by Ken Babcock
Hiring the right team members as your startup grows may be one of the most critical factors of your company’s success. The company you build is the team you build. As Tango has grown, a question that we continue to ask ourselves in our weekly founder standups is, “What can we do to put Tango in a position to succeed?” This question especially comes into play when we’re hiring new team members to augment the current team. We’ve been thoughtful and deliberate about our hiring practices from day one, and we like to think that’s been a big part of our success. My co-founders and I have had a lot of valuable experiences, but we are a low-ego team, which means our customers come first and foremost. Along the way, we found we had gaps in our team and needed specialized, experienced people to help us. Our motto was, “Let’s start figuring out what our users want and need, and then we’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.” We want people who bring in their own ideas and are willing to speak up when something isn’t working. That’s driven a lot of our focus during our hiring process. In this article, you’ll learn where your company values come in when you’re hiring team members, and how to ask targeted interview questions so you can find the right person when you’re ready to fill a role.Start with your company’s core valuesAs a startup, your values set the foundation for your culture. That’s why it’s critical to establish your values as early as possible and weave them into everything you do. As we continue to build the Tango team, something I think about a lot is, "How can we make sure the culture we've built maintains itself as we grow?" We have six core values at Tango. They’re not just written down on paper or talked about at a high level in all-hands meetings—we incorporate them into everything that we do, from business strategy to meeting agendas to performance reviews. Those core values also shape our hiring process. When one of our employees is assigned to interview a candidate, they always have a specific value they’re evaluating for, and they frame their questions accordingly. This isn't a foolproof plan, but it does ensure that we're making an effort to hire people who exhibit our core values. If you haven’t already defined your core values, here’s a 6-step plan for mapping them out: Gather a small team of C-Level executives and key employees or managers. Brainstorm a list of possible core values by asking the questions “What is important at our company?” and “What’s unique about working here?” Come up with a list of 20-25 ideas and put them on sticky notes or index cards Sort your cards into groups that have a similar theme (for instance, “teamwork” and “relationship building” might be grouped together) Examine each group and identify one key word or concept that summarizes those values—these words are your core values Define each core value in your own words, and use examples when possible Take an honest skills inventoryHiring the right team means being honest about where your skills lie…and where they don’t. At Tango, there are things we’re great at, and there are areas where we just have no idea what we’re doing. That’s true for any founding team—and it’s important to be honest about your skill sets and what skills you need to hire for. This kind of honest inventory can shape your entire early hiring plan, because it will show you exactly where the gaps are, and help you figure out the kind of expertise you need to bring in. So how do you set up the team for success by hiring the skill sets that you don't have right now, but you know you're going to need?Ask value-based interview questionsDuring your interviews, ask questions that will help you determine whether a candidate’s values align with your company’s. Asking values-based questions will ensure that the people you hire will be able to fit in with your team culture. Here are a few examples of values-based interview questions: Value: Respectful conversationRelated question: Can you describe a disagreement you’ve had with a colleague or teammate? How did you handle that disagreement? Value: Professional growthRelated question: What has been your greatest work achievement, and how did you accomplish it? Value: Learn from mistakesRelated question: Can you describe a work situation where you look back and wish you had done something differently? How would that have changed the outcome of the situation? Value: IntegrityRelated question: Have you ever faced an ethical or moral dilemma at work? If yes, what was the issue and how did you handle it?Hiring perfect-fit team members Whether you’re making your first hire, or you’re a high-growth company that is scaling your staff, team quality is one of the very best predictors of startup success. Getting great people on board is the make-or-break factor that will determine whether or not you can reach your biggest business goals. To sum up, here’s how to hire the right team members right out of the gate: ● Define your company’s core values● Take an honest inventory to identify skills gaps so you know who to hire next● Ask interview questions that help you figure out if a candidate’s values align with yours
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