If you’ve started a startup and got going, chances are that you have come across one of the biggest bottlenecks in any startup’s growth – people. The founding team only gets you so far, and at some point, you must start bringing more people onboard. While there are a lot of recruiters out there, it’s likely that you won’t have an in-house recruiter before you hit a few dozen people. Between the start and that moment, it’s usually the founders who are left with the tasks of hiring and interviewing candidates for your startup.
While interviewing may sound like a simple task – I mean, as a founder, you talk to people all the time – there’s more to it. If you take interviews as just “chatting”, chances are you’re increasing the risk of making a bad hire. Therefore, it pays to prepare, and employ a bit of process and structure to your candidate interviews. Here are a few tips on how you can improve your startup’s interview process.
1. Design and use an interview structure
As a founder, one might be very comfortable talking to people and keeping it casual. After all, you likely talk to customers, investors, partners and the like all day. It may feel like you can “wing it” when it comes to interviews – but don’t. Interviews that are just chatting and jumping incoherently between topics seem like a mess – yes, the candidates can tell, too. Furthermore, when interviewing candidates for your startup and not having structure, you risk a lot of bias in the hiring process. In addition, you might end up with redundant, incomparable data points to compare candidates with, as you have asked about totally different things. Also, in the absence of structure, interview notes also become a pain to read.
It’s not that you have to robotically go through a list of pre-scripted questions and nothing more – no, feel free to poke around! But having a thematic structure and then drilling deeper on topics of interest makes your eventual hiring decision a lot easier.
2. Stick to time frames when interviewing candidates
The same importance of planning goes for interview times too. Not only is it unfair to take much more of people’s time that you have communicated, but not sticking to interview times results in an unequal process. If you allow yourself to go overtime with some candidates, you’re giving them many more opportunities to impress, and vice versa. To really get the most accurate and comparable picture when interviewing candidates for your startup, cut off the overtime, and spend the full allotted time with those that you might have otherwise cut short.
3. Prepare and don’t overbook
As the hiring party, it’s obvious that we expect the candidates to come prepared for the interviews. But it’s a two-way street. Showing up for an interview without having to read the candidate bio and CVs leaves a bad impression. Often that results in a good chunk of the interview time used to simply go through what could have been read beforehand. And then, once you follow point two above, and don’t go overtime, you realize that you didn’t get much out of the interview at all.
When interviewing candidates for your startup, It’s also important to keep in mind a healthy time allocation on your own calendar. If you’re a founder, you probably have a lot of other things to do, and booking a half a day full of back-to-back interviews might seem like an efficient use of time. But it’s not. Avoid back-to-back interviews, make sure you have some time in between to complete your notes, clear your head and do whatever is necessary for you to be able to fully focus on the next one. This ensures quality in the process. You wouldn’t want to lose focus and miss important pieces of information and subtle cues that the candidate may provide.
4. Sell your startup to the candidate
Finally, it’s important to remember that as a founder, one sees the opportunity in the startup from a completely different perspective compared to a prospective employee. Add to that the fact that the market for talent is very competitive and we find that just gauging whether the employee is a good fit for the company is not enough. Again, it’s a two-way street!
Therefore, when interviewing candidates for a startup, it’s important to sell the startup to the candidate. You’ll want people to be excited about the things they can do and the impact they can have. If you can establish that already during the interview phase, you’re gonna end up with much more fruitful interviews. Furthermore, as talented individuals on the market are likely talking to multiple companies, the founder who builds the best case and aligns the startup’s journey with that of the employees, is in a much better position to see their offer letter convert to a signed contract.
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