Is Skydiving scarier than joining a startup…..only if you have no passion and no appetite for risk.

We live in an amazing world and this is often best captured by photography.  This one photo alone says so many things like our ability to adapt and change, take calculated risks, our use of technology to experience the world in a multitude of different ways, the creative designs of the jumpsuits and all the safety devices built into the  equipment that the jumpers use.

Like the pioneers of skydiving the founders of startups have a lot in common and it is these founders that have the power to continue to create an amazing world for all of us.

Since both skydiving and startups require the ability to take risk and have the motivation to jump out of a perfectly good airplane or corporate job the mistake would be to start your hiring by writing a job description that describes the kind of person you want to hire!   That’s a person description not a job description.

Person description vs Job description

If you look at the vast majority of traditional job descriptions they typically have 3 distinct sections. A list of things the person must have such as X years experience, language skills, degree, knowledge of XYZ etc.  The next section tends to list a bunch of personality traits, good communicator, problem solver, takes initiative and the all-encompassing team player label.  The final section lists the responsibilities such as responsible for selling x to these clients in this geographical region or responsible for marketing, operations etc.

Two thirds of that “job description” is about the person and the other 1/3 simply does not tell you what results you are expected to achieve, which leaves you with no real sense of the size and scope of the job.

The solution

We are all hired to achieve results, we are all paid, promoted and get the greatest job satisfaction from the results we deliver.  All jobs have some measurable, tangible results that need to be accomplished on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis. Some are clearly more measurable than others, say sales versus operations but if you cannot measure what a person is doing, how do you know the person is doing good work.  It takes more work to put a dollar figure to the results but each person must perform a function that contributes to the bottom line.

If you were hiring and had the perfect candidate based on your “person description” standing in front of you what would you ask them to do and how would you clarify what results they would be expected to deliver?

SMART Objectives

A company will have its own set of SMART objectives and by breaking those objectives down and assigning them to each department and then one step further to each individual the entire company can be aligned to work together to achieve them. This makes it much easier for everyone to see what everyone else has to do and this will aid teamwork.

Most roles can be broken down to between 5 to 8 SMART objectives.  There is usually a major objective such as increase sales by 10% in the next 12 months, followed by some sub objectives like hire three new sales people by the end of the next 90 days.  Other objectives might include updating the website by the end of the first 120 days.


It immediately gives a clear idea of the scope and size of the job.  It can be used to attract the best performers who will be keen to take on challenging roles and it will dissuade those who cannot achieve the expected results.  During the interview stage these objectives will be used to assess if the person has done something comparable and to determine if they know how to achieve them in the new environment.

During the interview process it will serve as the basis for a more intelligent discussion on resources available to achieve the results, which else will be involved, what the real challenges are and may be changed during the hiring process as more information is provided by both the interviewer and the interviewee.

Who cares?

Honestly who really cares what degree you have or how many languages you can speak or how many years experience you have if you cannot achieve the expected results.  All these “must haves” are nothing more than a barrier to hiring great people.  If you can deliver the agreed results then you have all the “must haves” you need.

Reality vs Theory

On paper what I have described sounds straight forward – define the results you need someone to accomplish then find someone who has done something comparable and who knows how to do it at your company.

This will be easy to do if you are the kind of manager that really understands the business. Someone who knows what their team, department has to accomplish in order for the rest of the company to achieve its goals.

It’s easy to dash off another “person description” with the generic terms that you can cut and paste in a matter of minutes. It takes time and expertise to work out what results need to be accomplished, how hard or easy it will be, the challenges, resources and commitment needed by the new hire.

This critical first step

When this is done properly it will mean having the right person in the role, less stress, more productivity and if you are a startup the beginning of a great company.