We were nearing the close of the deal. We snagged a superstar developer who did great on the interviews, killed it on our coding tests, and got along well with the rest of the team. I negotiated hard with the CEO to get him a strong offer. We were a small startup, and he was coming from AOL – so we really needed to stretch ourselves to make it work. That said, it was coming together – and I could see that signed offer letter on the horizon.
Then I got a call from him. AOL was going to make a counter offer, and Ariana was going to have a chat with him.
ARIANA HUFFINGTON IS GOING TO SIT DOWN WITH HIM??!!! Oh ok, well now I’m fucked. She will probably offer him enough cash to bail out Greece, not to mention a hard sell to stay. How the hell do you resign from a quasi-celebrity anyway? I remember, that night – I began sourcing again for his role. I was convinced he was not going to come over.
But I had something very powerful on my side. I knew what to sell him on.
Recruiting systems are optimized for candidate evaluation. As a startup, you want to make sure your candidate is knows his stuff technically, works well on a team, and could easily hang out with you guys for beers after work. A good process will allow you to determine this efficiently and systematically. Honestly, most companies haven’t figured this bit out – so “congrats” if you have.
But when your candidate is getting a counteroffer from Ariana Huffington, with all due respect, your little system ain’t worth shit.
Here is the problem: good candidates are going to get offers from you and 10 other startups. They’ll get offers from larger companies with giant paychecks. They’ll be asked by VC’s to start their own companies. And they’ll get crazy counter offers.
So why will they choose you? You have no idea. Because you have no clue what to sell him on.
Most recruiting systems are not optimized for that. So what ends up happening is that when it is time to “close”, you will just say how awesome you guys are, reiterate some generic startup pitch like a broken record, and pray.
Ariana Huffington eats your prayers for breakfast.
Instead, you need to do the work that larger companies fail to do – you need to understand this person’s deeper needs. You need to dig into a place that is more emotional than rational.
You need to find out what basic fear/desire spectrum does this person sit on.
We might seem complicated, but we all have simple needs. Love, Money, Sex, Power, Belonging. Figure out what this candidate’s needs are, and you’ll have a massive leg up. You’ll be able to come out on top, over larger companies, sexier startups, and bigger counter offers.
The question is, how do you know what this person deep needs are? And how the hell do you make that happen in an interview??
In the next post, I’ll give you a solid system to do just that.