Seriously, Poach Talent for Key Functions…Don’t Hire Them

It’s a truism in professional hiring that you always want to seek out talent that is already employed first. This may seem silly because it gives leverage to the employee, not to the company hiring, but that completely misses the point.

The issue you face if you don’t pursue the talent you want is two-fold: a) when talent comes to you, you now need to understand why and b) when you throw up an ad, it simply attracts a mosh pit of resumes, mostly of unremarkable folks.

When you seek the talent, you a) commit yourself to truly defining what you want and b) network to find that kind of person well in advance before you need that person. And, you have a unique ability to get a passive employee interested in your agenda and offer. You eliminate the guessing game behind candidates who come rushing to you.

Here are some problems with candidates who come rushing to your startup for work:

  1. BigCo burnout but little aptitude for working hard in a scrappy environment; just want to replace corporate salary in a ‘less political’ environment. Risk: Many are biding time for the next corporate job.
  2. Folks with one startup on their resume, talking a big game about what they did at the prior startup but really just looking for the next unicorn…if you are one, they may approach more focused on your exit than you are. Risk: They’ll leave the minute they can see it’s not growing fast enough.
  3. BigCo know-it-all keeps getting fired from startups, talks a hell of a lot about ‘fit’…revealing the big Risk: he is the fit problem, everywhere he goes.
  4. People who ask for a VP or C-level title are really just using your brand to advance their resume/career. Risk = folks who want titles want power and resources you probably can’t give them.

I can’t tell you how many early-stage brands have such folks on board, but it’s a lot. People still get fooled by the Pepsi resume, by the fast-talking one-startup-alum, by people simply desperate for a salary.

You simply can’t have employees focused on big salaries, rapid income growth, titles, status, resources, big teams, careerism. Why? You can never satisfy such people at even a fast-growing startup. 75%+ of the folks I know who fit this orientation either got fired or quit really early on from CPG startups who took the bait of ‘expertise’ that honestly wasn’t really there in most cases.

Too many founders think that a BigCo alum approaching them means that their brand is now being validated. They let the approach itself flatter them. And they hand ALL the leverage to the largely unqualified BigCo alum.

Seriously, what does a brand manager from Mondelez know about building a company from nothing with a new trademark that has zero equity? Nothing. They’ve never even thought about it. So, why are you interviewing them?

Interested in more thinking like this for your brand? Please check out my Founder’s Resources page. At the top, you can take my Founder’s Quiz right now and learn if you’re ready to Ride the Ramp.

Dr. James Richardson

[email protected]