Avoiding growing pains: getting hiring right as a startup

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Hiring is hard. At Caravelo, we are growing fast and our hiring ethos is evolving just as quickly. Part of that is ensuring that as the demands on our existing team increase we don't become overburdened by the process, or worse, make mistakes that will impact us negatively in the near future.

So if you are a startup looking to ratchet up your workforce, whatever they might be doing, here are our principals and how they apply to us, for growing without pain.

Be strict on necessity

Growth for growth's sake adds much greater complexity in managing your business than a temporary lack of resource.

Before we commit to embarking on the process to bring in talent, there is an expectation that we answer the tough questions first:

  • If it is a senior role, is there someone internally that has the capability and drive to be coached up to do it?
  • What is the ‘opportunity cost’ of hiring into this role?
  • Is there technology that can fulfill the core function?
  • What can we expect of this role beyond the initial requirements?

Ensure your offering is relevant

Talent is a precious commodity (especially in the world of travel tech) and we all face tough competition. So in the same way we approach winning new business, we take the time to ensure that our offering is both competitive to the market and speaks to what our values are.

Talent, just like gold or any other precious commodity is subject to the same demand and supply economics - Gyan Nagpal

As a startup, there are sometimes expectations that you should have a ping-pong table, a slide, beanbags, and fridge full of beer. Instead, we focused on ensuring that our environment is conducive to making good work happen and that our teammates have the very best tools at their fingertips to do good work. Our machines (including the ones in the kitchen) are the very best we can afford and so is the office space. (If you are interested, our views reach up to Tibidabo and across to Montjuic).

There are other things we have to prioritize, too. We could (almost) afford to have free pizza and beer every week. But we would rather the team had access to company funded ongoing learning and the opportunity to use a portion of their working time to dedicate to growing their knowledge (we do have pizza and beer too, sometimes).

So sometimes we do lose quality candidates to competing startups with funkier offices and free lunches. And to big companies who might pay more too. But that's OK. In knowing that we have our offering structured to attract the right talent for us, we set the right expectations from day one.

Prioritize capability and grit over experience

To us, the experience represents the past. We don’t look for teammates who want to rehash their glory days of roles gone by or to reprise what has been done before. What we are looking for are people that have been given the opportunity to shine and have done so; especially when the odds have been against them.

A degree from a ‘lower ranked’ school earned whilst working part-time is of much higher value than a highly decorated academic career and no work experience. The same goes for MBA, too. We’d rather see experience earned through blood, sweat, and tears. People that can demonstrate clearly the impact their work has made, no matter how directly relevant to travel tech, will win over well articulated but not impactful work.

Candidates should share our team’s one essential characteristic

In our case, it’s Passion. When we asked our team what they thought the core characteristic of a Caravelo team member was, it all distilled down to one word. Passion. The geeky, fanatical, hacking-stuff, intense and captivating positivism that makes us all smile 😁

What our potential colleagues are passionate about doesn’t really matter. It might be JAVA, R, Node.js, Final Fantasy, Barcelona FC, cooking, Brahms, surfing, parenting, or photography that fires their passion. Whatever. It just matters that they are and that they bring a bit of that fire that drives them to work.

Get to know who candidates really are (and aren’t)

Beyond capability and passion, we want to know who it is we are potentially bringing in to the team. Any new colleague, especially in a team of our size (~20 people), will add to the culture. We want to be as certain as we can that the addition to the culture will be a positive one.

We now play ‘two truths and a lie’ with every candidate giving the instruction to wow us with their stwo truths and a liearing and their make-believe. It is incredibly telling. When someone is prepared to share something meaningful and sincere in an interview, it's likely they will also give something of themselves to the company. Prosaic truths, that they like dogs or cats or something that also appears on their LinkedIn profile, to us means they might be a bit unimaginative in their approach to life at Caravelo too.

Don’t settle

In the end, no matter how critical the hire might appear to be, we don’t settle. We set the bar deliberately high at the very beginning. It simply wouldn’t be fair on those who have been able to reach and exceed that level to subsequently see it lowered for new hires.

While new team members will still have to prove themselves too, it's a lot easier to spend the extra time on getting the hire right from the beginning than go through a painful process that affects people at a later date.

So when in doubt, keep looking!

And we are looking. If you think you’d like to be part of a company that reshapes the way things are done in travel technology, take a look at our openings or drop us a line directly.

(By the way, this isn’t a call for recruiters to pitch us)