Startup Hiring: What You Should and Shouldn’t Tell Your Potential Employees

HandshakeI once interviewed for a company that was just starting up and looking for its first set of employees. The company’s founder came across as a pleasing and intellectual person. The business model and the vision were impressive too. There was nothing about the interaction with the founder that should have made me nervous about joining that company.

Still, I walked out feeling uncomfortable. Something was amiss. I wasn’t convinced enough. On further introspection, I realized that the interaction lacked positivity. For most part, the founder tried to stress on what I should not expect from a startup and what the startup doesn’t offer when compared to other established organizations.

While what he said wasn’t wrong, since he was trying to set my expectations right, he did seem to overdo it. More importantly, he didn’t talk much about what his company had in store for new employees or how working for the company was a more rewarding experience than others.

According to famous psychologist Daniel Kahneman, our brain recognizes negativity faster than positivity as it is wired to give priority to bad news, which is processed more thoroughly than good news. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman talks about some experiments where it was proved that an angry face “pops out” of a crowd of happy faces, but a single happy face does not stand out in an angry crowd. 

Perhaps the choice of conversation points by the founder hinged more on the side of negativity, which resulted in my skepticism and discomfort.

So, what should you as the head of a startup do to attract star talent? Here’s what I think:

  1. Set the expectations right, but don’t overdo it: It’s perfectly alright to let your future employees know what they should and shouldn’t expect from a startup, which would help you also to gauge who would be a good fit for your company. But, ensure that you don’t make it sound too depressing.
  2. Talk about how your company is different, but be realistic: Focus more on the positives. Talk about what’s unique about your company – it can be a unique culture or a unique performance evaluation system, anything that stands out and would make your employees excited. Always gut check – “Do I myself want to work for such a company?” At the same time, you need to be realistic, after all you don’t want to overpromise and under deliver.

What has worked for you during interview conversations? Would love to hear your thoughts as well!

Posted By Vineet Arora, Co-founder, TalentNiti

1 Comment

Filed under Hiring, Startups

One Response to Startup Hiring: What You Should and Shouldn’t Tell Your Potential Employees

  1. Neha Ahuja

    I recently heard an interesting story about this company that offers janitorial services. They had pretty high attrition rates so in order to ensure people knew what they were getting into, they showed them videos of how their work would look like. That it would be intense, that they would be at the airports for late nights. And that really changed things for them. Those who realized they cannot sustain in that kind of work pressure, decided not to pursue and the company ended up hiring people who were truly interested.

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