When you start out you're probably only looking to hire a few people, not an army. And with a small team, it's critical to get only the very best players. However, too many founders see this as intimidating.

Don't ever think that you are working from a disadvantage--that what you are working on isn't great enough to attract top talent. Instead, understand you are working from a position of strength.

It's all about attitude: Operate from a mindset that demonstrates what you are building is very rare. Think about how you are offering a once-in-a-lifetime ground floor opportunity to those who are qualified to participate.

Or, to put it differently, it's like having front row seats at the Super Bowl: You only have two open seats--which of your friends will be lucky enough to be invited?

With that in mind, here are six simple rules to help you rethink recruiting:

1. Always be recruiting--even when you don't have openings.

At eBay I was always looking for talent and generally had one or two "ready-now" recruits I could woo for any critical position that worked for me. I learned this from Meg Whitman, who knew the company was growing quickly and therefore would hire people whom she had no jobs for, but whom she knew she'd have a job for in the future.

2. Own the process.

Recruiting is not just someone else's job. You need to invest your own focus and time. Always be on the lookout for talent.

3. Treat people well and make sure they have an experience they enjoy.

Yes, you get to make the decision on whether someone will be asked to join or not, but there's no reason to have them embarrassed or insulted by the process. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, and give them helpful feedback. You want everyone to leave feeling good and wishing they get the chance to come back sometime later.

4. Do the references yourself, and personally say no to people.

Don't hide behind the people or the process. Maybe outsourcing these pieces of the process is more efficient and it gets you out of giving bad news, but it's neither thoughtful nor wise. Gain credibility by treating prospective hires like human beings.

5. Don't look for people who are just like you and don't prize the expected candidates.

Look for people with the skills you need and the types of people who will fit into your culture.

  • Don't be swayed by big names. Just because somebody works for a great company, it doesn't mean that they are great or will be right for your startup. There's a big difference between being on the bus at a great company and actually driving the bus. There are also great talents out there who don't always work for brand name companies.
  • Pay extra-attention to those with a "chip on their shoulder." The best hires often have something to prove, and are motivated by a profound desire to excel in their jobs.
  • Rule out people motivated mostly by money. If your candidate is focused on a high salary, you should be questioning whether or not it's the right fit. (Being motivated by equity is a different story as that's tied to performance and demonstrates a belief in the company.)

6. Make your company attractive to potential hires by being the best place to work.

Be the place people are clamoring to join. Being the best place to work is not about massages and gourmet food; it's about what's accomplished, what's learned, and how well people are treated.

When former employees look back on their career, you want them to think that yours was the best job that they ever had. That's never about how much money you offer it's about providing them an opportunity that they find meaningful.

Published on: Aug 22, 2017