Knowing what you are looking for is critical if you are going to get the most out of an interview. I seem to have been spending a lot of time recently meeting candidates for senior positions at companies in our portfolio so I thought I’d share a few thoughts. This is an art not a science and different things work for different people – so this is just my 2 cents worth.
Firstly – the role of the VC in the decision making process is often unclear. As investors and board members we want to help our companies get the best people they can – so we want to be closely involved – yet at the same time it is not us who will work day to day with the successful candidate. For me this means the final decision needs to rest with the CEO – we can help guide that decision, and at the limit we might resist an appointment on the grounds that we could do better, but that is the way it needs to work.
If the vacancy is for a CEO then depending on their stake the role of the VC in the final decision will be much greater.
Turning to the actual interview – the first things I am looking for when I meet someone are energy, intelligence, commitment and integrity. These qualities are essential in the leaders (and rank and file) at any start-up and if the conversation turns to compromise in any of them then I start to get nervous pretty quickly.
Relevant experience, cultural fit, geography and many other factors are also very important, but a) these are often areas where management are better placed to make a judgement call than I am, and b) trade-offs are more possible.
One of the toughest things in any recruitment process is knowing when you have done enough work and seen enough people. Sometimes you are lucky enough to find someone quickly who is just perfect, but usually the reality of recruiting for small companies is that that doesn’t happen. I’ve blogged before that taking decisions quickly in the face of uncertainty can be really helpful and I think that applies here as well. Once you have found someone who could do a great job for you my instinct would be to get them employed and working for you quickly and resist the temptation to keep searching for the perfect candidate. That way you keep momentum in your business, and you avoid the risk of losing a good candidate.