for?” instead of ‘‘did you like them?”

5.Hire for trustability not likeability

Start-ups need to bring in complementary skills to build a team which delivers more than the sum of its parts. Strong personal chemistry fuels connection and shared joy along the journey but, for teams with a fierce focus on achieving growth, trust is a more accurate predictive indicator of performance. Would I trust this person to be by my side and have my back when the going gets tough?

Trust acts like the right oil in an engine: it allows the cogs to work better together and maintain higher outputs for longer without breaking down. My last blog looked at how founders can measure trust in their teams and the same TQ factors can be assessed when hiring. Here’s some example questions:

  • How much does it bother you if there’s lots of gossip?
  • How often do you have healthy disagreements with your teammates? How do you cultivate healthy challenge and conflict?
  • Name three things you’re doing differently as a result of receiving feedback in the past six months?
  • Tell me about the last time you or a team member called out a mistake. What were the responses?
  • How often do you make tough decisions? How long does it normally take you and how do you go about making them?
  • How much does it annoy you if someone else takes credit for your work?

Channelling the hiring mindset

How do you put the hiring mindset into action? Hiring tools give you that power. To help your hiring mission, there are three hiring tools that you should use:

  • Ad Copy — How you create a megaphone to persuasively pitch your amazing opportunity.
  • Candidate Deck — How you successfully engage candidates.
  • Scorecard — How the hiring team can objectively assess candidates and run an efficient process.

Without these three tools as a basis, hiring is like sending a rocket into space without any coordinates: it will get you somewhere, but almost certainly not where you want to be. Luckily, my next blog will deep dive into how to create and effectively use these tools. Stay tuned.

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Jane Elizabeth Reddin

Jane Elizabeth Reddin

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I’m a talent alchemist, a startup hiring coach, a yogi and a conscientious mum. A systems thinker with a deep curiosity for understanding people and start-ups.