One of the most important tasks you will face as a business founder is the recruitment of your first team members. Many founders struggle with this task -- I did when I started my company. Industry veterans might command a salary that you can’t afford, or candidates whose impressive skill sets you can afford may not align with your core values.
Your search for the ideal hire may be further complicated by the rapid influx of recent college graduates into the job market. In the weeks following their May and June graduation ceremonies, you may find dozens -- if not hundreds -- of graduates applying for open positions at your company. Given their relative lack of employment experience, how can you identify the college graduates who are best suited to the swift pace and constantly evolving nature of startup life?
Impressive candidates can come from all sorts of experience levels and ages, so you should try not to limit your search to just one group. If you do, however, choose to pursue recent graduates, here are four pieces of advice that can help identify the right ones to join your team.
1. Narrow your search.
You can narrow your pool of candidates to students with internship experience at startups. These individuals have already self-selected themselves for startup environments.
If you’re located in an area without a concentration of startups, you can also consider looking to schools that offer entrepreneurship programs. Try to form connections with these schools’ career centers and professors. Taking the time to establish connections can help you develop a pipeline of promising recruits.
2. Remain in sync with hiring cycles.
If you plan to target college graduates, a great first step is to familiarize yourself with the academic calendars of the colleges and universities at which you are recruiting.
Many companies begin to secure talent as early as January or February. While you may find a stellar applicant in May, don’t feel compelled to wait until late spring to begin your search. Instead, consider building awareness of your business as soon as the spring semester starts next year.
3. Focus on fit.
It’s all too easy to be swayed by a candidate’s impressive skill set, but no amount of programming expertise or marketing know-how outweighs the importance of company fit. In an ideal world, the person you hire should complement the personalities of your existing team members. Take the time to determine whether the candidate believes in your company’s mission and vision.
4. Vet your candidates.
Once you begin to recruit promising candidates, vet them heavily to determine whether they’re strong long-term fits for your business. You might ask why they want to join a startup, or you might ask how they plan to contribute to your company’s growth. Candidates who have done research prior to their interviews are more likely to be genuinely interested in your startup’s mission.
You can also inquire about projects that candidates completed during college to gain a sense of their work ethic and ability to coexist on a team. Consider posing a challenge during the interview, such as asking marketing applicants to describe how they’ve used data to inform and guide a marketing strategy. Their answers will show you how well they think on their feet -- and the extent to which they can add value.
Running a high-growth company puts you in the unique position of offering job candidates one of the things they seek most: career potential. This happens to be something that recent college graduates in particular seek. Any candidate you hire can, in turn, offer enthusiasm, skills and a unique outlook on the business world.