Some of the most important decisions founders have to make early on are decisions related to hiring. When we first started building Thrillist, this was my biggest challenge in large part because I wasn’t experienced, but more so because I wasn’t confident. Specifically, I didn’t believe that we were a good enough company to attract great candidates.
In an attempt to cover my insecurity, I often found that I was trying to sell Thrillist and myself to potential employees, always focusing on the perks of the job and the momentum of the company -- and not painting a realistic picture of the hard work that the job entailed. While there are clearly great advantages that come with having a job at Thrillist, there are also real sacrifices that need to be made. We work long hours, we don’t bathe people in riches, we value the team more highly than the individual, and we hold people to very specific performance metrics. This isn’t a walk in the park.
Because I’m a decent salesman, I was always able to convince people to accept roles within the company - but I shouldn’t have had to. On multiple occasions this led to us bringing people into the business that I knew deep down weren’t long-term team members and we paid the price by having to go through the entire process again more quickly than we would have liked. I learned the hard way that the last thing you want to do is hire people who aren’t 100 percent sure that they want to work for you or 100 percent clear on what they’re getting themselves into.
Today, we have 100 employees and I’m usually the last person to interview each one. Now, rather than painting a rosy picture of all the fun they’ll have at Thrillist, I spend more time trying to convince candidates not to take the job; explaining that it’s going to be harder than they think and more pressure than they want. And if they’re still interested, we give them what I call an “exploding offer,” which expires in 48 or 72 hours. The reason for this is we don’t want anyone who’s weighing our offer against other offers or using our offer to get more money from their current company. We want candidates to make a gut call – to know deep down that this is where they want to be. We look for people who really, really want to work at Thrillist. Needless to say our success rate has gone up and I can comfortably say that Team Thrillist is the strongest it’s ever been as a result.
So if I could do all our hiring over again, I absolutely would have started the process differently. It might have taken a little longer to get the first 20 people in the door, but to get the right 20 people as a foundation is much more important.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @BenJLerer