Jeff Hyman is an author, serial entrepreneur and founder of Strong Suit, an executive recruiting company. As the founder of multiple companies, Jeff knows the critical role recruiting plays in a company's trajectory of success. He recently wrote about it in Recruit Rockstars. We asked Jeff to share his experience and best practices:
What role does recruiting play in your entrepreneurial journey?
JH/ Before starting my own executive recruiting firm, I started three other companies. In each case, recruiting rockstars was necessary to find continued success; my people capital played a big role in raising over US$50 million in venture capital funding. Therefore, recruiting has played the most longstanding and foundational role in everything I've achieved in my professional life.
I learned very quickly that even the best business concept is doomed without a rockstar team behind it, bringing it to its full potential. There's a common saying among venture capitalists: They'd rather invest in an A team with a B concept than the inverse. I agree wholeheartedly. I only hire the best.
The entrepreneurial journey takes so many different twists and turns. If you're creating a startup, your concept―and the resulting product, pricing, technology and even your competition―will continuously evolve. The only constant under your control is attracting and keeping an agile, innovative, creative and energized team.
What was your worst hiring mistake?
JH/ Confirmation bias―the way we interpret information to confirm our existing opinions―can be a big hurdle during the interviewing process. My worst hiring mistake resulted from a situation where I failed to challenge my own confirmation bias, even when my Board expressed a strikingly different opinion from mine about a potential CFO.
After a successful reference check, I hired that candidate. Then, without proper onboarding, I threw that new CFO to the sharks in the midst of an IPO, thinking he could swim based on all the experience he brought to the role.
The moral of the story? A rockstar at one company won't necessarily be a rockstar at another. You have to challenge your own biases as soon as you start interviewing candidates and continue doing so until well after that person is onboarded in their new role. Don't make any assumptions you can't back up with data and facts.
What's the difference between a job description and a job invitation?
JH/ A job invitation is better than a job description due to the type of conversation and candidates it speaks to.
Most job descriptions are all about the company. They detail what the company wants and expects, often at the expense of recruiting true rockstars. Most job descriptions include a laundry list of requirements that only serve to eliminate someone who otherwise could be a great fit: X years of experience in a given field, 4.0 GPA, and so on.
Instead of writing a job description that screams, "Here's what you can do for us," a well-crafted, compelling job invitation is all about enticing a rockstar to consider a conversation with the company about an open role. Here's the thing: Most rockstars are already in a role they're fairly happy with. They must be enticed.
One last thing. A job description makes people "apply" while a job invitation simply asks for a conversation: "Let's talk."
Faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you choose which one to hire?
JH/ Having two equally qualified candidates is the ideal situation! While competencies and work experience in a related industry can be useful, neither is as important as finding a person who is a great DNA fit for your company―think of DNA as similar to company culture. Presuming both of their competencies and work experience more or less match what you're looking for, focus on DNA fit to find your rockstar hire.
What tips can you share for recruiting and hiring the top 5% of talent?
- Use a scorecard: Essentially, the yardstick by which all candidates will be measured. It represents the gold standard, and is laid out as a standardized candidate grading system that identifies the tangible markers of success. Out of a total possible score of 10, your rockstars will score no less than an 8.
- Lean on your employee referral program: Many companies have one but few use them effectively. With the right program in place, you can count on this single source for 50% of job applicants for any given role.
- Implement a Test Drive: The Test Drive happens after initial interviews, once you're down to two final rockstar candidates. Before hiring one, use a Test Drive to discover how they would actually work in and work with your company. It's the single most predictive step in the hiring process, yet most make an offer without it.