Hiring: It never gets easier, but you can get better at it
By RENE LACERTE
One of the most exciting things about growing a business is the need and the capital to hire more employees. Hiring folks is an indication that you are doing something right – that there is demand for what you are building. That said, however, it is also one of the most challenging jobs a leader has.
Lots of people I talk with say “Ugh!” when the hiring question comes up. This is because hiring takes time – a lot of time – and sometimes it doesn’t show results in the near term. Companies spend millions (if not billions) on hiring, and yet sometimes we forget the basics.
Across two startups I’ve founded, Bill.com and Paycycle, my teams have hired over 500 people. Through all of that hiring, I know that while the process doesn’t get any easier, we have gotten much better at it. Here are six pieces of hiring advice that have changed our success rate when it comes to this all important task.
1. Know thyself
This statement is true both in hiring and when building your organisation. As a company grows and brings on new hires, things within the organisation begin to change. The company you run today is not the same company of tomorrow. The key is to not over-analyse the people around you, but to understand yourself and what you need to be successful instead.
When I first started hiring, I didn’t understand this. I did not place a high enough value on what I needed in an employee for them to become a better leader/executive/manager. Here’s something else I didn’t understand early on: as a company grows and the demands of the organisation change, the complementary skills a leader needs from their employees changes too.
Before hiring that next key employee, make sure to take the time and reflect on what the organisation is going to need from you to be successful and then decide what you need to deliver on those terms.
2. Know thy culture
Culture is the essence of your company. It is embedded in your DNA and if properly designed, it continues working with or without you. Often times culture is overlooked as an asset that requires intention and attention. Without culture, a company is left without a compass.
Similar to understanding your own personal needs for success, it is vital to understand what your culture needs for success. Each hire is an opportunity to develop and refine the culture you want. The culture that does the work for you while you are away. So take the time to assess the culture and be honest in your evaluation. This is your chance to change things up. Don’t miss it.
3. Create a scorecard not a job description
Create a focused understanding of what success looks like for a new hire in 30, 60, 90, 180, and 360 days. This process will help to clarify the role for you and the organisation, allowing the candidate to better understand the scope of work and what is expected of them. Surprisingly, you may find that candidates will be weeded out before you even interview them, saving time on both sides.
Relying on a job description alone is dangerous, as most of them are not specific to the company, but instead are typically functional descriptions that could work for most any company. Being clear on success changes the game when hiring.
I can’t stress this point enough.
I first learnt this from reading the book Who: The ‘A’ Method For Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It’s a brilliant crash-course in hiring that provides a powerful framework from which to make decisions.
4. Network, network, network
This is all the rage, and for good reason! It is an essential building block in developing successful careers both for first-time jobseekers and the seasoned CEO. With the level of connectedness available today, it would be a disservice to your organisation not to leverage your network when hiring.
Importantly, be dedicated about the process. Don’t just make posts on social accounts, actively seek out connections and ask for introductions instead. Hiring is the most important thing you will do to grow your company, so don’t be passive about it. Remember, it is no secret that the best hires come from the folks you know.
5. Trust your gut
In the past, many have told me you cannot trust your gut when making a hiring decision. However, in my own experience, the best hires have come about this way.
So if you have a gut reaction to an interview, check your assumptions. Probe internally so you can understand what triggered your reaction and why. Then test those points in the next interview. My experience is that gut reactions are based on data that can’t be articulated. So pay attention and trust your gut.
6. Let ’em go
After you make that hiring decision, the fun begins. Some employees you will need to manage closely and others you will just sit back and watch as they flourish. Every now and then, it won’t feel right. You will begin to wonder what to do – manage more or let them go?
I always resisted the “let them go” option because I thought it was a management failure on my part. It wasn’t until I was talking with my general counsel about whether or not to let someone go that I learnt to let go myself.
In our conversation, he said, “You know what VC’s say about the best time to let a CEO go? The first time you think of it. Same is probably true for employees.” It can be painful, but wrapped up in that statement was the wisdom of lots of people thinking hard about the decisions they had made.
I spent time thinking about this and concluded that if a little voice is starting to say “Let ’em go,” then I needed to pay attention.
When you do make that decision that it is time to part ways, be transparent about it. Explain to the person what you need to be successful and do it nicely. The important point here is to respect people and to help them understand what you need to lead. They may be disappointed but if they understand your needs, they will be able to leave on their own terms.