Anyone who has had to hire people knows the sheer quantity of decisions that must be made before a contract is sent out, and a new starter is accepted into the fold. As entrepreneurs, we are also aware of the added pressure associated with doing this at an early stage. Everyone must fill a specific role, bring something new to the table and help bring our company along in its next steps.
Why is it, then, that we automatically look to fill the archetypal positions other companies have? Why do we follow the rule book and make hires according to industry standards, instead of making our own paths and inventing the positions we need to fill? We are, after all, running disruptive startups that bring new ideas into the world with the aim of shaking up and changing our respective industries.
One of the turning points for Tonara was when the decision was taken to hire a position exclusively concerned with the integration of music in everything we do. Thus was born our CMO, or Chief Music Officer. Below are some of the strategies we followed to ensure we balanced between creativity and professionalism when hiring outside of the box.
Define your need.
As a company, what are you lacking for your next stage in development? Answering that question requires an honest appraisal of each current member of staff and how they fit into your goals for the future.
The more specific you can be, the better. There will be a position that can fill this space, and it may be that this falls within the norm. If, however, this disparity is in an area that is not necessarily within your central focus as a business (we were building a revolutionary technology, but we needed someone who fully inhabited the music world), there is a strong chance the role will fall outside of standardized job descriptions.
Set specific objectives.
Sometimes, breaking the rules can create chaos. Avoid that by making your own rules, and stick to them. Write a job description for your ideal candidate, without worrying about any of the normal prerequisites. Green & Blacks’ “Chocolate Taster” has no need for knowledge of Microsoft Office, but they do need to be a member of the small slice of the population with a freakishly acute sense of smell and taste.
It’s also important to look for someone who is a member of the community you and your company are trying to be a part of. Our CMO didn’t need an MA in Computer Science, but his DMA from the prestigious Julliard School, plus the fact that he was a world-class performer and a teacher of classical music, meant he was intimately involved in the industry we were attempting to access, impact and disrupt. That gave him invaluable insight to impart as a member of our team, and gave us continuous access to an inside look at what happens in the industry we operate in.
Finding the right person.
Once you have finalized the description of the new role, the next challenge is finding the right person. Start by looking into your own circles. Personal recommendations and referrals are more likely to yield the right candidate, especially if you’re looking to fill an unusual position. Above all, however, make sure that you are looking for someone whose DNA fits with that of your company.
Particularly for a small company with challenges and big goals ahead of them, the personality of a new hire is just as, if not more important than, the specific skill set they bring to the table. Look for someone whose personality not only fits with your company, but adds something intangible, but crucial, to the overall atmosphere and outlook.
As startups, innovation and creativity is in our souls. That being said, it’s critical that when you hire outside the box, you’re actually filling a much needed gap in the current roles in your company. While our creativity and ability to disrupt the norm is often seen as a positive by investors, they can also easily get turned off by a perception that company management are unprofessional in their hiring practices. Who you choose to bring in to your company speaks volumes about the kind of company you are planning to build. Make sure every hire, not just the unconventional ones, reflects that.