NEF June Forum - Ten Tips in Hiring Critical Employees

The New Enterprise Forum June panel was all about what to watch out for in hiring critical staff for startups. The panelists were: Jeff Mason, CEO of Groundspeed, Bill Crane, CEO of Industry Star, Steve Schwartz, CTO of Genomenon, and Stew Nelson, CEO of Mayasil, LLC. Each of the panelists had many hiring ‘war stories’ to share. So, what did they have to say?

Here are 10 tips summarized by our moderator Helen Ewing, President of The Ewing Group, LLC:

  1. Take your time in hiring people who will be fulfilling critical roles in your organization. There is no average time on how long the process should take. Just be sure to interview several candidates and vet them through your network.
  2. Sometimes, you have to hire several employees all at once. In that case, do as much vetting as is reasonable up to and including asking your current employees in order to make better hiring decisions.
  3. Use personality tests to get an idea of how a candidate will fit within your company. Knowing the personality types of your current employees helps in finding others who will be able to blend in and get the work done without constant supervision.
  4. If a new hire is not completing tasks the way you think they should, take the time to find out why. Review expectations, and re-evaluate goals as a way to determine how realistic they are and what can be done to correct the situation.
  5. Listen to your instincts, if a new hire is not working out, give them a second chance. Do not ignore confronting a new hire because it is uncomfortable. If you feel they are not working out, chances are that your other employees know it too. Keeping a non-performer can negatively impact those around them and can hurt your company.
  6. Even though your company is a startup, maintain employee files for each employee to document expectations and performance to those expectations. Having these files is not only helpful in documenting achievements, but they are also helpful in documenting when goals are not met that result in a firing. Sometimes, companies are sued in firing employees. Having the right documentation is key to winning those suits.
  7. As a startup, compensating critical hires can be harder. The employees you want are already working for other larger companies. What you may not know is that they may not be happy at those other companies. Your startup can offer them more control over the projects they work on and a greater sense of contributing to the bottom line. Money is not everything so do not underestimate what your startup has to offer.
  8. To find employees to hire for critical positions, use your network and the network of trusted people you know. This will help you more easily find quality people without having to wade through hundreds of resumes from job boards.
  9. Some employees take longer to fit in with your startup than others. Keep an open mind, and communication channels to make the learning curve easier. Employees appreciate employers who take the time to develop them and become loyal to that employer.
  10. Hiring people is more of an art than a skill. There are many subjective elements involved and you will not always make the best decision. It is inevitable that hiring mistakes will happen. A wise employer recognizes this and seeks to make timely corrections for the well-being of the company.