How I Hire: Searching for Mission-Driven Hustlers
This post was originally part of a How I Hire series on LinkedIn and published at linkedin.com/in/laurawp on September 24, 2013.
I run a startup nonprofit called Code2040. About a year ago, I was the only employee, reporting to a board of directors. Six months after launch, though, I brought on my first full-time hire, and now, a year later, we’re at six team members. By the end of 2014, I anticipate we’ll be at 12 people.
Given this growth, and the huge impact each new hire has on our small team, hiring -- and hiring well -- is a priority. But although we’ve gotten our share of press and VIP support, being employee No. 7 at a hot Silicon Valley startup is a lot less glamorous when it’s a nonprofit: we’re not offering fancy perks and there’s no such thing as financial upside.
That’s why the two things I look for in every new hire are hustle and commitment to the mission.
Entrepreneurship has famously been defined as the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled. I can’t think of a better way to describe what my team and I do every day. So that means when it comes to choosing a new team member, I look for someone who doesn’t blink at taking on projects they have no idea how to do. I look for someone who will stay late the night before a board meeting. Someone who will fly across the country to pitch a roomful of college students on the benefits of our program. Someone who will roll up her sleeves when a teammate needs help on a project that just has to get done. Someone who will hustle.
My first Code2040 hire is a great example of this. Amy had an impressive background, but when it came to experiences that mapped directly onto what her new role would entail, the list was slim. When I called Amy’s references, however, the theme was clear: Amy was an invaluable asset because she was thoughtful, committed, personable, driven, and she could get things done even in challenging circumstances -- with a smile. I don’t think anyone used the words, but I jotted it down in my notebook nonetheless: Amy can hustle.
Commitment to the CODE2040 Mission
Natural hustlers often have a clear view of their own potential and will stop at nothing to achieve it. The tricky thing about hiring at CODE2040 is that we need hustlers who will use their hustle for the good of the organization. The only kind of person I can count on to do this day in and day out is someone who believes strongly and passionately in our organization’s mission to create pathways to success for Blacks and Latinos in the innovation economy.
This spring I was hiring for a position that would take on several responsibilities that were on my plate including marketing, PR, and event management. When it came down to the last candidates for the role, I passed over the one who had a master's degree in communication and the one who had produced a major conference in favor of Iris, the one who demonstrated ongoing commitment to equity in education and workforce development over the course of her career. One of this candidate’s references said to me: “She is made for this role and this role is made for her, because she’s been committed to these issues for as long as I’ve known her.” For good measure, she added, “If you don’t hire her, you’re crazy.” Sure enough, Iris’ passion for CODE2040 has propelled her up a steep learning curve and led her to produce some amazing content and events for CODE2040 within her first months on the team because she really deeply “gets” our mission and community.
I’ve been fortunate in my hiring. Hustlers with a deep commitment to our mission are rare. But so far using these criteria has helped me put together a team that is really outstanding -- a group of individuals that come together as a team to drive CODE2040 forward each and every day.
Amy, Jonathan, Iris, and Bianca set a high bar, and I’m excited to see who will join us next. Which reminds me: Do you know any mission-drive hustlers looking to join a fabulous team?