Why do so many Startup’s hire only “B” talent?

Many Australian and New Zealand Startup’s search for “B” talent instead of “A” talent simply because the job market has been very tight for a number of years. The common view among Start Ups is they can’t realistically expect to fill their company with “A” talent, and so many Start Ups all over the world bring on the “B” talent and get to work.

This is how I recently opened up a 30 minute presentation to a group of Sydney based Start Ups at a networking event. And yes you guessed it – everyone was shocked.

It didn’t take very long for an audience member to interrupt my presentation to confront my “misguided views”.

A person in the first row gave a long speech on how only “A” talent will do in her Start Up. She got all fired up and explained how “only a sharp team with a passion to create“ is the deciding factor for any Start Up’s success.

She polished it all off with her analogy of when you hire “B” talent, that “B” talent hires “C” talent — everybody knows that. When she was done, I knew she had inadvertently blurted out the very thing I was trying to explain.

Focus on what a candidate can “be.”

My introduction was a deliberate pitch. I wasn’t advocating that Start Ups or new businesses should lower their standards. I never want anyone to be satisfied with second class talent. My point was that fixating on so-called “A” talent leads one to miss out on great hires. Focus on what a candidate can “be.” That’s your “B” talent.

Start Up founders are forward thinkers by nature. The way they see the potential for their product in the marketplace is how they should see the potential in their hires. The switched on Start Ups become attuned to discovering future rock stars. They discover “B” talent.

Imagine how much deeper the talent pool could be if we all looked deeper at candidates — on and off the resume page. That could make all the difference in the world to young Start Ups in Australia & New Zealand.

I have four steps about finding great “B” talent for your Start Up.

#1  Hard work beats talent – if talent does not work hard

We all know that skills matter, but eagerness to learn matters more, especially if you run a Start Up business.

Proven tech skill or industry experience is powerful, but it’s definitely not enough. The rules of Start Ups are changing all the time – your market is different, your sales and marketing angle is different – you eventually aspire to be another disrupter. Never mind the constant, fast pace change of technology and apps.

What a Start Up wants are people who are pushing the boundaries of their abilities, and people with a strong sense of duty and interest in new technologies or unconventional approaches in business, so they can actively experiment with them. Their minds thirst for more knowledge. In other words, your Start Up needs explorers, not tour guides.

#2 You want players who put the team first

I only look for people that make the rest of the team better.

Candidates who understand that teams come in all sorts of packages. Maybe it’s the social media wizard that not only helps the client database, but also uses their initiative to restructure the new mail lists for better results. Or maybe it’s the gusty front end developer who puts his hand up to make some sales calls to learn some insights into the sales process, then sits down with the boss to draft a more accurate product explanation. Or a switched-on intern who suggests simple online solutions to test the useability of new features.

Success comes from people.

Not cool offices and gear. It’s “B” talent like these that encourage and inspire the rest of the team. Get a few of these candidates for your Start Up together and I assure you the mutual support and success that is generated makes your Start Up a success.

# 3 Get hungry, but share the feast

The best tech guys I’ve worked with are always the ones who are not afraid to say “I don’t know.” I’ve made it a habit in my business to only hire guys who are confident enough in their knowledge and experience to be direct and transparent.

They don’t have the need to put on a show. What they want is an answer! They’re not satisfied in not knowing and will usually be the first to point out how they will try to find out the answer. Get guys who understand initiative and ownership as opposed to intellectual property hogs.

# 4 Seek out the right kind of passion

One of the all-deciding factors for real “B” talent is the evidence of passion. Check your candidate thoroughly and search if there’s genuine drive and passion for your area of focus.

Don’t just check once. Check twice and keep the conversation going until you’ve found a place for them on your team or you know for certain they aren’t a good fit. It’s harsh, but it’s effective and when you meet a candidate who has a drive, focus and determination similar to your own, the question converts  from “should you hire them?” to “is there any reason you shouldn’t hire them?”

Searching for jobs or real talented candidates is a two way street. If you focus on what the applicant in front of you can be for your organisation, then you’re well on your way to discover some true “B” talent. Just remember to hunt wisely!