Hiring? It's Best to Take Your Time.
Hiring is hard. As a new founder, you want to find the best and the brightest professionals in the field. You have hopes -- expectations, even -- of recruiting an all-star lineup of top-notch performers, innovative thinkers and valuable team players who can not only support your business but help it grow. You figure that it won’t take too long to do so, not with the talent you know is on the market. You expect the whole process to be done and over within a few weeks, maybe a month. Then reality hits.
When I was in the early stages of building Ashcroft Capital, my founding team and I spent several months in recruitment purgatory. Our desks and walls were all but papered with applications. We received thousands of resumes, conducted hundreds of phone interviews, tens of in-person screenings and turned away dozens of seemingly qualified candidates. It was a marathon, and by the time we finally crossed the finish line, we were exhausted. In the end, it took us six months to hire four people.
Now, this might seem a little over-the-top or selective at first glance, and utterly contrary to the “done is better than perfect” mentality that pervades fast-growing startups and the Silicon Valley tech scene. After all, if you’re building a business and need the people, is waiting to hire the “perfect fit” really that much better than finding someone who can perform reasonably well? Are intensive recruiting efforts truly that important when your business is so small and so new? I would argue yes.
Every hire you make constitutes a new block on the foundation for your company’s future success. If you choose a cracked one, or one who you can’t be sure will support you when you need it to, you’re not going to be able to build anything real atop it. Think of the importance that employee experience plays in company performance; if someone doesn’t have the skills and industry knowledge you need them to bring to the role, they aren’t going to deliver results.
The qualities that make a standout candidate aren't always reflected in a resume. Someone with 10 years of experience and a poor attitude will bring significantly less to the company than a hard worker with eight. According to a 2012 study from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, a high-performer can deliver 400 percent more productivity than the average worker. In contrast, other surveys show that low performers can lower overall workplace morale and set a precedent that results “in a work culture where mediocrity is accepted.” The latter situation sounds like a worst-case scenario -- a hiring outcome that most companies actively avoid, the exception to the usual trend.
It’s not. According to findings published by Eagle Hill Consulting, employers find themselves working with average or low performers 75 percent of the time, and 60 percent of surveyed company leaders report that they would rehire most or all of their current workers if given a chance. The negativity, poor corporate culture and lax efficiency implied by these statistics are striking and worrisome and constitute a clear reason for selectivity in hiring.
However, the task of hiring becomes even more complicated when founders consider the value of cultural fit. Put broadly; cultural fit is how well a potential hire can adapt to the core values, attitudes and behaviors that your company holds. This might seem shallow on the surface, but it matters a great deal in the long run. Researchers have found that employees who exemplify good cultural fit with their organization, colleagues and supervisors tend to have higher job satisfaction, longer tenure, and better job performance than those who do not.
With all this in mind, it becomes clear that the perfect candidate is a trifecta: an experienced professional, a hard worker and an excellent cultural fit. However, finding someone who meets all three benchmarks can be challenging. If you bring on someone who only has one or even two out of the three, your business will not benefit as nearly as much as it would have with a better-suited candidate. For instance, if you were to hire someone who has experience and drive but no cultural fit, they may not be able to work effectively with the team. On the flip side, if you hire someone with the right fit but less experience, they may struggle to meet achievement goals. All three qualities matter, and missing even one will impact not only a hire’s performance but the company’s potential for growth.
So yes, we took six months to hire four people, and it was worth it. The deliberation and care we took in choosing our employees helped us home in on the best of the best. We hired talented staff away from major institutions and gave them the tools they needed to apply the best practices they had learned there to our company. Our operations have become more efficient, the firm has grown, and -- not the least important -- I’ve had the time I need to step away from day-to-day operations and focus on bigger-picture projects.
The end message? Prioritize thoughtful recruiting; your business will be better for it. Below, a few tips for finding the right people.
Have a Human Resources Department
As a founder, you think that you can do everything, especially when your business is still relatively small. However, recruiting efforts can take a lot of time; in some cases, it may demand more of your day than you have to give. Regardless of how large or small your operation might be, it’s essential to have a human resource or -- to use current business slang -- a “People Operations” department. HR can work with recruiters to reach out to promising candidates directly, handle the preliminary screening and ensure that you can make high-quality hires without compromising on your other responsibilities as the company's leader.
Cast a Wide Net, But Narrow the Field
You probably won’t find every member of the team you need in your area. When we began recruiting for Ashcroft, we posted ads on LinkedIn and other, more specialized industry websites that could reach candidates across the country. However, we tempered our range with a well-detailed job description. As a result, tons of candidates were able to see the position, but only those who met our specific baseline requirements knew to apply.Related: 11 Secrets From Top Entrepreneurs on Hiring the Best Talent
Dedicate Proper Resources
Talent recruitment demands time -- and money. We allocated resources towards ad promotion and recruiter fees and dedicated hours poring over the thousands of resumes we received. The process took months, often distracting us from our usual day-to-day tasks. In the short term, the time and money we invested felt costly, but in the long run, the effectiveness of the hires we chose meant that we made back our investment tenfold.
Not all candidates are equally valuable. Take your time and find someone who will be instrumental in taking your business to a higher level. After all, why would you settle for mediocrity when you could shoot for excellence?