Focus on Talent, Not Hiring

February 19, 2020

For first time founders looking for a co-founder or perhaps your first C-level executive, we strongly suggest you take your time and focus on talent, not hiring. There’s a huge benefit to getting to know these important individuals personally and professionally. You should plan to meet with them multiple times in different situations. For example, schedule some time to white board or problem solve together, have them pitch you the role and opportunity. Remember that this is not just about filling a role today, it’s about ensuring you are hiring a partner, someone ready to go the distance with you. We believe that hiring is transactional, but when you focus on talent it becomes a strategy.  

We see founders all the time who have thought they needed one thing on Monday, and then thought differently by Friday. This is when you must recognize the importance of slowing down so you can move faster. 

“You can have the best ideas and most funding in the world, but you’re not going to get anywhere without fantastic people. It is truly the most crucial aspect of building a startup. But it’s not just about getting talented people on board, you need the right people. It’s easy to look at someone’s resume and notice what stands out, or who has an impressive background, and then send that along to a few companies with open roles. It’s very difficult, though, to identify and unpack whether that person is the right fit for a given company.” James McGinniss, Founder, David Energy

Hiring is for Today—Talent is for Tomorrow 

Just like compensation, performance management, continued learning and development, hiring is just one thing you do under the larger umbrella of talent. As a founder, your company needs to be great at all of it. If you focus on talent rather than hiring for a specific role, it allows you to think larger around how to put your talent and teams in positions to be successful. At Facebook we used to say, “hire athletes and then cross train them”. Is this someone who can operate without a net—with ambiguity—at this early stage? All of these require larger thought and strategy about the team you are building, not just the role you are hiring for. Ask yourself, How do they make each other better?  Of course, you build an awesome team with great talent, but you don’t do that by just thinking about it in terms of hiring specific roles in isolation.


Hiring gets the right talent in the door. Now, how you ensure they are happy, productive, successful, and aligned to the greater organizational goals is a talent strategy—not a recruiting strategy. 


Now you have some quick easy tools to get your head in the right place. But this is what’s most important to remember: Can you hire 1 instead of 2 – and 2 instead of 4?  Stop just thinking about what role you need to hire today. Instead think about who your talent is today, what kind of talent do you need tomorrow to fulfill your mission.  How well does your team work together and lean on each other. When you have all the right partners in the boat rowing together, that’s how you will win.