Saturday, October 11, 2008

Look for "P.H.P." Skills in Your New Hire for Your Startup

Every entrepreneur agrees that getting the "right people" on board is critical to the success of any Startup. At the same time, finding the "right people" is one of the most challenging job that any entrepreneur does on a regular basis. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what I look for in a prospective hire for my Startup. Probably because I am hiring for two key positions- one at my offshore and one at my on-shore office at the moment.

For a long time I could not quite put my finger on the qualities I implicitly look for in the new hire until recently when I had my "aha" moment. I wanted to capture my "aha" moment by sharing with everyone in the same boat. It is a simple list of three qualities in order of priority- Passion, Humility, and Patience (PHP). I'll explain why and how these three qualities help identify the right people for your Startup. But before I do so, I want to list a set of complementary reads from OnStartups blog that I would highly recommend to anyone in the same boat . These are,
My thoughts on hiring complement the thoughts you would find in the above writings. Now, let me explain the PHP qualities:

Passion. Startups are born from founders' passion for an idea. The people who join them in that journey must need to share the same passion, if not at the same level. It cannot be "Just another Job" (JaJ). A passionate person is always resourceful to acquire and apply skills to help morph and implement the idea.

Humility. A group of passionate people need to work together to achieve the common goal. Without the teamwork, passion alone cannot get us to the destination. People need to put the "team" ahead of the "self." They need to find a way to feed their individual ego (we all have one...:-)) from the team effort and resulting success. If "Passion" is the glue to bring everybody together around a common vision and mission, "Humility" is the chemical property that gives a person the ability to become an integral part of that team. The higher the degree of humility, the greater the chance that the new hire will make the team better.

Patience. The path to success is anything but smooth. Many people may have the passion and humility, but may not have the stomach or patience to withstand bumps along the way. To continue on my analogy of glue, "Patience" is the other chemical property of the glue that allows a person to withstand the ups and downs that awaits him by being at the Startup. Working at a startup is not for the faint of heart. The higher the patience, the higher the chance that the new hire will survive the inevitable wild ride of a Startup.

Now the question is how do we determine that the prospective hire has these qualities in him or her? Great question. I don't think there is any silver bullet. The key to asking questions in the interview is to probe on what the person did, not what they would do in a given situation. The trick is to guide the conversation in way so that you can capture signs/clues that help you understand the degree of "PHP" qualities your prospective hire posses. It may seem very easy. In reality, it is difficult, trust me. Unfortunately, most of us end up asking leading questions and the interviewee ends up answering what the interviewer wants to hear.

At the end of the day, you need to develop your own style that works for you. You can also read "Startup Hiring; 6 subtle Signs You Might Have Winner" to learn about how Dharmesh Shah does the same. I am interested to learn about your thoughts on the topic and what three qualities you think are important in your hire for your Startup.