October 21, 2020

A startups unconventional hiring approach - choosing attitude over skill.

by Arne Kronemeyer

Running your own company sometimes gives you this special feeling of building your own little world around you. You’re able to decide on the daily working hours and which software tools you think are the most fun to work with - a small world in which you’re making the laws. What brings the most joy, however, is deciding who you want to work with. Especially, when you’re still a small company and you interact with everyone on a daily basis. Almost a year after founding our company in Germany, we were able to expand the team from the two founders and get a third person onboard. First hires definitely stir up a lot of excitement in most companies, and it most certainly did for us. Even though it is a merit for your company that someone turns other opportunities down and wants to be part of your journey (which feels amazing), it also brings along a lot of responsibility. All out of a sudden you’re in charge of someone else’s livelihood. As a wise man once said:

With great power comes great responsibility.

As this would be our first hire, we had no experience in the whole process. What we did know was that we didn't want to create yet another boring application process. So, when announcing our first position, we didn’t ask for a CV or cover letter. Instead, we talked to every applicant personally and came up with a little work project to see how they would behave in a real working scenario. After having interviewed 10-20 different people, we decided on our very first hire: Kai - a 19-year-old youngster who has never had a job before. Why - you might ask? As unconventional as our hiring process was, as unconventional was his application:

Alongside his documents, he provided us with a dropbox folder filled with content of himself doing action sports from mountain biking to free running, and surfing - mostly filmed with just his GoPro! Btw: knowing how to use a GoPro is kind of a must-have for us. This approach, as well as his openness and eagerness to learn, got him the job. 

After working with Kai for just over a year, we can now say that we’re more than delighted with our decision. In fact, we learned that we can always train people when certain skills are needed. But there is one capability we don’t have and that is to change a person's attitude. Being able to make the laws in our own small world allows us to hire people who are a good fit and add something positive to our culture. In our opinion, a good company culture is worth far more than only having a team of high-performing ignorants. Because at the end of the day, we’ll be spending a lot of time together, so good vibes are essential. So after all, we prefer an unskilled person with a good attitude over a highly skilled person without it. 

We then continued with this approach for our next hire! But, one thing had changed: This time the whole team was involved in the hiring process. Connecting a candidate with the team gives everyone the chance to feel each other out before working together. After hosting a video editing contest on Instagram and reviewing a lot of submissions we held several interviews with applicants. We eventually filled our marketing position with Sarah. She not only handed in a great video but much more importantly was her first impression on our interview. We clicked from the very beginning and we can now surely say: she turned out to be just as amazing as her application & first impression. 

Our latest addition to the team was an unexpected one. We haven’t even listed a job offer out there but we were lucky that we came across Benji - again a rather young candidate without a lot of working experience. As a GoPro enthusiast and huge fan of our brand, we just couldn't decline to meet him. When he found out that we’re located in his hometown, he came around to meet us at the office. What happened next was a mix of his positive attitude and good timing: We needed someone to help us fulfil orders and he was there at the right point in time. Him being stoked to take over that responsibility we, once more, hired for potential and culture fit rather than track record. 

This is how we were able to gather this amazing team so far:

The AERVIDEO Team in October 2020: Kai, Pablo, Sarah, Benji, Arne (left to right)

Being able to build this team is something we’re truly grateful for. The extra creativity, brainpower, and (wo)manpower make it possible to get things done in a matter of days when it would have taken us weeks to do it all by ourselves. Dividing work into small departments allows us to cross off entire work streams from our to-do lists.

For us, having trust in someone plays a bigger role than their initial performance - as Simon Sinek once said. To be able to do so, we offer a good working environment with plenty of growth opportunities and challenging projects in which every team mate can unfold her/himself.

We’re looking forward to growing our young family even further! With more like-minded creatives and enthusiasts, we continue to work on our mission of creating new ways of seeing and capturing the world around us.

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