Hiring Unproven Talent for your Startup

Building the right team is critical to the success of any startup.  You can pay a significant premium for proven talent, or take a risk and get a deal on unproven talent.  My best hires have usually been relatively unproven when they joined the team.

But how do you gauge the potential of these people?  I may have figured out a critical interview question to ask when hiring unproven talent (and maybe proven talent too).  The question is: “How would you react if you felt like you were underpaid in your position?”

I came up with this question based on a conversation with my younger sister.  She was recently promoted and very disappointed that she didn’t get a pay raise with her promotion.   Most people would lose motivation and begin putting less effort into their work.  A few of us though would take the exact opposite approach.  Defying logic, we would actually work harder, figuring that our salary will eventually catch up to our valuable contribution.  We understand that being underpaid gives us enormous leverage and eventually a smart employer will give us a raise for fear of losing us.

From the inception of my career, I have always taken this approach when I felt underpaid.  And I’ve always preferred to be underpaid than overpaid (much better job security).  I have a feeling that this is a key characteristic of most people that have had success in their career.

It will be interesting to hear the reactions when I use this question in interviews.

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