We’ve talked about this numerous times — the most important thing you can do for your startup is find and hire amazing people. That investors primarily invest into teams is a truism and well known by now. That incredible teams achieve better outcomes with even mediocre ideas than average teams with great ideas is studied at length. Jim Collins of “Good to Great”-fame calls this: Getting the right people on the bus.
The most common question I get in this context is: “How do I find those great people?”
It’s a good question and one worth answering. But it’s not the first question you should ask. Instead of jumping to the conclusion (the how) I would start with: What are the skills and character traits needed for a person to thrive in the particular role, our culture and within our goals and vision?
Personally I have encountered many examples of amazing people being put into the wrong context and having them just not perform and being miserable. It happens all the time and usually comes from the hiring organization not being clear about the needed personality profile but focussing solely on the (hard) skills. Take a seasoned executive who spent his whole career in large organizations. He can be absolutely brilliant at what he’s doing but fail completely in an environment where his first task is to assemble his own IKEA desk and where he needs to combine big picture thinking with the nitty gritty of getting things done. In his former roles he had scores of people do this for him — in a startup not so much.
So here’s what I encourage you to do: Before you do anything else in your hiring process develop a clear understand of how the ideal candidate should look like from a “whole person” perspective. Figure out what your culture is and how the person has to fit in. Create a profile of tasks and define what one would need to bring to the table to excel in those tasks. This can be anything from a “love for detail” to “sees the big picture” to “is totally comfortable with taking many baby steps and failing along the way” be. Describe your ideal candidate in as much detail as possible, give her a persona. And then go out into the market and test your candidates not only on their factual knowledge and skills but also on all the other factors which are so important for her to be her very best in your particular setting.
And it should not surprise you that some of your very best hires will be hires you would not have been considered if you were only to look at their CV.