Landing The Right Technical Talent for Startups


Over the past few years, my business has shifted to predominantly supporting small companies and startups. My belief is that these are the companies that are truly willing to invest in innovation and are thus willing to hire a guy like me with twenty years of medical device engineering recruitment experience to help build them an all-star team. In this article I will share a few tips that will help you to hire the best talent for your technical organization.

Fit is critical -Too often technical leaders get really focused on the technical capabilities of an individual and either struggle to hire or end up with an individual who isn’t a good team member. Ego doesn’t work and neither does lack of social skills. The most effective teams have players who work well and gel to create amazing accomplishments.

Your startup is too small to tolerate people who don’t have the social skills to be a team player. You can look to sports as an example or you can look at the team I built at Edwards Lifesciences that commercialized the world’s first trans-catheter heart valve. This project involved great technical people with strong people skills who built a billion-dollar product from zero.

Hire from your competitors – Don’t reinvent the wheel and try and figure it out. In the startup world, there is no time to train. Your investors don’t want to hear that you hired a brilliant engineer from Google or Tesla if you are inventing a robotic surgical device. They want to hear about the talented engineer from Intuitive Surgical or another robotics company. These people can be found and hired, but you must invest. Either spend the time to build relationships, work your network, or hire a headhunter who can attract talent from your competitors.

Hire more than you need – One mistake I often see at smaller companies is to focus too much on hiring inexperienced talent to save money. The value of your startup is based on the sum of the parts. You can build value and credibility with investors by attracting an experienced team. Also, they require less management, get more done, and have the ability to scale as your company grows. Too often, leaders at startups saddle themselves with junior level talent and it slows them and their business.

Invest time in the recruitment process – In order to compete for the best talent, you must commit yourself to the recruitment process. Chances are that most of the best candidates will not be familiar with your company and may even be reluctant to go to a smaller high-risk company. Don’t let this stop you. Invest time towards building relationships with top candidates. Get to know them so that you can make sure that they are the best fit for your team and that they understand all of the opportunities, career benefits, and other perks of being a part of your startup. Finally, if you don’t have the resources to hire a headhunter, you need to invest time to find the best people as well. Trust me, despite what some of those heavily marketed websites say, all-star candidates don’t just apply online for your job. Do you think Michael Jordon, Wayne Gretzky, or Babe Ruth just showed up for training camp because the team placed an advertisement in the newspaper? They were identified and heavily recruited. You need to become a talent scout or hire one.

The job of a leader at a small company is challenging, and recruitment is just another thing on that long list, but hopefully after reading this article you have a few more ideas about how you can supercharge your team.