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A 7 Minute Primer To Hiring For Startups In India

A 7 Minute Primer To Hiring For Startups In India

Based on our experiences at Cubeit. Hiring is not easy. Hiring for startups even less so.

You don’t have time or money, and good people who can both execute and fit into the company are few and far between. But shit needs to be done. And this is how we at Cubeit do it.

Who handles hiring?

The best case scenario is hiring someone to look at hiring (sorry I couldn’t resist), but that is an unnecessary drag on resources (both time and money).

There are two other options:

  1. Someone from the current team looks at the whole hiring pipeline until the available positions are filled: This is a shitty option. Hiring is an endlessly boring, often unproductive task. Nobody wants to do it, and forcing creative, driven people to do something they don’t want to is less than ideal.
  2. Split hiring according to roles: Marketing person looks at hiring for marketing. Android guy looks at hiring Android developers and so on. Distributes the work, but is still a drag on time. (This is what we are doing for now.)

Where do we hire from?

Angel List (

  1. It’s FREE!
  2. Has good quality candidates.
  3. Probability of conversion is higher since most people are actively looking.
  4. People on Angel List want to work for startups.
  5. Allows candidates to see salary ranges before starting the conversation.


  1. Expensive (we use the recruiter accounts to get in touch with prospective candidates.)
  2. Candidates are employed, and hence less open to discussing new opportunities.
  3. Hit rate is very poor.
  4. Filtering is really good.


  1. Given us the longest pipeline so far, but the quality of resumes received is heavily dependent on the quality of the consultant. (The people we work with were referred by a good friend over at Swiggy.)
  2. Consultants generally charge between 8–12% of the candidates CTC once hired, and provide a replacement if the employee leaves within 2 months of joining.
  3. They help set up interviews/coordinate meetings.
  4. Be warned that they are looking to make a commission, so they optimize for finding the candidate a job very quickly, and not for finding the best job for the candidate.
  5. Also, as a recruiter, you have to be really fast because a candidate is talking to at least 10 companies at the same time.

Other websites

  1. com — limited success so far. You have no control over the inbound pipeline, and time is lost in filtering through applications.
  2. If you figure out how to filter correctly it does give you the largest talent pool.
  3. These are people actively looking for jobs.
  4. The poor quality of candidates and companies generally creates a poor hiring experience.


  1. Works out to be really fast.
  2. Limited by how networked your current employees are.
  3. Most efficient way to expand teams initially (50% of our current team has been hired through referral)

What positions do we hire for?

UX Designers

  1. UX designers are probably the unicorns of the startup world. The world and their uncle wants a designer to join their startup. Unfortunately, supply is scarce.
  2. A lot of designers prefer to work freelance, which leaves the field mostly empty. It’s very tough to get designers to join and you really need to sell the quality of work.

Android Developers

  1. Everybody has an app, and if you’re in India, chances are that you’ll start off developing Android first. (And that’s why there’s a friend of yours who just posted on his Facebook wall “Any Android developers out there?”).
  2. Historically developers haven’t been working on Android; they mostly do backend stuff. The companies that do have large Android teams are fairly huge themselves, so getting people to switch is much tougher.
  3. Due to the very small talent pool, salaries tend to be a little inflated.
  4. Turning good Java Developers into Android developers seems to be the common wisdom.

Growth Engineer

  1. Most successful startups have engineered growth, so this is an essential member in any consumer product team. The growth engineer is responsible for all data driven user growth. Typically he/she would create and optimize signup and referral flows, look at data to figure out dropoffs, give inputs to the product team on what to fix and so on.
  2. For any consumer startup, this position is cross functional, encompassing aspects of marketing, product, and engineering.
  3. The ideal candidate can dabble in content, design, and code, and MUST be able to do at least two of these three things really well.

What are our cutoff parameters?

Graduate School — IITs, BITS, IIMs, NID/Srishti/IIT Design School (for designers)

  1. I might get a bit of stick here. The main argument I am anticipating is that of discrimination against candidates not from these schools. I will explain why we (and a lot of other companies) do this.
  2. Hiring is time consuming. (A startup should ideally spend at least 40% more time than larger companies during the interview process). At this stage of the company we want to make sure we get the right person on board, which means multiple conversations need to take place. It is only pragmatic that we prune the number of candidates at the earliest possible stage — a filter on graduate school is a good proxy. (However, we welcome inbound inquiries from people who express an interest to work with us and show the right balance of talent and hustle.)


  1. We have an upper bar on experience, not a lower bar. We prefer people who don’t know a lot but demonstrate a capacity to experiment and learn extremely quickly. Given their age, such people would also fit easily into the team’s culture.

What is our process?

Phone screening

  1. This is a quick 15 minute call to understand the candidate’s motivation to join us. At this stage we are looking for signals to reject the candidate, so this is an additional filtering step. Highest rejection is because people lied on their resume or very obviously have very limited or no experience about the skills they claim to possess.
  2. We also test the quality of questions candidates ask us. Ours is a difficult product to understand and that proxies as a basic IQ test.

Technical interview

  1. Face to face if candidate is in Bangalore or telephonic if candidate is remote.
  2. The objective here is to test the candidate’s technical ability.

One day assignment

  1. The next step for the candidate is spending a day at our office to complete a task we assign. For us this is the most important step.
  2. The task is almost always a real world problem (we have more than enough of those, sigh), and the candidate is judged on implementation (has shit gotten done) first and foremost.
  3. This is also a chance for the whole team to get to know the candidate better.

The process is long, but we feel it is essential to maintain the right level of talent in our team. We expect that every person who joins us is able to teach us something we don’t already know.

What are the problems we face?


  1. More often than not, a candidate we interview and like is snapped up by the funded big boys of the startup space (Flipkart is a representative example). They can offer more money, a stable job, andsome interesting profiles. Honestly, we can’t compete.

Strict requirements -> Shorter Pipeline -> Longer Timelines to hire

  1. We haven’t found a way around this yet, apart from trying to get more consultants to send us resumes.


  1. People want all the money in the world just because we are a startup. Startups don’t pay more money than more established companies.
  2. Startups compensate employees for the lower than market salaries with equity. (PS: we emphasise on our employees getting rich through equity and not salaries, we throw “crore rupee parties” which is when the valuation of the company goes above a number which results in an employee becomes a crorepati.)

So that’s how we at Cubeit do things, as of today at least. A central tenet of how we work here is experimentation, and we’re always looking for ways to optimize. We could have a completely different process in two months (shrug) if this doesn’t work.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.