Five Tips For Hiring At Your Startup
Our team at TutorMe has grown more than 400% since the beginning of 2020. In making the transition from startup to growth-stage company, we’ve been hiring across the board. Due to the increase in demand for tutors caused by the school closures around the country, we’ve needed to bring on new people as quickly as we can. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from balancing that need for speed with the long-term goal of building a solid, mission-driven foundation for the company.
1. At an early-stage startup, every hire has a big impact.
In our early hires, we focused on finding people with a positive attitude and a real desire to be part of our mission to level the educational playing field for all students — and that takes time. On the flip side, you don’t want to take too long and potentially lose solid candidates.
When you’re a startup with five or six employees, hiring the wrong person can be devastating for your business and your team’s morale. As CEO, I’ve had to temper my excitement about particular candidates, especially when we’ve been in a rush to send out an offer. Instead, we’ve made it a point to go the extra mile by conducting multiple interviews, checking references and giving applicants take-home work samples to complete.
2. Take-homes show you how people really think.
We’ve recently added a dedicated HR team, which was a big step in our growth. This has allowed us to create a seamless hiring process, which begins with recruitment via LinkedIn and other online platforms. Once we’ve narrowed down the applicant pool, it’s extremely important to us that all candidates speak to multiple people on the team. Through those interviews and checking references, we can pretty quickly determine if someone is qualified for the job, but what really shows us how a candidate thinks is their performance on the various take-home assessments we give them.
Take-homes can be anything from personality tests to work samples. When we were hiring SEO analysts, for example, we gave them a landing page from our website and asked, “How would you go about changing this page?” These take-homes can require several hours to complete, so when applicants do them well, we know that they’re truly dedicated to the work we’re doing.
We’re passionate about TutorMe, and we want team members who share that passion, along with the desire to learn things and improve themselves. That’s something you can’t really teach someone.
3. Remember that your candidate pool includes your own company.
Given the choice, we would rather promote from within, based on an employee’s performance rather than how long they’ve been at the company. Of course, it takes some time to really see someone’s performance, but when we see that a person is bringing value to the team and is ready to take on greater responsibility, we’re proactive about making sure that we retain them.
4. Trust good leaders to make good hires.
For the past 12 months, we’ve been hiring mostly managers. Now that nearly every part of the business is headed by an expert in their particular field, we’re leaning on those leaders to let us know who we need to hire next to support them in their work. With the right leaders in place in each part of the company, we’ve reached an inflection point where we’re going to be able to grow at a faster rate.
5. Hire people more experienced than you.
As a founder, I have to take my ego out of the equation when it comes to hiring people with more experience in their fields than I have in my job as CEO. I’ve realized that as we hire more qualified people, it will be even less likely that I’ll be the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room — and that’s the way it should be. As of now, I may know more about the history of the company and the product, but the team knows more about how to do their specific jobs. When we have meetings now, I’m not necessarily there to dictate what should be done, but rather to actively listen to problems and identify how I can support my team to fix those problems.
As our team grows, I have less face time with each individual employee, but I do my best to collaborate with people one-on-one as much as possible. I meet not just with the people who report to me, but with everyone. It’s becoming more and more of a time challenge, but I believe these proactive and efficient check-ins are central to maintaining our company culture, especially when we’re working remotely.
Adding new people to the team is an exciting part of building out your startup, but a rigorous hiring process helps you make sure that the foundation of your company is really sound. That way, as you continue to grow, hiring will be a much smoother process, and the amazing people you have hired will be able to focus on growing the business.
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