Recruiters will often place a cursory “feeler” out to one or two individuals within an organization before checking the box and moving on to another firm. This customary practice reveals two flaws that our gene pool engineering approach addresses. First, we recommend that senior team members who thoroughly understand the scope of the problem and not placement agents or junior team members drive the activity. Given that recruiting substantially informs a start-up company’s plan, senior leaders should view the process as an opportunity to learn and refine the business plan. Going deep into the risks and various candidates’ views of the risks (and identification of additional risks: “did you think about xxx? That might happen?”) can materially improve the understanding of your true risks and opportunities and tell you a lot about what the candidate might contribute to your team. Senior management should spend a lot of time on these tasks and take recruiting as an opportunity to get lots of outside views. Getting opinions, especially skeptical ones, are important and they should be considered even if they are eventually rejected. Second, hiring managers should expect to engage in multiple informational conversations with several candidates in the target Center of Excellence. This enables the company to triangulate on the A+ players through multiple data-points and widens the network to unearth candidates that might not have been previously visible. Applying more rigor in this search and screening process has the added benefits of providing high quality, non-biased external references to final candidates in the pipeline and creating a broad database for future hires or backups. However, on the latter point, startup teams must remember that maintaining organizational diversity is critical to establishing a successful team. In fact, if a recruiting process does not improve understanding of the risks and opportunities in an area being recruited for, it is likely that the recruiting manager has not been looking broadly enough or with an open enough mind. I often say in this process persistence is key in the face of good candidates that are not looking when approached through this process. To me, when recruiting, a “no interest” is a “maybe” and a “maybe” is a yes!
Getting opinions, especially skeptical ones, are important and they should be considered even if they are eventually rejected.