When Should You Let An Inexperienced Person Join?

Cartoon illustration of scared man rejecting with his hands

Years ago, I was interviewing VP Sales candidates. One of the first candidates I interviewed was someone that I quickly realized was completely wrong for the job.

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I finished the interview, and I thanked him for his time. Then, as I usually did when there was no hope of the person progressing to the next stage of my process, I told him that I wouldn’t be going forward with his candidacy.

The candidate, let’s call him “Fred”, seemed taken aback. He said, “Wow. I thought I would have gotten at least to the next stage of the process.”

I said, “No, I just didn’t want you to waste your time hoping for something that wasn’t going to happen.”

We ended the call, and I moved on with my day.

You can’t afford to bring people into your company that aren’t going to add value.

Fred emailed me the next day. He said, “I have an offer for you. What if I work for you, free of charge, for the next six months.

“If you see value, then you’ll consider me for your VP Sales position. If you don’t see value, then you’re out nothing.”

I read his email a couple of times. “That’s interesting,” I thought to myself. “I’ve never seen that approach before.”

I thought about his offer for a minute, and I came to the conclusion that it was a no go. I would still have to pass.

So, I wrote Fred back, and I politely thanked him for his generous offer, and I said, “I’ll still have to pass.”

Now, you could think, “Hey, you’re getting free help. What do you have to lose?”

The reality is you lose the most precious thing you possibly have in a startup when you bring in unqualified people, and that’s your time.

I didn’t have the time to mentor Fred, manage Fred, run the company, and recruit the long term solution to run sales. Time is the one thing you can’t get back when you’re running a startup.

It’s a killer when you lose time because you’re fighting the clock, especially in the early days. You’re burning cash, and you need to keep making progress if you’re going to get to your milestones before you run out of cash.

So, you simply just don’t have the time to bring on anyone that isn’t going to add value. Period.

It’s the same with interns. We’d bring a few interns each summer, but our preconditions were really simple. The manager had to have a plan for the intern.

Back to Fred. Fred wrote me one more time after I said no to his offer to work for free. He said, “Really? Even for free?”

I felt bad for Fred. He was hustling, and that’s what you need to do if you’re in his shoes. I thought about his offer again. “Maybe I should reconsider?”

Then I shock my head. “No, I feel bad for him,” I said myself, “But I’ve got to do the right thing and run the company.”


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