How to Not Hire a Jerk

Ambitious founders face hiring extra talent sooner or later. If your sphere is abundant with available talent, hiring can be enjoyable, satisfying and game-changing. However, some start-ups and small business find the task costly, disappointing or even detrimental to success.

“If you make the wrong decision on a hire this can really affect the whole dynamic of your team along with the attitude and general atmosphere of the businesses. In a start-up, each individual within the business is so visible and it is essential that all steps are taken to maximise getting the right fit, first time,” cautions Alex Dover, Director at Prism Digital Technology & IT Recruitment Consultancy.

Hiring the right person can lighten your workload, open doors of opportunity and help stretch targets. Which is why Huckletree canvassed some expert opinion. We’ve tips to help bolster founders’ confidence when handpicking new hires and ease nerves for the leap into the talent pool (however shallow or deep the pool in your location or niche).



7 steps to hiring a jamb not a jerk:

1. Slow down and gauge cultural fit

Alex Dover recommends involving as many of your team in the interview process as possible. “I always make sure that I get all of my team to meet every new hire. I even involve members of our sister companies to try and best gauge cultural fit. Often my colleagues will uncover useful information that I have channeled in my interview questioning.”

Frankie McSwiney, Head of Business Development UK at Jobbio, also stresses the importance of taking as much time as you can and never rushing into hiring someone.

“Too often we feel we need to hire fast. Look for a cultural fit, especially for early stage startups, where the work life balance is blurred. Cultural fit is the difference between having a team you can trust rather than team that simply works for you from 9-5.”

2. Look to your team and network

Frankie reminds founders to look for talent close to home: “As the startup grows, people's skills sets are sometimes better suited to other areas of the business. Don’t be afraid to start by looking within your company, rather than always attracting new candidates.”

“And, remember to reach out to you own network,” he continues.

“By using your own network and asking your contacts for recommendations you can be sure the candidate has already been vetted. This carries much less risk for a startup looking to hire.” 

3. Social media checks

Check your candidates’ online and social media presence, and don’t feel bad about doing it, recommends Alex.

“You would much rather know if your potential new hire was posting unsavoury content online before being informed by one of your customers. On a more positive side to this due diligence, most businesses relish an employee who engages with their audience via social media.”

4. Reference checks are best

Alex shares his strategy: “Get your interviewees to fill in a very brief application form before the interview. This must include 2 employment / professional references.  Explain that these will be contacted as part of the interview process.”  

“It is also useful to refer to these references during the interview, to gage the relationship the applicant had with their former employers. Good relationships with open dialogue with their former managers is always an encouraging indicator.”

5. Establish core competency questions

“By having the same set of questions that you can give to each candidate is really useful in making comparisons between applicants.  You don’t need many, we only have five set questions we ask each interviewee,” says Alex.

Where to start? Frankie recommends looking ahead to streamline roles and responsibilities.

“Make sure when you hire the person they can not only grow your startup but can also widen their skill set and take on more responsibilities. Startups require small and lean teams, not only because people are expensive, but also because they need to adapt and change direction quickly. See how many roles you can amalgamate before growing out teams.”

“For example, begin with one sales executive or team before splitting into inbound and outbound departments.”

6. Meet informally 

Don’t be afraid to go for a drink with your potential hire pre-offer, suggests Alex.

“I don’t mean in a sleazy way, and certainly this would be at the very final interview stage. What better way to get to know your potential future colleague than over a drink?”

“Especially if you have a culture that involves socialising, which from my experience most start-ups relish. I also find it useful to see if they are a craft beer fan like me!”

7. Hire people with more skills than you have

“Look for people who are experts in their fields, especially in areas where you need more support”, Frankie concludes. 

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