Posted on 9.5.2017

Three lessons on recruiting that can make or break a startup

Guest post
The writer Joakim Honkasalo is an entrepreneur and co-founder of the web application Pockethunt. Pockethunt connects professionals with employers and recruiters in a new fast way by combining anonymity with a twist of fun. Similarly to UpCloud, they are in a high-growth phase and with UpCloud’s high-performance infrastructure, they are unhindered in their global expansion.
Visit and create your own anonymous professional profile or recruiter account.

Recruiting the right people to your startup is the most important task you’ll encounter. Second most important would be to keep them onboard. During my past ten years, I’ve worked as a recruitment consultant conducting hundreds of recruitments and I’ve also co-founded two companies – both of which are in the recruitment industry. So, I know a thing or two about recruitment. As such, recruitment is all about understanding timing in the life cycle of your business and attracting the right people for your specific needs today. You will be recruiting different people with different skill sets in the future. In my opinion, there are still a few fundamentals in recruiting for startups and growth companies. Let me share them with you, as they might help you one day!

1. Value ability to learn over existing skills

During my journey as an entrepreneur and also as a former recruitment consultant, I’ve frequently encountered the question whether to prefer a proven track record of skills over motivation (or ability) to learn the necessary skills. For most recruiters, the safe pick would be to hire the whole package, and that’s exactly what they usually do. But that’s a problem for you as a startup leader or entrepreneur – you don’t want to do that, and here’s why.

Let’s say you’re about to hire a developer for your tech team. You can’t provide the new guy with frequent training and you most definitely can’t compete with salary, as the big players are able to. Neither can you reliably narrow down the job description to match the skill sets of your new hire, so why push it when you can make a great hire by picking a to-be-superstar by screening for exceptional learning abilities? Your team will need to be able to follow a steep learning curve, as you might be developing your software or application with some hot whatever-framework today, but end up switching to something else entirely within just a couple of months.

In addition, these people won’t rip you off and are willing to work hard to prove themselves worthy of the opportunity you have given them. They’re also the ones who develop their skills outside working hours, and that’s just what your growing team and business needs. But be aware, these fast learning and intellect people won’t be fooled – they’ll leave you if you try to rip them off. Give them a fair chance and compensate well when the results are good and the time is right. And be honest and straightforward about it.

2. There is no room for deadwood

Well, there shouldn’t be room for deadwood anywhere. But having deadwood onboard your startup can be your worst case scenario, and it might bury you and your whole team. Before recruiting new people, make sure that your team is all about A-players. Typically deadwood-type of person doesn’t even know of any issues themselves. They are often nice people who want to be a part of the story and are able to contribute to some extent. But your team would be better off without them. So how can you recognise deadwood?

Listen to your people. They won’t necessarily tell you that somebody doesn’t contribute enough, but they can give you clear hints of underperformance if they can trust you.

Are they really deadwood or are they just lacking leadership? Do they have clear and measurable goals? If yes and they still underperform, you might have to change their roles or tasks if possible.
Your business partner might be one of them. Don’t take me wrong, I’m all about trust, but we usually tend to look the other way when it comes to critically evaluating our co-founding partners. You can work it out though by talking about it. It’s the best and most important conversation you’ll have for the sake of your business.

You might also be seen as deadwood. Ask yourself today, do you contribute enough? If you want to be recruiting the best, you have to be an A-player yourself.

3. Hire people you would love to work with

This is obviously a no-brainer. When interviewing candidates, you’ll get a sense of likeability within 15 minutes. If you have disliking thoughts of a person, it will negatively impact your motivation to lead them. It’s actually OK to only hire people you like because you can! Keep in mind though; the quality of your team will eventually be a reflection of your own persona and maturity as a recruiter and leader.

Joakim Honkasalo
Co-Founder, Pockethunt

Janne Ruostemaa


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