Mansour Tawafi: How to Identify Game-Changing Talent for Your New Startup

Mansour Tawafi
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No matter what niche your startup operates in, few things are more important than finding the right talent to help it grow. The right hires can help your company operate more efficiently, increase productivity and engagement and even reduce your turnover rate — all of which has a direct impact on your bottom line.

Of course, finding the game-changing talent that will take your startup to the next level can feel like a daunting task — especially when the average job opening gets 118 applications.

As Mansour Tawafi, president of Validus, a private membership club explains, however, by learning to identify top talent, you can have confidence in your hiring decisions as you expand your team.

Shake Up Your Interview Process

All too often, job interviews become a stale, routine procedure that doesn’t actually generate meaningful insights about a potential hire. “Sticking to routine interviews can all too easily allow game-changing talent to slip through the cracks,” Tawafi warns.

“You must dig deeper to find ways to truly get to know candidates to determine if they are a good fit. Even something as simple as taking them on a tour of your building during the interview or having them complete a sample project can help you better gauge whether they are truly the right fit for your organization.”

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do when vetting a potential hire is to get the opinion of others within your organization. Even if you are the person with the final decision making power, your team members could spot potential red flags (or positive attributes) that you might have otherwise overlooked.

One company profiled in the New York Times actually had job candidates meet with 15 to 20 employees as part of the hiring process — and each of those employees was given a “blackball vote” that could veto a hire. Startups generally begin with small teams, so it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that the new hire will actually deliver. Getting a second, third or even tenth opinion can help you make the right pick.

Prioritize Diversity

For Tawafi, few things can have a greater impact on a business’s output than prioritizing diversity in its hiring process. “Diversity is more than just race or gender,” he notes.

“Diversity can include factors such as socioeconomic background, home country and native language, religion and so many other traits. What matters is that you are looking for people who aren’t like yourself. People with different backgrounds will bring diverse perspectives, experiences and viewpoints that can help you recognize new opportunities you might otherwise overlook. And they can help you connect with new audiences you might otherwise be unable to reach.”

Indeed, analysis from McKinsey & Company notes that gender and ethnic diversity in company leadership can significantly increase the likelihood of a business financially outperforming its peers. And the more diverse the company’s team, the greater its potential for outperformance.

Regardless of the position you are hiring for, keep diversity top of mind during the hiring process. Be wary of subconsciously favoring a candidate simply because of a similar background to your own. These implicit biases can all too easily lead to an organization where “groupthink” dominates, stifling innovation because everyone thinks alike.

Focus On Ambition First 

Regardless of an individual’s background, there are a few traits Tawafi feels all game-changing talent has in common.

“First is ambition — they are constantly looking for ways to grow and improve. They aren’t content with the status quo and want to move forward in their careers and be part of a culture that aligns with their goals. This ambition is typically paired with curiosity and passion. They love what they do, and they are natural learners. This gives them the ability to chase down their goals and elevate the performance of everyone around them.”

With the right questions and practices, honing in on whether a candidate possesses these traits should become apparent during the interview process. While the information on a candidate’s resume is certainly valuable, it shouldn’t be the ultimate determining factor in your hiring decision. Knowledge and skills can be gained. But a person’s innate attributes are harder to change.

Notably, the Harvard Business Review recommends that managers avoid focusing exclusively on past performance, technical expertise and hard skills. Instead, leaders should look for individuals with “certain soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, drive, and learnability. They are the foundational traits that determine new skill and knowledge acquisition.”

Make the Most of Your Talent

Tawafi is quick to note that it isn’t enough to just onboard top talent. You must give them the resources they need to succeed. “Try to streamline your onboarding process as much as possible,” he advises.

“Whether you’re providing training, technology or other resources, do everything in your power to get that new hire up to speed and fully engrained with your organization as quickly as you can. Be mindful of your responsibility as a mentor and support. By providing the right framework for success, you can help team members of all abilities reach their full potential.”

By doing your due diligence during the hiring process and then laying a foundation where new hires can hit the ground running, you can ensure that they will have a truly game-changing impact on your startup.


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