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Hiring unicorns? You should be hiring a band of rockstars 👩‍🎤🤘🎤👨🏻‍🎤

Updated: Jun 18

Previously on Scaling Start-Ups...

We begged, borrowed and stole from best practices beyond HR to inspire how we can structure a fit-for-purpose HR function. In this episode, we are diving into Capabilities, from the 6 Foundations framework, and how to hire the B.E.S.T capabilities-fit for our HR structure.


Sometimes we hear leaders say, “We only hire unicorns! They will be able to solve all these problems (whatever ‘these' undefined problems are 🤷‍♀️) and more.”

The problem is literally in the name: unicorns! They do not exist and even if they did, they would be rare. Either you won’t find one at all, or it will take an incredibly long time - either way causing delay to the growth of your start-up.

When it comes to building an HR function (or any function for that matter), you are really building a band of rockstars👩‍🎤! The whole (band) is greater than the sum of its parts - resulting in more creativity, productivity and sustainable performance.

Don’t look for the best person for a role, look for the B.E.S.T. capabilities-fit for what the team wants to achieve, now and in the long term.

The B.E.S.T framework gives you a comprehensive approach to define key capabilities and use it to search for your next rockstar! Let’s break it down.


Your rockstars should share your beliefs (aka values) in what you’re trying to achieve - your purpose (or your ‘why’ as Simon says). They’ll join you because they want to be part of achieving this. They’ll stay for the long haul, because of their belief in your purpose and go above and beyond because this purpose drives their motivation.

When I build and recruit for an HR team, I always start with sharing the company’s purpose, followed by the function’s own - to disrupt conventional HR practices that no longer serve their purpose, treat our employees like customers and be agile in the way we work. Every team member that I hire is different in many ways, but the one thing that they have in common is a shared belief in this purpose.

When beliefs aren’t aligned, and you’re trying to move at a lightning pace, the journey will feel bumpy because you need to stop for calibration (such as getting buy-in and influencing) before you can move forward together. If the alignment isn’t there, people will leave because they don’t believe in what you’re trying to do.


In an ideal world, we’d have someone with the exact experience we need so we can immediately plug and play into our team. But that is like looking for a unicorn all over again! For me, the experiences needed depend on current and future business challenges and the gap within the HR function. Here are the 4 questions to consider:

1️⃣ Do they have the experience for what you urgently need right now?

High impact for delivering current strategy.

2️⃣ If they don’t have the experience, do you have the ability or time to grow them?

Low impact for delivering current strategy but you are ready to invest for the future.

3️⃣ Do they have the experience related to future challenges that you know will be coming up?

High impact for achieving the long-term strategy.

4️⃣ Do they have lateral experiences that are usually not found in your own profession?

High impact for transformation strategy.

To truly transform conventional HR practices, I couldn’t build a whole team with conventional HR experience - although an HR team may want to work in an Agile way, many HR folks don’t have the practical experience so I needed to look outside of HR. For example, having someone from an agile coaching background join the team enabled the team to truly benefit from a different approach and transform the ways of working.


This is the main thing that we look for when we recruit. What are the skills needed, currently and in the future? The skills we normally look for ranges from technical to leadership and everything in-between.

Based on my experience, my only tip here is; always include meta-competencies in your skill hiring checklist! Meta-competencies are skills that will develop other skills. Meta-competencies are (1) self-awareness skills and (2) self-regulation skills that translate awareness into action to achieve the desired outcome. People with these skills can stretch in any direction, adapt to their environment and continuously be successful.


Traits are natural tendencies that we lean towards. For example, personality traits where we naturally prefer to approach something in a structured or exploratory manner, or something we’re great at like being highly organised or creative. One is not better than the other, every trait is valuable.

Let’s imagine this: if I ask you to sign your name with your dominant hand, it is natural and easy! However, if I ask you to sign your name with your non-dominant hand, it is a bit awkward at first but not impossible with practice. A trait is like our dominant hand but we can also learn what doesn’t come naturally to us.

However, in a start-up environment, everything we do is faster and a tad more pressured. This environment is akin to me asking you to produce 100 signatures in 10 mins. Chances are, you will be using your dominant hand instead of your non-dominant hand to get it done.

So to ensure I always have diversity of thought, I’m always mindful the team is not over-indexed on any specific trait. If everyone in the team is structured, we will miss exploring different ways of doing things. On the other hand, if everyone is always exploring options, we might not get much over the line.

Be conscious of our implicit biases: we like people who are like us!

Besides defining the capabilities needed in your function, the B.E.S.T. framework also guides your decision-making during the recruitment process. When you are interviewing or making a hiring decision, you will evaluate some who share your beliefs, experience, skills or traits more positively, and vice versa.

To avoid these implicit biases, make a list of the capabilities your team needs using the B.E.S.T. framework before you go into an interview. This list will help you keep what is important at the front of your mind.

With these tips and tricks in your pocket, don’t delay scaling your start-ups because you are still hunting for unicorns!

Don’t try to hire unicorns🦄 because they do not exist.

Hire rock stars🤘 because they exist and are f**king awesome at what they do.


In the next episode...

Beliefs, experience, skills and traits (B.E.S.T.) gives us a comprehensive approach to define capabilities and use it to hire and build a team of rockstars. Next, how do we align our rockstars to deliver faster against the strategy? Stay tuned to deep dive into the next foundation from the 6 Foundations framework: Principles.

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