5 hacks every startup founder should know when recruiting key people


Waqar is the CEO and founder of Asia-based Sutra Services, which runs SutraHR and the startup- and SME-oriented SutraLite. He’s an engineer by degree but an entrepreneur by heart. Follow him on LinkedIn.

tips for startups recruiting new people

So you went from holding an idea in your mind to turning it into a business for real. Now you have a good team, you have reached certain scales, and the demand for your product has never been more evident. You’ll have your mind on taking the product to the next level. This time around, you can afford some expertise (well, almost). You’ll look to hire someone who’s been there, done that.

As your own boss, the startup founder can do a lot to recruit key personnel that a corporate HR manager or recruitment specialist cannot do. Use these areas to your advantage. Here are five tips:

1. Making an offer the candidate can’t refuse

While an HR manager’s approach to the prospective candidate’s profile is designation oriented, the founder‘s approach is focused on return-on-investment (ROI). An entrepreneur can identify the candidate’s potential in contributing to the organization’s growth and even decide to offer a higher compensation to bring this talent onboard. Also, the founder knows the cash-in-bank details and equity structure like the back of his or her hand. So a founder can ensure that the investor’s interest is protected. That puts him in a better position to relay the information and make an enticing offer to the candidate. The HR manager may not be able to do so as efficiently.

2. Aligning the candidate’s ambition with the startup’s goals

Such converging of interests helps quantify the expectations of both the candidate and the business. The founder is the flag-bearer of the startup’s vision and goals. The HR manager may not convey the vision and objectives of the company as clearly as the founder can, more so when it comes to merging them with the candidate’s personal targets. Also, while the HR manager looks for a person to fit into a role, the founder may create a role if he finds the right person for the business. Such authority does not lie with the HR manager.

3. Hitting it off on the right note

The founder, unlike the HR manager, can judge the suitability of the candidate in the startup from the way he or she negotiates. Secondly, at the end of the day, the candidate will be working closely with the founder in all regards. It is important for the founder to meet the potential newcomer and see if they hit it off. A healthy chemistry between the two is essential. An HR manager may not be able to foresee the candidate’s compatibility with the management team.

See: Don’t PANIC, find a mentor

4. Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth

Having built it from scratch, the founder knows the throb of the company like no HR manager ever could. He will have the best answers to erase the candidate’s doubts and apprehensions. A direct dialog between the talent and founder also gives the former a sense of importance. The same cannot be evoked when the HR manager is the candidate’s closest contact in the organization.

5. The finishing stroke

By this stage, the candidate would already be an important investment to you. The founder building a relationship with the newcomer can have a big influence on that person – far more so than a candidate who just talks to the HR manager. The personal influence that a persuasive founder can have over a candidate’s decision to join undeniable.

While the HR manager or recruitment agency can identify the right candidate for key positions, closing the deal is a task at which the founder can excel. It can be compared to finding the right person for marriage. Parents and dating/matrimonial sites can only go as far as finding a suitable person for you, but the sparks will only fly between you and that person – and that will determine whether the marriage can take place.

Hopefully these tips can save a startup from spending significant capital and still ending up with the wrong key person.

Editing by Steven Millward
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