Save the Dates: February 19–23, 2018

Building your startup team

Hiring & Firing: How to Mold a Team to Move Your Startup Forward

When you’re launching a new business, building the right team is arguably more important than having that initial “light bulb” moment in the first place. Coming up with a killer concept is one thing, but having a team in place that boasts the knowledge, determination and overall drive to see it through to fruition is entirely another.

Putting together a great team involves far more than just throwing together a quick ad and posting it to Craigslist or your local job board, so here’s how we recommend you go about reeling in the right hires – and keeping them on board.

Have clarity in your job postings

When it comes to creating an effective “help wanted” posting, less is not always more. Be expressive and articulate exactly what skill sets and qualifications you’re looking for, and be very clear about any extras you want sent your way, whether they be writing or graphic design samples, marketing plans or programming projects. If you want to get a sense of an applicant’s creative side in addition to an impression of how well they follow directions, consider dishing out a vague challenge, such as “Send us a love note,” or “impress us.”

An area where you don’t want to be vague is in sharing your communications preferences with applicants. If you want to communicate exclusively via email, say so – otherwise, be prepared to be bombarded by phone, at the office and even through social media. Job-seekers are a resourceful bunch, and they’ll often do whatever it takes to make themselves memorable to you – even if it means showing up in the middle of your investor meeting.

Be on alert for enthusiasm and key skills

While perusing through applications, look out for strong writing skills, which are beneficial for virtually any type of business looking to get off the ground running. Other key things to look out for include evidence they’ve done their research on your company, and signs that they already have ideas about how to help move things forward or better contribute to your existing company culture. A customized cover letter or resume filled with keywords from your posting and references your company show that the applicant is treating you as more than just another posting out there. 

No matter your field, always use your resources to explore recent graduates. Make connections at local universities with professors, counselors and others who may be able to send especially qualified candidates your way. You can also go the job-fair route, but make sure your booth and collateral is creative enough to leave an impression amidst a sea of other options.

Give employees effective feedback before showing them the door

No matter how careful and thorough you are in your hiring practices, not every employee will live up to your expectations or stick around the for the long haul. But if something’s not quite jiving, you should always give the worker a chance to improve. Have an open conversation about how they’re feeling, to understand if they’re getting everything that they need to be effective in their role. They may just need more clear expectations set or guidance given. Offer highly structured feedback about where the employee needs to show some improvement – even if the work environment itself tends to be widely unstructured in nature. If need be, put the worker on a review period, whether it be for 10 days or 30, under which the employee must complete predetermined tasks or modify certain behaviors, and perform another review at the end of the period to determine whether the employee should stay on board. If not…

How to fire someone… tactfully and respectfully

It’s easier to let someone go if you have clear support for why you’re doing so – which is why the previously mentioned review period (with close documentation) is wise. Cut the cord privately, both out of respect for the employee and to avoid having other team members affected by the situation. Offer the option of an exit interview to be held at a later date, a week or so after the firing takes place, so the employee has time to think rationally, rather than emotionally, about his or her time with you. 


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