Best Practices for Hiring a Growing Team

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Here at Workbar, we’ve fortunately seen tremendous growth in the startup and remote teams we support, as well as within our own company. Within the last year, Workbar went from one employee (effectively “doing it all”) to a team of 7 … and growing. Many of our members have followed a similar path whether they are entrepreneurs or remote employees of large out-of -state corporations. Starting with just one or two people, they are hiring new team members faster than Workbar can get a desk ready. We’ve watched these teams recruit and hire dozens of new employees, and thus expanding the growing Workbar membership while adding value to our business and community.  Not only is this encouraging evidence that our local and national economies are recovering from the long recession, but is also indicative of sound practices of managing a growing team.

hiring best practices

As the Director of Operations at Workbar, I have had plenty of practice over the last year recruiting, hiring and managing an evolving group of people alongside the members. So how does one hire a top quality candidate when the business is evolving and there may not be a job description yet?

Networking is King

hiring best practices

It goes without saying that the vast majority of jobs and new opportunities are found through networking.  As many job seekers, career counselors, and LinkedIn advocates often remark, it’s not what you know, but who you know.   As Lex Schroeder wrote in a blog for Boston.com’s Global Business Hub, “for most people entering the job market or changing careers, the key idea now is to make your own way. This new system we’re building is one in which the quality of our relationships make the difference, not corporate structures … All of us are being challenged to pay attention to our networks and relationships.” While geared towards the job seeker, this statement is equally true for the entrepreneur or the company recruiter.

While it is important to keep utilizing traditional tools for recruiting (at Workbar, we post job descriptions on craigslist.org, LinkedIn, our website, and promote via social networks), it is just as important to look within your own team as well as your professional and personal communities.  I review every resume that hits my inbox regardless of where it came from, yet I find that the best candidates and people I usually end up hiring come through my network.

Our most recent hire didn’t even know we had a job open when she approached us.  She accompanied a friend who was taking a tour of the space, and she loved Workbar so much that she asked how she could get more involved.  Although we had a job description written for this new position, she is proving instrumental in helping shape the role to best fit our company’s evolving needs as well as play upon her greatest strengths. The lack of an official position is something that neither company nor job seeker should be intimidated by.  It’s much more valuable to bring quality people on board even before their particular role is needed.

Have a Conversation

I’ve read plenty of blogs and articles on the best interview questions to ask and be asked, and I find it is easiest to narrow down candidates by having a relaxed conversation with them. I ask them to tell me about themselves, including their passions and where they see their career heading.  You’d be amazed how revealing this simple question can be—I can tell within the two sentences if the candidate is going to make it to the next step.  This is the candidate’s opportunity to tell a vivid story, and to kick start our conversation.  Those who repeat every line of their resume are not asked to come back; those who chat in a friendly and honest manner open all kinds of questions and conversations about the job opportunity and make the time spent an enjoyable experience.  The fluid conversation is also a key method of determining if the candidate will fit with our company culture. Even as a young company, Workbar has quite the personality with a certain work environment

Dharmesh Shah, the well-known founder of Hubspot, wrote in 5 Startup Hiring Mistakes That Can Crush Your Culture that hiring the right person doesn’t necessarily mean hiring the right skills or experience.  He encourages his readers to take “worthwhile” risks, such as “taking a shot on a candidate you feel has more potential than her previous employer let her show; taking a shot on a candidate who is missing a few skills but has attitude in abundance; taking a chance on a candidate you feel certain brings the enthusiasm, drive, and spirit your team desperately needs.” By focusing on the candidate’s personality, energy and rapport with both you and the rest of the team, you will avoid the “culture debt” that Shah warns can be more harmful to your business than financial debt.

Listen and Inspire

Recruiting and hiring fabulous employees takes a lot of time and energy, yet the work has only just begun when creating a top notch A-team. Part of my goal when recruiting is to sell Workbar to the candidates as much as I would to an investor. I want them to truly want to work here; to understand the value they will gain from this opportunity as much as the value they will bring to the company; and to be willing to do whatever it takes to earn their spot on our team. If I am successful, then the hired candidates are eager, energized and ready to dive in—and the last thing I want is to get in their way.

New hires are fresh, wide-eyed, and usually full of ideas on how to improve the business.  It is the manager’s job to harness that energy and maintain it as long as possible before the inevitable fade into a routine and need of rejuvenation occurs, like with any role, including those in a startup.  Listening to the new employee at this fragile stage of their career development will not only provide management with a fresh, outside perspective of what is really going on, but will also encourage the employee to continue observing, commenting and brainstorming creative and entrepreneurial ways to solve problems.   At Workbar, this type of behavior is preferred and a critical piece of our company culture.  We strive to listen to all of our employees, get to know them as people, and provide them with the tools they will need to take ownership over their role within the company. After all, our corporate structure is still young and fluid and we depend on our employees to craft and fine-tune their roles so that we may learn from their experiences as the company continues to evolve.

hiring best practices

Finally, by listening to our team and having real conversations as people (just like in the interview), we can collectively formulate a shared vision of the company from its daily operations to its long-term future and discover a shared understanding of how each of our roles affects that future. This is no doubt a critical piece to any growing business that can be, and should be, managed from the time of the very first interview.

hiring best practices

About the Author: Anne O'Loughlin is the Director of Operations & Strategy at Workbar and is an MBA candidate at Babson College. Contact her via email anne@workbar.com or Twitter  @anneolough.

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