When hiring for my startup: should I prioritize relevant non-startup experience, or general creativity and critical thinking?
Right now, I am interviewing potential hires for my startup. Since my company is young, we could definitely use some fresh ideas and sharp minds to help grow our business. However, it would also be great to hire one or more individuals with industry-specific experience. Would it be a good idea to hire some employees for their expertise and some for their general creativity/skills, or should I just pursue those with the "total package"?
Being in a start-up environment requires that one is quick moving, flexible, can think on their feet and has tons of resilience. Mixing up the team composition will benefit you over the long term. Sometimes, the ultimate test for me whether to go with one person over another is this: if I am ready to lunge into the fire or do battle, who would I rather have on my team backing me up? A highly creative or a technical person may at times demand a more intensive support structure to bring the ideas to fruition--a start-up requires someone with long term foresight to overcome the short-term grind and peppered with loads of optimism. Let me know if you wish to speak further about this.
Great question. Hiring employees who are very intelligent, creative, and have expertise in the area of your startup would be great. However, highly intelligent employees who can learn new things quickly and comprehend the overall concept of your business and who can demonstrate the ability to solve some real company issues should not be overlooked. Ask your job candidates to submit a video resume and a writing sample. Please contact me and I'll show you how to utilize the video resume and writing sample in order to hire the most qualified and emotionally intelligent people.
Hiring for an early stage startup requires people who are comfortable working in the ambiguity of the startup environment. People who share your passion for the product and space, and have demonstrated success in similar environments. Each employee will wear multiple hats in an early startup and work long hours together. Their expertise in a particular function is "table stakes" for any job - your startup will have some uniqueness that the candidate must be able to embrace - you are not looking for a traditional employee, you are looking for an early stage partner of sorts.
My only added value is to take your time in hiring. As you strategically add to your team, it will become clear what complementary skills, personalities and talents you will need to fill in the gaps.
One item that you, as the owner, need to be very clear in is describing your ideal working environment and team. Once you can clearly visualize the personalities, skills, talents and passions that really want - the right people will start to appear. Don't wait to "know it when you see it". You job is to "know it so you can recognize it".
Bryan, as much as it may be tempting to attempt to find the proverbial one-woman /man band, they rarely exist and can be expensive. I think it is particularly helpful for a start-up to identify needed skill sets and then go hire the best team composition for that skill. You want a team of people, not just one individual who can bring your start-up to the next level. The situation you describe may call for some fresh thinking, as you describe it. That probably means that someone on your initial team is not living up to your expectation. What was the skill set you needed from that individual? Get rid of that person as quickly as you can and replace him/her with new blood. Alternatively, you could reappraise existing skill sets and prioritize hires with the missing one. You should havemost of your eager team capable of fresh ideas, not just a single individual. Perhaps, industry experience, or lack thereof is not the reason for your temporary slow start - maybe the business concept/proposition needs tweaking. Talk to your customers? Find out what your shortfalls are, also identify a possible advisory board, if you don't have one already and make use of that board! Cheers, Renate
(see also wwwDotRenateArtDotcom ).
Hi Bryan, it is good to have both industry-specific as well as those with creative ideas and sharp minds. What is important that you hire individuals that while possessing industry-specific and/or creative ideas -- that these individuals are ready to pull their sleeves up and go to work to support your mission. Strategy is key and will throw you ahead of the game in both skill sets, as long as the strategy is executed by all team members regardless to area of expertise. Good luck Bryan!
I recommend you hire both types of people: You need both industry expertise and for fresh, sharp thinking. This increases your ability to combine experience with creative thinking. Often times, the fresh, industry-naive person will think of things or ask questions that experienced people wouldn't consider, because they are steeped in their knowledge (see "curse of knowledge"). Yet, the experts can take the fresh ideas offered to them and tweak them to something entirely new.
Good luck to you and your new team!
Hi Bryan, great question, I believe you should definitely be looking to build a team of forward thinking experts, there is nothing more costly than working with someone who doesn't know what they're doing or has little experience because you will find that you could be paying more to fix mistakes or issues. Usually those who are experienced will have great out of the box thinking as long as they have a clear understanding of your vision. Best of luck!
It really all depends on the cultural fit of your start up. It's great to have people who have industry specific experience to help your company grow, but they may not add value or be a good fit. On the other hand, when you have people who are very creative and are able to wear multiple hats, they may be a good cultural fit but also they aren't as productive as you'd like them to be. I recommend finding those who are willing to learn, as skills can be learned while attitude cannot be taught.
You've already received a lot of great feedback from the mosaicHUB community. These folks are sharp!
My advice would be to not overlook character as the foundational element of anyone you bring on-board. There's a saying that nearly anyone with a few years of experience can validate, "People get hired for what they know, but they get fired for who they are."
My wife and I helped train over 20,000+ Guatemalan leaders in June 2013 as part of John Maxwell's 150 member coaching team leading the "Transformation Begins with Me!" cultural transformation initiative. One of the basic principles that we taught them was that 87% of our results come from our character, and only 13% comes from our competency.
Turnover will cost you tremendously, so be sure to fully understand what you are looking for from a character standpoint in the team you are trying to create.
If there is one thing you can count on in a start-up environment, it is that people will need to wear many hats during their tenure there. Your business will hopefully grow and add people, new opportunities will arise and new problems will need to be solved. So you want to bring on people who have the flexibility to adjust as the situation does and fulfill roles that may become needed over time.
Also keep in mind that if they haven't worked at a start-up before they may not realize what they are in for (no secretary to make their travel arrangements, no IT department to set up their laptop, etc.) so make sure they seem like people who can thrive in that type of environment and aren't afraid to roll their sleeves up and do things themselves on the cheap.
My experience is based in International companies establishing office in my country. In that context, and based on a large experience in start ups, I would start by hiring individuals with expertise in start ups given that they know the roads to follow, and as the company needs develop, start hiring those that are specific for your company.
Hi Bryan, In my modest opinion, you should hire somebody with expertise, but willing to think and act out of the box. Someone who is passionate, but also with his/ her feet on the ground. Someone who can actually listen and anticipate on that. Someone who can live up to promises and expectations to help build your business. Someone reliable and with common sense. They are out there, just difficult to find. Have a look at the website of the human workplace ( ceo is Liz Ryan), you will find a lot of interesting info there! Good luck, Marlies
I think your goal initially has to be assessing what your needs are in terms of employment. You should never hire someone just because they have "skills" in your industry. You should ask yourself, how do they fit into my company? How do their skills fit into the overall corporate culture of your start-up? You need to make a list of positions that need to be filled and analyze each position specifically for the needs of that role within your company. Once that has been done, you can more effectively select a person to fill that role based on their experience. Whether or not they have start-up experience is irrelevant unless you are looking for advice on a day to day basis. You need people that specialize in whatever service you are offering that can help you grow. The rest is a plus if they have experience with start-ups.
I think the key is to look at the role and determine what skills you need in each position. For example, you might decide that for a finance position, you need someone who is experienced in managing the books of a start up, whereas for a position in sales or product development, you are looking for people who will bring fresh perspectives. I would also think about the ramp up time to learn an industry - if it is going to take someone a year to truly understand what you are doing, is that ok? What will resonate most with your customers (feeling like your employees know the industry or creative perspectives?)? As a general rule, employees with strong cognitive ability (a.k.a. "smarts" or in your terms critical thinking) tend to be the best performers. As you are hiring consider "fit" as well. Some people with strong industry experience may or may not enjoy being tasked with coming up with new ways of doing things. Or people who love to be creative may feel stiffed by the need to follow industry rules. Food for thought. I hope this helps!
Hi Bryan, the 3 are important to get results from the employee that you want to work with...but if you are prepared to train and hire someone with the passion of startup that can also be a plus for you. The disadvantage with someone with experience is that he already know too much and maybe there will be no new ideas and the other that has the 2 but no experience can bring more in your business. Remember you hire the passion, the skill can be trained...
Based on my experience in start up process, I recommend a generalist profiles i.e HR, supply chain, IST, because they will do a little bit of too many things instead a established company (with clear roles) and clarify some moments of uncerteain and ambiguos decitions. Good luck.HG
Based on my experience in working with startups, I know it is as important to be cost-efficient as it is to hire the right people. In your case, the "right" people certainly need to have the core skills you need in the job - because in startup mode you don't have time for hand-holding - but they also need to have the right personality to mesh with your existing DNA. Right now everyone in your startup (and I know there are probably precious few employees at the moment) has to be flexible, agile, thick-skinned, and able to juggle multiple hats while maintaining a good sense of humor about it all. So especially when your employee base is so small, every addition to the pool causes big ripples. Make sure the ripples are in the direction you want to go!
I believe its a fallacy to believe that you have to choose between relevant experience and creativity / critical thinking. You should look to find the person that possesses both. In the interview process you should look for how they can apply their non-startup experience in a start-up environment. They should be able to relate their skills to your world. If they can't then their experience is useless. They should be able to demonstrate how they would use critical thinking and creativity to address the problems common to start-ups. They should assume that they will have to solve problems on limited budgets.
Intelligence is a God gift and having specific value.Creativity counts a lot because it is an art of talent that grooms day by day.Experience comes with time and struggle only so it can't be denied.Hire the team of freshers and for their supervision you have to hire selective experienced staff also.