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How to hire the right people

Things can happen quickly in the startup space. After running my business with only one other person for over eight years, launching a website with no vast experience in the digital space was a steep learning curve. As a result, I went from one-to-six staff members in under three months as I knew I needed strong human capital behind me to make it work. Bringing so many new personalities into a small space feels like a huge risk – but if done with a bit of creative nous, your business can thrive in unimaginable ways.

Here is what we learned from our own growing headcount:

1. Vary your recruitment process according to the role

I know it’s tempting (and easy) to follow the tried and tested formula of the ‘CV and cover letter’ approach – but if you need to hire quickly, it helps to be creative. Get your applicant to submit a piece of industry-based writing or even conduct a scenario-based role play in the initial phone interview to gauge their skill-set.

For instance, when recruiting for a business development manager (BDM), my ad stated that written applications would not be considered: I wanted to speak to candidates first and determine their ability to create rapport on a ‘cold call’. This saved hours of sifting through resumes and helped me immediately tell who was seriously committed (and who could read the fine print).

2. Trust your instincts

Trust your gut even when the candidate looks different on paper – it will teach you to be a good judge of character over time. Sometimes what’s written on a CV doesn’t translate into a candidate’s ability to relate to the nuances of your team or think creatively where the role requires. If someone feels right, however, don’t sit too long on a decision – sometimes a 15-minute interview is all it takes to hire someone well.

3. Invest in people first to help your business grow

Getting a new site off the ground requires a huge amount of capital. The right people will fill your own competency gaps and serve as natural brand ambassadors in the marketplace. This year I hired a BDM, marketing coordinator, and manager, as well as various IT and digital contractors. It’s tempting to do a lot of this work yourself, but I suggest outsourcing as much as possible as early as you can manage  – so you are freed up to focus on growth.

4. Attitude can win over experience

Recruiting can be a lot like planning who sits where at a dinner party. You think about different personalities, life experiences, values, and energy levels.
It helps when everyone on your team is different but brings something irreplaceable to the table. A good common ground for everyone to agree on is a strong working ethic, positive approach, and mutual respect. If their attitude and personality are right, there isn’t much you can’t outsource or teach – especially in a communications role.

5. Create individual time with each teammate

Make it a priority to have weekly catch-ups with each member of your team to see where they are at and then guide and motivate them to perform at their best. Their output will thrive from that one on one time – and will give you more certainty when delegating complex tasks.

6. Reward your team

Take your team out for a nice long lunch every so often or enjoy slightly silly team-building events together, like karaoke or paintball. Sometimes, I’ll stop and buy cupcakes for the team as a surprise thank you for their hard work or bring in a homemade cake for someone’s birthday. It’s the little things that people remember and when you make those on your team feel appreciated, you will get so much more out of your working day together.

7. Create a fun environment

I find that people procrastinate to create a diversion from boring tasks. What if the atmosphere in your office was more relaxed and conducive to having a laugh? You may find that paradoxically, more gets done! We can all be big kids at heart, so having a positive and light-hearted environment will mean your team love coming to work every morning. Just don’t turn into David Brandt from The Office and go overboard with awkward gags.

8. Think twice before recruiting for the next role

Don’t grow too quickly. Have key performance indicators in place to ensure each role is justified and performs well. Take time out to work on the business and ensure it is moving in the right direction so you have a clear understanding of the kind of candidate you need for the role. And consider a person’s soft skills as much as hard skills – it’s the ‘out of the box’ applicants that are often your best secret weapon.

Trudy Gilbert is the founder of www.rubyradar.com.au and the CEO of Elite Introductions.

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