At Unbxd, we recently finished our first round of hiring. Considering the number of start-ups in a similar phase, we thought penning down our experience may help others going through their first hiring campaign.
Be the Brand and Culture
We discovered our culture as our own values translated into action when dealing with customers, candidates. As engineers, it is easy to overlook the softer side of building start-up teams but these are not just ideas up in the air. Attributes like open-ness, focus and respect are concrete issues that will either help your team, if present or haunt it, if absent. These individual values come into picture when handling customers, investors and their inputs and all internal and external interactions. Brand and culture generally start with writing down the values that are closer to you and things you'd like in the personality of your team mates. We did this even before we ended up writing the technical qualifications. At the same time, you do not want replicas of yourself and this means aiming for diversity. Fortunately, we were hiring enough members for our team, that it would have been easy to detect a skew in our team in terms of personality traits, education, background, etc. Brand of a 5 person start-up, as we were when started hiring, is basically a function of background and experience of the leadership and the profile of the customer base. Of course, you'll have to find a way to pitch these two elements to candidates in a convincing manner that explains why the team is positioned
And you can get it but it takes work that can be distracting. In our case, since we were also busy raising an angel round, prior to the recruitment phrase, Pavan and Prashant had worked through a range of TV interviews, magazine articles, conference presentations to build up that content. Subsequently, when we started creating the buzz around our hiring, the candidates had a ready source of information on yourstory, youtube and other sources to build a context about the company before applying.
Creating the Buzz: Try All Channels
In our naivete, we ended up going through multiple traditional channels of recruitment in the hope that at least one of them will be able to help us find the right candidates. In the process, an unforeseen consequence of engaging with many head hunters was the buzz that was created around the company. That buzz ended up attracting individuals who were motivated enough to get in touch with us directly, convince us to let them take our coding tests and show us their individual strengths.
Once we filtered the candidates on the basis of the coding tests, we had a quick phone calls with the selected ones. Even before the coding test, I'd recommend arranging a first informational call with the candidate, if only to make sure the candidate recalls having sent his/her resume to your company. If he's not sharp enough to remember or has been mass mailing resumes, he/she is probably not a great candidate to even bother taking through the tests. Testing the coding abilities is crucial because management bandwidth is crucial and cannot be wasted talking and filtering candidates over phone.
Skills are something that you write on a JD to help filter out candidates but remember that the coding test will tell you how smart that person is regardless of the language or the platform of their previous experience or knowledge. This is especially important when talking to straight-out-of-school candidates. Attitude and approach matters, sometimes more than skills in the case of freshers, and that is why it is important to leave the JD out of the picture when judging smarts and attitude. It helps to look for traits like focus, discipline, attention to detail, how communicative the person is, during the in-person round.
The financials are something you have to determine before the recruitment exercise begins. The number of hires will be determined not just by the money you have raised but also the product pipeline and the frequency of the releases. You also have the option of reconfiguring the number of candidates based on salaries and experience, where higher experience generally costs more. While having the potential of contributing significantly, experience also brings its own concerns of rigidity in view of technology and preference of platforms and development frameworks. Fresh talent, on the other hand, costs less but needs more guidance and supervision. Sometimes, the supervision required can be an overhead and needs to be accounted for in the leadership's management bandwidth, especially those leadership teams which focus more on sales and business development.
Shehjar Tikoo, the General-do-it-all at Unbxd Inc
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