How different is hiring for Start-ups?

By Aditya Mishra | March 2, 2019

Michale Jordan said, “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation”.
Founders have lived many such moments in their lives. Start-ups bring an idea into life; they combine passion, determination and courage while architecting a platform for the idea to blossom. They suffer from a variety of handicaps right from finding the people, finance, infrastructure to regulatory compliance and markets. Let’s talk about recruiting now!

Competence or Attitude – what’s more important?

It’s a no-brainer that one needs both of them in large doses. As life is, one doesn’t get the perfect combination every time. One can wait for the right match until the right person is found. However, many founders are in a hurry to get their platform come alive and hence cannot wait for the ideal fit to come by. So, they settle for the next-best. What’s more important in this situation – competence or the attitude?
Some founders choose skills and competencies over attitude, while many others prioritise attitude-match over skill-match. Organizations succeed when a number of things come together and operate in harmony. It is critical that the team is competent and at the same time, aligned with the context of the organization. Competent workers will certainly deliver superior results in their own domain, however for the firm to succeed as an organization, it needs to orchestrate well across its various functions. Hence, attitude and cultural alignment comes first.

What should one look for?

Skills and competence can be learnt and developed if someone is willing to improve, but personality types, behavioural traits, beliefs and values aren’t easy to change. So, we need to find people who not only clear the minimum requirement of skills but demonstrate a good match with the values and beliefs of the founders.
The first set of people that the start-up attracts, lay the foundation for the future, determine the kind of talent the organization attracts in its next round of hiring and define the norms for the functioning of the organization day to day. So, it is critical that we make the first moves right.
Typically, a start-up evolves over a period of time, deals with shortage of resources, operates with lack of clarity and certainty, looks to develop the best offering to the market and keeps discovering new pathways every now and then. Our first-movers need to be people who are flexible, agile, innovative and driven towards excellence. Start-ups need to look for these qualities.

What’s the value proposition?

Barring a few trophy start-ups, others do not have a recognition as an employer brand. History stands testimony to the fact that most start-ups do not succeed. So, a start-up has a huge starting trouble. Founders have huge challenges in overcoming the threshold conditions.
Founders typically jump into developing the solution and testing their idea in the market. While these are of paramount importance, for the long-term viability of the company, they need to lay the foundation right. They have to define their values, beliefs and plan a few things in detail. Either they have to do these hands-on or get someone competent to draw these up. In the absence of these basics being defined clearly, the organization works like a building without proper plumbing and sewerage systems. Quick fixes do not work in these situations!
Every start-up has a value proposition that the founders have to articulate; anyone involved in hiring has to communicate this to a potential candidate. Secondly, the framework for assessing talent has to be clearly defined and understood. Often founders and their initial team work on parallel tracks and deploy their own understanding which may not be the ones that organization as a collective needs. Last but not the least, every start-up for it to cross the threshold, needs a certain number of people with a specific combination of skillsets to come together as a team.
Recruiting for start-ups is like an orchestra where various instruments have to play in harmony. The founders have to play the role of the conductor of the orchestra!