5 steps to hiring top talent when you’re just a start-up
Tae HaeNahm, Co-founding Managing Director of Storm Ventures
Finding a candidate who understands your market and mission and who fits your company’s culture is a challenge even for big name corporations with huge HR departments and perks to offer. For small businesses, with management teams that have no experience in recruiting, it’s a minefield.
In my experiences as an investor in start-ups, these are the top five questions that superstar candidates want to be satisfied with before they say yes to your offer.
Follow these steps and you’ll increase your chances of closing the deal.
1: Explain your compelling vision in just one slide.
Sharing a compelling vision is critical. It needs to be big and earth-changing: how the company can disrupt the entire industry. If superstars don’t see a compelling vision, they’ll turn to other offers instead.
Why is it so important to explain the compelling vision in one PowerPoint slide? (Or two sentences, if you’re not showing a presentation.) If the vision takes more than one slide to explain, it isn’t simple enough for the company to execute and market. Ideally a CEO should share a simple and compelling vision that the other interviewers can then repeat and amplify. Then the candidate knows there is consistency among the team and therefore that the company is going places.
This answers the candidate’s question: is this a big opportunity
2: Show that the company can execute at a scale.
If the candidate is experienced and ambitious, they will want to know that a start-up company can execute its mission.
Demonstrating execution potential is much harder than selling your vision. Proven executives know that success requires great, effective execution and most will have worked on successful teams and failed teams.
If you want to prove to the candidate that your company is really going somewhere you need to prove it can execute goals. That requires each business department to have a clear understanding of:
- The CEO’s goals
- The key metrics for tracking progress toward those goals
- The required resources (headcount and budget) to achieve those goals
- The required support from the other executives to achieve those goals
This answers the candidate’s question: will my job be worthwhile
3: Check and then assert that the company is right for the candidate
Remember not all companies are the right fit for all candidates. This doesn’t mean that there is a problem with either the company or the candidate but being clear on your culture helps both sides work in harmony and ultimately be more productive.
While goals are the “what” the team needs to do,culture drives “how” the team executes against the goals.
Culture creates a shared understanding for how a company makes decisions, big and small. A common culture enables a company to scale execution by guiding its team to make organizationally consistent, day-to-day decisions in a decentralized way. You should be able to define the company’s culture simply and concisely in one page. This will help every interviewer provide the same answer.
This answers the candidate’s question: Is this the right company for me?
4: Make sure every interviewer provides consistent and complete answers.
Experienced candidates will ask the same questions to each interviewer. The interviewers should provide complete and consistent answers to show that the company is headed in the same direction. Major variances in the answers raise a red flag and suggest a misaligned team. Incomplete answers also suggest an inexperienced CEO or team. Each member of management should strive to provide the same answers to a candidate’s questions as the CEO.
This answers the candidate’s question: Do I believe in the CEO?
5: Offer fair compensation package that shows it rewards performance
Top talent by definition can always justify a higher compensation package.
But the figures need to be consistent with the market and company’s budget and fair when compared to other members of the team of a similar level. Explaining all this is more important than the actual compensation package.
It’s helpful if you can incorporate something in the package that rewards performance – shares if they are senior management as this gives them an incentive to do well and in a small business there’s much more chance of quick growth. Or commission, if they are in a more junior role. This gives them a sense of ownership. Talented candidates with lots of energy are likely to view this as an exciting challenge.
This answers the candidate’s question: Is the compensation fair?
Tae HaeNahm is Co-founding Managing Director of Storm Ventures, a VC firm investing in enterprise start-ups. He is author of the book series Survival to Thrival: Building the Enterprise Start-up.