“Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that finding and hiring the best people is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.” ~ StartupDigest
This evening had 3 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.
Dan covered everything you need to know from hiring to retaining top talent and how to build culture around having and being the best in the industry. He also gave plenty of examples and techniques on how to properly utilize a corporate gifting platform. He sent a clear message to Hire for TALENT (ability to learn new things) vs Skills (stuff you already know) since skills get outdated fast while talent.
Russell covered how to close like a Champion once you have found great talent including the process to follow and the post-offer. He sent a clear message to never forget that people work for people. They do not work for companies.
Isn’t this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people. So this was part 2 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.
Russ Fradin co-founded Adify with Larry Braitman and Rick Thompson.
Most recently, Fradin was the SVP of business development for Wine.com, the internet’s largest seller of wine, where he was responsible for creating new revenue channels for the business.
Before joining Wine.com, Fradin was the EVP of corporate development for comScore Networks. He began at comScore in 2000 before comScore signed its first customer and was responsible for starting many of the company’s businesses as well as structuring strategic alliances.
Fradin began his career at Flycast Communications and had a number of roles during his four-year tenure, finally serving as Flycast/Engage’s VP of business development.
He holds a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
The presentation notes:
Inability to recruit & retain talent is one of the main reasons startups fail.
Company changes due to better people, not you.
Working at a start-up:
It’s a lifestyle decision.
Don’t hire assholes – it gets harder to close good talent.
Exits are great but nothing beats March 9.
Be more intellectually fulfilled.
Best way to close talented people
Be organised, diligent and respectful on every touch point. Make sure that when you close that person they will want to work with you.
Job Description – 90% effort spend is required on the first 2 and 10% effort on the last. However most spend on the last 2 (points 3 & 4). Make sure you cover:
What we do (commonly forgotten)
What you’ll do (commonly forgotten)
Need to have (most time spent)
Nice to have (most time spent)
Interviewing takes time. Therefore write down all learnings and how-to’s so you can iterate and improve.
Establish “core values” and a plan how you will interview people to match those.
Drive, Personality & Talent TRUMPS over Skills.
To reduce stress on the candidate, explain to them the full interview process e.g. what’s going to happen, who will interview them, how to get to the firm etc. Remember that normally people are not stressed during their day job and so will always perform differently under stress.
Document feedback and meet immediately after with the interview team to evaluate the candidate against multiple criteria. Make this a habit early in the company so that everyone follows it.
Sample feedback form:
Engineer your questions, then iterate on failure to spend more time on qualified candidates.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions upfront if you can close a candidate eg. wage, last time bonus, figure out what they want.
People should not flip out if rejected. If they do, hang up on them. Life is too short.
Only send written offer letter once the candidate has verbally accepted the offer. If they don’t verbally accept, talk to them until they do or stay in-touch until they accept and only then send the job offer.
Referrals are exceptions – Just Sell, do not assess.
Hiring requires focus – 10 at once, not 10 in 3 months. Choice is good!
Turn interviewees into advocates. Turn your company into a magnet so everyone talks about it. Pitch these. Candidates should come to you.
How to pitch a job – mission (where you are going), status, team, pain (customer problem you are solving) and opportunity (goals – see above).
The people: prompt, prepared, fun, engaging and smart.
The office: cool, light filled, modern, comfortable and big monitors!
Sell you – what you can teach, your personality, your resume and your vision.
Express a problem, not skills, to get to candidates. e.g. instead of asking for python developer ask for someone who developed high scalable open source cloud solutions.
Be specific when wanting to hire someone so that you can generate stronger referrals.
Ask for referrals (and you get advice), Ask for advice (and you get referrals).
Your company is your people. Get the right ones. Even if it means moving heaven and earth to hire proven commodities.
Hire like an investor. Equity is your currency. Get it. Spend it.
Be hyper aggressive in the 1st year.
Hire for TALENT vs Skills.
Talent is the ability to learn new things.
Skills is the stuff you already know how to do.
Skills get outdated fast in this fast changing landscape while talent is something which stays with you forever.
If you don’t believe your special. Quit. Since you need to believe you will change the world in order to compete with the likes of Facebook et al.
Job market doesn’t matter since it’s never of a recessive nature. There is always a market for smart people.
Make bets – cliffs and vesting are you friends.
“Fire Fast” – create a culture where that’s possible.
Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:
Nathan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania where he double-majored in Economics and International Relations.
Nathan gained experience in marketing while working at Arnold Worldwide and in the environmental community after completing internships at both the National Audubon Society and the National Parks Conservation Association.
Seeking adventure and the outdoors, Nathan spent his summer before graduation sailing the Labrador coast of NE Canada in a crew of six and with no prior sailing experience. This trip furthered Nathan’s interest in the environment, confronting challenges, and learning in new situations.
Currently Nathan enjoys working on InternMatch and meeting new people as the platform grows.
The presentation notes:
1. How interns add value
Interns can be experienced – especially in the current economy there is a lot of highly skilled individuals both young and senior. Some benefits of hiring an intern include:
It’s a back door of hiring top talent.
Get part-time help at a discount.
Fill in gaps on the founding team.
Gain early evangelists.
Hear an outside perspective.
2. How to Recruit top interns
Places to look:
Internship sites like InternMatch.com.
Direct from colleagues.
Craigslist – however you wont find the upper echelon there.
Pitch what you do well – sell the vision of the company.
Promote your investors, press coverage and the team talent to illustrate a great environment.
Let the intern know what they will learn especially the stuff that they cannot from a school.
3. Tips and tricks for intern management
Assign a dedicated manager to the intern.
Grab coffee with them once a week.
Explain the intern’s work in the context of the bigger company picture.
Give really clear deadlines on projects like at school eg. iterations with feedback.
Use Non-Monetary Rewards to motivate them. 99% of them are not there for the money. They are there for the culture, experience, networking and knowledge to set them apart in the marketplace.
Other StartupDigest Seminars covered by Ernest Semerda:
So recently I was invited to a 3 evening course at StartupDigest University via Hacker Dojo on Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining the Best People. Today was day 1. More to come over the next 2 weeks. StartupDigest is the insider’s guide to the startup world and the evening was hosted by Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy, where all the videos of the presentations will be hosted later on.
Right now there is a war on talent. The entire technology sector is hiring, virtually every startup (alive) is hiring, and VC’s are even creating newsletters to help their startups hire. Hiring is the most important function of a startup founder/CEO. With the talent war raging, it is clear that getting skilled labour hire Perth is one of the most challenging aspects of an entrepreneur’s job. Developers are elusive and expensive, and it’s hard to find a business or marketing person among the noise.
This evening had 2 great speakers which filled the event with tactical knowledge and inspiration rather than just inspirational rhetoric. There was no bullshit. The folks in the room were A-players, smart and were thirsty for education which would serve as the arsenal of hiring tips and tricks.
Here’s what happened.
Immad Akhund, Co-Founder and CEO of HeyZap
Immad Akhund is the CEO of HeyZap and an engineer.
Having studied Computer Science at Cambridge University and co-founded 3 successful start-ups.
He was previously a co-founder and the CTO of Clickpass.com (acquired by Yola.com).
Clickpass partnered with Plaxo, Scribd, Disqus and others to power their sign-on through OpenID.
The presentation notes:
Recruitment is a Marketing Exercise. You must market yourself and your company over and over so it gets into people’s head that you are a good company.
Ask yourself “Why should this hire give several years of their life to your vision?”. Remember that you aren’t the only making favors here.
Resumes are bad since they are nothing more than marketing and act as a selling document.
As the interviewee, you should always show up on time. Be respectful of the candidates time too.
Once you get comfortable about their specific skill there is no need to further drill it. Move onto other questions.
Get the candidate to teach you something. If you see they have a specific interest / hobby like chess, or cash my apps out, and ask them to teach it to you (crash course) in the interview. Few people can “simply” explain complex concepts. Yet being able to explain a complex concept in simple understandable terms by breaking it down and even drawing it on the board is an important quality of an A-player. Every complex concept can be explained easily by an A-player.
Ask insightful and hard questions which are interesting for the candidate. Ask about:
Current events like WikiLeaks and the ethical dilemmas created,
Drill into something they stipulated they are good at and see if their depth of knowledge reflects it,
Ask curious questions like: “How do you think LinkedIn generates the n-th degree contact/s?” Even if you don’t have the answer observe how they tackle the problem.
Don’t ask typical questions most interviewees ask. Come up with something clever that is specific to the candidate and see the fire it ignites in their desire to get to the answer. If you get a call or email after the interview with the answer then this is a great indication of the desire and fire that burns in A-players.
Don’t talk more than 25% of the interview. You want them to do the talking since you need to get the answers to your single question – “is this an A-player”.
Try to determine how Smart the person is by accessing:
Are they curious?
Do they ask the right questions?
Do they engage in further deeper discussions?
How well do they take feedback?
Are they unsatisfied with mediocre answers?
You can even get the candidate to do a presentation on their topic of choice and see how they can explain and simplify it enough so it’s crystal clear and educational. Make sure the topic is hard so you can see their thought processes. Then ask yourself the questions above whether this candidate is smart. If you still can’t find a suitable candidate, PrincePerelson can help hire a project manager for your business.
Overall, you need to determine whether you would enjoy working with this person. At the beginning stages of your company you are the company culture and bringing in a new employee may change or enhance it.
You get to choose the people at your company. Therefore choose wisely.
Choose 3 key criteria you want in the people you hire and stick to them.
Rapleaf has the following:
A. Scary smart
B. Gets things done
C. Nice & friendly
Notice how there is no technical skills listed. Remember, top 3 only since in a Venn diagram too many circles creates too many overlaps which are too small. You want a nice chunky even spread.
Finding a Co-founder is always hard. So when you think you found one do something together to determine “compatibility” – something like a blog post together or running an event. This will help you see whether this person is trustworthy, follows up with their word and has passion for their work. The try before you buy approach. But always remember, that no matter what, even the 1st employee should be called a “co-founder”, looked after with good equity and be treated as such to help your vision come to life and ultimately success.
Isnt this educational and inspirational! Great content from great founders that know what it takes to hire the best people.
So this was part 1 of 3 and I will be posting links to full videos of the event later in the week – so come back to check this blog for more updates.
I just finished reading a New York Times business best seller which geeked me out big time. It’s called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most. The book is based on 15 years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. The content walks the reader through a step-by-step approach with examples demonstrating how to have approach and handle these conversations with less stress and more success. Let’s face it, no matter how competent we are, we all have conversations that cause anxiety and frustrations. This book is the golden goose that helps us tackle these issues at home, on the job, or out in the world.
The core of difficult conversations
Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values. They are not about what a contract states, they are about what a contract means. They are not about being hurt by an action or word they are about how that action or word was interpreted and the impact on our values, what it meant to me. These are not question of right or wrong, but questions of interpretation and judgement.
If your time poor then you can now stop reading because I just told you the holy grail of difficult conversations. If you want to learn more, keep on reading. If you want to chill while learning, you can visit sites such as 텐텐벳.
Don’t assume their intentions
It’s important to never assume the intentions of the person you are dealing with because your thinking how you feel about them will be affected by it and ultimately, how the conversation goes. So never assume we know the intentions of others when we don’t. The truth is, intentions are invisible. We assume them from other people’s behavior. In other words, we make them up, we invent them.
Because our view of others’ intentions (and their views of ours) are so important in difficult conversations, leaping to unfounded assumptions can be a disaster.
This shadows what I learnt back in May 2010 at Jeff Slayter’s seminar on the best kept secrets of modern day heroes and leaders. Jeff shared with us this same concept to never judge a person without first separating their “Behavior” from their “Intentions”. Separating these two allows you to delve open-minded and find that their intentions are not as bad as their behavior may be making us think. This is also the trait of a successful leader to be able to see past the behavior of their followers and understand their true intentions – only then is a leader capable of truly understanding their followers.
Best approach to take when communicating
If you need to deal with faults in your difficult conversation, instead of talking about those faults which automatically put people into defense & denial mode, figure out:
1. What kept them from seeing it coming and
2. How to prevent the problem from happening again.
What we are trying to do here is explore why things went wrong and how we might correct them going forward since talking about blame distracts us from a resolution.
So, instead of trying to persuade and get your way, you want to understand what has happened from the other person’s point of view, explain your viewpoint of view, share and understand feelings, and work together to figure out a way to manage the problem going forward.
“Life is just one damn thing after another.” ~ Stone, Patton, and Heen
A difficult conversations checklist
Here is a checklist to follow when having a difficult discussion:
Where does your story come from (information, past experiences, rules)? Theirs?
What impact has this situation had on you?
What might their intentions have been
2. Understand Emotions
Explore your emotional footprint, and the bundle of emotions you experience
3. Ground Your Identity
What’s at stake for you about you? What do you need to accept to be better grounded?
Step 2: Check your purposes and Decide Whether to Raise the Issue
Purposes: What do you hope to accomplish by having this conversation? Shift your stance to support learning, sharing, and problem-solving.
Is this the best way to address the issue and achieve your purposes?
Is the issue really embedded in your Identity Conversation?
Can you affect the problem by changing your contributions?
If you don’t raise it, what can you do to help yourself let go?
Step 3: Start from the Third Story
1. Describe the problem as the difference between your stories.
Include both viewpoints as a legitimate part of the discussion.
2. Share your purposes.
3. Invite them to join you as a partner in sorting out the situation together.
Step 4: Explore Their Story and Yours
Listen to understand their perspective on what happened.
Acknowledge the feelings behind the arguments and accusations.
Paraphrase to see if you’ve got it.
Try to unravel how the two of you got to this place.
Share your own viewpoint, your past experiences, intentions, feelings.
Reframe, reframe, reframe to keep on track. [cf. page 204]
From truth to perceptions
From accusations to Intentions and impact
From blame to contribution
From Judgments, Characterizations to feelings
From “What’s wrong with you” to “What’s going on for them”
Step 5: Problem-Solving
Invent options that meet each side’s most important concerns and interests.
Look to standards for what should happen.
Keep in mind the standard of mutual care-taking; relationships that always go one way rarely last.
Talk about how to keep communication open as you go forward
Use the following with the checklist above in Step 1: Prepare by Walking Through the Three Conversations.
The “What Happened?” conversation.Challenge: The situation is more complex than either person can see
Assumption: I know all I need to know to understand what happened
Goal: persuade them I’m right
Assumption: Each of us is bringing different information and perceptions to the table; there are likely to be important things that each of us doesn’t know
Goal: Explore each other’s stories: how we understand the situation and why.
Assumption: I know what they intended
Goal: Let them know what they did was wrong
Assumption: I know what I intended, and the impact their actions had on me. I don’t and can’t know what’s in their head.
Goal: Share the impact on me, and find out what they were thinking. Also find out what impact I’m having on them.
Assumption: It’s all their fault. (Or it’s all my fault.)
Goal: Get them to admit blame and take responsibility for making amends.
Assumption: We have probably both contributed to this mess.
Goal: Understand the contribution system; how our actions interact to produce this result.
The Feeling Conversation.Challenge: The situation is emotionally charged.
Assumption: Feelings are irrelevant and wouldn’t be helpful to share. (Or, my feelings are their fault and they need to hear about them.)
Goal: Avoid talking about feelings. (Or let ’em have it!)
Assumption: Feelings are the heart of the situation. Feelings are usually complex. I may have to dig a bit to understand my feelings.
Goal: Address feelings (mine and theirs) without judgments or attributions. Acknowledge feelings before problem solving.
The Identity ConversationChallenge: The situation threatens our identity.
Assumption: I’m competent or incompetent, good or bad, lovable or unlovable. There is no in-between.
Goal: Protect my all-or-nothing self-image.
Assumption: There may be a lot at stake psychologically for both of us. Each of us is complex, neither of us is perfect.
Goal: Understand the identity issues on the line for each of us. Build a more complex self-image to maintain my balance better.
It’s always best to assume that you will encounter difficult discussions, even when you have mastered the ins and our of discussing what matters most. The difference now is that having this knowledge on how to handle difficult discussions allows you to know that it’s okay to talk about them, so the misunderstandings may not be as emotionally draining and are less likely to threaten the relationship.
This is what I love about Silicon Valley. It has the resources, people and culture to give you the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, get involved in engaging conversations and even bounce ideas off each other.
The high-tech industry back in Sydney is nothing compared to what is available in Silicon Valley. There has been a recent shift in greater awareness and acceptance of the value that can be gained by investing in high-tech ecosystems but it’s still a slow process and is a decade behind what Silicon Valley has to offer today. It isn’t happening fast enough and let’s face it, there is no place in the world like Silicon Valley. Bradford Cross discussed historical perspective and challenges of the widespread efforts to reproduce Silicon Valley in cities across the world. In a nutshell it’s too hard to compete with culture and century of history in Silicon Valley. Bradford’s article is worth a read to understand the history and value Silicon Valley has brought to the world and which it will continue into this century.
Where to connect with like-minded people
So you are in Silicon Valley and want to connect with like-minded people. Here is a breakdown list of where you can start. At first attend as many of these as possible until such time when you have tuned to those that add value to your needs.
The no.1 best place to start is meetup.com. Meetup.com (also called Meetup) is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. The site has the tools to allow facilitators and people interested in meeting up to make this connection seamless and pain-free.
Meetup.com believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference. Thus you will see a huge pool of meetups in the bay area (Silicon Valley). Everything from:
Stanford Bases: Stanford University’s entrepreneurship group with one of the largest student entrepreneurship groups in the world dedicated to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.
Hacker Dojo: Located around the corner from my place (in Mountain View) is a place for hackers to hang out and code. Also the home of Android weekly developer meetings and monthly presentations from cloud companies.
Jewish High Tech Community: Helps improve the quality of life in the Silicon Valley for Jewish people working in and around technology by educating them about important trends and issues in technology.
Yahoo’s LAMP meetup every month to share Yahoo’s experience and provide an environment to learn from each other.
And yes, most of these places provide budding explorers with pizza & drink to keep the bellies full.
If you see me at one of these meetings please say hi! I love meeting and connecting with like-minded individuals. I like to look at people I don’t know yet as friends I haven’t met yet. Say g’day to this Aussie 🙂