This post is part of a series where we’ll take you through what we believe to be the best tips on growing a team. It’s based on experiences from our combined 15 years working with recruitment but most importantly on how we ourselves grew the Platypus team from 2 people in February 2019 to 19 people 18 months later.
Check out the other posts in the series:
- Our basic principles for recruiting.
- How to attract talent when you’re a startup with nothing to offer
She helps companies grow but Platypus didn’t even have a product to sell yet. So what was the logic in jumping on the opportunity to take Egle on?
# 1: You can’t always plan for what you need
Our number one priority when setting the initial Platypus team was tech. We knew we needed to build a product – and we needed to build it fast. We needed capable, plug-and-play hands on deck that could solve that immediate problem NOW.
But when it came to setting the team as a whole, it was never a matter of hiring for now or even hiring for the next six months.
It was about finding people that could grow and then letting them grow in their role.
The logic of a recruitment plan is mapping out strategic goals and what specific hires you need to get you there. We have created plans in terms of which areas of the business we need to grow to get us to our series A and – crucially – what burn rate we can afford.
Just as important as recruitment plans are, you need flexibility for jumping on opportunities when they arise.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a startup with little to offer in terms of attraction or any other kind of organisation.
Beginning of 2020 we had no product to sell yet and realistically wouldn’t be serious about this for another six months (passion, mission and good ideas, however, we were rich in). There was no position in the recruitment plan for a growth specialist. But when Nico saw an announcement on LinkedIn for someone with great credentials in growth ready to try new things, it was a chance worth exploring (don’t miss the video for the full story).
This is an opportunity hire: a candidate that won’t fix predefined tasks and urgent needs, but who is available here and now and will be a valuable asset for the long run.
An opportunity too good to miss.
There are at least two advantages to jumping on an opportunity like that:
- That new hire will help set a direction and imagine new goals that you’ll need for growing. Especially being a startup, there is no beaten track ahead of you. But no matter what kind of organisation you are, finding people that can challenge your own power of imagination is key.
- They won’t necessarily come again when you know you need them.
Which leads us to our second argument.
# 2: The talent you can get right now probably won't apply when the timing is right for you
At its core, an opportunity hire is a person you take a chance on because you’re hiring for their potential and not your immediate need.
The chance you’re taking is by getting your hands on talent when the timing is right for them. Not right for you.
This requires moving from being reactive relying on job postings and sourcing to being proactive and spending time and attention on LinkedIn and other platforms where you can keep track of who’s changing positions. And who all of a sudden will be ready to have that cup of coffee that they otherwise wouldn’t bother.
This gives you the chance to sell your organisation, your mission, and your potential in a much more potent format – a conversation – than you would ever be able to by creating a generic job posting.
"Have you found your new role already or are we in time to talk about Platypus?" - that was the first message Nico Blier-Silvestri sent me on LinkedIn.
I was weighing my options and was already fast in talks with other organizations, but curious me...
"I'd love to hear what you have in mind", I replied
"I think we should grab a coffee and I tell you about us"- he replied.
- Egle Padeginskaite
# 3: Be honest about what to expect
The straight-up pitfall of hiring for opportunity, potential, and future needs is that your new employee most likely won’t be able to work on what they consider to be their expertise right away.
This is something you need to be very honest about. (Along with most other things, we’d argue.)
This also implies being very straight-up with yourself regarding whether this candidate will in fact be able to thrive on what you have to offer right now. From a recruitment point of view, having T-shaped skills – being both a generalist and having a specific area of expertise – makes it easier to be creative with bridging the gap until they can live up to their full potential.
The ideal opportunity hire needs to be motivated by the chance to have great impact and building stuff (especially in a startup). You’re giving them the chance to shape things by inviting them into a role and trajectory not defined by you but co-defined with them.
Ideally, this is what motivates them and will keep them motivated.
The hard-core reality of opportunity hiring is: Can you afford it. As a founding team, we differ on this like an old married couple: Dan holds the purse strings – and holds them pretty tight. Nico is trigger-happy and always eager to look into new opportunities. Together we agree that there is never any harm in talking. And doing that, will allow you to keep track of those great opportunities.
- Be flexible with your recruitment plan and open to the directions that the right opportunity hire will be able to take you in.
- Focus on reaching out and having conversations when the timing is right for the candidate, not necessarily for you.
- Be honest with the candidate about what to expect: You both need to be creative when bridging between the present reality and the future.
We will be sharing more advice on recruitment tactics such as the pros and cons of hiring through your personal network, using traditional sourcing, etc. in this series of posts on recruitment tips. Stay tuned! And check out the other posts in the series:
Our basic principles for recruiting.
How to attract talent when you’re a startup with nothing to offer