Startup Hiring: Who Will Soar? Who Will Crash and Burn?

A data-driven approach to hiring the people most likely to succeed
Startup hiring: It seemed like a stroke of luck when she was referred

It seemed like a stroke of luck when she was referred by one of your VPs who’d worked with her in the past.

She had a rock solid resume showcasing her success at a couple of well-respected companies.

Her LinkedIn profile was top-notch, complete with recommendations from several former managers.

She breezed through the interview process, leaving you and your team with no doubts about her intelligence, enthusiasm, and track record. Besides, she’s exactly the kind of friendly, outgoing person you knew everyone would love.

Six weeks later you’re wondering how it all went so wrong.


Going Downhill Quickly

Going Downhill QuicklyFor the third time in two weeks you’ve been pulled aside by a colleague wanting to express concern about your new hire. She’s alienated one member of the company after another with a strange overbearing approach to some aspects of her role and disregard for other tasks. Attempts to get her back on track have been ignored, and recently there’s been a hint of hostility creeping into her communication with several of her teammates. She missed work again today and you’re not sure what to think.

It’s not that she can’t do the work, it just seems she doesn’t really want to. At times she seems to be doing pretty well, but there just isn’t the sort of consistent engagement you expected when you hired her.

And now you’re worried that she’s pulling down the rest of the team.

She’s not a bad person. She’s not intentionally causing problems. She just doesn’t… fit.


You’re Not Alone

Sadly, this scenario plays out all too often, and it’s not confined to startups. It’s really no surprise given the astonishingly low correlation between what’s on people’s resumes and their likelihood of success in the role.[1]

Bad hires are expensive, especially for startups. It’s not just wasted recruitment and training investments, it’s also hard-to-quantify elements such as impacts on team morale, damage to client relationships, and lost sales.

In a startup — where things happen extremely quickly, problems arise and are solved everyday, and everyone wears multiple hats — fit is absolutely vital.


Injecting Some Science into the Hiring Process

Startup hiring: Injecting some science into the hiring processYour startup is data driven. It’s in your DNA to lead with data. Product people, developers, marketers… everyone comes to the table with data. Why is hiring — the very lifeblood of scaling your organization — so different?

Probably because there hasn’t been a simple, effective way of bringing data into the hiring equation at the right time… until now.



What Defines a Top Performer?

Startup hiring: What Defines a Top Performer?Ask your network what defines the top performers in their organizations and you’ll likely hear about passion, about genuine love for what they do, about a thirst for continuous learning and improvement, and about fearlessly taking ownership even in times of great difficulty.

Seldom will you hear that peak performance is built on particular experience, education, or even specific skills.

It’s not what’s on their resume that makes them great; it’s what’s in their heart.

Why then do we put so much emphasis on resumes in the hiring process?

Sure you dig deep in the interview process, having candidates meet with various stakeholders. Maybe you even have a well-structured set of behavioural interview questions and a consistently applied way to score answers.

You likely pride yourself on your ability to get a good read on a candidate. Nobody lives your company culture as completely as you do, and you know when you see that fire in somebody’s eyes.

Guess what? That’s what pretty much everybody says, yet they still make hiring mistakes. Lots of mistakes.


Who Was Overlooked?

Startup hiring: Who was overlooked?An important question to ask yourself is “what about everyone you didn’t interview?” Maybe you did choose well amongst those you interviewed, but what about that stack of resumes you blasted through, eliminating people from consideration after a cursory glance?

Were there “diamonds in the rough” that you missed? Perhaps people with unusual education or career paths that didn’t seem to fit the mold but might have become your next superstar hire?


How Do You Judge Based on a Resume?

If job performance is built on a foundation of core personal attributes, how do you find that in a resume?

Certainly you aren’t looking for the words. People who call themselves “passionate lifetime learners and problem solvers” or who say they “fearlessly take ownership in the face of every adversity” are probably mimicking what they read in an interview guide.

Surely you’re sophisticated enough to look for evidence of these traits in their past actions and results. But that’s far easier said than done.


What If You Really Knew?

Startup hiring: What if you could look inside every applicant and see what makes them tick?What if you could look inside every applicant and see what makes them tick?

What if you knew who was “built” for the role?

What if you could get this perspective on every applicant before deciding which ones to interview?

You’d make better decisions about who to interview, and who not to spend time on.

Your interviews would be more effective too. You’d ask better questions, focusing in on how the candidate’s traits, motivations, and work styles align with (and in some cases clash with) benchmarks of top performers.


The Next Logical Step

Measuring candidates against proven success benchmarks for each role is a tremendous leap forward, but it’s possible to go one step further.

Perhaps you have a team of people in similar jobs. It might be sales, customer support, or some other vital function. If your company is like most, their job descriptions may be the same, but their performance certainly isn’t.

They’ve all got the skills, experience, tools, and training to prosper, but some outperform the others week after week, month after month.

Do you find yourself wishing you had more people just like your top performers?

ClearFit Custom Profiles enable you to model a success profile, unique to your company, built upon the attributes that make your top performers the A-Players that they are.

No more guessing. Scale your team with those most likely to succeed in the role and in your specific company.


The Next Time That VP Refers Someone…

Startup hiring: Next time you’ll be ready to bring some objective measures into the equation.Next time you’ll be ready to bring some objective measures into the equation.

Next time you’ll be ready to explain exactly what it takes to thrive in the role, and how this candidate aligns (or doesn’t align) with the proven success profile.

Next time you’ll hire someone who fits.



Learn More about Effective Startup Hiring

To learn more about how ClearFit is transforming startup hiring, check out this 30 minute webinar.

Highlights include:

  • A closer look at how ClearFit measures every candidate’s traits and preferences, matches them against proven success profiles for more than 1000 job roles, and instantly identifies those most likely to succeed.
  • More information on building a Custom Profile specific to your organization, modeled on your top performers, to enable you to immediately identify strong candidates at the time of application.
  • Hear from Chad Horenfeldt, VP Customer Success at Influitive, a fast-growing advocate marketing startup with a passion for exceptional service, on how a ClearFit Custom Profile is fueling their hiring success.

Click here to view the startup hiring webinar or visit for more information on how to transform hiring at your startup.



[1] Tett, Douglas N. Jackson and Michell Rothstein, “Personality Measures as Predictors of Job Performance; A Meta-Analytical Review”, Personal Psychology, Winter 1991, p.703. Also US Department of Labor; Hewitt Associates; Gallup Management Journal; Dr. B Smart, Top Gradin


Hiring and Recruiting — Five best methods used by recruiters that your business should know

Five Best Methods Used by Recruiters That Your Business Should Know

Have you ever wondered how recruiters find their candidates or where recruiters look to find talent? Recruiters use many different methods to find, recruit, and keep talent, yet most businesses are completely unaware of their techniques. Today we are going to shed some light on this mystery and reveal the secrets used by recruiters in their hiring and recruiting methods. For organizations, especially small businesses, getting some insider tips on how professional recruiters do their job can provide that missing link to effective and successful hiring practices.

1. Hire for Attitude and Train the Skills

A valuable employee is one with the right attitude for your organization. By attitude we are referring to a person’s thought, manner, and general disposition towards another person, idea, activity, object, or thing. Their attitude will be reflected in their behavior, which can either be positive or negative. Someone with a positive attitude has a tendency to react positively in most situations, whereas someone with a negative attitude has a tendency to react negatively in most situations. Most people will fall somewhere in between positive and negative attitudes. The key is to find someone who is more positive than negative. Asking behavior-based questions during the interview will give you a good idea of a candidate’s attitude.

Smart recruiters look for attitude over skills because most skills can often be gained, while attitude is harder to change. A perfect candidate would have both the desired attitude and the necessary skills; but as you likely know, a perfect candidate is difficult to find. Candidates that are less than perfect should be judged more for attitude than skills — some professionals suggest a 70/30 split: 70 percent right attitude and 30 percent skills.

If you have two candidates — one who has the right skills ready for the position, but displays a less than desirable attitude towards the position and organization, and one who has a great attitude, but lacks the skills to be job-ready — think ahead for the future. The candidate with a better attitude will more likely fit well into the organization, as training on the job to build skills is often not that difficult and it doesn’t take that much time. In just a few weeks or months you will be able to bring that employee up to speed.

2. Thinking Outside the Box

Recruiters are starting to redefine the hiring process and the future thinkers are now beginning to really question the actual usefulness of the resume. How can two pages where candidates simply list their skills and experience (tailored to what you as an employer want to see) really tell us about the candidate’s fit and attitude? Candidates post these standard two page outlines of themselves to job boards and attach them to emails just hoping for a response. While is does tell us the basics of a candidate’s qualifications, we miss out on learning about the true depth of an applicant.

Both companies and recruiters have started getting more innovative with their hiring process. Utilizing the web 2.0 for recruiting is getting more and more popular. Sites such as LinkedIn and other niche professional networking sites are absolutely teeming with talent just waiting to be approached.

IGN Entertainment Inc., a gaming and media organization, shows us one very unique example of creative hiring. In order to find programmers, they set up a program called Code Foo that taught programming skills to inexperienced gamers; they didn’t ask for a resume, but used a series of challenges that would assess an applicant’s thought process. Now that is truly thinking outside the box!

All organizations are capable of this type of innovation and creativity when it comes to hiring. Don’t believe that it is just a domain for a gaming and media firm to do so. It just means thinking of exactly what you are looking for in a candidate and what method is the best way of truly assessing these attributes.

3. Go Where They Go

If you want to get in touch with your ideal candidates, then you should go where they go, do what they do, and read what they read. To find your ideal chef, read up on their industry, use professional magazines or publications, and visit industry events. You could even find out where they like to socialize. Invest your time and thought into finding that hidden talent pool.

4. Employee Referral Programs

An organization’s current employees are great sources of knowledge for recruitment. Employees will most likely have friends or acquaintances that are in the same field. Employee referral programs can therefore be effective means for recruitment. Design policies that will allow employees to refer suitable candidates — you can always screen for unsuitable leads or employees that are only referring to get the bonus. Current employees also understand an organization’s workplace better than anyone else; get their opinions on issues surrounding turnover and how to improve retention. For a more detailed discussion and analysis on this topic, see our blog on Employee Referral Programs from earlier this month.

5. Databases

Recruiters collect and retain applications from all past job postings. Even if a candidate wasn’t chosen for a given position, chances are they will still have their details on file thanks to CRM software. When recruiters create a job advertisement, most will disclose to applicants that they will keep their resume and application on file in case of future positions. Keeping this information can be really useful as you can check back on this to review possible candidates.

Hiring and Recruiting — The Five Best Methods Used By Recruiters That Your Business Should Know: The Wrap up

This post has only begun to scratch the surface of the innovative methods out there to help reinvigorate your approach to hiring. Whatever you do, the best rule of thumb is to ensure that you look for a good “fit” between the candidate and your organization and not just at the numbers; that way, you’ll be far more likely to hire the right candidate for the job.

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