Hiring the Right Employee Requires Finding “x”

Newly hired employee with team

For talented candidates, there’s always a better job out there. While paying above-market salaries and providing great employee benefits can help you compete with other job offers, monetary compensation alone doesn’t cut it. Actually it misses the point if you’re looking to hire the right employee for your team.

Maybe I feel this way due to our own company situation. I can say that we honestly pay well for a SaaS startup. But if a really capable, hardworking candidate looked me in the eye and asked, “Is this the best comp package I’ll find if I keep looking?,” I’d have to say no.

No matter how high you go, no matter how much runway you divert to making the un-refusable offer, there will always be a business that’s willing to go higher for the right employee. And if you want your startup to succeed then you only want to work with the right employees.

When You’re Recruiting, You Have to Appeal to Something More

Step one is accepting the truth: The kind of people you want to work with can make more somewhere else.

But there’s a step two too: For the kind of people you really want to work with, there’s not only a higher-paying but also a more interesting, more challenging job—at least on paper.

Again, this isn’t to say that you can be successful as a startup without offering interesting, challenging work. But when you’re trying to recruit the right people, you have to appeal to something even more. But what’s left?

The difference between a great job on paper and the job you take is team. More specifically, it’s the part of “team” that means something more more than just “group of people.”

A Team is More Than Just a Group of People

Instead of using a buzzword like “synergy,” let’s define this thing algebraically:

x = team – group of people

x is the thing that makes a team greater than the sum of its parts—that lets you accomplish something multiplicatively instead of just additively bigger and better together than apart.

x is what makes your offer really, truly better than any other offer out there. When x is part of the package, you can say, “With us, you’ll be more, and so will we.”

x is also very, very sensitive to the particular people involved. I’ve spent my first years as a founder, and really my life up to this point, thinking about who are the “best people” in an absolute sense. But finding and getting to yes with the right person is much more personal.

Now that I’ve solved for x, I’m going to spend more time enjoying (or trying to enjoy—you can’t force these things) a candidate’s company and less evaluating them. I’m going to make more gut decisions, and let my team weigh in with their gut as much as their heads. I’m going to ask not just what this person is capable of but what we’re all capable of together.

Building a team is no easy task, but it can be made easier by focusing on what’s important, and that’s what we can accomplish when we join forces with someone and they join forces with us.