Recruiting, or Why Don’t We Have Better Free Food

Writing these entries is becoming more and more difficult because I am resisting some of my natural inclination to be bitter and sarcastic.

Recruiting for a startup can be very challenging, especially if you are doing something boring (i.e. something businesses might pay money for) instead of something sexy (i.e. anything given away for free.) Have a solid business model and reputable clients? You might be better off not bringing that up, because most people interviewing seem to be more interested in the free perks and the sexiness of the industry. Doing something in online music? Good. Social networking? Even better. Does it matter if you are offering ISOs or NQSOs? No. Sure, people like to work for companies their friends have heard of (or gets them laid) is a good thing, and being able to combine your outside interests with your work can be fantastic (until it ruins your outside interest).  In my experience, though, working with good people you like trumps what you are working on, and free food does not make up for capricious management.  If you can get the free food and work on sexy things with good people, jump at the chance.  But if you have to prioritize, be careful.

So how do startups recruit effectively?  It can be difficult for people who have only worked in large companies, or are coming straight out of school, to understand the benefits of a startup environment.  And it isn’t the right fit for every personality.  Try to find people who get excited when you start talking about having freedom to try new ideas out quickly.  People who are excited to have fewer barriers to getting things done.  People who like to learn and do things beyond the scope of what their official role usually entails.

My father in law would also recommend avoiding people who play golf – he thinks people who play a lot of golf have too much free time.

Maybe this is less of an issue if you are a star entrepreneur, but for most startups you need to make sure you can sell yourself to the people who actually do meet all of your criteria.

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