The hiring team is wise to have a few careful conversations to be sure what they’re looking for truly aligns with the company’s goals, and that they can articulate this clearly to candidates. Knowing what differentiates your company is the inner work you need to do as a company and team, even before you decide what abilities are needed. Both selling and knowing your needs depend on knowing who you are. Three questions can help with this:
What are we building? Every hiring manager or leader should be able to describe what their team is building and why it matters. When you’re hiring, you and your team are going to have to explain this over and over to candidates.
What differentiates us? What makes your company or team unique or different? Talented people do not accept jobs lightly or quickly—they need to know why they’re joining your company over others. This could be what you’re building, the impact, the approach, the team, the growth or traction, or even just the compensation. But you need to know what sets this team apart from others.
What abilities are needed on the team? The first part of this is fundamental: Do you even need to hire? Hiring excessively is just as dangerous, if not more so, than hiring too slowly. Assuming you do need to hire, what unique abilities of employees are needed to achieve the team’s goals?
It’s worth taking a systematic inventory, or at least a discussion with senior staff, to be sure you’re in agreement on why you’re hiring in the first place. Reasons to hire can include:
There is a specific job needed right now, such as an IC or a manager. This is most common.
To prepare for a new job needed soon, due to new needs or team changes.
To access previous knowledge or experience that fits exactly what is needed now. On a team that is building a mapping application, an engineer who has worked extensively with geospatial data has unique value.
To lead building a team or attracting talent.
To connect externally, via network or relationships that person has, or building trust or credibility with customers, investors, or other stakeholders.
For a big company, some of these questions would be for your organization or group, as well. For an early startup, answering these questions is one of the jobs of the founders.
The terms company values and culture are often used interchangeably to refer to a company’s beliefs about the world and their “way of doing things.” But they are not the same. Mixing up values and culture can lead to inefficient and unfair hiring practices. When your goal is candidate-company fit, it’s essential to focus on values alignment rather than “cultural fit.”
Company values (or company core values) are the foundational beliefs that are meant to guide a company’s behaviors and decisions. They often reflect a view of how the world is or should be.
Having a clear set of company values is tremendously important to the success of a business. These values guide decision-making in all parts of the company, whether high-stakes strategic or ethical decisions or smaller day-to-day decisions (which, in aggregate, are just as important). Clearly stated values also provide a structured way to resolve disagreements.
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