Securing staff with the right skills is pivotal for any tech startup looking to get ahead in a crowded marketplace, as James Hind, founder and CEO of Carwow, explains
A tech startup is a beast like no other and its staff have to be a different breed in order to make sure it survives. We know first-hand that companies are increasingly turning their attention towards the tech industry as a means to grow and compete, attempting to establish a place in consumers’ hearts and minds – not to mention their smartphones. It’s no easy feat and, considering it is also a wildly competitive and ever-changing industry, you need to find the right people that can manage – and excel – in these conditions.
The requirements for a ‘real world’ customer-facing role and those for roles confined solely behind a screen are very different. You need to find a team that understands the niche requirements of the tech world and are able to deliver them. Using our own experience of getting carwow off the ground – and keeping it soaring – we knew that we would only ever be as strong as our workforce. The team would have to know the score when it came to website design and development and have a passion that would drive them to tirelessly keep up with SEO advances, anticipate what is around the next corner and plan precisely how we could best take advantage of what is to come.
It isn’t only their technical talent that we prioritised though. Any startup knows that, within small teams, just one bad apple can turn the whole bucket to rot. It was important to us to ensure that any new recruits would fit in with the environment and culture we were trying to cultivate across the business. Yes, we want carwow to be a leader but we also want it to be a fun and happy place to work; because of this, we look for something that makes the person stand out. We like to recruit unusual and unique people, different from the majority of candidates that apply for our roles.
At carwow, one of our key values is ‘be yourself.’ This means we value and celebrate each other’s interests & differences, however quirky. Our team has been described as a “melting pot of unique characters” and I think that sums us up quite well. We have such a diverse mix of talent and different minds here already; we only want to further increase that diversity and make sure we become more and more unique. With the benchmark having been set by our first employee – our sales director, who has an MSc in astrophysics – we want to further encourage these quirks.
All of these considerations guide us when we’re looking for new talent. We are determined to recruit people of the highest standards; prior experience is the most important asset that a new recruit can have and the very first thing we look for. As a small company in a fast-paced environment, we need to know that we can trust our staff and that they can hit the ground running when the join the team. University degrees are also usually a requirement, providing that they are relevant and demonstrative of the skill set required.
In terms of the actual application, if you can’t convey your passion for joining us, for me it’s a no straight away. We want people who have fully bought into what we do and why before they have stepped through the door of our offices. These staff members may not come around very often but they are worth waiting for. We are not afraid to have roles open for a long period of time, as we don't want to make a quick hire that we will later regret.
Many companies, we’ve found, are scared to give their staff authority to make the right calls for the business and work independently. If you can’t trust your employees to do their jobs and use their judgement, you have the wrong employees. We strongly believe in recruiting people that are self-motivated and entrepreneurial; strength and confidence are key aspects in the tech industry and vital for any startup.
It also worth noting that if you pay peanuts, you don’t get the employees you’ll need to take your business to the next level; if you treat them as disposable staff, they will treat the role as a disposable job. It’s not just a case of finding that perfect match; with all the experience, education and – arguably most critical of them all – passion that you need, it’s a case of nurturing them and valuing them once they have joined the ranks.