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Hiring Heuristics @ Startup | 12 Important questions to ask your new hires


Courtesy - eziaha.com

Disclaimer : This is just a simple heuristic we followed to get our first employee onboard. Views are subjected to our own beliefs, culture & values at ExtraAEdge.com

Recently we hired our first employee at ExtraAEdge.com. As we geared up for the process, we had lot of questions on what to ask, what & how to measure & finally how to compensate. Especially if you are bootstrapped a wrong hire can take you few months back. We were wary still needed to bring the techie hire onboard.

Our usual research brought us to few different quotes, heuristics & thoughts by startup CEO's and experts. These were the guys who had already tried to ask these important questions in a holistic manner. What we at ExtraAEdge did was :

a) Compile them
b) Make a score card & decide passing marks ( e.g. 60% in our case)
c) Divide it between Co-Founders ( i.e. each interviews separately )
d) Collate the score and then decide whether to hire or not post joint discussion

This has helped us escape the selection bias - where you end of focusing too much on one weakness e.g. communication etc and get lost with your own biased perceptions.

Here were these question & parameters we decided to measure :


1. CAN YOU ADAPT:

“Ask for examples in which potential hires completed tasks or projects that were outside their comfort area or not directly related to their role.  At startups, employees will likely wear many hats, so it’s important for them to demonstrate adaptability to new tasks.  For instance, our web developer recently built a mobile app for Learning On-The-Go.

2. WHERE’S YOUR AUTONOMY?

Can you provide me with a couple of examples of cases where you worked independently to successfully get a project completed?  This is a critical question for a startup because most entrepreneurs do not have time to ‘babysit’ in an early-stage company.”


3. WHAT’S YOUR AVAILABILITY?

You need to know that your hires are in it for the long haul.  While they may be excited about working in a new company, the fact is, if you hit a few rough spots and don’t show enough growth right away, they’ll fly away to another opportunity.  But if you’ve established that they do not have high expectations for the short-term and can seriously run with it for the long haul, then it’s perfect!”


4. WHERE DO YOU SEE OUR COMPANY IN 5 YEARS?

Their answer doesn’t have to be the same as yours (though if it’s drastically different, that might be a bad sign), but early-stage hires need to have a big-picture vision for the company and its growth and potential, rather than just thinking about the responsibilities of their specific role and what role they would play in the company right now.”


5. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY LEARNING?

“What do spend your free time learning about?  This question cuts to the heart of whether or not a candidate is willing and eager to learn how to do new things.  Early-stage hires who have no interest in expanding their skill set and who do not already invest free time doing so may find themselves woefully unprepared for managing later hires and projects.”


6. HAVE YOU FREELANCED BEFORE?

“I give my team plenty of ways to move forward, provided they help the company grow along the way.  But to take advantage of these opportunities, I have to bring in self-starters.  I’m reluctant to hire people who have never struck out on their own, mainly because those who have branched out have already proven that they can keep growing.”


7. HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH CHANGE?

Outside of inquiring about their core skill set, most questions should revolve around flexibility and the willingness to tolerate change.  Startups are about pivots, and most people can’t handle that much shift in direction.  Startups are not for the faint of heart.”


8. CAN YOU COMMIT?

“Regardless of the fact that the person you hire might be capable, talented, motivated, adaptive, autonomous or even magical – if they don’t want to build with you, it doesn’t matter.  Make sure they can commit to building and growing with you and the company, and that this isn’t just a bridge for them to get where they really want to go.”


9. HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO EARN?

“Ask the question that everyone avoids.  First, this question usually catches people off-guard, which helps you evaluate how quickly they can adapt.  Second, it allows you to see how flexible they are, and how committed they are to the company’s growth.”


10. DO YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR YOURSELF?

“I’ve noticed that as an entrepreneur, I know a lot of other entrepreneurial people and thus I’m naturally inclined to want to hire other entrepreneurs. But the truth is that if someone is entrepreneurial, they’re going to want to strike off on their own eventually.  Hire for the long-term.  Ask if they want their own business or if they want to help you build yours. Maybe you still go ahead and hire an aspirant entrepreneur - but factor this into your decision”


11. WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?

“This is a very direct and honest question that cuts to the core of the employee/employer relationship at an early stage.  If someone can’t answer in a way that makes you feel as if they’re right, they probably aren’t the person you’re going to be happy with down the road.  If someone nails it, you’ll know it.”


12. HOW HIGH IS YOUR INITIATIVE?

“Ask the candidate to give you an example of when they demonstrated high initiative.  Startups need go-getters – people who won’t wait to be told what to do.”


Once we were done talking to him on several occasions we both Co-Founders have rated him on score of 120 ( considering each has 10 points ).

This gave us not a full proof but a good heuristic to think about his candidacy as 1st employee at our startup.

Hope this helps our fellow first time Entrepreneurs make a smart & pragmatic hiring decision. Let me know if this was useful  for your hiring thought process ?
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