The Lean Startup Methodology for Hiring

The Recruitment Journey of a Lean Startup in the Energy Tech Space

We have all been there. The calamity we feel waiting for that person to walk into the room. We try to stay calm, confident and focused but the nervousness sticks its ugly head out one way or another. We prepped and practiced to answer the questions perfectly but somehow it comes out as if hearing it for the first time. Do my skill sets match? Am I what they are looking for? Will I fit in? We ask these questions in our head repeatedly but what about being on the other side of the table? We just assume the interviewer has the power, they know what they want and they are on a mission to find it. But in the startup hiring space, it’s not as easy as it looks. How do we comb through the manicured and perfected resume and interview performance to determine if this person is the right fit for our company? These are just some of the questions that come to mind when navigating through the terrain of start-up hiring. This is our journey through the early stages of hiring in the energy tech startup space in Houston.

  1. Hire future team members who can help you Right Now.
  2. Trust your gut.
  1. The MVP should have the primary skillset to help us from the get-go, as time is of the essence to build a product and deliver on projects.
  2. The MVP should possess an entrepreneurship-mentality. We needed someone who can embrace and drive change. Thrive in uncertainty and perform under ambiguity. They need not be perfect in everything, but someone who can quickly learn and adapt if the need arises. We needed someone who can hustle, needs minimal direction, has a thirst for knowledge and can deliver under tight deadlines. Easy right?
  3. The most important MVP skill we were looking for was someone who is looking to grow the company with us and seeks success as part of a team, not through personal or individual success. The broader startup culture is all about collaboration and minimizing ranks and hierarchies.
  1. We then screened the resume to ensure the right fit and benchmarked with MVP’s skillset.
  2. Then, we arranged for another video interview with the CEO. This one was focused on introducing the vision, mission, and culture of the company and measure the culture fit. Drive, Curiosity, Creativity, and Mindset were some of the things that were measured on this call. We were also cognizant of the terms that the future team members used in all the interviews such as “company,” “team,” “together” instead of “I want” and “me.”
  3. Next, the future team members had an intro-call with our CTO. The objective of the call was to introduce Nesh to them (why we do what we do) and learn more about their background and also gauge their technical prowess. Another goal of this call was to peel back the resume a bit and find out more about the projects mentioned in it.
  4. The next step was a deep-dive technical interview. The objective of this step was to measure the technical competence of the future team members. We weren’t looking for someone who was familiar with our tech stack (it was an added benefit if they were) but for someone who had strong fundamentals.
  5. The ones who progressed through the previous steps were given a technical project to complete within the week (currently, we are trying to reduce the 1-week time frame to a much shorter to see a future team member’s drive in completing the work under tight timelines). They were also expected to create a short video to explain the way they solved the problem and the thought process behind it. We are a “design-first” company so, in addition to the technical implementation, we also scored on the visual aspects (or design thinking) of their solution.
  6. During this phase, we initiated the reference calls to find out more about the future team members from people who have known them for longer than we have. Since all is fair in love, war and hiring, we also reached out to a few back-channel references to ensure we have a well-rounded perspective about them.
  7. Finally, we invited them to visit us at our office where they could meet everyone on the team and have a casual conversation with all of us in a low-pressure setting. The scorecard from all the previous steps, reference feedback, and the team’s input was considered to make a final decision.
A sample ranking of the future team member for one of the interview steps
  1. Culture fit is crucial. If you don’t have a culture manifesto for your company, create one. (We will share ours in future posts)
  2. An internship is an excellent way to evaluate future team members before offering them a full-time position and also great for the future team members to test-drive us. For an internship, we follow a slightly abridged version of the same process. We’ve been able to find some great quality interns through that process.
  3. Promote your brand by using social media channels like LinkedIn and Instagram regularly to provide a snapshot of your startup life to prospective hires. Good candidates do their research.
  4. Trust your gut.
  5. Fine-tune your process if you are not satisfied with the outcome. We fine-tuned ours at least four times to arrive at this hiring process and it still has some ways to go.
  6. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in every step. You will reap what you put into the hiring process but move as quickly as possible.
  7. Once you’ve decided on a future team member, send them a great offer immediately. Even delaying the decision by one day can have negative consequences.
  8. For future team members who fall through the hiring process, always send a thank you letter explaining the reason why the fit wasn’t right and offer helpful suggestions. We’ve been able to connect one of the candidates with another start-up whose skill-set was better suited for the other organization.
  9. Look for something that stands out in the future team members, something that is hard to quantify. In our case, we look for grit. Find the thing you want to look for in your future team member.

Creator of the AI Assistant for Search and Analytics

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store