Tech Startup Hiring Tips for Success
A lot of people ask me “how do you hire at Enplug?” and want to learn more about landing one of our open positions. Our startup hiring strategy has proven to be both unique and highly effective. Hopefully, you’ll be able to takeaway tips for your own hiring process, or if you’re in the job market, for your interview!
I love our team. We started from a small group of 6 individuals and have grown to more than 30, and each of our team members is vital to our product, growth, and to our team culture. For an environment in which teammates live and work together, culture is everything, and I’m proud to say I’ve been able to recruit over half of our team.
Out of those 15+ individuals, the most important, resounding common factors are passion and grit. Every single one of our team members has a lot going for them in terms of intelligence, autonomy, talent, and skill, but without passion and grit, they just aren’t Enplug.
So how, in the span of a few conversations, can you find someone’s passion and work ethic, you may ask. That question is actually why I love my job most! You can learn a lot about a person if you just know the right questions to ask, and follow up on their cues.
Our recruiting process is extensive. Each potential team member has to pass through three stages once they submit their application: they speak with me, they speak with the team lead they’ll be working with, and then they speak with our entire founding team. Talking with as many individuals as possible before a mutual selection is made (they choose us as much as we choose them!) is everything, but being able to tap into what makes an individual tick starts with their resume and cover letter – so yes, there is a reason we ask for them!
Resumes & Cover Letters
Resumes and cover letters are the first view I get of any of our team members. From just one email, I know whether someone is genuinely excited about an opportunity with us, or just looking for a job. This ranges from beautifully written explanations of what makes the person get up in the morning (my favorite!) to the unfortunate template letter:
I am [adjective] to be considered for [position] with [company], and feel I will be the best fit for this position because I am [qualities]…
When those [qualities] don’t match the [position], or, worse, the [company] isn’t Enplug – and yes, this happens more often than you’d expect – then it’s a red flag. On the other hand, if the cover letter isn’t a copied-and-pasted masterpiece, then it’ll tell you a lot of the positives about the person: their manner of speech, their sense of humor, their sense of self, and if they are genuinely passionate about the position and the opportunity to work with our team.
Resumes offer great insights as well. I tend to look specifically for experience working on teams (and loving it enough to stay on that team for a fair amount of time!), building things (products, processes, technologies), and a sturdy amount of effort put into learning more about what they’re passionate about. I love seeing histories of extended stays with companies. I want to see applicants who are proud of their soccer team or past group projects, which shows a love of hard work in a team environment. Or those who foster a love of learning and building things after hours, outside of their 9-5. These are the things that really make a resume stand out.
Then comes the fun. The conversation starts from what they shared through their application. I want to know how they managed to exceed quotas x months in a row, or what kind of testing they have done, but also:
How did they know they wanted to be an engineer from as early as 9 years old?
Why are they jumping from touring with a rock band to building creative content?
What compelled them to make a video game with their friends, and how did it turn out?
Why did they learn 6 languages, and do they plan on learning another?
I want to learn about how they found their passion.
Does it match what we’re doing? How important is that passion to them? How did they work toward it, and what are they most proud of? Do they have the ability to pull long hours to build something that matters to them?
What are their expectations?
I’m equally interested in what they’re looking for in an opportunity with Enplug. What characterizes their dream job? If it’s an extremely high salary, unfortunately we’re not going to be able to give them that right now (we’re a startup!), but if they’re looking for a challenge, creative freedom, and an awesome team that’s more than just water cooler banter and a time-card, they’ll find that here. Are they excited by directly impacting something bigger than themselves, and seeing the seeds they plant grow? Are they looking for a way to travel and see the world? Would they be happiest working as an island, or in a collaborative team? The bottom line is where would they be happiest, and do we offer it?
Picking up on the cues.
Another important piece of this puzzle is intuition. As our lead web designer / house mom / sustainability chair Gabby would argue, humans are inherently social beings, and we’ve developed an uncanny ability to understand what people say vs what they really mean. Watching for vocal cues and changes in demeanor tell me if an applicant is being honest, or if they’re doing their best to answer questions “correctly”. An applicant could seem like the dream fit, but if they’re not genuine, they’re doing a disservice to both the team and themselves, as they won’t end up loving the role.
If I believe that they would not only be a great fit culturally, but that they have the grit and passion to push any task assigned to them to completion, then they repeat the process with their potential new team lead, and then once more with our founding team. Just by the sheer process of our interviews, everyone joins our team knowing at least 20% of our team, they get a strong understanding of who we are and what we’re working towards, and we get the opportunity to learn so much about them in just a short period of time. While we’re asking “do they have the passion, do they have the grit”, they’re also evaluating us: “can I see myself building with these people?”. We love when the answer is a resounding “Yes!” from both sides.
Enplug digital signage software was co-founded by CEO Nanxi Liu and CTO Tina Denuit-Wojcik in 2012 to enable organizations to use customized real-time streaming content to create engaging external and internal communications.