Top Tips from a Cleantech HR Recruitment Expert

August 19, 2021

Foresight’s CXO Growth program helps cleantech ventures develop C-suite talent. Guest speakers share their expertise about important topics. Sometimes it’s so good, we just have to share. Here are some highlights from a recent presentation, Hiring & Retention with David Hunt, CEO and Founder of Hyperion Executive Search.

Is the War for Talent really a thing? Absolutely, according to David Hunt, who specializes in executive search for the cleantech sector. The best way to compete, he says, is to hire strategically. And that means putting thought and energy into your HR needs in advance.

Here are David’s nine tips to help you import talent into your cleantech venture.

1) Plan to hire, don’t hire to plan

Don’t wait until you’ve raised money and are scrambling to hire for key roles. This can lead to poor or rushed hiring decisions. Plan for hiring before you raise capital. Think of the milestones and the roles you’ll need to hire for.

2) Hire some help (internal or external)

Someone needs to be accountable for hiring. If you are a founder sifting through resumes or looking through LinkedIn, what’s the opportunity cost? What else could you be doing? Let someone else do the hiring legwork, whether that’s an internal team member, contractor, or search firm.

3) Write job descriptions

Clearly outline skills and what success looks like. What outcomes do you expect and in what timeframe? Start 2-3 years from now and work back. Define the mission critical objectives and tasks for the new hire.

4) Set the high bar

At Seed stage, most hires will be the first in the function. Set the bar high. As Steve Jobs said, A players attract other A players; B players attract C players. According to David Hunt, A players surrounded by B players either leave or drop their game, then leave. Don’t compromise on talent or culture, he advises. As you scale, it will be easier to hire strong people if your team is strong.

5) Get an applicant tracking system

If you’re doing a lot of hiring, stay organized by investing in a CRM that tracks who you’ve spoken to, when, and why.

6) Create an interview process

A meandering, disorganized process will put off A players. Determine in advance who needs to be involved in hiring interviews. Identify who is best at selling the company (a key strategy in the War for Talent). Decide who has the final say - then give them authority and accountability.

7) Check references

People lie and embellish, David cautions. Get validation and proof by talking to former employers (more than one) and a former customer/client. People in your network or mutual contacts can also provide valuable insight. 

8) Always be closing

Candidates have choices. The best candidates will be the hardest to close, he says. Emphasize your values, culture, and mission. Keep in touch with top candidates during the process; keep them warm and feeling wanted. And keep them excited – share news or successes you have during the interview process.

9) Plan compensation

Unclear compensation is a common issue among growing companies, David says. Decide ideal compensation in advance (when you’re writing the job : description). Pay as much as you can afford but not more. Don’t lowball – you will soon lose any short-term win. Be very clear about how bonuses, commission and options work.

By considering these key issues and planning in advance, you will be equipped to build your dream team. 

Read more: Why hiring process matters (a lot)