[Upside] Lessons in survival

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From: Linda (joelinda1@home.com)
Date: Sun Jun 11 2000 - 11:12:21 PDT

[Some tips for those currently hiring for their start-up company ;)
As an aside, I've conducted hundreds of interviews since I've done the majority of
hiring for our medical center. At the end I usually like to ask if there is
anything he/she would like to add which might influence my decision in any way.
The most memorable response to date: "Well, I'm presently in the process of
suing my last employer..."



Lessons in survival
June 08, 2000
by Stephen James

I'm going to assume you are already a small group of two to three who have the bank accounts, connections,
or friends and family to help you gather the $500,000 to $1.5 million needed to give life to your dream

That core typically divides into one technical person and one business person, but frequently can be two
business people or two technical people. Once the money is raised and in the company's account, you have to
start hiring people to help you build your dream company.

Pick knowledgeable people.
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is hiring our friends or acquaintances. Find people
who have skills that match the jobs that you're looking for and ask for their résumés.

Read résumés carefully.
If it's longer than a page, you don't need that person. If the résumé is full of that "how to
write a résumé" stuff like goals, personal interests, foreign travel, you have someone with
little experience. Round file 'em (garbage can). If it's rife with typographical errors, the
person is likely to lack basic English and a host of other necessary skills.

Pick people who can skip a payroll.
Something the big company staffing people will say you're not allowed to ask. Well, you're
not a big company; under five to 10 employees you escape most federal and state regulations. Be direct. Warn
your interviewees that if money gets tight, people may be asked to pass on some payrolls. This way you'll
weed out a lot of people that you don't want in the long run.

Trust your gut.
Human chemistry is everything -- body art belongs in interest groups, not the office. Someone who can't look
you in the eye in an interview may be less friendly later; someone overly sensitive to tough questions now will
be a real pain later.

Listen for early warning signs.
Someone who asks about working hours, how soon he or she can take a vacation, or is evaluating their options
with others has little experience. You don't have time in a startup to help people grow up. You don't need
people who are going to take an hour every day responding in lengthy fashion to all their email; you need
people who are going to do useful work.

I don't use references, with one exception: If I know a referee well, I will call. Calling a former professor, a
friend or a supervisor has always been, in my experience, a waste of time. You're simply sampling a
pre-selected group when checking listed references. These are not objective sources.

Look at both ends of the spectrum.
The job market is so tight these days in technology that you need to consider older and younger people. An
older person can lend incredible depth to your startup, as long as you find someone with the energy and stamina to
work the hours required. Similarly, youthful enthusiasm can carry the weight of the world, provided
you have enough time to keep them moving in the right direction.

Set standards for employees.
If you don't set guidelines, your startup will never have a defined culture. If you believe that office computers
should not be used as music CD players, game machines, for email chitchat or freelance work, tell people up
front. Otherwise, you'll have to ask them to take off their Walkman headsets every time you want to ask a
simple question, and that gets real old, real fast.

Be honest and direct.
You'll know in the first couple of weeks whether you've hired the right person or not. Tell your new hire
whether he or she fits into your dream company or not. Be open and honest and suggest that he or she move
on to other opportunities.

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