Hiring Tips For Greenhorns

Hiring sounds great--your company is growing! But in fact, it makes you want to beat your head against a wall. Here are 3 tips for those new to the process to help smooth the way.

For the first time ever, I'm looking for new talent to join our team full time. In other words, I'm spending a lot of time looking at resumes, interviewing, saying no, and banging my head against a wall.

That's because hiring is hard--really hard. It's counterintuitive in all the strangest ways, and you spend months spinning your wheels before anything pays off. But in the process, I've learned some important things about hiring for culture fit, searching the right talent pools, and getting clear on the role the person should fill.

1. Look for excitement.
It takes me five seconds to look at a resume, profile, or portfolio and decide if I want to interview someone. Within 15 minutes of the conversation, I know whether or not I want to introduce them to the rest of the team. I only got to this point when I realized that there is only one real question I need to answer about a person at each step: Am I excited?

Looking back on every person we've said no to in team interviews, I realize in hindsight that I wasn't excited during my first screen, and I just wasted everyone's time. And for every person we've made an offer to, it was the opposite from the moment I came into contact with them. The interview was natural and I spent more time selling them than the other way around. I left the meeting or call thinking, "I gotta work with this guy."

2. Go fishing where your line runs deepest.
We have a competitive advantage in university recruiting because we're still university-aged. We understand the college landscape and our company stands out as an opportunity to work with your peers, rather than for someone several decades your senior. Many companies say they care about your talent over experience/grades and offer opportunities for advancement. We can actually back these claims up: no one currently employed by Fetchnotes has a college degree, I have literally never looked at GPA on a resume, and one of our summer interns has become a critical part of our core team.

Recruiting is about having a great story to tell, and we believe that we have a great story to tell ambitious college grads and students. This channel comes with some trade-offs in experience, but it's the only channel that has delivered a consistent flow of people I'm excited about.

Whatever it is, find a channel where your company can create an unfair advantage.

3. Start hiring to figure out what you want.
I learned three important things when we began looking for a back-end engineer who could take a more senior leadership role on our team. That person is going to be (a) extremely expensive; (b) impossible to find; and (c) an exponential culture risk. Through this process, we learned it was better for us to promote leadership from within and architect our infrastructure to minimize its reliance on back-end, and avoided a potential disaster.

The same thing happened with design. We know we need to make design a core competency of our company, and it's just not there yet. At the same time, I've never worked with a full-time designer before. I started looking for graphic designers, thinking the hole in our team's capabilities is more aesthetic than UX. After a lot of interviews, I realized how detrimental it would be to hire someone to make things look pretty without understanding how to make intuitive experiences.

Now that I've told you about how many mistakes I've made...did I mention Fetchnotes is hiring?

--Alex Schiff is the founder and chief executive officer of Fetchnotes, which makes productivity as simple as a tweet. It's hiring front-end engineers and product designers; email alex(at)fetchnotes(dot)com to apply. Prior to Fetchnotes, Alex was the vice president of Benzinga and a student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization composed of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library, and email lessons.

[Image: Flickr user Paul Goyette]

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