Look Beyond the Resume

3:45 AM Suvir Sujan 1 Comments

Many times, start up entrepreneurs seem focused on education and experience when recruiting. IIT, IIM, Tata, Reliance, ICICI, Hindustan Lever, Mckinsey, etc are some of the that I keep hearing in discussions about recruiting. No doubt, some of these people who studied or worked at these hallowed institutions are very smart. But that doesn't necessarily translate into being able to succeed in a start up environment. What you need in a start up environment is what I like to succincitly call "edgy", especially in a business role - someone who is willing to challenge status quo, try and not take "no" for an answer, not be afraid to make cold calls to potential customers if needed, finds ways to get things done, think out of the box, make decisions quick, adapt plans quickly if needed. Most of this cannot be gauged by a resume. So spending time with the person to judge these inherent traits is critical. Asking open ended questions and listening not only for what the person is saying but what the person is the motivation, aspiration, intention behind what the person is saying and extrapolating competence and execution ability from that is critical. It is part art, part science. But worth spending the extra hours doing that, rather than hire for education and experience solely and later learn that this person is unable to adapt to a start up situation.

Let me give an example. An entrepreneur in one of the startups I am associated with wanted to hire a senior CXO level candidate. He hired an IIT/IIM topper who had worked as a CXO in another MNC for a decade. This person was rated very high by the MNC. This entrepreneur spent most of his time convincing this person to join him and very little time gauging whether this person would be the right fit. When this person finally joined the start up, he was ineffective from Day 1. He didnt have an army of people to execute below him and didnt have a brand platform to recruit top talent like he did in his earlier job. This startup was venturing into a new service never been offered before in the country and he didnt have the "gut" judgment to really know how to position and price the service. He was not used to rolling up his sleeves to talk to potential customers to really figure out the pain points. He was not willing to risk his reputation by trying to convince customers to buy this service. His concern was what if the company couldnt deliver? He was used to selling a service that existing for years at his previous job and had good foot soldiers below him to execute. He was basically managing a set of strong resources earlier where the brand was the calling card and not himself to open customer doors. Needless to say, this person soon parted ways with the startup.

Moral of the story - Look Beyond the Resume! Spend a lot of time "understanding" the person being hired. Remember some of the best entrepreneurs in the world didnt go to college and didn't work at blue chip companies either.


Vipul said...

+1 on your article.
BTW, looks like the comments above mine are spam!! CAPTCHA does not seem to be super effective..