On Wednesday, Dan and I drove up to Cornell University for their annual Startup Career Fair. Our intern Ian, who is in school at Cornell now, also joined us and together we pitched the Shelby vision. We had a great turnout and spoke to many bright young engineers, some of whom could really be great a great fit on our team.

But how, in a quick conversation at a career fair are we able to tell if someone can hack it at Shelby where everyone’s equally as sharp with their wit as they are with C++?

Firstly, let’s establish the scene. There are hundreds of students, all with resumes in hand, many with very similar academic tracks, and little to no work experience. Who stands out?

Well, it is not the student with the wordiest resume or the highest GPA. For us, it’s the candidate who says they prefer programming languages that are hard, not easy. It’s the student who challenges our product vision against the competition. It’s the candidate without the resume, who can clearly and simply demonstrate who they are and how they think.

When asked what we look for in a team member, we usually sum it up as “passion and intelligence.” The right blend of these qualities is such a powerful combo, but given that passion isn’t quantifiable and our traditional methods of testing intelligence are generally lame, it’s tough to spot.

This is why it’s crucial for all recruiting to go through the founders in an early stage startup (and as long as possible into the company’s life cycle). So when a friend was shocked that Dan and I made an 8+ hour roundtrip to recruit at Cornell, all I had to say was “Recruiting a great team and maintaing cultural fit is too important. That’s our job.” and they understood.  No one knows cultural fit like the founders.

The final piece of the puzzle that sticks out is the risk-taking, lean forward, go for it hustle that we love to see. When I got an email from a candidate pitching why they’re perfect for Shelby - before we even left town - all I could do is smile. That’s the kind of hustle I love to see, and that’s why we hustled up to Cornell, stood up all day and greeted every candidate with the same passion we’ve had since we started.

Today, I’m headed to Harvard for their Startup Career Fair. Let’s see if they stack up.