I’ve been interviewing startups across the UK about their quest for rockstar employees! The idea is to give an insight into startup recruitment to folk who are interested in working for startups so that they might learn how to put themselves into a position of strength! Entrepreneurs might also be interested to see how their approach and perspectives compare to others’.
(Also posted on http://www.workinstartups.com)
A big thank you to co-founder Andrew Crump at Bluefields – a startup that aims to make football team organisation and management really easy – for making time to speak to me even though he had pulled an all-nighter and was clearly lagging from having worked so hard! Despite exhaustion he was warm and polite and happy to share with us his opinions and experiences of hiring.
WiS: Let’s begin Andrew! More and more startups tell me that they don’t like to use recruitment agencies. Where do you search for awesome employees?
Andrew: Well we found our front end developer through WiS! I found someone through Matchfounder and also we get referrals.
WiS: The recruitiverse is overflowing with advice about good-looking CVs. Is there anything specific you look for?
Andrew: Well for starters, I don’t look for degrees or judge a person based on the university they attended. It’s impressive if you have a good degree, and it serves as validation, but it’s not what I look out for. I hate boring CVs; our designer submitted a pretty one… but if you’re not a designer then just make sure you submit a simple, professional looking one.
I like cover letters as this is a candidate’s opportunity to communicate their personality, their behaviour, and their passion. But recruitment documents aside, there are actually two main things that I look for…
WiS: And what are those?
Andrew: I look for someone who goes out and does stuff, a do-er, an enterprising person who can use initiative. So for a web developer position, a candidate would need to show me something they’ve built and any sub-projects they’ve worked on. I always look to see what else a candidate has done on their own – projects they’ve worked on in their own time, out of their own interest.
WiS: And what’s the second thing you look for?
Andrew: A learning disposition. We’re young guys, a young team, and we’re always learning and trying to improve. I know that nobody wants to pay someone to learn on their own time but one of our developers learnt PHP on the job whilst working for us. One of my other developers came to me to ask about HTML5 and asked for books on development stuff.
I think that if someone is intelligent and they want to learn, then you should consider hiring them.
WiS: Right, you’ve decided it’s time to invite a candidate in for an interview. What do you look for at this point?
Andrew: I try to determine whether they’d fit into our company culture; and I look for honesty. Candidates should be honest – about what they’ve done, what they can do, what they want etc. They shouldn’t over-promise and under-deliver…but they shouldn’t underpromise either.
WiS: What could a candidate say in an interview that would make you sit up suddenly and take notice?
Andrew: An amazing response from a candidate would be “give me XYZ and I’ll try to put it together this weekend!”
There was this one guy we invited for an interview; his CV made sense but he was very nervous. He tried to tell us what a mobile app is…that’s not a good sign… we know what an app is…
WiS: What should a candidate not say in an interview?
Andrew (smiles): Don’t say ‘I don’t like working as a team’. Also, don’t bash the ex-boss. You may have had issues with the boss but find another way to communicate this.
Try to make sense. We asked one interviewee whether he liked sport. He said yes. We asked if he played football. He said yes. We asked which position he played in. He said the midfields – but that’s not a position!
We still considered him because he had some good traits…he was passionate…he’ll get somewhere because of his passion.
WiS: How do you know if someone’s going to be right for your startup?
Andrew: It depends – you need to consider the size and age of your company. In the beginning you need people in your startup who are entrepreneurial and can take initiative but eventually you’ll just need people who can execute on their role. By the time you’re on to your 50th employee, if he’s a designer then you’ll just want him to concentrate on design.
You’re ability to do more than your core job is important but this doesn’t apply once startups get bigger.
We have an open desk in our office, and one thing we do to see what folk are like is tell them to come and sit there and hang out; they can use that space to work on one of their own projects or one of our own…it’s an early stage tactic. We leave the invitation open and flexible and see what happens – some of them stick and some of them don’t
WiS: When you advertise, are you clear about what you want and what you’re offering?
Andrew: Actually, who you want to hire and in which role is often up for debate. You might have four roles advertised but only have budget for one person. This means you have to see which applications come in and see how many boxes each candidate can tick and then form a decision.
WiS: Finally, how proactively should a jobseeking candidate seek a response after submitting a job application/cv or attending an interview?
Andrew: I think candidates do need to push a little bit because we’re all so busy – I mean I didn’t sleep last night because there’s just too much to do. Candidates should bug us; if a candidate cares enough to pursue it then I’m more likely to take notice of them amongst the sea of others.
There is this one guy who has sent me about 10 emails to ask about a job. I haven’t seen his CV yet and I’m not that bothered to be honest…he’s been persistent and clearly wants to work here so I’ll probably hire him in some capacity.
Hirers might have a pile of CVs to get through and if someone keeps calling or emailing then that candidate will probably get put nearer the top of the pile. Sometimes, there are so many CVs that this acts as a filter i.e. those that pursue will get considered and I’ll disregard the other CVs – there are just too many.
WiS: That’ll do for now Andrew. I think I’ll let you go and grab a shot or two of caffeine. Thanks for making time to chat.
Andrew: Sure, no worries!
More about the company
Bluefields takes the headache out of organising and managing football teams. It makes communication easy.
How it works is that a sports organiser puts in relevant details and the system communicates to all players via SMS, email and iphone notifications etc for free. Players respond with a simple Yes or No and the system sends out reminder emails to those who haven’t replied and keeps you updated on all responses. An online clubhouse provides a space for match banter and an online payment system means organisers don’t need to worry about chasing payments. If you organise sports you can find out more on their website: http://www.bluefields.com/ or twitter @bluefieldscom
You can find more on Andrew on his personal blog.