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Interviewing 102: Aligning on a Mission

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton wrote a job posting for his ship’s crew members for his voyage to Antarctica. It read something like this –
(photo cred: http://seamlessbrand.blogspot.com/2011/01/hiring-like-shackleton.html)
Ernest received over 5,000 applicants, and eventually hired 26 men (+1 stowaway) for his voyage to the icy continent.

The incredible part of this story isn’t how many applicants would wantingly apply. Instead, it’s that the ship never made it to Antarctica. 10 months after setting out, the waters around the ship turned to ice, trapping the ship and its crew. The crew split to seek help, and extraordinarily, all 27 crew members survived and made it back two years after they launched! That’s incredible.

I bring this up as the follow-up to my last post -- Interviewing 101 – No Hypotheticals and Go Deeper. Having read the Shackleton story (“Endurance”) in Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, I’m integrating a similar idea in my hiring process.

Sales is hard. It takes 6-8 touches to reach a prospect these days. That number has potential to grow given the number of sales tools in the market. Read: there’s a lot of noise to get a prospect’s attention.

Also, working at a startup is hard. You wear many hats, and you can work long into the night and on the weekends. Success isn’t guaranteed. It’s not as glamorous as others make it out to be.

Couple sales at a startup, and the intensity and difficulty amplify. As a sales rep, you’re challenged with prospects’ uneasiness of viability of the company, low brand recognition, a nascent product (or you have a substitutable product in a highly competitive space), etc. You don’t have the benefit of marketing and sales ops teams tinkering to make success even more successful. Maybe the startup hasn't even hit product-market fit... It’s tough.

In terms of sales, working at an early startup can be akin to traversing to Antarctica in 1914. To that point, I want to dig into what drives candidates. Why do them want to be a sales rep at a startup? I want to know if the candidate is financially motivated. I want to know if the candidate is purpose motivated. I want to know if the candidate is competition motivated. Does the candidate hope to use this experience to build her own startup one day? I want to know the candidate can not only can handle the pressure and the difficulty, but I want to know she wants to. Does she embrace the challenge?

The key to all this, too, isn’t just about hiring and finding someone who will be a sales rock star for the company. The co-key, if you will, is being a company where the candidate will be successful. A candidate is investing his time and energy with us. The candidate could be forgoing higher pay and simple life. Burning out or leaving after 3 months is not good for any of us. The candidate will be an integral part of the team. When I hire, it’s not just about company. It’s about the candidate. It’s about how we, as a company can help the candidate achieve his WHY and his PURPOSE. It’s about how I can enable him to be successful.

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