June 2014 | Riviera Partners
EdTech is growing, and that means the space is hiring more than ever. There are some unique challenges for startups in the space, but it also offers a relatively singular benefit: people really feel like they’re doing good in the world, and that’s a huge...
EdTech is growing, and that means the space is hiring more than ever. There are some unique challenges for startups in the space, but it also offers a relatively singular benefit: people really feel like they’re doing good in the world, and that’s a huge appeal. But how do you go about finding the best hires for your company, especially in the early stages where you may have as little as five employees? The following tips can help.
Create Your Ecosystem
The best way to find exactly who you’re looking for is to be laser focused on background skills and experience, and then finding representative places where these people are. This is what creates your hiring ecosystem for particular positions. Say you were trying to find a candidate with payments experience. You would look at sources such as PayPal and Square, and find people who have worked at these companies.
Know Your “Type”
At startups, the main reason new hires don’t work out has nothing to do with a lack of technical expertise. Rather, it’s that these individuals don’t fit culturally. Successful EdTech founders typically look for communicative, easy going people who are collaborative and good at keeping others in the loop. Honesty, integrity and a genuine interest in the field are also key indicators. Some of these can be hard to read until someone is actually in a position, so you should expect to fire some people, especially at first. Don’t get discouraged.
The first place any startup founders find their initial hires is through personal networks, but that gets exhausted quickly. What many overlook is the opportunity that comes from just having people in the building. Host meetup groups and engage with attendees. Creating a sense of community goes a long way beyond just hiring as well.
Many of the founders of EdTech companies are recent grads, so they have a tendency to look for other new grads to join the team. The problem here is that these candidates have a lot less flexibility on risk; they’re paying off college loans, dealing with recent moving expenses and generally don’t have a nice cushy savings to fall back on. Perhaps counterintuitively, more senior individuals are more likely to work for less money, provided there are other benefits, whether that’s equity, a good challenge or a great cultural fit.
Be Relentless…with Kindness
Once you find a good candidate, be prepared spend all day contacting this person. Know that it’s going to be time-intensive and create a structure of time-management. The founders of recent startups may spend more than 70-percent of their time on hiring and recruiting. Also, remember to be respectful–your conduct towards potential hires will naturally attract the people you want. A lot of companies make the mistake of being too aggressive to the point where candidates feel that the interest is not genuine.
Reap The Benefits
There’s huge advantage being education companies. Everyone wants to do something they feel is making the world a better place, and people want to join other people on a team that has the same values. Plus, you’re not really expected to be paying the most amount of money. Actually, salary should be the last thing you talk about with potential hires in EdTech. Which brings us to…
Watch Out For Red Flags
A big red flag in EdTech are candidates who are too money-focused and immediately want to talk compensation. Other warning signs: people who don’t seem that interested in the field, who haven’t worked on similar types of projects or who have bounced around too much. And of course there are the cultural points: if someone seems combative, overly opinionated or too forceful, probably not the best fit.
Hiring in any field is a challenge. Luckily, being in the education space gives you a bit of a golden halo, and good talent is attracted to that. You just need to know how to find them.
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