Startup Confessionals: Perfect Candidate on Paper?
It’s like the unicorn in the field of horses or the rainbow fish in the sea; you found the perfect candidate who wants to work in your startup.
On paper, they are everything you wanted: computer skills, highly educated, worked in industry, etc. Now, they are seeking to apply their skills and expertise in your business.
As a founder, it is difficult to find the perfect candidate, especially one that is eager to work for sweat equity or discounted market pay. This can be the perfect scenario, or it can be the perfect disaster. Sadly more times than not, I have been faced with this:
They were the perfect candidate on paper. But, now that we are working together, it just doesn’t seem to work. What do I do?
So, what’s going on?
It’s not you, it’s them.
Just like the dating cliché, it can be true!
Each individual has their own working style. Some like autonomy whereas others thrive on more side-by-side community output. Working day in and day out in a startup is a unique circus that many are not familiar too. It can be an emotional rollercoaster where plans can be obliterated when code breaks or there is a looming investor deadline.
Some people do not thrive or do not want to have their professional life with this degree of variability. And that is more than okay. Startups are not, and should not be, for everyone. But, you as a leader need to set the expectations clearly and often, and then let the individual make the choice if this environment is right for them.
“Perfect” on paper does not equate to perfect in business.
Much like working styles, being part of an early-stage startup is culturally different: you are now part of a lean entrepreneurial team. Startups sometimes require a different working pattern which is more agile and amorphous than a traditional corporate role.
There are no rubrics in ventures, and sometimes the façade of resume greatness fades as the reality of the venture settles in.
To test if this is the case, always give yourself — and the new team member — time and a trial period to see if your personalities, working styles, and good old fashion hustle align in the business environment. After about one to three months, you should be able to gauge how their transition is and if this is something you–and they–want.
Maybe it is you.
Don’t scoff or get insulted. Leadership is a muscle that needs to be learned and practiced.
- Have you supplemented their onboarding process appropriately?
- Have you created expectations and objectives as well as have open conversations on personal working styles, culture, and mission of the company?
And be honest with your answers. Startups don’t have HR departments in the early days, and it can be challenging to navigate team health.
It is like the example of sending a poorly worded design brief to a talented designer, and your artwork comes back missing the mark. Who’s fault was it? The designer, who was working with the information you have them, or you.
If there are critical points still in your head and not communicated clearly, no one benefits.
Learn and refine what you are looking for.
Teams truly make the startup, especially in the beginning. What you thought was important on the job spec may not be the number one criteria you are looking for after all. Reflect and learn from this experience. There are many skills that you can train or learn, but personalities and motivation are harder to instill.