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5 Key Components Of The Startup Recruitment Process

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Jun 10, 2014

Note: This is the 3rd installment of our 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 & here for first & 2nd installment.

Hiring right people is crucial for any startup. I loved this quote from Omer Hamoui (Founder of ADMOB): “Never, never, never, hire people with [a poor] attitude. You will regret it.” This is why recruitment process of your startup plays a vital role to root out the very best candidates. Here is a guideline on ATS vs CRM for the startup recruitment process that your startup can follow.

CV Sorting

Startup Recruitment Process
Startup Recruitment Process

The first key component is sorting the CVs for next stage. Previous work experience, previous employers, skill set of the candidate, education background and extra-curricular activities are the critical parts that need to be scrutinized carefully. Spelling errors (almost an automatic “thanks but no thanks”), lots of short hops between companies (not a good sign), roles and responsibilities of earlier jobs (how much is matching) should be analyzed before you go to the next phase.

While rejecting applicants, better to email all of them -every single one. At Hireology, Morgan Gleasman, Recruiting and Selection Services Coordinator, says “we make sure we have personal interactions with people, not automated responses.” She always follows up with candidates within 24 hours to let them know what the next steps are in the hiring process.

Screening Candidates

Screening candidates through phone call is mostly about verifying the validity of candidates’ resume (i.e. how much did they exaggerate?), testing for role fit (i.e. do they understand the role, and is that a good fit?) and testing for cultural fit (i.e. do you think you’ll get along well?). It’s always interesting to see what people talk about and what they care about.

You need to have a set of questions so that you can compare all the candidates how everyone answered to some of the questions like:

  • Tell me about (pick something from the CV)
  • What did you learn at [pick company name from the CV]?
  • What kind of role you are looking for in a new company?
  • Tell me about the [pick a project the candidate worked on]
  • What type of environment do you expect?

Some of the candidates do lie on their resume and drastically overstate their contributions to things that were successful. A candidate without any questions is most likely a disinterested candidate.

Once screening is complete, you need to decide if the candidate should come in for the face to face interviews. Again, for the rejected candidates, you should notify them through email or phone call.

Face To Face Interview (First Round)

Face to face interview helps knowing a lot about the candidate. You need to have a list of fairly standard questions (with some deviation based on the specific person you are speaking to) and spend minimum 30 minutes or more talking to get idea about him and his skills and expertise. Listen more than talking.

You need to keep the following things in mind:

  • Include right kind of people in the interview panel
  • Interview panel should know the scope of interview and the entire appointment process
  • Develop the questionnaire after identifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be assessed
  • Develop the assessment form
  • Conduct interviews according to your pre-defined plan but be flexible in asking additional relevant questions based on candidate’s reply
  • Calculate scores of every individual by assigning an independent rating
  • Conduct an informal discussion with the panel
  • Select the right candidate based on the scores calculated

Written Test For Technical Position

It’s not possible to judge a candidate completely only through a short face to face interview, especially for the technical positions like programmer, designer and so on. Hence, written test can be a way to evaluate your candidate regarding the core skills that you are looking for. You need to use your creativity in designing the written test questionnaire. This test should not be like our academic exams.

Add some real life scenarios and find out how the candidate approaches towards it. For example, for a marketing executive position, you can ask the candidate to demonstrate how s/he would describe a product to the customer or how s/he would approach to get a telephone appointment etc. It’s more about the approach of the candidate rather than solving the problem to the perfection.

Face To Face Interview (Final round)

You can keep one more round of interview with your other partner or with other Directors just to get different feedback from them. In other way around, first interview can be done by someone with technical background and the final one can be done by someone who can evaluate the behavioral aspects of the candidate or vice versa. Often, keeping an interview with few members of your team might turn out to be an interesting one. A lot of employees stay at a particular job because of their co-workers, even if they don’t like the job, the company or their boss. So, it is important for people to have bonding with their co-workers.

It’s very important that you “Sell” Your Startup to the potential candidates. It’s easy to forget that an interview actually works both ways — the candidate is also assessing your startup as a place to work. This is why you need to show your passion for your startup, outline the challenges that you face (top candidates like to be challenged) and invest time in building a dynamic team.

Company culture is important, both in the recruiting process and for employee happiness, so you need to openly discuss wit the candidates about the sort of activities that you do as a team and how s/he feels about those.

It’s extremely hard to recruit the right people for your startup. Timing is very important. If someone isn’t ready to make the commitment needed, it’s better to find out beforehand.

Obviously, it is not possible to be 100% successful in recruiting – some hires just won’t work out. But you can reduce your risk significantly if you have these 05 key components in your recruitment process.

Image Credit: Jer Thorp, CC image


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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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