Mark Suster: Punching Above Your Weight

A theme I have returned to from time to time is how our hiring systems screen out talent.  This has implications in one’s own hiring and potentially in one’s investments.  There also is an opportunity here for someone to reinvent the traditional resume as I have blogged before

Mark Suster, whose blog I have just started reading, has a nice piece on hiring for startups.  One of his tips is to find people who punch above their weight class.  I cannot agree with this more and I cut and paste a “must read” excerpt below:

“It means that many management teams I know feel the need to hire people who have “done it before” and frankly many VCs encourage this. It’s a mistake. When you hire somebody too early who has already “done it” you often find somebody that is less motivated in tough times, less willing to be scrappy (as many startups need to be), more “needy” and less mentally flexible / willing to change their way of thinking.

Importantly, you also find people who are too quick to undermine the authority of the founders. They “know more.” You don’t want sycophants - don’t get me wrong – you want people who challenge your thinking and a meritocracy of ideas. But you don’t want team members who openly question your judgment, your authority. At least not publicly.

So what do it mean to “punch above one’s weight class?” It’s a boxing analogy. It means a welter weight who wants to fight in the heavy-weight category. It means a “young Turk” who has something to prove. It means somebody who held the director of sales in their last company but in this company wants to be VP. Their last company said, “you don’t have enough years of experience.”

You said, “Eff experience. I want to know whether you can deliver. If you can, you’re golden. You’ll go a long way. If you can’t – you’re toast. Are you up for it?” It’s Tristan Walker of FourSquare. They hired him when he was an MBA. He had no right asking for a senior biz dev role at one of the hottest companies in the US. But he was ready to punch above his weight class. And he pushed for it.

And heavy-weight he has become. He is out innovating people with 10 years’ his experience. He is hungry. He is an A player. His innovation and execution are proving his worth.”