Hire smart people - Entrepreneur Loop

A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with Ryan Gum and Maxime Salomon at the Expresso House in old Stockholm.

At one point, we got to discussing how difficult it can be to attract so called "A-Players"- La crème de la crème of employees. As a matter of fact, the best engineers, growth hackers, sales personnel and copywriters are already in position, and usually get a salary that matches their level of expertise.

Then, what can you do to attract such people to work with you?

Here is my take on this topic, as well as the process I think I'll follow when I decide to hire engineers to join me building one of my products.

1) Identify interesting profiles

There are several ways to find people who could be a good fit for your company. I highly recommend you start by asking your network about it. It's the most efficient way I know to get in touch with people who share part or all of your values. Plus, your network then plays the role of the first filter.

Don't ask them to share a job ad yet. Ask them to connect you with good professionals.

You can decide to either tell them about the open position at your company, or not (see below).

2) Find something interesting and challenging you need help with.

In order to meet and attract talent, we're going to introduce an intermediary step: contracting.

That's why you first need to find a challenging task or issue you're facing, that you could hire a contractor to solve.

For instance, if you're looking to hire an engineer, it could be a scalability issue or a tricky bug to patch.
If you need to add a growth hacker to your team, why not extract the first steps of your marketing plan?

You should aim at something that isn't time critical since the person will be working alongside her day job, and spread the mission over 4-5 weeks.

3) Using the list you made, find a contractor for the mission.

Now that you have a list of high level profiles, and a challenging and valuable case worth solving, sequentially go through your list. Then, contact the people in that order and make them an offer to work for you a day or two per week alongside their day job.

Make this easy to accept.
The contractor should see it as a good opportunity: Working to solve a clearly defined, challenging problem in their field of expertise, and getting paid for it.

Be open and share that you are also looking to fulfill the matching position full time and that you are interested in their profile. Doing so will help you determine if there might be room to hire or not at all. You will then be able to decide if you still want a contract with them or not.

4) Why I think this will work.

Proceeding like this is a very good way to create a relationship with someone who might become an employee.

The mutual benefits are numerous:
- You'll have someone working for your company on something valuable. The worst case scenario is you don't hire the contractor in the end, but if she really is an "A-Player", the valuable task will be completed.

  • It shows you're serious about your business: by testing the person / position / company, you're reducing the risk of hiring people that don't fit into your company's culture.

  • If you manage to convince her to go from this temporary hire to a full time position, she will already know the company, the processes and the team.

  • Once she has invested time on your product, it makes it easier for her to fall in love with it. After all, she invested some of her time to help you with something meaningful.

  • By the way, working on something challenging that allows her to use her expertise might be much more interesting than her day job where the routine is probably installed. Top talents love challenges!

  • For her, it's a good opportunity to make money on the side, with something that boosts her self-confidence and gives her a chance to practice her skills.

  • It's also a test-run of the company and the job.

It's time we start hiring differently.

Putting people in a position where they feel valued, and can express their full potential while working on real problems, instead of the stupid interviews which occur most of the time.

By using a process like the one described above, we're taking all the chances to attract the best players to work with us.

What do you think? What's your best recruitment technique?

Join the loop and share it with me.
Or let's chat on Twitter.