Some common mistakes startups make when hiring? How do you avoid them?

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Hiring the wrong person for the wrong job isn’t an ideal outcome for any company, but the scale of the problem increases directly proportional to a decrease in company size. A large corporation is more like to be able to absorb the shock of a bad hire – strength in numbers and all that – but startups and SMEs can end up fractured beyond repair.

1. BUYING KETCHUP WHEN YOU REALLY NEED HP SAUCE
By far the most egregious mistake is failing to put sufficient thought into what type of role you need to hire for. Sure, one of the best things about working for a small company is the potential for employees to create their role as they go along, but there needs to be a fair foundation on which to build.

We’ve seen some flabbergastingly vague job descriptions over the years. Have you ever met someone who’s a design wizard, a marketing mastermind and sales ninja all at once? Us neither. That’s because they probably don’t exist. And if they do, they’re reclining in a private jet right now, feasting on fifty-pound notes covered in fairy dust.

Chef says: spend some time considering your company’s needs and desires until you have the perfect role recipe.

2. IGNORING THAT MOULDY TOMATO AT THE BACK OF THE FRIDGE
You need to be frank with yourself when evaluating whether your new employee is hitting the mark. Being ruthless sucks – unless you’re a Bond villain – but the sad truth is that dead weight is harder for smaller companies to carry because there are fewer sets of muscles around to bear the load.
Okay, so comparing a hapless employee to a mouldy fruit isn’t the most sensitive analogy, but the point is that once you suspect you’ve made a mistake in hiring someone, delaying the inevitable unpleasantness could cost you dearly. And as we all know (sob), heartbreak hits harder the longer you delay it. Shame that parting is such sweet sorrow. Just like an overripe cherry tomato.

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Chef says: if it turns out that you and your new hire aren’t on the same page of the cookbook, take swift action.

3. FAILING TO TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
One way to mitigate the likelihood of (2) occurring is to implement a solid probation period. This is where internships are a nifty solution: in contrast to the probation period of a permanent contract, where the expectation is for employment to continue (and the blow to the person when that doesn’t happen correspondingly more severe), the expectations post-internship are vastly lower.

Consider using a paid one-month internship to test the water with a potential new employee. If it doesn’t work out, no harm done – your getaway car is ready and waiting, and the intern has at least gained valuable experience which won’t blight the person’s CV with failure.

Chef says: use an internship as a probation period to cover your back, and nobody will leave the table empty-handed.

4. MAKING KETCHUP WITH GREEN TOMATOES
It’s all too easy to rush the recruitment process. A tempting fallacy. Believe me, we get it; lead times for anything are at best short or, more likely, non-existent in the glorious chaos of a young, fast-growing business. You gain a new client, a new corporate partner, need to pivot on your product, or stumble upon an impatient investor – and more hands on deck are suddenly needed YESTERDAY. However, underestimating the time it takes to decide what you need, then spread the good word and carry out the selection process will probably result in you taking on someone who doesn’t quite fit the bill.

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Chef says: try to predict the need for recruiting extra humanpower before it slaps you in the face, and leave enough time to find the perfect person at a steady pace. That’s a free poem, from us to you. Feel free to nick it for your company anthem.

5. USING STALE KETCHUP WHEN YOU’D BE BETTER OFF WITH A FRESH SPECIMEN
It’s tempting to hire someone with an impressive whack of relevant qualifications and previous experience. But beware of hiring someone who is able to work autonomously from the go-get at the expense of being a good fit as far as company culture goes. At the risk of cliche-peddling, small teams are like families, and the line between work and non-work life is often blurred; you might be better off with an ostensibly lower-qualified candidate who “gets it” and is a joy to have around.

Obviously, though, it’s a balancing act. Not every small company has enough bandwidth to invest in the training needed to mould a diamond in the rough. It’s all about compromise, baby.

Chef says: balance your expectations, and decide what’s more important between a pinch of company culture and a dash of know-how when looking to expand your team.

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