The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Vineet Jain, cofounder and CEO of Egnyte.
Companies of all sizes agonize over hiring decisions—and with good reason. The competition is stiff, and organizations are trying to do everything they can to put the right talent in place to get them to that next level. Organizations often adopt a flawed approach to hiring—believing that “if you build it, they will come.” They focus on having an innovative technology, sound roadmap, and a clear vision without first focusing on having the right talent in place to help them survive the ups and downs of business.
Unfortunately, the truth is that even if your company has the most innovative technology on the market, it won’t make a difference if you hire the wrong people—even talented people—especially if you’re in the earlier stages. In any organization, your greatest asset is your people. Understanding that as a foundation for hiring will help you realize that there will never truly be a “right time” when it comes to hiring people—rather an ongoing desire to bring in the best of the best.
You should always be in hiring mode, bringing in the most talented people you can find. Rather than filling a position or simply looking to bring in new skills, you should be acquiring talent whenever it is available to you.
A question many CEOs are faced with is: How much of a role should I play in the hiring process?
I’ve heard rumors of one well-known chief executive spending as much as 50% of his day on hiring activities and another personally signing off on every hire. This may seem extreme, especially for large companies, but when you’re running a young company—say, up until your first 1,000 people—the CEO should be actively involved in some ways. When you’re small, you’re shaping the culture of the company with each hire, and if you make a bad hire, it can cause a ripple effect and upset the entire organization.
My philosophy has always been to raise money when you don’t need it. This applies to building a workforce as well. Don’t do all of your hiring to fill open roles or new positions. Timing is key. If you’re a startup and you’re going to be out of money in 12 months, you need to raise now. The same goes with candidates. If you’re looking for new skills or increased execution in Q1, you need to start looking for candidates in Q3 or Q4 of the previous year. Don’t wait until it’s too late and the talent has dried up. It may not be the perfect business environment, but you want to be ready with quality people for when it turns around.
As obvious as this may sound, the candidates you’re seeking have to be aligned with your overall business objectives. And if you have a good handle on where the company is at, you can hire ahead of the plan. At the same time, being flexible enough to hire great talent when you see it is critical, even without a clear view of the future—especially in Silicon Valley. If we see a highly skilled engineer, for example, we want them working for us now, so we may hire them and worry about the organizational structure at a later date.
Finally, don’t be afraid to build relationships throughout the process, even if they don’t end with the signed offer. Successful hiring is about building a pipeline of candidates, getting them in the door, and nurturing people as they move through their careers. Maybe things won’t work out now, but that candidate that you really wanted could always come back after a bad experience elsewhere—or at your next company. In this increasingly competitive job market, there is no harm in keeping your hiring door open, as it may be crucial to keeping your company’s doors open in the long run.
Vineet Jain is cofounder and CEO of enterprise file services company Egnyte and has 20 years of experience building capital-efficient organizations.