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On Startup Recruitment: Q & A With Aminul Islam, Director, Human Resources, 23Degree

This is the 4th installment of our weekly column on startup HR entitled ‘Startup HR 101′ by M Murshed Haider, FCMI of optiMA HR Solutions. Find the outline piece here & previous installments here, here & here.

In the earlier articles, we discussed about the recruitment process, mistakes to avoid and some useful tips on recruitment. In this article we are going to share a case study – real life scenario of a Bangladeshi startup named 23Degree.

23Degree is an IT enabled company providing services related to architectural visualization and graphic design for its global clients. Their services include floor plan rendering, interior and exterior animation, 3D brochure, 3D models for games & interior objects and so on. On last Thursday I met with Mr. Aminul Islam, Director, Human Resources of 23Degree and we had a very interesting discussion on various startup recruitment issues that he had to deal with over the last one year. He was quite spontaneous in answering all of my questions that I was interested to know for Future Startup readers.

M Murshed Haider: Can you please tell me how many resources (people) you had at the beginning and how many people you have now?

Aminul Islam: We started with 5 resources (people) in 2013 and currently having 18 full time resources with potential to grow even at faster pace. We might need to add more firepower in our team soon. If everything goes according to the plan, we may end up to 30 full time resources by the end of 2014.

That’s a really great going, I must say! What were the sources of these resources? Have you used any job portal or newspaper advertisement to get all these CVs?

Not really! Being a startup, our aim was to save as much money as possible. Initially we used our personal sources to get some of the guys. We also used social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. Some of Facebook groups were really helpful for us. Moreover, we found a list of very good candidates that were part of ‘The IDB-BISEW IT Scholarship Project’. So, overall, we didn’t need to spend a penny on job posting.

That’s nice to know. What are positions you’ve mostly hired for so far?

So far we have recruited a good number of 3D Artists of different levels, graphic designers and also some admin support stuffs.

I’d like to know more about your recruitment process. Have you followed a pre-determined recruitment process from the CV sorting to the hiring?

We had certain criteria in our mind while we were short listing the candidates’ CVs. We spent good amount of time for each candidate during the initial telephone interview because we wanted to make sure that the candidates we call for face to face interview have got certain level of skills.

During the face to face interviews, we spent good amount of time with the candidates whom we found potential. Being a startup, we hardly could afford to make any hiring mistake, so I was extra cautious while selecting the candidates.

We chose some of the candidates after the face to face interview. However, for the candidates I had doubt, we gave them some technical task to handle. They were asked to design something based on our instruction and also to explain how they did it once they brought the work in.

These steps helped us immensely in finalizing the selection of resources. I’m not saying that our recruitment process is 100% perfect but it worked for us. Except for one or two, most of our recruitments were quite good.

Have you looked for the relevant skills and experiences?

Those were our basic requirement criteria but we didn’t look for the skills and experience only. Some of the candidates showed great attitude although they lacked the exact skills that we were looking for. However, we found them to be really potential and hence, gave them opportunity to prove themselves. Today I’m happy to say that they didn’t disappoint me so far.

What are the major challenges you faced so far while recruiting people?

One of the major challenges was to match the salary expectation for some of the very good candidates. Being a startup, we couldn’t offer much in terms of financial benefits. There was at least couple of guys whom we’d love to get in our team. However, they were already working for some other companies and were more interested in getting higher pay that we couldn’t afford at that stage.

This is a common problem for most of the startups. Any thought on how this sort of challenge can be handled?

Yes, although we couldn’t hire some of the candidates due to the salary mismatch, we were still able to hire few others as we openly discussed with them about our future plan and the variety of projects that they would get the opportunity to work on. At 23Degree, our resources get tremendous opportunity to learn new tools and techniques, so everyone gets ample opportunity to sharpen their skills and learn new things.

I think startups need to discuss openly regarding the challenges and future plans to attract the good people as better candidates usually like to be challenged.

How difficult it was to find the people with same set of skills that you were looking for?

Finding candidates with right set of skills is always a big challenge. In case of 23Degree, I had to adjust my expectation level at times. It’s hard to get the exact match but we were able to come across the candidates who were close to what we were looking for. To me, recruitment is a continuous process. You have to keep your eyes open and try to get hold of people with the same set of skills and attitude that you are looking for.

In terms of recruitment, have you made any mistake that you regret?

Yes. Once we needed couple of guys to start a project immediately. So, we hired a guy without going through the entire recruitment process which turned out to be a wrong decision, later on. We should’ve avoided short circuiting the recruitment process because sometimes the cost of these kinds of mistakes is quite big. We were lucky that we didn’t end up losing that project.

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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