When you’re starting up a new business, you have to get the aspects which are fundamental for success in place. A clear and realistic business plan, adequate funding, an effective marketing strategy are, of course, essential. But once the business is operating, it will be the team you select which will define whether it meets its potential for long term survival and growth.
Whether or not you’ve had the experience of recruiting in the past, it’s clear that attracting and keeping the right start-up team presents unique challenges and opportunities. What are the key factors to consider, and which tools can help you select the right people?
One difference between creating a start-up team, and a traditional recruitment scenario, is that you are far freer. Established companies have a defined organizational structure. Typically, someone leaves; the role is filled by someone with a similar skill level.
As an entrepreneur, though, you get to create unique roles based on the contribution they make to the business. However, poor hiring decisions can have far greater implications.
Find the right balance
One mistake is to select people who mirror you in terms of personality or approach to work. To understand the different roles people take on in a team (in terms of their behavior, not their job description) have a look at the work of Dr. Meredith Belbin. He identified 9 behavioral roles, or ‘team types’ such as ‘Shaper’ ‘Completer Finisher’, ‘Specialist’ and ‘Monitor Evaluator’.
Each type will contribute something different to a team. Each type has strengths and weaknesses. Considering the part each candidate is likely to play can help to ensure a balanced team. For example, a team overloaded with highly creative ‘Plant’ types, will generate lots of great and original solutions. However, without a ‘Completer Finisher’ element, there’s a danger that none of their innovative ideas will be realized in practice.
Find the right working styles
An interview is such an artificial situation. It can be hard to get to know a candidate in the short time available. Even experienced recruiters make significant mistakes and may choose someone who isn’t the right fit for a particular role.
Is there an effective short-cut to gaining insight into the way a candidate is likely to respond to the culture and pressures of a start-up? One option is to ask those on your short-list to complete an online psychometric profile. Choose a proven model, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which has been in use for decades and subjected to in-depth validation.
The MBTI identifies 16 basic personality styles and offers insights into their preferred working environment, how he or she will respond to stressors, and likely motivators. For example, an INTJ personality type, or a ‘conceptual planner’ can be an extremely valuable addition to a start-up team. They can be described as ‘calm, consistent, and dependable’, and they put ‘ideas into action, often quickly organizing people and resources to reach their goals’.
However, they may also ‘find procrastination and disorganization stressful’. While an INTJ candidate can be a great asset, it might also be worthwhile exploring in detail how they’ll handle the possibly unstructured working atmosphere of a start-up.
Other well-known tests, such as Thomas International, also provide in-depth reports and even team analyses, so choose one which offers the most relevant reports for your needs.
Although there are many free resources online, ensure they’ve been subject to external validation, otherwise, they could prove to be a false economy .and contribute to poor hiring decisions which will be expensive in the long run.
Clarify your expectations
One of the challenges for a start-up is defining essential job roles and creating job descriptions. Traditional job descriptions typically list each task the holder is responsible for – they help candidates understand what your culture is like, what your priorities are, and what will be expected of them.
However, with a start-up, it’s often the case that tasks aren’t clearly defined and roles are more fluid.
When creating your first job descriptions, there are a number of tools you can use to help you. O*Net, a free resource created by the US government, contains several tools and a whole databank of detailed job descriptions. These can serve as a great starting point, but you’ll need to use your creativity to ensure the ones you create really communicate your ideal culture and the behaviors you’ll be looking for.
To build and grow an amazing start-up, you’ll need the right mix of people and skills around you. Using these hacks will help you make the right hiring decisions and help ensure that the right people find, and contribute to your success.