Hiring is as hard as investing in startups. Maybe harder

Finding top talent is as hard as finding a successful startup investment. Despite using various methods, my best hires came from random encounters, while highly recommended candidates often disappointed. In the end, recruiting is more luck than science…

Finding the next Facebook, Paystack, or TeamApt as an angel investor is pretty hard. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last to reiterate what you probably already know; most startup investments fail! In fact, 90% are duds and maybe only 2 out of 100 investments would be rockstars. 

Sadly, hiring, especially for startups, is no different.

Tech investment, especially angel investment, is almost like glorified gambling and the line separating both can be quite blurry. Only the obsessed stand a chance against the odds. 

It’s the same when it comes to finding talent. It’ll probably be redundant for me to qualify talent further with any fancy adjectives. Talent is just that. Talent. You’ve either got it or you don’t. That’s not to say I don’t believe people can improve themselves or that employers can’t invest in developing employees. They absolutely can. And they should.

I’ve read tons of how to find good talent; worked with a bajillion different recruiters. My best outcomes have been more of luck than science or any definite process. Maybe I’m the one with a problem. But when I share my pain with other founders, we always arrive at the same conclusions.

Where I found some of the best people 

I have looked at my own track record of how I found some of the best people I ever worked with in the last 5 years and I can confidently say I’m at best, gambling. There’s simply no common sense formula to how I got these people. 

Just to give you an idea where I found some of the best people I have worked with: a friend found one at a saloon, I met another on a staircase and I was introduced to another by someone I didn’t even know. They’re all so random that I’ve given up finding a pattern.

And where did I find some of my biggest disappointments?

Hold on to your hats for this one. You’d think the random strangers I met “off the streets” would have been the ideal candidates for disappointment. That was not the case. Many of those who fell short of my expectations (or just common decency in some cases) were those who graduated with a first class, had high CGPAs and came highly recommended. This category of people are exposed and present themselves properly. I fell for it. But learnt very quickly there was a whole lot of fluff in the mix. 

Ironically, a significant proportion of those who scale through the recruitment process are those described above. As we’ve established, recruiting is nowhere near a science but employers can keep tweaking the process to get better results. Assessment tests, where applicable, to establish competency levels from the jump is a step in the right direction.

Disclaimer: I’m not a hater. I have nothing against this class of smart people. Many of them go on to do great things. The ones I’ve met have just shown me “shege”. 

Despite the gambling, some things stick out

Despite the fact that my best efforts have come from random encounters, some things do stand out more and make all the difference. Good people are smart, relentless and determined. They are also loyal and can keep their word. Perhaps my favorite thing about them is how responsible they are. They own their sh*t with their chests and don’t deflect blame to others.

Some things are also perplexing

Some of the best people aren’t especially smarter than others. Oftentimes, they don’t even have the right answers. But what they do have, is the right attitude. One can’t give up because talent is now the most important thing. Let’s not even get into how globalization and the wave of newly funded startups are rapidly changing the hiring game. 

As a tech leader, seeking and grooming talent, one must have an infinite capacity to take the pains and disappointment. You must know when/who to nurture or simply let go. Not everyone can be groomed; and definitely not everyone can grow fast enough. And not everyone wants to have that growth pain with you. 

It’s even pretty bold of you to assume that everyone wants to grind and hustle for success. Some people were born to just seek the “soft life” and that’s okay too. But not with me.

Investors take a risk on startups and hope the company takes off. Recruiters take a risk on people and hope they don’t run the company into the ground and take off. To each his own pain. 

To the leaders and recruiters seeking rockstar employees or discovering diamonds in the rough, good luck! 

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Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

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