Like any other entrepreneur, we had read about the difficulties of hiring for a startup. Till 6 months ago, that was yet another startup advice that we read and conveniently ignored. Around October of 2011 we realized that MySmartPrice was clearly outgrowing our capabilities and we were not going to be able to continue the way we had been going. That is when we decided that we have to build up the team.
The journey over the past few months have been exciting and we have found ourselves 5 brilliant folks to guide the journey of MySmartPrice. In the process we have learnt some interesting lessons. Here’s what we learnt from hiring our awesome team.
The Pit stop called Hiring
When we moved into hiring, we were suddenly working 6-8 hours lesser, having constant interviews and pitching to potential employees instead of working 18 hours nonstop as we were. We were already behind the schedule and all this non-product work meant that we were falling farther behind the schedule without having anything to show for it. The situation was so bleak that we were seriously considering if it made sense to stop trying to recruit and continue as before. Luckily good sense prevailed and we continued with the process.
In retrospect, we were going through something similar that every F1 racer must be feeling inside the pit. For that brief period of time it is a torture to see everyone overtaking you while you are sitting idle. But that slowdown was necessary to continue in the race.
The results of the last 2 months, be it addition of our coupons page, several new categories, what to buy application and novel marketing experiments, have proved that the effort was totally worth it.
The Startup Interview is different
We thought we knew how to conduct interviews, after all both of us had conducted large number of interviews for MNCs. All our concepts about interviewing went out of the door by the time we reached the second candidate. We were asked difficult questions about the companies, growth plans other potential hires etc. Not sure who was the interviewee. In a way this was good because it helped us think through many important aspects of the company that we had parked for future.
Don’t let the wrong guys keep you away from the right ones
We came across all sorts of guys during this process. There were certain time hogs who come to show off their “knowledge” in domain specific topics or flash their wonderful career with no intention of joining us at all. In some cases there would be folks who seem eager to join us, but often end up not showing up for the interviews. It is times like these one starts questioning the pros and cons of expansion. Are we not good enough yet to attract talent? Are we not searching in the right places? It is important to realize that the guy never intended to join you at the first place instead trying to improve your pitch at the end of every interview. That brings us to the next point.
Evangelism doesn’t replace Conviction
We had started our job search with the idea that we would have to “sell” our company and startup life to the folks we interview. We would often run into some smart guy who is not sure about joining a startup and we will try desperately to convince him of the merits of a startup and why he should join us without any success.
May be we were not great at convincing people. But right now our view is that no one can convince someone to make that all important jump to startups. The ideal employee will walk into the interview room already knowing this is what he wants. The interview then becomes more about why you and not some other startup than why you and not a job at an MNC. Truly talented folk, who love challenge and the freedom that comes with a startup would only need the assurance from your end that they would be accepted and appreciated. The rest is entirely upon the conviction of the candidate.
Hits and Misses in Hiring proposals
We tried a lot of different methods to gain talent for the organization. While this may be unique to our organization, I am sure, some of you may find this useful.
What didn’t work
1) We offered an iPad on our website for those who refer good talent to us hoping that at least a few percentages of the thousands of users will refer an awesome guy to us. No lead came our way.
2) Asking friends at big MNCs for help was less than useful.
(Guest article by Sitakant Ray, cofounder of MySmartPrice. Earlier contributed : Learnings from 4 months after Starting Up [You will be amazed by what you can do])