If you have ever hired for your startup then you know that nothing you do can ever be surprising or incredulous. In fact sometimes you have to do the unconventional to get some results.

Here’s one of my stories, straight from the trenches.

I was hiring for a technical position and we needed people with experience in a certain industry. I met a candidate who came with a decent technical knowledge but had experience in a completely different industry. I was really desperate for making a hire that time and I met any candidate if I thought they had more than a 25% chance of clearing the interview. By that time I had met so many candidates and seen so many CVs that I knew that he didn’t have a great chance of getting through. (There’s a real payoff in meeting more candidates than you really need to early on if you are hiring and building your company. That’s a story for another post though.)

Referring

However, to continue the story, I did meet this candidate. The candidate himself was decent enough but after a bit of initial questions about the kind of work that he had done, I quickly knew that he wouldn’t be able to adapt to our industry and nothing in his track record indicated that he had learnt something new really fast. So I pretty much knew that he wouldn’t fit in.

As soon as I realized that I made the interview a lot less formal (my default interviewing style is pretty informal anyways) and spent the next ten minutes telling him about what our company planned to do and how we had so many exciting things on our roadmap.

I had him sufficiently interested in what I had to say by that time. Then I suddenly switched tracks and in the same informal tone told him that his experience was in Industry A whereas we needed someone with candidate experience in Industry B. Before he even realized that I had broken the news to him, I jumped one step forward and asked him if he knew anyone who had experience similar to him but in industry B.

Before he realized, He said he’d have to think about it. I said if he could think and give me a name then that’d be great and then I left a few minutes of silence. It’s amazing what a few minutes of silence can do. He thought for a few seconds and gave me the name of a lady. I said that’s great “Thank you”, would you by any chance have a phone number because that‘d really help move things along.

He was taken aback, but I don’t think anyone had put him in a situation like that before so he looked through his phone address book and gave me the number. I made a quick note of it and thanked him.

I then chatted a few general things and concluded the interview.

We ended up calling the lady and arranged for an interview the next day. We made an offer the day after; she accepted and joined the following week!

Moral of the story: If you are doing interviews and don’t think they will fit the role ask them for a job referral. If you think they will fit and you have multiple roles then ask them for a referral.

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