JuntoPractices: Hiring Strategies and Tactics that Work

Learning how to hire well is the hardest thing about growing a company. What I mean by "well" is hiring the right person for the role the company needs to fill, and at the right time.

Hiring is the topic that arguably gets the most coverage during our Apprenticeship program. It comes up regularly in our Forum discussions, when founders share challenges and experiences with their peers. It's the actual topic of one our classes, and is addressed in at least six of the other 11 classes. Hiring gets discussed in at least one-third of the Mentor Team meetings, and is almost always a topic during the HR tutoring sessions.

I recently asked members of the JuntoTribe what strategies and tactics they have found to work in their experience with the hiring process and what they've done to hire their best people. Several of their responses were published in a blog post I wrote for The Thought Board, but there was so much great content that I've included more here.


ANDRE JANUS, CEO of Cristaux (JuntoIV)

Each department hires on its own, given a set of phone screening questions and interview questions. From there they have to turn in all final completed documents to me to review before I take a face-to-face interview with the candidate and make a final decision. This has given each department head the authority to hire on their own and find the talent they need best, while giving me final blessing in their decision.


TRAVIS MCHATTIE, COO of Solid Interactive (JuntoII)

Here are some notes on what we do, definitely a mix of art and science, and probably more of an art.

  • Hire the person not the skill set. Skills can be taught.

  • Culture is king, the person most technically capable might be outperformed by a seemingly avg. technical member that happens to be a better culture fit.

  • Qualities that we look for in every new team member:

    • Can they be coached?

    • Do they have an ambition to be a life long learner?

    • Are they aware about awareness?

    • Will they fit in with the team?

Also, in our final interview, we walk them through our values and request that they define the behaviors that would mimic our values based on the role that they are applying for. This gets them thinking from day one what is going to be expected of them outside of the basic technical capabilities.


ANDREW PARNELL, CEO of Earlybird (JuntoIII)

Our hiring process is broken down into these major steps:

  1. A simple phone call with the candidate where we evaluate whether the candidate is serious about her job search and if we feel she would be a good fit with our culture and values.

  2. If the candidate passes this call, we invite her into the office or a video call to do a technical interview, where we use case studies and more rigorous questions to evaluate exactly how technically capable the candidate is.

  3. If the candidate passes the technical interview, I have a phone call or coffee with the candidate to discuss roles and responsibilities and identify exactly what the offer will be.

  4. After these meetings we check references, deliver the offer to the candidate and start preparing for a new member on the team.

ADAM ROBINSON - CEO of Hireology (JuntoInstructor)

When hiring for a startup: 

  • Always use “You” in the job description: You want the candidate to feel themselves already in the job.

  • Use casual language: Candidates are applying for a startup and probably are avoiding a corporate environment.

  • Make it short: When applying for a job, candidates don’t want to sit and read 80 paragraphs about your company’s history.

The first sentence of the job description should be a concise and catchy statement about the company to immediately grasp the candidate. For instance: “Working at Company X is an entrepreneurial adventure - not for pessimists or the faint of heart.”

The second sentence should be about the job: “You will be creative force behind Company X’s brand, so you must be consistently smart and hungry for success.” Finally, the last sentence should be the statement that makes the candidate want the job so bad they will work for free (Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) Try “You will lead a team of visionaries towards an outcome that just may change the world.”

NICK SARILLO, CEO of Nick's Pizza & Nick's University (JuntoInstructor)

Here is what has worked for us with hiring:

  • Create discipline around process

  • Hire for 2 criteria:

    • Performance match

    • Purpose & Values match

  • Does your A+ match their A+

  • Get the tables and chairs out of the way

    • Track body language of the applicant and yourself

  • Pay attention to personal tuning fork


ALAN YEFSKY - CEO of McCormick's Enterprises (JuntoMentor)

In terms of methods or philosophies, I believe that hiring the right people and not hiring the wrong people is one of the most difficult things to do well in business. Here are a few guiding principles that have served me well in the past:

  • DO ask good open ended questions.

  • DO be sure there is a match between the job and what motivates the person.

  • DO be realistic about what the right person will cost you. If you can't afford it, reconsider defining the job rather than hire someone that isn't qualified because they fit your budget. This costs more in long run.

  • DO set clear expectations for what would represent success in the job. Use this as a filter as you evaluate candidates for fit.

  • DO address hiring mistakes quickly.

  • DO trust your instincts. If something bothers you about a candidate, don't proceed unless and until you get your concerns fully addressed. I've found that the majority of people I regretted bringing on board were people I had some concerns about during the interview process, but for whom I ignored my little voice and hired them anyway.

  • DON'T hire your friends or people you know just because you know them. While they will be loyal and committed, they may not necessarily have the experience or skills you need. If someone you know happens to fit the bill for what you need, that is the best of all worlds, but it doesn't often happen.

  • DON'T be afraid to ask for help interviewing, even from outsiders if they have more experience evaluating talent.

  • DON'T hire someone just because you like them in the interview, because they are similar to you, or because you seemed to "click" with them. While being able to work well together is important, it is more important that the person can actually be successful in what you are hiring them to do. Liking someone can often cloud your judgment.