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Hiring for a Consulting Startup - Or should we call it dating?


A popular Glassdoor article about ‘Top 25 difficult companies to interview’ rates consulting companies as top 3. Surprisingly, product companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are a bit lower on the list.

Product companies have a clearer hiring mandate. Each hire implies increase in the potential sales and value of the company. So they can afford to have a narrower job description. As a candidate it is easier to be prepared for the interview. It also gives a very clear picture about possible area of work. Even with this, product startups are trying to minimize the risk of hiring the wrong people as mentioned in this Economic Times article.

Consulting Companies in general have a broader job description. This means the funnel is very wide to begin with, increasing the number of candidates to potentially evaluate.

Hiring for a Consulting Startup

Throw in the aspect of a Consulting startup and you have one more criteria, culture fit. At MavenHive, honestly we do not even have a Job Description. When you are just 6 or 7 in number, every new person joining the team can pull the system in slightly different direction. We are happy to be a company that pivots around people and then customers equally.

Sometimes we are not even sure if we are interviewing someone. Call it hiring, partnering or maybe even dating if it works we are okay with it.

Seasoned interviewers would know better than to fall into the trap of judging primarily based on non tech aspects (well at least relative to judging “not so soft” tech skills) in an interview process. It is just a sophisticated coin toss in some cases. In fact most interviewers make up their mind in the first few minutes * for that matter even seconds. **

What are we looking for?

Hiring the smartest person is well defined problem. Set a high bar, attract a lot of talent, keep filtering until you find someone who cracks it. This is relatively easy compared to hiring for “at the moment” requirements and hiring someone purely based on the fact that they bring in a complementary skill.

We are looking for people who are capable of freelancing and starting companies on their own. We are looking for entrepreneurs. The value such people add to a team cannot be matched with a traditional compensation model. The process also has to be uniquely tailored for each individual.

Anyone joining the team initially has to go through a probation. In some cases the candidates choose to start as freelancers to get a feel for the environment and work. After a few months we regroup and decide if the person would like to join full time.

This is lengthy - Isn’t this hard?

Yes It is hard on us. Does it have to be hard on the candidate? Absolutely not.

We always try to have an easy exit to for any candidate however awesome. Snap judgements (as in ‘Interviews’) can be very weak and change quickly.

The candidate also has to like all of us. More than just like us, love us. This needs a warm-up period for it to happen. The probation and an option to start of as a freelancer, is more in the interest of the candidate giving her time to evaluate us.

What is the process?

There is no steady process. We have changed it many times. Having all candidates solve a coding problem initially has worked out very well. The casual lunch is where most of the important aspects get discussed.

Every candidate meets the entire team at some point during the interview process. This is very important considering the person will be working closely with all of us at some point. It is important for everyone on team to have a veto power on the decision.

If you want to know more, drop by for a coffee. Maybe even try out the process. Even better, come to us with an interview process that we should use.

* http://news-beta.slashdot.org/story/03/04/22/224224/how-would-you-move-mount-fuji

** http://gladwell.com/the-new-boy-network/