11 Questions About Recruiting with Ryan Quinn of MCS Group

Hiring the right talent at the right time is critical to the success of any fintech startup and very challenging to do. How do you find, attract, and retain best-in-class talent whether from inside or outside the industry? This transcends mere operational necessity; it is a strategic cornerstone for driving innovation, growth, and competitive advantage.

Because this is a critical and evergreen topic, we turned to Ryan Quinn Vice President at MCS Group, for guidance. MCS Group is a specialist recruitment firm with expertise in a wide range of sectors, including, of course, fintech. They work in the United States, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and England. At Fintech Sandbox, we know them as passionate advocates for the fintech community.

Ryan Quinn of MCS Group

Ryan, what are you seeing in terms of trends in startup compensation?

This really depends on the needs of the organization, both now and in the future. If you are searching for a tenured leader who can add immediate value now and help to build the team as you grow, you may need to offer a premium salary, bonus incentives and/or equity. If you are looking for a motivated individual that can be one of the first few members and build their career as the organization grows, that opportunity can be compensation enough for the right person.

At what point is a startup big enough to engage with a recruitment partner like MCS?

We get this question a lot. It is never too early to engage with a recruitment partner. Even if you have a strong network of former colleagues, mentors and friends; there is so much untapped potential out there and working with a recruitment partner helps you access that additional talent pool.

Should startups think about succession planning?

Absolutely. It may not get the dedicated time and attention the immediate needs do; however, startups should always be thinking five moves ahead. Also, succession planning doesn’t have to be “who will take over the company when I exit” but it can be as simple as “what type of person do I want running my Software Dev team?”. Having this mindset will help startups hire the right people both now and for the future aspirations of the organization.

How can a startup build a reputation as an employer of choice?

There are numerous ways you can build a strong reputation out in the market but regardless of what you offer, you must make sure people know about it. Whether your organization has the best compensation package, work/life balance, great benefits, or is building an amazing product or service offering; the key to being known as an employer of choice is word of mouth. Word of mouth is twofold in this case. Having your current team proud to work for your startup (and being vocal about it at events, on social media, etc.) … and having a recruitment partner that is constantly out in the market talking to candidates and singing the praises of your company helps compound the brand recognition of your startup.

What advice do you have for a founder who is beginning to build a real board of directors for the first time?

My two pieces of advice are diversity and due diligence. Building a board of directors with diverse backgrounds will help give you perspective and avoid hive mentality and a board full of “yes” people. It is imperative you are thorough in your screening process and do your due diligence with who you bring on to the board. Do they have experience scaling a startup? What industry do they come from? What is their decision-making process during stressful situations? Et cetera.

At the earliest stages, a company is usually hiring from within its network. How can it avoid building a company where everyone looks, thinks, and acts alike, or comes from the same background?

Having a network of trusted people is amazing! However, if a startup is going to continuously evolve and grow, you must bring in different perspectives. You would be shocked at the level of quality talent that is out there, especially in Boston, New York, New England! So, if you are only looking within your small network, you will be constantly leaving talent on the table, which could stunt your company’s growth or worse.

We’ve all seen examples of hiring processes that drag on interminably and turn off candidates. What are some of the best practices you’ve seen for running a hiring process that will help land the best candidates?

This might be the top reason why candidates get turned off by companies. Whenever we are working with an organization to help fill a role, two of the first topics we cover are sense of urgency and time commitment. If a role isn’t urgent that is ok, but we need to set clear expectations with the candidate on the interview/hiring process and the timeline. If a role is urgent, you must be available to dedicate a few hours per week to interviews, give timely feedback and make an offer when the right candidate has been identified. If you can’t commit those few hours a week during an already busy schedule, then chances are the role isn’t really a priority for you and the organization.

Startups are almost by definition fast moving and rapidly changing. But job descriptions that capture the specific requirements of a position at a point in time can, in six months, look like they were an exercise in describing where the rabbit was. Is it possible to hire for tomorrow’s challenges as well as today’s needs?

Absolutely. Job descriptions are great but like you said, it’s impossible to capture requirements for now, next week, next month, etc. This is why most people get so frustrated with job postings and the application process. You may post a job and get one hundred to one thousand applicants, where only a select few actually have the qualities you are looking for. That’s because a job description never paints the full picture, and neither does a one–two-page resume. This is where a recruitment partner can also be of tremendous value because we can speak with the candidate and go into detail about the role, the future opportunities, the organization, etc., and really paint a picture of the whole opportunity. And conversely, we can present candidates to you with the full picture of their experience, personality, ambition, etc.

Making the wrong hire can have disastrous consequences for an organization. What’s the right way to acknowledge a mistake and move on?

The key to this is open communication and knowing your people. If you are open with people about their role within the organization, your expectations of them, etc., then there should be no surprises if someone is falling behind. If someone isn’t meeting their expectations, you have to identify if it is because of skill or will? If it is a skill issue, do you have the resources and ability to train them? If it is a will issue, then they likely aren’t right for your organization and it’s time to separate as amicably as possible.

Is there a good way, a fair way, to assess a software engineer’s technical skills during the interview process?

This is a tricky question because it really boils down to the person conducting the interview. If you are confident in your technical abilities, you should be able to ask programming questions about how they use it, what they’ve used it for, etc., and be able to know if they are up to par. If you are less confident in your technical capabilities, there are plenty of coding tests you can use like HackerRank or Codility. I would caution with coding tests however that you still interview every candidate and get a feel for their motivations, strengths and weaknesses, etc., because a good score on a coding test doesn’t always mean a great fit for your team.

How can startups compete for AI/ML talent?

There is an obvious war for talent when it comes to AI/ML right now. Being a startup, you likely won’t be able to throw money at candidates like the behemoths of Google and Amazon, however, you can offer them intangibles like the opportunity to grow, be part of an organization at the ground level, have their input really matter and make a difference within the organization, etc. Not all AI/ML talent wants to work for a large corporation where they are just another number, so identifying the right motivators and personality traits will help you bring the right person on board.

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