Hiring for Fast-growing Departments or Companies

Sep 11, 2009

To be a fast-growing company, whether a start-up or a new growth unit within a large corporation, there needs to be a product or service that is priced right, that customers are interested in, and are buying. The company also need to hire and manage people well, and you as the owner, recruiting executive, or HR manager in charge are faced with managing rapid growth.

The typical hiring questions that come up are:

  • Who do we hire?
  • Where do we find them?
  • What should we pay them?
  • How do we retain them?

While these questions are important, there are two issues that must be addressed first: alignment and transformability.

Alignment addresses the passion and skills the person brings to the organization, and their fit within the organization. Transformability is hiring the person not for the job as it exists today, but as it will exist tomorrow. Addressing the alignment issue without considering the transformability issue will likely result in hiring the wrong person.

Alignment has three components: passion, skills, and fit. In selecting an employee, gauge their passion for the work and for the challenge it represents. Identify the skills needed to support the continuing growth of the company. It could be marketing, sales, operations, or financial skills. Lastly, evaluate how the person will fit into your organization. Fit essentially is how well the person will cope with the “way work is done around here”: with the personalities, the pace, and the customers.

Alignment is important, but in isolation of the second component — transformability — insufficient to ensure that the right person will be hired. You are not hiring for the job as it exists today; you are hiring for the job as it will likely exist 12 months from today.

Remember, we are talking about a fast-growing company, and one of the characteristics of a fast-growing company is that things change — fast.

Think about the last time you changed jobs. While we all like to believe we hit the ground running, most of us took some time to assimilate into the new job, to the way work gets done, to what is and is not acceptable, and to a myriad of other issues resident in a new organization.

Now consider this: you just start feeling comfortable in your work environment (that is, you have assimilated) and you come to work the next day and the job has changed. Your skills are no longer what are required because what is required now is different. This is a fact of life in fast-growing companies.

So when you are thinking about hiring, and you are a fast growing company, think about how the job will look 12 months from now. Think about the skills that will be required, and start looking for candidates who fit the future, not just the current, job requirements.

When talking with candidates, tell them what the job is today, how you expect it will change over time, and that you are looking to fill the job as it will likely exist in the future, not as it exists today. This way, you are being honest.

Some candidates may seriously wonder if you know what you are doing. Others will be energized by the idea that the job will change and they will not only have a chance to grow, but they will be expected to grow. Fast-changing job requirements are not for the faint of heart or bureaucrats. This kind of job ambiguity isn’t for everyone, but if you consider alignment and transformability as you start the hiring process, you are being honest with both yourself and with your future employee. The probability that you will hire and retain the right person increases significantly.

Here are nine questions to consider when interviewing for a fast-growing company:

  1. Did the candidate show passion for the work and the challenge?
  2. Did the candidate demonstrate an ability to tolerate ambiguity?
  3. Did the candidate possess general knowledge and skills? Were they intelligent?
  4. Was the candidate prepared for the interview and did they have interesting ideas about the job, the company, and the product or service?
  5. What is candidate’s work history (results) and experience with different roles/jobs?
  6. Did the candidate demonstrate an ability to “think on his/her feet”?
  7. Is there a cultural fit?
  8. Did the candidate present well (read: executive presence)?
  9. Did the candidate challenge you and your thinking during the interview with a good questions or another way to look at an issue?
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