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The best hiring advice for founders

Maynard Webb’s weekly advice column offers practical wisdom on how to hire the best people. The short answer? Always be recruiting.

The best hiring advice for founders
[Source images: Jollanda/iStock; Jiripravda/iStock; FedBul/iStock]

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. What are insights you’ve discovered on the hiring process you wish you knew earlier?

—Founder of a growing startup

Dear Founder,

You must always be recruiting. That may sound obvious, but it’s so rarely done. That’s because so many people view it as a task they don’t like, or are not good at, or one that they think someone else owns.

This may be tangential, but it reminds me of how people say they don’t like fundraising or asking for money, but founders must always be fundraising if they want to grow a startup. Similarly, if you are successful, you must always be recruiting and adding new people.

It’s a fallacy to think there is something so important that you simply can use an excuse that you are not good at it. Instead, it’s time to build a muscle around it and get over the excuses. Acknowledge the importance of recruiting, and get good at it—better yet, get fabulous at it.

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How do you do that? Find one to two potential candidates (internally or externally) for every key role.

Q. How can I avoid mistakes in hiring?

Dear Founder,

That’s a tricky question. I have made my share of mistakes. The best way to make an informed decision is to try to get to know the candidates well. Things you should consider:

Ask them for their backstory—the long version. Learn about troubles they had growing up, challenges they’ve overcome.

Spend time together. You can’t make a decision based on one interaction, so plan several opportunities to get together. Hang factor matters a lot, but relationships are not built based on who is the most entertaining. Ultimately, it’s about feeling proud of the contributions you make when you are together.

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It’s not about finding people who are like you—that gets you into trouble. A lot of times, people hire people who look and seem like them. Instead look for people who are different. You’ll need to make sure to hire well-rounded and capable teams. Get to know candidates with diverse and varied backgrounds, and be open about the job and what it will require.

Make sure they can bring two to three other people with them. (That means that they work well with and inspire others, but also bear in mind this could lead to creating insular cultures, so as always, keep an eye on diversity and inclusion.)

Keep the whole lifecycle in mind. Sometimes you can have a great hire, but then they become disenchanted. Figure out how to keep people motivated and engaged. They key is fixing any issues quickly and focusing on top performers, not just bottom performers. Sometimes, unfortunately, some people don’t grow with a company, and they need to go. If you’ve done everything you can and nothing has changed, let them go.

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