Recruiting and HR: Facets of a Job

We’ve had good success in recruiting and building a talented team.  As part of that our job descriptions became much clearer in some ways, and less clear in others.  We’ve also observed that our best candidates and most successful hires have had a clear understanding of what they want and do not want.  Some o


Conan’s Wheel of Pain: That was a false job description.  

f our best hires came in for one position, knew that what was available the time did not work, and we were able to get them back when we had something that met their needs.

We tend to see recruits as having interests in one of the following categories:

1. The Business

Our business is relatively new.  We’re immersed in a heavy industrial technology.  It has significant impact on society through the impact on pollution and issues like clean water and batteries.  These are easy things for potential new hires to grasp, and help in recruiting.

2. The Market

The businesses first market was selling in to academia.  While this is interesting, we don’t get many recruits who *love* this space.  However, they can’t hate it.  That market and those customers still have a big impact on what we do.  Where we get excited is when we find new hires coming to us out of the big industries where we focus most of our time; air filtration, apparel, and liquid filtration.

Along with these specific industries, due to the nature of what we sell, potential hires have to be comfortable with a long sales cycle.  Our first customers were academic and could spend $50,000 – $200,000 easily for the right piece of equipment.  Over time we’ve grown the ASP of our biggest products by 40x, and in so doing changed the types of groups with which we engage.  Personnel who are looking for a quick fix are not a good fit.

Customers work with us over a long period of time pushing the edge of their manufacturing capabilities.  Attention to detail is a must.  Intellectual curiosity about what the customers and markets need is essential.

3. Culture

Any modern business has diverse cultural and regional needs.  We value quantitative decision making based on market-driven evidence.  “My gut feeling,” is a well cited inside joke brought up when someone knows they don’t have real data.

Ethics is a crucial part of culture.  Edge cases of behavior cannot be accepted.

Our customers work with us over years to deploy a new product and expect that the production assets we sell them will enable decades of novel materials with high margins.  We are trusted to work with them closely, and we must never provide an opportunity for our ethics to slide.

4. Role

Components of a new employees role can include:

  • Leadership: Where in the organization are there?
  • Visibility (Internal [market facing] / external)
  • Size of possible impact:  A new employee where this is a first job may not think they are going to make an impact on the whole company, but we expect them to make an impact on what they are doing.  As a small firm (60 or so people) this is crucial to selecting team members who have the potential to grow with our business.
  • Time to achieve their goals: We tend to provide new team members with clear assignments and expectations.  We will err on the side of too much responsibility, as this has historically been more useful than extended training.

5. Position Logistics

These details often begin a job description.  They can include:

  • Travel (What % of time?  To where?)
  • Where are the external resources / contacts / customers?  (How far away?  Are they international?  What languages are spoken?  How culturally similar are they?)  This line of questioning alone has been most predictive in successful hires.
  • What is the balance of Responsibility and Authority?
  • What career qualifications are needed?  Degrees?  Time in the field?  As a young company we can’t always attract the kind of experience we’d like to have – however, we also can’t pretend that our customers can be in the market using products that don’t meet global standards.
  • Compensation.  I look at; salary / bonus / commission / equity.
  • Information technology / needs / requirements / budget, etc.  If a position doesn’t have the right IT budget, what will a new team member really be able to accomplish?

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