Hire For The Ability To Get Things Done

There seems to be two main reasons for terminating an employee’s job at startup stage. They are – dearth of culture fit and the inability to get things done. No matter how brilliant somebody is, if they can’t put in the amount of work needed, they will weigh down the company.

Ways to know when an employee has the inability to get things done:

  • Takes time –  They might be used to a large environments where its OK if things take take long on tasks.
  • Quickly distracted –  Heavy procrastinator.
  • Doesn’t work hard/lazy –  Some very smart people are basically lazy.  Don’t tolerate this.
  • Never finishes things.
  • Lacks follow through – makes commitments but does not follow up.
  • Argues. Arguing incessantly about how to do something rather then just doing it.
  • Generally slow –  Takes long to code (or do) something simple.
  • Perfectionist –  Tendency to over design something and to spend 4 weeks building the perfect implementation versus 1 week building the thing that “just works” for 95% of the time.  Sometimes the edge cases need to be covered, but in most raw startups this is not the case.  On the business side this manifests as someone heavy on analysis, low on “doing”.

Unfortunately, this is the fault of some hiring process – too few hiring processes focus on the ability to Get things done. That is why on eWorker, the candidates usually go through thorough screening processes to ensure they have the right qualities to deliver on the jobs.

Here are some practical ways to check for the ability to Get things done:

Using Assessments –  As part of your hiring process, you could often give people a half day coding exercise. Observe what tools they used, how they worked with the team, but also how productive they were. What was the final output of the half day, and how did that compare to other candidates?

on eWorker, we usually give candidates assessments during the onboarding process. At the end of it all, we would review the final output and measure if they meet our highest standard required.

Scan for Keywords – It’s a simple fact that proactive people use action verbs and terms when communicating what they can do, both in person and in writing. Look and listen first for “I” not “we.” Then, watch for action terms like create, produce, influence, accomplish, and lead. If you come across resumes, cover letters, portfolios, and social media profiles with passive or lackluster language (like assist, help, or aid), your GTD radar detector should go off. GTDers typically know how to impress on paper—before they even walk through the door.

On eWorker, this can easily be found on a candidate’s about me section.

Look for a Track Record of Success – People who will achieve results on your team have typically already had success before in their previous positions starting from internships. In other words, someone whose resume shows a heavy lineup of achievements is likely to make a big impact no matter where he or she is.

Ask Digging Questions – Asking the right questions is a great way to uncover a GTDer in your presence! Have a list of behavioral and situational questions, like “What is your biggest professional or personal accomplishment to date?” “Tell me about a time when you created overwhelming value for your company,” and “What professional skill are you most passionate about?” which will dig at what drives someone to do something. If you can’t see someone’s go-getter attitude when asking about things that excite them, you’re not speaking with a GTDer. 

Pay Attention to Follow-up –  If candidates have a real sense of urgency and commitment to your organization, it should be no more than 48 hours before you receive a fantastic follow-up email or creative response. Frankly, anything less is a red flag! What’s more, the response won’t be canned, but instead creative, passionate, and specific to what you discussed.

Ask the candidate.  You can often straight out ask people how effective they were at getting things done, and how did they compare to their peers?  It’ll surprise you how honest some (very smart) people would be on this. E.g. “I am average compared to other engineers”.  For an early stage startup, average is not enough.

With the simple steps above, you should be able to optimize for people who are proactive, have good follow through, and get things done in addition to the other screens for raw intelligence, culture fit, and functional knowledge.

Finding quality tech talent has always been a pain point for companies both big and small, but it’s better and faster when you search for your next top talent on eWorker.

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