Startups Look Beyond Resumes or: What do Startups, Recruiters, and Michel Foucault Have in Common?

September 5th, 2010 by under Career Search, Leadership and Managing Human Capital. No Comments.

Startup IT companies are beginning to use filtering techniques besides traditional resumes and interviews, according to a Slate/Washington Post article, today. 

The job search is becoming more about resumes and in person interview. Source: John M. Fugett/

For startups, finding the right employees is the number two “headache” after securing funding.  Large companies have the leeway to occasionaly hire someone who isn’t a perfect fit.  However, startups need to maximize the effectiveness of their funding. 

According to the article, which focuses on the tech sector, traditional recruiting consultants have a difficult time differentiating between technically competent applicants.  With the slack labor market, small firms that lack a dedicated human resources department may feel particularly overwhelmed by the pile of applicants before them. 

Recently, startup tech firms have turned to: 

  • Reviewing the source code of programmers who work on collaborative programming sites;
  • Video Resumes; and
  • Behavioral interviews (usually used by larger companies)

The goal of these human resource “technologies” (a la Michel Foucault) is to provide employers with a better sense of which applicants are competent and which will be the most engaged and invested in propelling the firm’s mission. 

At Smith, the Office of Career Services has repeatedly told us that when approaching potential employers its important to make sure – during the internship/job search and during an interview – that we are a good fit for the organization in terms of the value we bring and in terms of what we can expect in the firm’s mission, culture, and opportunities for advancement.  Employers don’t want an employee who isn’t engaged anymore than any of us want to work at a place that does not match our vision for how we want to spend our time and effort. 

Our class on Leadership and Managing Human Capital (BUSI 664) began with this very premise.  Beginning with readings and case studies, our first class emphasized that human capital is the key strategic resource for firms in the current economy.  Historically, firms focused on developing defensible product/market positions, but by the 1980s, globalization and industrial restructuring led firms to focus on building a durable competitive advantage through the development of organizational resources and capabilities that are difficult to imitate.  However, many firms continue to try to “implement third-generation strategies through second-generation organizations with first-generation management.”*  These “third-generation” strategies focus on cultivating employee engagement through well-defined mechanisms that align incentives and provide employees with an understanding of how their work and behavior fit into the broader business strategy. 

Even if we aren’t going into IT, the WP/Slate article articulates how this evolution in Human Capital Management impacts how we will be evaluated during interviews and on the job itself.  Furthermore, it emphasizes that the responsibility of employee engagement does not belong to management or to HR departments alone – all employees must take this responsibility, especially at startups where the costs of wasted resources are magnified. 

From the perspective of small firms considering how much resources to invest in their employees, developing an engagement strategy may pay off well.  In a study of 136 non-financial firms and their IPOs, firms that offered development programs for employees and rewards based on organizational performance were more likely to survive five years after the IPO.** 

*Bartlett and Ghoshal. “Building Competitive Advantage through People.” MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2002. Vol. 43. No. 2. 

**Welborne, T., & Andrews, A. (1996).  “Predicting performance of initial public offering firms:  Should HRM be part of the equation?”  Academy of Management Journal, 39, 891-919. – Thanks to Prof. Chen for a heads up on this paper. 

For an article on building leadership within tech companies, check out this Aug. 22, 2010 WSJ article