Always be hiring, even when you don’t have a vacancy

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People often wonder where I get new team members from and how it seems to happen so quickly and without a lot of the normal advertising and head hunting that most job hires go through.

I tend to meet a lot of people during a year, I attend startup or tech events most weeks, usually within 5 minutes I can tell if someone is going to do something special with their life. When I say special I mean something out of the ordinary from most people you meet.

How can you tell? They always seem to be working on their own special projects, testing this, making that, they are always trying something new to see what works. They tend to do things that others might find odd or can’t understand why they would bother. They seem to be making efforts over and above their peers.

They have managed to escape the regular life of the average joe, by that I mean you probably are more likely to find them working on their project instead of watching reality tv. Most of the team working on our latest project either came from a University startup competition or are heavily involved in University Student Clubs working on really interesting projects (Satellites, Robots and quadcopters).

Most people when they meet new people shake hands and walk away, maybe with a Linkedin connection or a business card.

I tend to look at interesting new people I meet in a business setting through a lens of would I like them on the team and then what do I have to do to get them on our team? If not now then sometime in the next 5 years.

In my first business we used to meet with new people and if we really liked them we would either try to make them a role or if they were already happily employed give them a card and say if you are ever considering moving call me and I will arrange an interview and try to get you into the company even if we are not hiring. But we were still very reactive only actively looking when we had a role to fill.

Now days I tend to be actively looking for new people and building relationships long before we need to employ people so that when it comes time to recruit a new team member you probably already know who you want in the position and you have already got to know them and while you still need to formalise the interview process, you probably already know that they can do what you want them to do.

It’s my opinion that if you have to rely on a job ad or a recruiter then you are only going to find someone out looking for a job right now, so you have a timing issue and as well as a marketing issue with top candidates. (I have never once used a recruiter, I think it’s lazy and bad value for money)

When launching a startup speed is critical (actually it’s critical in any business) so waiting a month while you interview candidates and then another month to get them on board is just burning cash and time, neither of which are readily available.

If you are growing quickly you need to work out how to grow your pipeline of great talent even faster, relying on job ads is not sufficient, you need to get out into the Universities, startup meetups and user groups to find people who are doing interesting work.

There is a lot to be said for building relationships with key people in these areas, they provide good referrals and recommendations, I would prefer to hire someone recommended by someone I trust than a cold response to a job ad any day of the week.

The reality is that for most startups and even many existing businesses getting great talent to work for you is challenging, the market is massively competitive and great people get their choice of projects they find interesting.

Talented people constantly have employers knocking down their door trying to hire them, why would they respond to a cold job ad for a startup they have never heard of?

Unknown startups are a risky proposition so you have to do something different to convince great people to work for you.

By starting your recruitment efforts long before you need to, you increase the number of opportunities to convince them that your startup is working on something really interesting (if it’s not interesting then you have another problem altogether).

If you are selling or marketing a product, conventional wisdom tells you that you need to get your product in front of the customer at least 2-5 times before a sale occurs. Getting great people on board is a more challenging sales role than selling to a customer so why would you think you can do it cold or with two meetings?

By socialising your company and project with prospective team members long before you need to hire, you are at least on their radar and assuming they want to discuss working with you after hearing about your project in a non job interview setting, you have a shot at convincing them that working for your project is a great idea.

Photo by downsouthsurfing



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