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Advice for Fintech Startups: How to Increase Your Odds of Making the Right Hire

Advice for Fintech Startups: How to Increase Your Odds of Making the Right Hire

The talent war is raging among financial technology (fintech) companies. Large established tech providers are competing for candidates against the rapidly growing number of innovative startups building on new and emerging technologies. Since we recruit for companies of all sizes, I can tell you that a startup is a different animal. Recruiting, like medicine, is both an art and a science. Recruiting for startups is more of an art form.

The “science” part is the easier part – the essential qualifications for the job, the right skill set, relevant experience, and knowledge base. Many startups and small growing companies just start their candidate search by asking, “who do we know and who have we worked with?” After personal outreach, they make hires based on recommendations and on the strength of skills seen in past relationships – and then experience high turnover and wonder why candidates don’t stay.

To minimize turnover and improve efficiency, fintechs need to establish a genuine recruiting process. Often, founders rely on networking and review resumes during spare moments. This is not a good use of time as the opportunity cost is too high. The executive team should be the decision-makers at the end of the interview process, not doing the groundwork. Here are some tips to better manage your recruiting process:

Hire Recruiting Assistance: Whether you hire someone internally for a part-time/as-needed role or a contingency recruiter able and willing to act as a strategic partner… you need help. The recruiter is responsible for actively sourcing and screening candidates – not just reviewing resumes. Finding the right candidates takes a lot of calling, emailing, researching, interviewing, scheduling, etc. those initial outreach candidates. For those of us that do it on a daily basis, we can tell you that it is very time-consuming. For connections or recommendations, perhaps make the initial call or introduction and then pass on to your recruiter. As the company grows and you graduate to more formalized internal HR and recruitment staff, you can institute proven metrics to evaluate this function.

Define the Value Proposition: How do you want the company positioned and presented to potential hires? Your employee brand matters, even at early stages, so don’t wing it. Make sure all candidate messaging is consistent.

Utilize Social Media: Build a social media presence beyond your website. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but at minimum make sure you have a LinkedIn page with a career focus and highlight the company value proposition. If the Executive Team is particularly charismatic, a video is highly recommended. You may decide you want to advertise your open positions on LinkedIn as well. Do so with a well-composed job description that fully outlines the responsibilities of the role as well as the candidate qualifications (both hard and soft skills) you require. (More on that to follow).

Refine Recruiting Process: Ensure that the screening, interviewing, and offer/rejection practices you’re using are courteous, professional, and timely. Whether or not an offer is extended, each candidate should have a positive experience with your company.  As the saying goes… a person who did not have a positive experience with a company will tell 10 other people about it and the person who has a positive experience tells just one person. Despite being a start-up, your recruiting process does not have to be or appear to be haphazard.

Selecting the right candidate

Here’s where startups have to “amp” up the “art” side of their recruiting techniques. To find the right-fit person, you can’t focus only on specific product or industry experience or technical expertise. Below are some important things to consider in a candidate:

Startup Experience: Look for experienced candidates whose backgrounds include other startup or smaller company experience. Candidates from big brand names may seem like a catch, but won’t last long if they can’t handle an environment with less infrastructure, more ambiguity, and fewer corporate resources. And, some professionals think they will thrive in an entrepreneurial startup environment, but don’t really know until they are in the thick of it. Find someone who has experience working for a startup to increase the odds of a longer tenure.

Chemistry: For fintech startups, I always look for the self-starters – the candidates who show an entrepreneurial spirit, and whose experience shows resourcefulness, tenacity, and grit. There are standardized tests that measure these attributes, but you can also come with behavioral-based or scenario-based interview questions that will help gauge these attributes.

Culture: On a related topic to chemistry, make sure you’ve considered the relevant soft skills needed for the role, as well as the company’s operating style. At many fintechs, corporate culture is a work in progress. What is it like now – especially among the team in place that will interact with this candidate -- and what do you envision for the future? Formulate interview questions that will bring out situational behavior and personality traits to help ensure the right fit for both the company, their direct manager, and the position.

Finally, it’s very important to be honest and transparent about any gray areas – whether it’s about the size of the team and business, strategy direction, or matters of compensation and potential upside. Startups have a challenge here, as they’re building on a vision. But don’t over-promise the future or overstate the current picture. Candidates who consider opportunities with startups are generally excited to pioneer and build with you and can accept a certain amount of risk and ambiguity. But be honest and fair -- don’t skirt the tough questions. You must manage expectations in order to hire and retain top talent and maintain good faith and goodwill.

You obviously need employees that are flexible and can pivot with the company as it changes and grows, but be as transparent as possible. A foundation of trust and credibility that is built over time will increase the odds that the employee will always “go the extra mile” for the company and reduce the odds the employee will “jump ship” with the ebbs and flows of the business. 

Lastly, I full-heartedly believe and have experienced that employees that feel appreciated will always do more than expected so make time and/or make a reminder to offer positive and constructive feedback, buy-in on the vision, check-ins etc on a consistent basis. Once you find the right candidate this will help you keep them.

About the Author:

Elisa Sheftic is currently the President and Managing Partner of Right Executive Search, LLC. Her main area of expertise is placing mid to C-level professionals in the Financial Technology (Fintech) and Financial Services industries. She is also responsible for all aspects of sourcing strategy development, client service, operations, and administration.

Prior to starting her own firm, Elisa was a Partner and Senior Managing Director for The Patton Group LLC, a national search organization, where she managed the New York/New Jersey office. Previously, she was employed with R&L Solutions, a boutique Executive Search firm in the Tri-State area. Additional experience includes Associate Director positions at Quellos (Blackrock) and Bear Stearns as well as tenures in the Private Client divisions at Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley.

She received her BA from Rutgers University and received her MBA from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, with a concentration in Finance/Marketing, in 1995. Elisa completed her post-graduate studies in Human Resources at Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Elisa's expertise is in PROACTIVELY SOURCING & ACTIVELY CONNECTING with talent.

 Email Elisa at: Elisa Sheftic is the President and Managing Partner of Right Executive Search, LLC. Her expertise is placing mid- to C-level executives in the Financial Technology (fintech) and Financial Services industries. She communicates with Human Resources, Hiring Managers, and candidates on a daily basis and offers insights to clients and candidates on recruiting best practices. Elisa received her MBA from New York University and completed her HR post-graduate studies at Cornell University.

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