The 3 biggest recruitment mistakes founders make (and the one superpower you need)

Is recruitment the bane of your life?! We know many founders who feel like this...

They know hiring is critically important but it takes up too much of their time. It distracts them from focusing on their core business strategy and moving their product forward. Their team lack hiring experience so struggle to share the burden or recruit well. Raising money is exciting and validating but it also makes hiring an even bigger problem. And quite often they simply don’t like doing it.

If that’s you, here are three things you absolutely should not do if you want to make your life easier when it comes to recruitment (and one thing you really should do).

1. DON’T assume everyone knows how awesome you are

It’s a fact that 75% of start-ups fail. So when people join your company, they are taking a huge risk. They want to see inside your business, warts and all. They want to figure out if you’re going to be one of the 25% that makes it. You can’t assume that everyone will want to work at your amazing workplace if you haven’t communicated what you’re all about.

Rather than just creating excitement by sharing your vision for the great product you’re building, you need to share your company story. In particular you need to communicate the elements that are most relevant to a potential new employee.

Have you thought about your employee value proposition? If someone wanted to find out about what it’s like to work at your company where would they go? Do you have a careers page? Is it any good?!

You throw the kitchen sink at impressing investors, so why not at potential new employees? You can’t assume everyone knows how awesome you are, you need to work on how you are seen in the eyes of jobseekers.

2. DON’T rely on instinct or gut feel

We all have a gut instinct about whether we like someone when we meet them for the first time – it’s human nature. But problems arise when founders believe this gut feel is a good basis for making hiring decisions.

You may believe you have a sixth sense for identifying a good candidate, but in reality you’re basing your decision on whether you instinctively like someone, not on whether they’re actually the best person for the job.

Our brains are biased towards coherence not accuracy and they look for the path of least resistance. In psychology it’s a concept known as “cognitive ease” – the easier information is for us to process the more true it feels. It means that our decisions are influenced by information that isn’t ‘rationally’ relevant. For example when recruiting we’re subconsciously influenced by whether we feel we can have a beer with someone or talk to them about Strictly Come Dancing, neither of which relate to whether that person would be good at the job.

This study provides an analysis on algorithm vs gut in recruitment. It concludes that humans are better at identifying needs, but in terms of assessing if a hire will be successful, even basic algorithms outperform humans by 25%. The good news is an algorithm can be something as basic as creating a scoring matrix and introducing structured interviews.

So stop using ‘fit interviews’, ‘brain teasers’ and ‘think on your feet’ questions and start thinking about how you can get to a higher degree of confidence that the candidate will be successful in the role you’re hiring them for.

3. DON’T underestimate the importance of onboarding

Don’t fall into the start-up trap of providing a MacBook, a branded t-shirt, some stickers and a token ‘buddy’ and thinking onboarding is done. This stuff’s nice, but it’s not that important.

What’s more important is how easy you’re making a new hire’s life and whether you’re making them feel like they belong.

Are you creating a frictionless onboarding process when it comes to legal and compliance? Requiring people to print, sign and post back a contract that’s been copied and pasted off the internet and is stuffed full of legalease is a prime example of lazy onboarding. Instead create a contract in plain English that people will actually read. Or go one step further and make a contract that’s engaging like Tony’s Chocolonely’s employment agreement. And use e-Signature software. We’re not in the 90s anymore.

Are you creating psychological safety/psychological equity and fostering cultural connection for new hires? Wherever you’re at with onboarding, it’s worth measuring the impact of what you’re doing with a survey like this one. This will give you an insight into what you’re doing well and what you need to work on to do better.

And finally, day one and the first few weeks in a new job are highly important for the individual, so think about how you can create moments that really make an impact – get this book for inspiration.

If those are the top three ‘DON’Ts’, here’s one DO that you should feel comfortable with as you’re almost certainly already doing it in other areas of your business...

DO approach hiring the same way as you approach customer acquisition

In marketing and product development you’ve set your team up to learn what works and what doesn’t and to iterate. So why wouldn’t you apply this Lean Start-Up way of working to recruiting? This HBR article describes the surprising power of online experiments and I believe it’s an approach that should be applied to hiring.

To apply an experimental mindset to your hiring, start by finding a tool that will enable you to collect data. This can be as simple as a Typeform with a Google sheet and a kanban style Trello board. You don’t need a fancy or expensive Applicant Tracking System to get started, you just need a way to get testing!

To begin with, assume you know nothing – wait for the data before making assumptions. Once you start to feed your recruitment funnel, the data will show you where the drop off is in your funnel. Where do candidates drop out? Where are your most successful sources of candidates?

Once you know where the blockages are you can create hypotheses as to why these might be occurring and then start to apply A/B testing to see what interventions move the needle.

With a small investment of time in setting this up you will have an edge over your competitors who are hiring from the same pool. I can guarantee you they are not doing this right now. I’m also pretty confident that most of them will be making the three mistakes I’ve described.

If you avoid the three mistakes and do this one thing, then you’ll be a long way to sorting out your recruitment pain.

And if you want to hire brilliant candidates and give them an exceptional experience that reflects your culture, check-out our Recruitment playbook or find time for a chat. At The Pioneers, we can help with employer branding and talent attraction; talent selection and candidate experience; and automating your onboarding journey.

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