Hiring top talent is a key priority for every company, from hungry startups to mega brands. So what are some best practices? Talent Manager, Puren Ucar, weighs in on the topic. Based in Istanbul, she heads up our International Talent and Executive Recruiting for companies originating in the CEE region, and is part of our Digital East Team which has seen the likes of decacorn UiPath and unicorn Peak Games.
Puren poses three questions for you to consider on your hiring journey. We aim to guide you in approaching this challenge, so let’s dive right in.
1. How can you identify the right talent for start-ups/scale-ups?
First, let’s briefly explore the reasoning behind recruiting high-potential/A-Players for fast-growing tech companies: Why are A-Players so important for start-ups and high-growth tech companies?
Start-ups and high-growth tech companies do not own legacy, deeply embedded, nor standardized systems or procedures because they are rather new; the history they do have is generally not more than 7 years old. Their growth is predominantly dependent on the product, market, and the people.
From this perspective, every single person coming onboard and starting to deliver will have a direct positive or negative effect on the bottom-line performance of the company’s outcome. Having an A-Player onboard is extremely critical for a tech company to build a smart execution culture across the organization and fuel the growth accordingly.
So what defines this culture? You could describe it as:
a) prioritizing wisely (do 20% tasks that give 80% return) b) focusing on continuous improvement c) working hard to keep on delivering.
Only then would we address the question of how to find the right talent to match that, and specifically what to look for when hiring.
A typical mistake that founders tend to make is focusing on building an organization chart and then trying to fill the positions with talented people. That rarely works. Why? Because firstly, start-up/scale-up companies are growing at a high pace, while evolving continuously. Defining a rigid and well-defined scope of responsibility in an org chart would be misleading because of a possible change. Secondly, since you are scaling a business with a still-developing brand name, attracting a large pool of talented people might be challenging, too. Structuring a too highly defined scope will limit the talent pool you are aiming to attract.
Instead, we encourage founders to have a talent-driven approach by focusing on smart, hardworking people who will have a direct impact on the business goal for both today and tomorrow. Taking a high-level approach to building an organization is of course important. However, building a way of working and organization around the talent is even better when you connect this with the business strategy. So why not use this competitive advantage of tailoring the environment to the talent over bigger corporations who are competing in the talent war?
2. What’s the best way to assess the right cultural fit?
Once you attain a flexible and talent-driven approach for your company, the next step is to assess the right culture-fit. Except from the technical requirements, the sought-after characteristics in an A-Player talent are 80% alike for each role that you would search for in a high growth-tech company. The dominant characteristic that you should be looking for in someone is the ability to grow your business while also indicating they can grow within the company.
These type of people tend to exhibit the following attributes:
Flexible: able to shift prioritizations without being highly opinionated
Fast: able to make a decision quickly, as well as learn from mistakes quickly
Humble: mature enough to take and give feedback without getting defensive
Smart: able to learn quickly and think thoroughly, demonstrating their learnings
Hardworking: self-motivated, prone to taking ownership, exhibiting pride in their work
Outcome-oriented: able to focus on real work which paves the way, and not get distracted by fancy, hyped-up trends
3. How can you actually attract this kind of talent?
Let’s say you have finally spotted this A-Player who can bring significant added value to the business and grow with it. (Keep in mind that this search requires a disciplined and decisive approach to target A-Players. After a while, it may be tiring and you might discover a tendency to settle for a B-Players or a potentially mediocre employee. Alternatively, you may be tempted to go for a fancy CV with strong brand names, but this could trick you.)
Be steadfast in your search for the right match. It will serve you better in the long run. Refocus on this question: Why should this high potential, A-Player choose your company? What are the arguments you can pose here? If you can identify unique aspects of your company, it sets you apart as an employer.
Here are some examples of key selling points:
- Offer career growth & continuous learning: As digitally-native businesses disrupt traditional and offline industries, capital liquidity and investments have been moving from the traditional world to platform and online businesses. Fast growth always creates opportunity for personal development and attaining new experiences.
- Share who your investors are: Backing by a financially-strong investor secures the company in the ups and down, helps with operating internationally, and allows the potential for portfolio companies to interact. Sharing knowledge will have a significant and strategic impact on your business.
- Demonstrate your culture: Simple, flexible culture and flat hierarchy appeals to independent thinkers. Without being too self-aggrandizing, show the opportunity to work with very smart people.
- Highlight the technology: Start-ups make for a specialized type of working environment with their strong and rapidly changing technology. Being part of that disruption is unique and appealing.
To wrap up, keep this mind regarding talent: early decisions carry high impact. Remember the connection between the business continuity and culture. Scaling a tech companies’ leader-level talent recruitment is the cornerstone which defines the culture and way of working around the business.
Once the business starts scaling, the culture evolves around these cornerstone teams and gets rooted in the company’s DNA. Most of the time, there’s no turning back; it’s extremely hard to change the culture of a company which is growing quickly. For this reason, having the right talent on-board from the start is crucial for creating an execution-oriented culture while the company continues to scale and grow.
By from Earlybird’s Digital East Team and edited by Elisheva Marcus