3 very important things you need to know about recruiting for a startup in South Africa

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After a heck of a long time spent in recruiting for large corporates, and then spending an almost equally hectic period in startups and smaller companies, I’m amazed at how people hire staff and look for new employees.

Why am I amazed? Well, to be sure, in a small company the recruitment of new skills is fundamentally key to success. Get the wrong programmer on board and your entire product line could come crashing down. Hire a bad salesman and you may lose all the clients you have. Even the wrong coffee machine could have dire consequences.

Jokes aside, there are simply some hiring steps and tricks that should never be avoided, in particular those which help separate the wheat from the chaff. A proper method of getting the word out and getting the right guys and girls on board is something I’ve seen make or break startup firms.

Here are the few things I see that are most needed and most often not used when planning or executing a hiring strategy.

1. What’s in it for them?

Amazingly, very few managers sit down and pen the reasons anyone would want to join their company. At least if they do, these reasons aren’t apparent in any of the adverts I’ve seen. Good coffee and “an amazing new idea” aren’t good enough. I have seen tons of “need a tech co-founder” adverts on SiliconCape, with none really giving the reader a feel for what they would be doing or why they should consider even meeting with the writer of the advert. Get this into your mindset: it’s not a job, or a position, it’s an opportunity.

This is, by the way, the main problem with any job advert. Copy-pasting a job description and clicking publish will get you a poor influx of the wrong candidates.

2. Spreading the net

If you want to find the right people, you need to cast the line everywhere you can, using a special bait (your excellent advert) and thereby get a lot of the right fish biting. Right now, open a new tab and go have a look how many folks are looking for really senior skills… on Gumtree. Or on some arb job website that ranks 500th on Google.

Getting eyeballs on your ad and people to know about your company’s opportunity is key — and there are much better ways to do it. Indeed is a good start, but then in your industry there are always websites and partners that get the word for you.

SiliconCape is a great startup resource. Fishtank is a product from a startup-friendly company called Graylink that lets you publish ads to numerous top spots and track applicants all in one place. LinkedIn helps you find good talent that you can call and headhunt. Come on, the options are there to get your position in front of the right candidates – use them.

3. Doing a reference

If you want me to regurgitate my salad, tell me you’ve hired someone without doing a reference. This is a cardinal sin and something that will come back to bite you in your revenue. The fact remains that countless times, I’ve seen a great CV and interviewed a great guy. But the words: “He was our worst salesperson” suddenly stops you hiring a bad apple and puts in perspective the fact that a reference is worth more than the rest of the recruitment process altogether. I wrote more about that here.

There are many more points I could make, but the above are essentials that are amiss from most processes I’ve been involved in. Advertise properly with the right advert, and check the candidates correctly.

Recruiting is not hard, but I simply see too many companies rushing in. Think first about what gap you need to fill and then why filling it is so attractive for someone out there. Then think outside the box as to how you’ll let the world know. Finally, don’t hire the wrong person out of desperation – check them thoroughly.

Making a bad hire is a crippling mistake — dare I remind some of the red tape the CCMA can put up, of the time wasted on training useless staff members, of the effect on your company’s culture and of the stress involved in getting someone to leave?



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