What Fantasy Football Can Teach You About Hiring for Your Startup



My startup, Speek, raised our Series A funding in March, and we’ve had to grow rapidly since. Our product and engineering teams redesigned our in-call experience and launched screen share for our Pro and Business users. In the meantime, I’ve been putting together a strong team to launch our new conference calling service, Speek for Business.

You need more than one type of player to ensure your success. While drafting for my fantasy football league this year, I realized that there similarities between the strategic approach of putting together a strong fantasy team and evaluating applicants for a successful startup.

Great Resumes Don’t Always Matter

Every player in fantasy football has statistics that break down the player’s previous performance and can be used to rank against other players for specific positions. Just because a player has had great stats for the past year or two, doesn’t mean that he will perform well.

A great receiver on a team with an injured quarterback will probably not do well that season, but you wouldn’t be able to see this just from the statistics. Fantasy football fanatics will tell you to look past the stats and do your due diligence.

Startups don’t hire people based solely on their resumes. The ‘stats’ from resumes gives useful information about the candidate’s professional experience, but it doesn’t give the full picture. Not everyone is cut out for the startup work environment, and most importantly your startup’s culture. Work hours and responsibilities can change rapidly as the startup grows, which means people have to be very comfortable in a flexible (and sometimes chaotic) work environment.

Focus on asking the important questions during the interview. If you’re still not sure, then it’s time to call and question the references. Work ethic, ambition, drive and flexibility are all crucial factors of a strong candidate for a growing startup.

Hire for the Position

In fantasy football, you’re looking to hire top players who specialize in specific positions on the team: quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, etc. This translates well to hiring for a startup. When hiring, you should be looking for people with strengths that complement the weaknesses of the team. Just because you’re doing a little bit of everything doesn’t mean you should surround yourself with people doing the same.

Furthermore, if you have too many people who are jack-of-all-trades types, you’ll be facing a situation where your team doesn’t have any strengths in any specific areas. So before you think of hiring a salesperson who can also handle the accounting, you should take a step back and consider if the budget allows you to hire two people instead. You want to get the most value from each position.

Look for the People on the Rise (aka Sleepers)

Just because you have the best player on your team doesn’t mean that you’ll win the league. For every celebrity football player with a multimillion-dollar contract, there is a line of hungry players who have the skills, drive and ambition to prove that they are top-tier. While most people tend to focus on getting the top players for their team, fantasy football veterans are strategically looking for “sleepers” who will take their team to victory.

So look past the resume and hire for the team. Hiring an expert at the expense of your team can derail your chance at victory. Focus on hiring people who have the talent, drive and ambition to take their skills to the next level.

A startup consisting of over-performing and talented members can be contagious, and increase your chance of making it to the winner’s circle.

Reprinted by Permission

Image Credit: CC by Lindsey Turner

About the author: Danny Boice

Danny Boice is the Co-Founder & President of Speek.  Speek lets users do conference calls with a simple link (speek.com/YourName) rather than using phone numbers and PINs.  Danny attended Harvard, is a Forbes columnist, Adjunct Professor at Georgetown and was recently named a Tech Titan by Washingtonian Magazine.

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