Interview: How STRV looks for its talents
When should startups start talking about Human Resources and looking for a recruiter?
They should start talking about it from day one. Every startup is born with a vision that it will grow and get new people. When we talk to investors in Silicon Valley, they tell us that the founder's ability to get the right people is as important as their idea. If they do not see a charismatic leader who can build a company of 50-100 people, they do not give them an investment. That is why it is important to talk about HR from the very beginning. The first person in HR should mainly do recruitment, because that is the most important. Everything depends on how many people the company is looking to hire. If more than ten positions are open, there is a lot of work to do and having a recruiter pays off.
Who should recruit people until this phase is reached?
In the beginning, it should be done by founders themselves. It is said that one third of their work should be recruitment. It's not a function that can be easily outsourced. They cannot think they will hire a recruiter and thus get all people. People join startups because they believe in the idea and trust the owner. Recruiting is not just a session of interviews, but it's about going to meetups and promoting your business. No one but a CEO can do this.
The founders, however, probably want to devote themselves to the development of the product or sales rather than doing recruitment.
It is true that no one says, "I want to start a business so that I can spend 30% of the time on recruiting people." Entrepreneurs want to devote themselves to product development, sales, and IT. Within ten hours of coding, they see results, but if they sit for ten hours with people, there might not be any results. Still, you can’t do business without recruitment.
Should founders make a commitment to do this?
You cannot set up a business when you do not really enjoy talking to people and building a team. The idea, the company and the team must be connected. The CEO may pass part of the agenda to someone else, such as calling, making appointments, and process evaluation, but they always should do marketing. They must be as visible as possible.
When I want to join a new company, I do not care about the recruiter. I will not work with him or her, and he or she will not be my boss. I'm interested in the CEO. I want to see what person makes me leave my job and dedicate the next years of my life to him or her. This is the most important person in the company. Logically, they should also be present at recruitment. This job is not so urgent, but when founders neglect it, it has a bad impact on company culture.
How does this work at STRV?
Well. STRV is a healthy company. In the beginning, the founders themselves recruited fifty people. Our brand co-founders help us a lot. Lubo Smid and David Semerad have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and they understand they have to do promotion, lectures, talks at events and go to job interviews. For a long time, Lubo spoke to every recruited person. Due to the high number of employees, it is no longer possible, but he still tries to meet half. In September, we are going to do job interviews in Brazil and he is coming there with me. Maintaining a relationship with people is still in the DNA of the company and the co-founders devote much of their personal life to it.
How did you get into STRV?
One day, the CEO called me, we went for lunch and he convinced me with his vision. If someone from recruitment would have called me, I would have not talked to them. I knew about STRV, I followed Lubo on Twitter and I knew the company. I saw that the founders are people without ego and give their employees freedom.
What does the company accentuate when recruiting people? Why do people join STRV?
Most people work here because there is a free international environment, the company is growing, and we have interesting clients. There has been a myth recently that having table football, painted walls and a free baguette for breakfast will keep people in the company, but these are mere details. In the end, everyone wants to do something meaningful. Interestingly, money is not as important. For example, we know that we are not at the top of the IT market and that our people could get a higher salary in other companies, but we do not fight with money. We give people the ability to develop themselves and have freedom.
STRV has a great reputation. How can small, unknown startups attract new people?
They should highlight the opportunity to build something meaningful, having an impact and seeing their own results. It is good to pinpoint flexibility and a good team. If startups are not so well-known, they can organize a public event. If they are looking for an experienced salesman, they can invite business mentors from their incubator to tell people, "Come listen to what it is like to do sales in a startup." Just the fact that thirty people come means they are interested and you can talk to them further. You may want to try offer a position in your startup or so on. You cannot go and write to the director in O2, "Hey you, don’t you wanna join us?" It needs to go slow, step by step.
Do you mean the gradual building of a relationship?
Yes, that is exactly how we perceive recruitment. Only 10% of people are actively looking for a job, while 90% are open but first need to build trust and relationship. We have calculated that our recruitment takes twelve months from when the person first learns about us until they send us their resume.
What are you doing in the meantime?
We are trying to give people some value. It's not so much about the amount of coffee invitations sent, but about inviting them to an interesting event or sharing our technical know-how with them. When we do not have an interesting event, we tell them to come and see what our project teams are working on. In addition, we create interesting content and use our people's personal brands to spread awareness about the company. I keep on noticing that companies are often searching for shortcuts asking how to write a great job ad and get people fast. But there are no fields with shortcuts, are there? It's about honest, long-term and quality work that you have to do.
STRV is growing fast. Are you afraid of becoming a corporation that will no longer have such a personal relationship with people?
Not really. We're picking people who do not have corporate ambitions. If someone says they want to be a manager, the red light goes on. It often happens that these people start to like power very much, they start to build their playground and control everything. We want people for whom managing someone is almost a punishment. Most people who have natural leadership skills will tell you they do not want to lead, but if you ask them for it, they will do it. We choose people for whom work is more important than a title on a business card.
STRV has recently introduced middle management and each team got its own manager. Did anything change?
I do not really like the word manager or leader, but there's probably nothing better. We are trying to find ways to override the logic of corporate governance. We do not want to get into a typical situation where the most experienced and thus expensive person gets stuck in a useless agenda (such as approving invoices and holidays and being responsible for reporting) and does not develop their strongest skills. Instead of creating new managers, we are trying to divide the work so that there is only a small number of managers who are devoted to their expertise. In this respect, I like the idea of self-managing teams by Google.
How do they work?
Google wants to change the common practice where about every eight people have a manager. They found that they were able to divide the administrative work of the manager into the team - one approves holidays, the other keeps an eye on the budget, another one makes reports and the like. By delegating responsibility, the ratio may not be 1:7, but 1:50. In such a situation, it is realistic to find good leaders and let daily routine be done by the teams themselves. It seems to me to like a brilliant idea.
Do you try to innovate when recruiting and working with people?
I play around with a lot of marketing tools, whether it's a newsletter, a chatbot or a loyalty program for the best employees. Marketing is ahead of HR. We use Instagram Stories in our business. Every day we give at least one video to show what's new. There are snapshots when a new office opens in Brno, when David and Lubo arrange new projects, or a project manager introduces his team. Everyone can see what's going on.
Where do you get inspiration?
I find most inspiration in areas other than HR. I search for information, listen to podcasts and read a lot. If I, for example, want to find out more about email marketing, I look at the email marketing conferences and I go to one of them. If I cannot go, I'll see who's giving lectures, I try to find their blogs, read their articles, and start following them on Twitter.
Matěj Matolín works as a recruiter, a manager and a consultant. He writes the most popular Czech blog about recruitment Lovec hlav, organizes workshops, writes in the media and talks at conferences. His career has gone through recruitment in various fields ranging from automotive, heavy industry, and fintech to IT. He has experience in recruiting very specific positions as well as thousands of workers in production. He is currently recruiting for STRV, a company developing applications for the best startups in Silicon Valley.