6 reasons that startup didn't hire you & my advice to startups who skip over great talent




Let me start by saying I’m not a recruiter. I am terrible at sales and I will do no good convincing someone why they should do something. Even still, part of my job is to help fill the head of customer experience roles.


The goal is always the same: to place the best possible manager for customer experience who can help them scale. We set out to find the best fit for these roles (not from a sourcing standpoint), but more so for screening and ultimately placement, with a goal the person in place will still be the right fit even when they double in size.


For us, some weeks are filled with interview after interview… screening after screening… and when things don’t work out with a candidate, we’re asked by people we met with: Was the role filled? Can you give me any feedback on why I didn’t get the job? I don’t suppose the preverbal response: it’s not you, it's them would work, but sometimes that’s the real and true answer.



So, what do startups (who are growing like crazy) look for in customer experience managers?


These are the top 6 things we’ve seen time and time again. We don’t agree with them, but it’s reality.

  1. Someone who has worked in a hyper growth startup before.

  2. A person who has built a team from scratch.

  3. A STRONG culture fit.

  4. Someone who is fanatical about their product or service.

  5. Someone who will not be perceived as negative.

  6. Someone young and pretty (they never say this outright, but…)


Keep reading. I explain each of these scenarios according to my experience.



Someone who has worked in a hyper growth startup before.

Having worked in a hyper growth startup doesn’t efficient a manager make. Yes, that was written poorly on purpose. The question that should be asked is what role was played during the growth. Most times, the person has worked under someone else who spearheaded the building of the department, and they made it look simple. Now the manager you’re meeting feels they can do the same for you. About 3 to 4 months in, both you and they know they’ve made a mistake.


Advice to startups: What you should be looking for is someone who has demonstrated the ability to look ahead and prepare for what’s to come based on numerical and actual data they had to source themselves, not information that was simply handed to them for execution.




A person who has built a team from scratch.

When you’re doing the work, it’s 100% different from overseeing the people who are doing the work. Going from individual contributor to people manager without training or an experienced leader above them doesn’t always equate to a win. Most times, we see that the processes break down somewhere around 5 people.


The breakdown occurs because the systems were set up for 1 person based on their opinion and limited experience. Now there are 5 people and none of that works anymore. Usually if you go from CX Representative to CX Manager, you don’t know best practices or how to scale. You know what you’ve read in a blog (touché), but the hands on experience is lacking and it will show.


Typically when this happens, the new manager lasts 6 months to 1 year. They will leave on their own, if you don’t ask them to leave first, because they’re in over their heads. If only they knew there are plenty of roles designed to support the scale and growth of customer experience teams, or partners out there to lighten their load. They don’t have to do it all (but they think they do, and most times, so does their direct manager).


Advice to startups: What’s best in this instance is to not be impressed by the person who says they’ve done it all alone. If they did, there are gaps in the process that won’t support you for scale. Instead, look at the person who was part of the growth, but leveraged or created a team to help with functions like training, quality, workforce management (scheduling), etc. This person has demonstrated their ability to differentiate between pain points and things you just live through.




A culture fit.

This is a BIG one. Lots of startups have a culture of living to work (someone somewhere didn’t like that, but it's’ true). They’re attracted to the candidate who is willing to work work and work, then work some more. I remember meeting with a candidate I knew could do the work well, but she mentioned something (normal) like taking time to make good decisions before going live, having proper training for the team, slowing down to build to grow… and I had to pass. Hypergrowth startups don’t love this mentality. In fact, they want you to work more.


In this case, the lack of fit isn’t bad. Listen, I work to live, not the other way around.


Advice to startups: If you measure employees on hours put in, not quality of work, shame on you! I know saying slow down is a cardinal sin, but how about we do this instead? Give CX a seat at the table and remember they have to be experts on EVERYTHING the company does. If they ask for two weeks to get the team ready, give it to them to avoid digging out a hole for six weeks from lack of planning. If you can get to this place, you will open up the door for great candidates who have capacity to support your team when it doubles.




Someone who is fanatical about their product or service.

Unpopular opinion: hire for operational skill and industry expertise. There. I said it. Shoot me. Why do I say this? Managers are not the people talking to your customers every day… In fact, if they’re good, they won't talk to them at all! The front line talks to your customer day in and day out and they should be much more passionate about your brand than the manager. If you’re a vegan company, passing on a carnivore, it’s the same as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t do it!


Advice to startups: A great leader will hire great people who will speak for your brand, show enthusiasm and get customers engaged. Looking for a manager based on their personal lifestyle is borderline discriminatory. Can they do the work? Will they work well with the team and help them grow? Yes? Yes? I think this is a no brainer.




Someone who will not be perceived as negative.

Negative is defined as expressing negation or denial, refusing consent, as to a proposal or expressing refusal to do something. How is communicating what you need to be successful, or that you’re overwhelmed viewed as negativity?


Well, it’s happened to me, and if you’re working with a company with insane expectations and few resources, it will happen to you. When a company perceives a person as negative, what they mean is that person will push back, and not go with the flow. For example, given the example above of needing two weeks to prepare the CX team… some startups will receive that request as negative. How dare you not support the launch of a new product no one understands?


From my experience, this happens most when working with startup founders who themselves have never worked in a corporate or business environment. They’re literally married to the company. For them, the company is life and when they want to move at warp speed, you’d better be ready to go!


Advice to startups: be open to people who know more about the specifics than you do, and meet in the middle. Don’t cancel a candidate because they expect you to give them room and space to be successful. Otherwise, you’ll be in a constant cylce of hiring...




Someone young and pretty

Finally… quit looking for the 25 year old blonde. It’s not fair to the 40 year old brunette. Startups are notorious for hiring for looks over skill. Do the website pictures matter that much? I’ve never heard a customer say , “Your manager is gorgeous! So I wanted to order more…”. Can we get away from stereotypes and hiring for gender, race, religion, or any other protected classes (at least in California)? It’s not legal, and it’s morally wrong.


Advice to startups: I remember looking to fill roles with a client and the CEO said it didn’t matter where the person came from, what they did or didn’t do… if they were going to create a great customer experience, that’s who they wanted. Literally, everyone should think this way.



Conclusion

Sometimes it’s you. Most times it’s not. Never take a company passing on you personally. That wasn’t your role and the right job for you is coming!


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