With 9 years of experience in scaling teams at three startups, growing the team from 6 to 389 at my last startup, and leading a recruitment team of 15 across nine countries, I have found values, mission, focus on metrics and product direction to be vital in scaling startups. Here are three points I find to be most important:
1. Values and skills — "hell yes" to both
Values, mission, and focus on metrics and product direction are the glue that holds our company together. Hiring experienced and talented people is already hard enough, hiring also for diversity and a belief in the mission is doubly hard, and hiring for a strong alignment with company values on top of those makes it triply more difficult. Keeping steadfast values when a company is growing exponentially is very, very hard, and it's important not to compromise on this out of desperation to recruit fast enough (even when the candidate is exceptionally skilled). Be very careful not to make a wrong hire, especially when the company is smaller than 50.
2. Creative & Proactive Recruiting
Most of the best people are not looking for jobs; create environments that’ll bring them and educate them on what you’re doing. To build a pool of qualified candidates in 2021, you’ll need some creativity. Try writing a technical deep dive on what you're working on, why it's challenging, and what makes it meaningful. Give technical presentations at conferences and let people know where you'll be after the talk if they're interested. Host an open house. Get creative.
Focus on leveraging your personal networks of people — the best sources of candidates are friends and friends of friends. Don't be afraid to do short term contracts to get the best ones hooked on — whether it's an advisory, consultancy or part-time role. You'd be surprised to see how long the best startups go on hiring like this. And of course, always keep in touch with promising people.
3. Diversity in hiring
Diversity hiring will require more work in building the pipeline. Get a recruiter! Start with identifying your priorities — whether it's diversity in work experience, gender or something else. Oftentimes with diversity hiring, volumes are low and it’s easy to blame the applicant pool. Focus on the process of building out the pipeline and remove some of the filters you're adding to the top of the funnel that make it narrow in the first place. For example, remove non-essential nice to haves from the job description because they detract diverse talent.
We all have biases, conscious and unconscious. Involve a diverse set of people in the hiring process. A heterogeneous hiring team reduces the biases of a homogeneous team, which leads to more diverse hiring.
People are an organization’s greatest asset, and growing a company starts with investing in an experienced and smart recruiting team that manifests the values, creativity and diversity you’re looking to hire for.