Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hiring Right

As an entrepreneur, hiring the right people was a concern that occupied my mind often. I’ve gathered various lessons through each of the three technology companies I’ve been involved with building up.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to hire the best. Don’t compromise the primary qualifications that your team has decided upon. Often in a startup there is a sense of urgency just to get people on board and throw them a paddle. Thoughts such as, “I can teach them…” or “They seem smart enough to do this…” creep into your mind. Resist the temptation. I fell into this temptation in the past and it came back to haunt me in the form of headaches, internal conflicts, and more work for me.

With more established companies, a lack of urgency can lead to laziness and then, later to a quick hire. Don’t give in to panic. Remember that one bad hire can ruin your ‘workstyle’ happiness, and maybe your whole team.

It depends on the skillset and industry, but make sure you see enough people to adequately assess the overall quality of your candidates. Don’t settle for a short list of friends or the first 10 resumes a headhunter sends you. Take the time to find the best.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Remember not to go by the resume alone. Do a deep search into the person’s qualities beyond their stated accomplishments. I’ve reviewed people who worked at McKinsey or Microsoft, went to Harvard Business School or Yale law school, and interviewed well. When I dug deeper through references and follow up interviews, I found they were just not at the caliber their resumes suggested or they were not a fit for the startup environment. I would rather have a college dropout with all the qualifications, drive and character I’m looking for than someone from a top ten school. You have to know what you’re looking for and refuse to be enamored by brand names. And remember to do those reference checks! Due diligence isn’t asking for references; it checking them.

Establish the values and character you want your employees to have. Every employee is an extension of your company and brand. What do you want them to reflect to the public? Once you decide this and start your search, ask yourself, do you want this person representing your company in a meeting with partners, at an event, or public presentation? Google requires their interviewers to ask themselves, “Is this person ‘googley’? Is this person a nice person? A good person you want to work with?” Google emphasizes this as an important part of the hiring process. This is a great process to integrate into any company hiring process.

These last two lessons circle back to the first: Hire the best for your company. Get these three things right and I believe you’re well on your way to “hiring right.”

Original published at Insidework

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