It is undeniable that people are a core element of any business. If you can attract the right people, it is more than likely that you will be able to bring your vision to fruition and build a successful company.
In today’s European hiring market, there’s a shortage of candidates and the market has become much more competitive for organizations. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the particulars of the recruitment process and maximize hiring practices in order to succeed in making strategic hires that will propel your business forward.
For the 14th edition of the Leaders of Growth podcast, Arthur Nobel delves into the experience of Konstanty Sliwowski, to discuss how companies can improve on their hiring skills to help their companies grow. Konstanty is the founder and managing director of Caissa Recruitment, a company focused on leadership and executive search within the tech and product field to support startups and scaleups.
Konstanty is a recruitment expert, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry, including recruitment strategy, process organization, retention planning and assurance, and team growth planning.
Why did you decide to start your own company?
I was working for a large corporate recruitment agency, and I did not agree with their transactional style of recruitment, nor with their focus on quantity over quality. I was drawn to the executive search service of the recruitment model. So I decided I wanted to do it better myself.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned over the first years of this exciting journey?
I don’t think it’s any secret that the most important part of any business is the people. You can have a great business plan, financing, and a great product. However, unless you have the people to bring that together and breathe life into your company, you’ve got no business. My learning throughout my career has been that the way you engage, attract and retain people is how you run your business. Unfortunately, many startups do not take the people function seriously enough.
When would you say is the right time to start bringing an HR person on board?
The first dedicated HR person within the organization should be brought in somewhere around 15 to 20 people. That can be an operations manager, a VP of operations, or a COO that focuses on long-term developments of staff. However, you want to have a person working in HR within the organization much earlier, somewhere around 8 to 10 people, when the CEO or COO are still focusing on recruitment, retention, and engagement.
"The number one piece of advice I would give any founder is that your recruitment process is a direct example of how your business functions."
Within companies in stages ranging from Series A to C, do you see some particular mistakes being made with regards to attracting senior talent?
There is a multitude of mistakes that we founders make. But mistakes are part of the job. However, I have seen mistakes that have had dramatic consequences on organizations’ ability to hire and retain staff, and on their market reputation.
The number one piece of advice I would give any founder is that your recruitment process is a direct example of how your business functions. If you've got an undefined and messy process, or if candidates have a bad experience in terms of lack of feedback, unfair treatment, and so on, that information will go out into the market and be perceived as a testimony of the type of organization you are. Contrarily, if a candidate has a positive experience and receives good feedback, and they can learn and apply that knowledge, that gives a much more positive message.
"Interviews are not interrogations. Interviews are a two-way street."
As founders, we genuinely think ours is the best company there is. However, the fact is that candidates don’t necessarily believe that. To them, you’re just another company. So, it’s not realistic to expect that candidates have a strong desire to join your company because they believe it’s the best company there is. It’s your job as a founder to show them why you’re the best company and why they should invest their time and their life into your business and your vision.
Another critical fact is that interviews are not interrogations. Interviews are a two-way street. It’s as much an opportunity for you to know a candidate, as it is for the candidate to learn about your business. Especially when you’re a startup founder in a time of tremendous candidate shortage.
What do you think companies should do to test candidates and make sure they are capable of doing the job?
A lot of companies decide to test because they’re looking for a shortcut: to spend less time speaking with the candidate about the company, and more time assessing them. That makes the process a one-way street.
Interviews in themselves are very artificial. It’s an unnatural setting. No one in the world feels entirely comfortable in an interview setting. Who you bring to the interview is not who you bring to work. Doing a purely theoretical analysis of someone is just going to give you a theoretical example of what this person could be like.
From your experience as a founder and talent specialist, what are some of the best practices that you can share on hiring?
Most founders come to us wanting to solve the problems they have today. However, as a founder, you should be thinking about the problems you will have in 6 or 12 months, and the hires you should make to solve them.
You need candidates with a certain level of experience, but who still have room to grow as a result of solving those problems. You should always hire people who have the ability to grow, and give them that opportunity. If you hire someone that has already done a certain job, what incentive do they have to do that exact same job again?
Compensation is always thought of in terms of money, but part of the compensation that no one ever talks about is the experience and challenging oneself in new ways. Providing these opportunities increases retention.
Considering we’re now living in a world with so much remote or hybrid work, to what extent is it beneficial to have senior talent working from a remote basis in your company?
This is hugely dependent on core mission values and the ultimate culture of the business. In organizations where distributed senior management works perfectly fine, the company's culture has been developed to fit into that, and it’s operationally built in. I have also seen it completely flop because people get disengaged and simply don’t have the support from the organization to work remotely.
The pandemic disrupted how organizations work, and it’s not going back. People don't want the five 9-to-5 workdays in the office anymore. They want flexibility. The only question that remains is how organizations can create that flexibility and use that to attract and retain talent.
"As a founder, you should be thinking about the problems you will have in 6 or 12 months, and the hires you should make to solve them."
Founders often come to you looking to attract a new senior member for the next stage of growth. How do you decide on the type of person they need for that position?
Founders often expect to give us an order and think we will simply process that order. Unfortunately, that is not the right way to use a recruitment partner. Recruitment partners have an understanding of the market, salaries, what’s attracting and detracting candidates, what processes work, and so on. The conversation with founders is complex and, of course, not all lead to a hiring mandate. We don’t take on every position that we discuss, and we’re very honest about it. We mean to help founders clarify what they need to hire and what is realistic within the hiring market as well as within their budget.
How do we do that? First, we determine what’s happening in the business that led to this hire. Once that’s clear, we try to understand the specific solution that this hire will bring. At that point, we stop the conversation and assess whether the position to be filled is the right one, and how that position can be used strategically to implement these solutions. With all of that in mind, we then look at what is actually feasible within the market. Sometimes we see it’s not possible to make the hire because that person simply doesn’t exist. Other times, the role is so broad that it could be divided into separate positions that could be hired for, but that exceeds the company’s budget.
To wrap up, what would you recommend to founders on recruitment?
I think there’s a lot of room for companies to develop more self-awareness regarding their hiring and recruitment practices, and ultimately through this become better at attracting the right talent.
I definitely would suggest to founders, and anyone who is hiring, to invest time in learning more about recruitment and the best practices for interviews. Take the time to recognize your own biases. We all have them. For anyone looking for resources, I recommend www.schoolofhiring.com and my podcast School of Hiring.
How can people find you and your company online?
To hear the full interview, click here to head over to the Leaders of Growth podcast and discover more about the potential of maximizing your recruitment processes.