You’ve whittled the resume stack down to the three best possible candidates for that graphic designer position. You’ve checked out their online portfolios and screened them over the phone. Now all that’s left are the in-person interviews. And who’s around to interview the budding designer? Your IT guy, Tim. No biggie. Just wait for the rest of the team to get back from lunch, right? Or – better yet – reschedule the interview for a time when half the office isn’t at Oracle’s OpenWorld. But what if there isn’t anyone else? You’re the founder, you’ve got your engineer in Croatia, and then there’s your part-time product manager, Tim. How the heck do you interview for a designer?
It’s a dilemma familiar to all startups: you have to build your team by hiring the right talent, but hiring the right talent often requires a good team to identify it when they see it, right? Chicken, meet egg.
And it’s not just that you want to build the best team; it’s also a question of whether you’re even qualified to conduct the interview. After all, interviewing for a position you yourself have never held (and may know little about) can be daunting. It’s not as if YOU have any particular expertise in the field. And yet here you are, evaluating a candidate for a position you yourself could never fill. Worse yet – no one in the office has any expertise in the field. In a startup with an engineer or two, a founder/CEO, and maybe a product manager, who interviews the business development candidate? Or the customer service rep candidate? Or the data scientist?
The answer: You all do. Practice collaborative hiring. So what if your Rails engineer has only the foggiest notion of what this potential account manager is supposed to do? At the end of the day, he’ll be crammed next to the candidate just like you will, and will be sharing the same overflowing work space. Will this candidate get along with the rest of the team? Or are you going to want to throw his or her computer screen into the Bay after a week?
Remember: when a startup is small (and the office is crowded), the chemistry between team members is key. So keep that in mind when interviewing that candidate – no matter what the position is you’re looking to fill. Sure, in a perfect world your current Business Development person interviews your next BD person. But what if you don’t have one? What if the candidate IS your first BD person? Or sales guy/gal? Or your first interview for a project manager? In situations such as these (which all successful startups will face at some point in their development), an open, collaborative hiring process is essential. A team that doesn’t gel when small will never work well together once it gets huge.
Here’s where the social aspect of the interviewing process becomes so important. We at SmartRecruiters are obviously big fans of social recruiting – it’s our business. But we would like to see the interviewing process become equally social. A member of your team may not know how to do a candidate’s future job. Indeed, he or she may not even understand what it is. But that doesn’t mean he or she can’t play a valuable role in hiring for that job. A team that gels will. What’s more, employees with a role in the hiring process will have a greater stake in the success of that hire.
Just to be clear: hire the most qualified people you can; there’s no substitute for experience and know-how. But when your company is only 10 people (or even more so when it’s 2 people), team chemistry can make all the difference. And deciding who would make the best “fit” between two similarly-qualified candidates is a social process, and a process in which the whole team can – and should – participate.
SmartRecruiters is the free social recruiting platform. Hiring Made Easy.
@BizDevBen is a native of San Francisco, practices martial arts, and is on a quest to partner with all the best recruiting services. Ben Klafter was hired by SmartRecruiters through a social and collaborative interview process that did not include a single business development professional.