by Surbhi Bhatia
One of the most important things for an entrepreneur is to find the right team. The right people can make a business, scale it more quickly and bring efficiency to ongoing operations. The right employee for a startup is a go-getter, one who is willing to go to lengths to get things done, and doesn’t say no to opportunities.
Being a bootstrapped business, we have primarily hired Freshers straight out of college or professionals with maximum 1-2 years of work experience who may be low on experience but are high on aspirations.
Over the last couple of years, of building the team at The Mom Store, I have figured some hiring hacks that I would like to share with entrepreneurs who are setting up their teams and looking for resources to help them scale.
1. Assignment Based Hiring for Skill Alignment
When you are hiring freshers, straight off the boat, its challenging to have a conversation that will last. They don’t have many experiences to talk about, internships are limited, and in general, more nervous as they are interviewing for their first jobs. So, our first round of hiring is ALWAYS an assignment based hiring, where we give a task, case study or situation that mimics the actual role they are being hired for. We ask them to provide their responses/analysis for the situation/case study, which in itself gives a significant idea of their existing skill sets.
We also take care not to make these assignments and case studies very lengthy because we don’t want a prospective employee to spend too much time only to know later that it didn’t work out. We also allow them to use their work (in case its graphic/apparel design) and use it for a subsequent opportunity or add to their profile. We further use this information as a conversation starter in the face to face interview and steer the conversation and interview based on the assignment.
2. Look for the Right Attitude
One of the most important qualities to look for in your first hires is that they should have the right attitude. You don’t want a situation where you hire someone, and they refuse to do work because it doesn’t fit the job description. Let’s face it, a startup role will always have multiple things to be done, everyone will always need to be outside the comfort zone and thinking on their feet. People who are conscious about what they will do and won’t, and want to adhere to a paper JD are not the right hires for a start-up
3. Do Not Sugarcoat the Role
A startup role is anything but easy. It offers a steep learning curve, gives years worth of experience in a short time, and prepares one for all kinds of challenges. It’s the most valuable experience one can get in their early careers. However, before hiring, expectations must be set right. There should be no sugar coating or false promises of work hours, pay, or any other comments that incorrectly fancify the role just because you want to close the offer. Once they join and there is an expectation clash, the work relationship and commitment will not be the one you need, and will lead to unnecessary friction between employee and employer.
4. Hire through Internship based PPOs
Another way to make a safe bet on someone while hiring is to first hire them as an intern. It reduces the risk for both the employee and employer. There are plenty of talent available for internship, people who are looking to get experience and opportunities in the fields of their choice. These could be students in college, or people who are looking to change their role or sector and are in between jobs.
The internship period will clearly bring out the employee-employer fit, and if its worked out great, you can directly give them an offer. It’s a low risk way of hiring great employees who will stick on, will require less training and already have a sense of commitment towards the start-up.
5. Do Not Hesitate to Let People Go
This has been one of the most difficult learnings for me, something that has come the hard way. Often times, when an employee would perform below expectations, I would keep on giving them chances, spend a lot of time on pep talk and encouragement, have a lot of counselling sessions and some stern sessions, but it hardly ever works beyond a point and is a big drain on your energy.
If there are multiple cases of underperformance by the same employee and you truly feel that this impacts your business efficiency, it is better to let them go and hire someone else.
The first few employees of a startup, however young, are the foundations who lay the building blocks of your business, and thus its so important that that they are the ones who come with a good attitude, skill set, commitment and are in sync with the culture and ethos of the organization.
Surbhi Bhatia is an MBA Grad and the Founder and CEO of The Mom Store (www.themomstore.in) a leading Indian mother and baby products start up that aims to celebrate the motherhood journey from pregnancy to early motherhood. It also provides a platform to young mothers to share their experiences through blogs.
Her start-up is inspired from her own motherhood journey driven by a need for products and information she felt was missing. It has been one hell of a ride since then with thousands of mommies resonating with The Mom Store!
In her past life, Surbhi was a management consultant with a leading Big4, and was shuttling across the globe consulting clients in the telecom, media and tech domain. She decided to settle down when motherhood came calling, before starting off on her entrepreneurial journey.