evaporating mythsWhen it comes to start-ups, hiring is a breeze. At least that’s the view from someone who’s never actually done it! In reality, hiring for startups can be one of the hardest recruiting jobs you ever have but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make it a little easier. Unfortunately, many of the standard truths that make sense for mainstream recruiting are actual myths when it comes to hiring for a scrappy startup culture. Here are some myths that you’d do well to ignore if you have the enviable job of hiring for a startup.

“Hire for culture, train for skills.”

We hear this all the time in corporate recruiting and for the most part it’s true. Larger corporations and even medium sized businesses have established ways of doing things and often, even corporate training programs to help new hires get off the ground. In a startup, you definitely need to hire for both cultural fit AND skills. Many startups are on a time budget. Whether bootstrapped or hungry for funding, there is often a ticking clock when it comes to getting your team up and running. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to teach advanced javascript to someone who only has basic skills. It’s a luxury that startups simply don’t have.

“Everyone is replaceable.”

This is a myth that pervades both corporate and startup culture alike. Ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone is getting into the coding education business and when developers and engineers are hard to come by, it’s easy to think that hiring the first one you find is the best way to go.

“Always hire carefully, but be extra aware that first people you hire will determine the course of your company’s evolution long after they themselves are gone.” In Rafe Needleman’s stellar Startup Series on CNet, he writes this and startups would do well to heed his advice.

“Think like a recruiter.” 

This one is a double whammy. It’s false because a lot of recruiters are putting their jobs on boards and in the competitive world of startup hiring, that’s not going to cut it. As Techstar’s David Cohen says:

“Remember that the best people are generally employed already. If you’re spending all of your time promoting your startup on job boards or events targeting new hires, you’re doing it wrong. You’re invisible. Get out there, and be part of the community.”

Of course, many of the best recruiters already know this (so, it’s not actually a myth, it’s true) but if you are recruiting for a startup, you may be new at this yourself. The best recruiters will tell you, networking and knowing the right folks makes all the difference in the world.

“Plug the holes.”

This is destructive advice for any recruiter, most of all the startup recruiter. Plugging the holes in an organization is bad because it’s reactive recruiting (doomed to fail eventually and leave you with a mishmash of talent that follows no succession or workforce plan, but that’s another blog post) but in a startup world, everything is holes! Without a proper plan to shape your talent strategy, you are effectively fighting a losing battle and creating more work for yourself in the process. Find the business’ goal (create a minimum viable product, get 50 people to sign up for the beta, build an API) and then place your positions in priority to support that.

“Tout your employer brand.”

Sure you have one, but it’s not really properly formed until you get your team, so just be honest about what you expect. The truth is, unless your startup is very different from ALL THE REST OF THE STARTUPS, whoever you hire, for whatever position, is going to have to do more than what you put on the job description and they should know that up front. So share your passion, share your vision, share your energy and share your goals, but don’t pretend that you aren’t going to share the responsibility too.

“Salary: Competitive.”

Nope. Don’t scrimp on salary and shout it from the rooftops that you pay well (as well as any other awesome perks you might offer). Competitive salary is such an overused term, even recruiters barely know what it means anymore. Smart people know what they want, and YOU want smart people.

“Find a sophisticated new system.”

When you are trying to hire the best, pay them what they’re worth, attract tons of great candidates and ensure that they fit in with the current team, that is not the time to be learning a brand new system. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of systems out there that build on standard business processes. Whether it’s email, Salesforce, spreadsheets or social media, there is a system that will work to manage your hiring. Find the one that works with your team’s comfort level.



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