What’s for Breakfast? Hiring for Ambiguity & Pulse Surveys


Our latest New York City Future of Talent breakfast brought together talent leaders from 5 of the fastest growing startups in NYC, including a $1B fashion startup and one of the leaders in direct-to-consumer luxury bedding. As usual, we covered a lot of ground, but I wanted to share the group’s insights on 2 particular challenges that you may also be facing if you’re leading talent at a fast-growing NYC-based startup.


Challenge #1: Hire People Who Can Handle Ambiguity

Like most companies, startups are looking to hire the best people. However, what sometimes complicates this effort is that the playbook for success across a lot of different functions is still being written and new hires will carry the burden of helping to figure it out. Lots of fast-growing startups don’t have the luxury of 2 week long structured training programs where new hires learn the exact formula for success and then hit the ground running. New hires are often “thrown into the fire” out of necessity — which means that you need to hire people who can get things done without a rigid set of rules and procedures. At more senior roles, this is often a key quality in new hires, but at fast-growing startups, even junior folks need to be quick on their feet and have the ability to figure things out on the fly. If you’re not screening for this quality at every level, you run the risk of high turnover when new hires are expecting a structured work environment, but are then suddenly thrown into chaos. 

Challenge #2: Pulse Surveys are Great at Collecting Data, But You Still Have to Act on It

Pulse surveys to collect employee feedback were mentioned often during breakfast. For those unfamiliar with the concept of pulse surveys, it’s the idea of gathering continuous feedback from employees on their experience, as opposed to the more traditional annual or semi-annual feedback process. New tech products have arisen to fill this void and make the process of collecting feedback super easy. However, one challenge that often results from the use of these types of tools is the sheer amount of data that’s collected, which can make it hard to synthesize and then act on the findings. Two tips can be helpful here. 

First, segment the feedback by departments to spot team-specific, as well as overall company trends. At the startup stage, you’re more likely to find challenges that are very specific to a particular department. Segmenting the data can ensure that you’re not proposing a company-wide solution to a problem that only exists within one particular department. 

The second helpful action talent leaders can take with pulse survey data is to engage employees in figuring out the right solution. It’s often the people experiencing the problem directly who can you give the greatest insights into how to alleviate their challenges. Plus, it can help them feel that their pulse survey feedback is being taken seriously. 

About the Future of Talent Breakfast: 

The Future of Talent (FoT) monthly breakfast series brings together an intimate group of innovative New York City talent acquisition and people leaders to network, share ideas and learn from each other over a delicious meal at New York City’s best restaurants. If you’re a recruiter in NYC and interested in attending our next breakfast, reach out to jason [dot] rivas [at] firmplay [dot] com.

Jason Rivas