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Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Hiring

Managing Expectations
Impact
Hiring

9 August, 2021

Ben Retourné
Ben Retourné

VP of Product at BlaBlaCar

Benjamin Retourné, VP of Product at BlaBlaCar, speaks of finding a balance between having to hire fast and retaining people over a two to three years period.

Problem

Managers in startups often need to hire super fast. When you need people asap, the only thing you think about is how to find people. You will be tempted to hire quickly, even if you know that those people are not going to stay for two or three years or will be redundant. I paid a rather high price for hiring fast. I was aware of all the ramifications, but I needed to staff my team at that very moment.

Actions taken

Before I would take any actions toward hiring, I would deliberate a bit to see how a specific role could evolve in the next 12 to 18 months and then come up with clear expectations that would match this. When compiling a job description, I would write down several key challenges a new hire would face in the upcoming period -- 6, 12, and 18 months -- and I would be very precise about what those challenges would entail in terms of skills and challenges. Knowing where the company is heading and what our future needs would be, can help develop the most accurate role description. During the initial conversation, most likely during the interview, I would share those expectations with an interested candidate.

However, I want to be honest before I go and hire someone. For example, if I have an urgent need for a specific role and a candidate fits those expectations, I would try to evaluate if they are able to fit in my long-term plan. I would try to understand how the priorities could change and be honest about my needs. If I need someone asap, and if that is a priority at that moment, I would hire fast, without thinking too much if a particular candidate would stay with us for three years. I would not lay the blame on myself for not being able to hire long-term if we are constrained by deadlines or else.

On the other hand, sometimes, I would have a clear picture of how a particular role would evolve, and I would have a clear understanding of what skills and competencies a person needs to have long-term. During the hiring, I would have the performance grid I am using to rate candidates, which includes both short-term and long-term skills and competencies. The performance grid would help me eliminate people who would not fit long-term into our plans.

I think it’s responsible to be open about expectations early on. I know that some people will be stellar in a particular role for the first six months. I could also tell that the role will evolve and that a new hire will need to grow exceedingly fast in order to catch up with the pace. Six months later, they would be stuck without the skills and competencies to move forward. Most likely, you will have to let them go, which is perhaps more harmful than being open upfront and telling them they are not a long-term fit.

Being open upfront is not met with the same response from candidates. Some people would take it lightly, some will display more enthusiasm, especially if they are interested in long-term growth. Others will be open that they are not into committing long-term to a company and are looking for more short-term opportunities. Those are important signals that should help you reach the best hiring decision.

In general, I try to hire people who are at ease with the change of priorities and are willing to work on leveling up their skills. I would spend more time during the interview if needed to explain what is coming next and what our needs as an organization are. However, I would also leave some space for uncertainty because I like working with people who are comfortable with a certain amount of uncertainty and are capable of adapting easily. Frankly, I find it confusing when people want to join a fast-paced startup while seeking stability and certainty.

Lessons learned

  • Think long-term. Fast-paced startups usually plan their hiring six months ahead but having people who could stay for at least 12 to 18 months is critical. Even if objective circumstances don’t let you make longer concrete plans, that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about it.
  • Be transparent. If you know how a specific role will evolve, share that with a candidate. If you don't -- which is common in startups -- be open that you don’t know yet. Don’t hold back any information that can help them develop particular skills and competencies that will enable them to fit better into the long-term roles.

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