Expansion Stage and Startup Recruiting: Hiring a Learner Rather Than a Student

July 30, 2013

One of the most important aspects of scaling an expansion-stage company is having the right people on board. I typically write a lot about sales and marketing — but this post goes beyond those two functions.

Managers across the board: as you are expanding your teams, my big piece of advice is to hire the learner, not the student.

That phrase was something I heard while I was recently conducting a reference check for the newest member of my team, Sales and Marketing Associate, CeCe Bazar. One of CeCe’s former managers said of her:

“She is a learner — meaning she goes out and finds the answers for herself with the resources that are available to her. She’s not a student — she doesn’t sit around waiting for someone to show her how to do everything.”

BINGO! This is what I was surely looking for for my team, and if all of the managers that I work with in our investment portfolio could find people like this for their teams, our companies’ growth would surely skyrocket.

Good Employee Qualities: Distinguishing the Learners from the Students

So how you identity the learners vs. the students? Here are six characteristics to keep an eye out for when hiring for your next role:

  • Learners come prepared to interviews — they’ve done their homework, they’ve got relevant (not canned) questions to ask you.
  • Learners follow up with a thank you note within 12 hours of each interview with custom emails (not one they’ve clearly copied and pasted to everyone at your company).
  • Learners reach out to their network/influencers during the interview process to ask them if they can use them as a reference point/mentor if they were to be hired for their new role.
  • Learners reach out to their network and ask those who are connected to the interviewer/hiring manager to reach out and put in a good word.
  • Learners are the ones who are creeping on your LinkedIn page prior to your interview (I actually hold it against someone if they don’t do this prior to an interview with me!).
  • Learners read every piece of relevant content that is on your company’s website and use that information to their advantage throughout the interview process.

What other qualities/characteristics have you identified in “learners” that you have hired for your team?