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7 Recruitment Mistakes Startups Should Avoid

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Jun 3, 2014

Note: This is the 2nd installment of the weekly column on startup HR entitled ‘Startup HR 101′ by M Murshed Haider, FCMI of optiMA HR Solutions. Click here to find the outline piece & here for first installment.

startup hiring mistakes
Startup hiring mistakes

Making mistakes in recruitment is not uncommon. Even established companies suffer from hiring mistakes. However, unlike a startup, those companies can afford to make a hiring mistake without significantly impacting their operations on the whole. Although startups don't have that cushion of profit to cover up a hiring mistake, there are some hard and fast hiring rules startups should follow. Here are the top seven recruitment mistakes (hiring mistakes) that your start up should avoid:

01. Avoid recruiting someone just to "help them out" or just because you know them

Some of us have loads of empathy for people who are trouble. Being a "savior" to help someone is not going to help your business at all! Instead, find someone who can add value to the company and its operations. You need to look for people who are eager and willing to go the extra mile instead of just working for their own survival. Sometimes you might hire someone you know. This means friends, ex-colleagues, family members or your own children. There must be a certain sense of objectivity and accountability in the workplace. Otherwise, you have to pay big time for this mistake.

02. Avoid rushing the recruitment process

Being the owner of a startup you may be too busy to go through the hundreds of resumes that are flooding in for your advertised positions. Moreover, following the whole process might be tiring and time consuming for you. So, after a quick telephone interview, you might jump into making an offer to someone so that s/he can start next week. SORRY, you need to go slow. First of all, you have no one to compare this person to and hence, you should take your time and make sure to narrow it down to at least five probable applicants that fit the profile well. Moreover, try to meet the candidate in person if possible, to check the fit. Finally, at least one other person from your team should interview the candidate.

03. Avoid taking someone on as a partner because you can't afford to hire him

This is one of the most common mistakes done by startups. Business might be hard enough as a sole proprietor, but bringing on a partner doesn’t give you huge advantage either, especially when you make him/her partner only because you can't afford to hire him as an employee. Startups should always remember that giving up a portion of ownership needs some serious consideration and thought.

04. Avoid looking too hard for the perfect fit

Since there are a good number of young talents who are still jobless in the market, lots of startup owners take their time while waiting to spot the ‘perfect’ fit for their open positions and often end up taking up to six or seven months before they finally recruit someone. However, remember one thing: if you find someone with at least three-quarters or more of the qualities you are looking for, just go ahead and make an offer. It’s not possible to find a perfect fit for the position(s) that you are trying to fill in. You need to polish them through training and give them some time to adapt.

05. Avoiding work samples or skipping a challenge-based interview

You should not recruit someone so easily by skipping a challenge-based interview. For example, if you are hiring a social media manager, provide them with some information and ask the candidate to compose a great ‘tweet’ on the spot. If you are hiring an accountant, give him a Balance Sheet and ask him to explain it for you. This type of challenge-based interview should be part of your screening process to judge if the candidate can do the real work.

06. Avoid recruiting someone who doesn’t understand the startup culture

Working for a startup might be stressful compared to working for some established companies. There would be a lot of action, not a lot of strategy and planning, and things change frequently. Therefore, candidates who have never been in that environment before may fail unless they are mentally prepared. So, as the owner of your startup you need to brief the candidates about the workload, job environment and other factors relevant to the job. Promise less, make them expect less and see how tough they are mentally. It can be a huge mistake to recruit someone who does not have any idea about the startup culture and job environment.

07. Avoid ignoring your gut

Sometimes you will find some candidates who look great on paper and are also recommended by someone you like and trust. But if you’re gut tells you s/he isnot a fit, thens/he isnot. Rely on your gut because most of the time the gut is right. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin group told in an interview that he has taken lots of important decisions based on his gut feeling.

Try to avoid these common mistakes during your recruitment because being a startup, you cannot afford that many.

Note: Thanks to Samantha Morshed for editing this piece. 

Image Credit: Startup.fm


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M Murshed Haider, FCMI is the co-founder & CEO of optiMA HR Solutions. He is a passionate motivational speaker and corporate coach as well.

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