Recruiting As A Startup – Startup Serial #14

Recruiting: Getting it wrong

Gleem was growing and it was feeling good.

I’d been in business for about 6 months and it felt like the right time to step it up a level: I was going to hire someone to work full time.

I had interns working part time, but this was a big commitment to the business.

I didn’t really know how to recruit, so I started reading online about it.

I posted some job adverts on free resources like www.indeed.co.uk and received a few applicants.

Then I got contacted by a recruiter. I listened to the perfected sales patter dismissively, but then they hooked me with one line: if you let the new employee go before their probationary period, I would receive a full refund.

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I interviewed a few applicants, and can’t say I was particularly impressed by the quality, which got me second guessing this recruiter. I gave him one last chance and he sent someone who I thought would work well in the business: A young London girl who seemed ambitious.

I decided to hire her and she started working whilst my interns finished up their work at Gleem.

Month 1 seemed to go quite well, I allowed her to find her feet, whilst offering up responsibility and she seemed to react well.

Then things started to take a turn. She had booked a holiday in Germany and for the fortnight before this holiday she acted as if she wasn’t working. She was lethargic and uninterested. I had to really motivate her to work, and generated a mediocre list of tasks to perform before leaving for her holiday.

I had sought someone who would be dedicated to the business and who would be viewing it as a great opportunity for growth, but when I discovered that half of this list of tasks had not even been attempted.

I realised I had made a bad hiring decision. I decided that even though she was only holiday, because of the level of commitment I told her that I expected that it would be ok to call her to clarify what had gone wrong.

I was greeted with an aggressive and dismissive person on the other end of the line, who may as well have sworn at me for interrupting her trip abroad.

I decided that I no longer wanted someone like that working at Gleem as it was not ‘on brand’, and so let her go.

When it became time to receive a refund for the placement fee from the recruiter, I discovered that this ‘full refund’ was actually a lie from a recruiter who was about to leave his post, and was looking to make a quick placement (and the subsequent commission).I had to fight with the company but eventually received my full refund.

It was great to have a try-before-you-buy opportunity due to the cheeky recruiter, however in hindsight I can see that I hired badly.

I let emotion play too large a factor in why I hired someone: I liked her, she was straight talking and I based my decision upon that alone. I didn’t reference check her or anything.

So that was my first hire. It went badly, but again there were some great lessons to take from the experience.

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