Hiring is Timing

Twitter Summary: Hiring is Timing. The timing of who you need, when you need them, and when they are available.

I have had the joy of helping three friends get job offers in the past few months at two Seattle area startups (www.groundtruth.com and www.jambool.com). Offering to help people is nothing new, its just that the last few months have had an unusually high hit rate for matching people with a unique skillset and introducing them to companies that needed those skills now. The whole process reminded me of an adage I was taught at my last startup that “Hiring is Timing.”

Deciding what you need next at a startup is generally simple. If something is not getting done and is core to the business, you should either prioritize the job higher for the people working at the company, or hire somebody to do it. If you don’t have the money for it you either need to raise the money, or generate enough to support the role. Resource constraints (Lack of money) really help the prioritization process. In a software company, I have always heard the rule-of-thumb is that you shouldn’t really need to worry about hiring a full time HR person until you hit employee 25 or in-house legal help unless you are creating revising lots of contracts and have the revenue to support them.

Which person should we hire for the role? We all want to hire “the best” but frequently the best are already employed. This also can be a cop-out for why things haven’t gotten done. “If we only we had this senior software engineer at company Y, she would have totally finished the job by now.” Not everybody is available when you need them, or have an interest in working in your brand new startup. The better solution is to hire people who are available now who have the desire to grow, learn and expand their skillset to build the things you need them to do. I was reminded that is is better for the organization to “Hire well, and develop people” then it is to hire “The Best” [http://www.rallydev.com/agileblog/2010/01/some-silly-advice/]. The best are frequently unavailable, and frankly became the best in the environment they are in and will likely continue their success by staying in that environment. By developing people, any new startup has the opportunity to create a whole new team of “The Best” and creating an environment where they can flourish.
P.S. If you are looking for a software job in the Seattle area, I have contacts with a few startups that are hiring so send me an email and maybe there will be a match.

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