When we talk about “growth,” we don’t mean hiring — at startups, there’s no such thing as hiring. There is, however, the nearly automated, sterile overburdening of your team with the wrong people — and then there is the search for the right people, for the right jobs, at the right time.
That is, the search for people who will positively add to the direction of a young company. This process isn’t about talent consultants or posting “help wanted” ads or pulling resumes from envelopes full of glitter. It’s a part of every employee’s job to actively and aggressively pursue — and not just wait for their next phone screen to get scheduled.
If you want to scale your business in a sustainable way, adding people to your team becomes unavoidable. In my experience as co-founder and CEO of Indiegogo, the way you go about doing this can make or break your company — embolden positive growth or stagnate thinking and company culture. I see this process as the paramount consideration for any entrepreneur, and this is advice I’ve lived by:
- Don’t look for employees, look for entrepreneurs. It’s easy to say, “We have this deficiency or need, let’s plug this hole with X, Y, or Z candidate.” When you do that, you begin to emphasize skill set over drive and hunger. You want someone to not only address your pre-existing issues, but also to solve problems before they become problems — to help innovate and drive the company’s positive growth in leaps, not job description bullet points. These people will come equipped with the long view. They won’t just do a job — they’ll work toward a larger goal, for both the company and their own personal development.
- Experience is overrated. When interviewing potential candidates, I rarely focus on the resume. What I look for is how people address problems. At Indiegogo, every day we are working to solve problems that don’t have solutions. By asking candidates questions like, “How many trains are running in the NYC subway, at any given time?” it’s not about the ‘right’ answer — it’s about hearing the process they would go through to get the answer. Are they analytical? How are they dissecting the problem? What creative assumptions are they using to figure out the answer? I find this to be an extremely strong indicator of how people address challenges that come up in the workplace.
- Preserve company culture, but don’t let it stagnate. It’s not just that you want everyone to get along or guarantee team happy hours feel the same way after your company doubles in size. Culture is an underlying tone that courses through your company and it will dictate everything from marketing and branding voice to actual product decisions. Understanding your company’s culture is important to do before you can determine a given candidate’s “fit.” Whether your company loves Burning Man and Rainbow Sandals or if it’s as pragmatic and humorless as a samurai sword, you need to be able to identify that as you bring new people onto the team.
Don’t build a clone army, though. Creating a chain of command of n-sync Yes Men is more dangerous to your company than a Big Disagreement. Give culture some growing room and allow it to evolve by introducing fresh voices and diversified perspectives.
Bottom line? Don’t just use a job listing as a crutch and let the resumes roll in. These people are typically out of work or hate their jobs. Get proactive about growing your team. Make it a part of your job as CEO. Stop hiring employees and start finding the right people.