5 Hiring Lessons Every Startup Should Learn


Startups are in a unique position. At the beginning, they have no employees and no structure, only founders who are passionately invested in seeing their business thrive. But at some point they will become large enough to need employees.Has your startup reached that milestone? If so, you’ve come to the right article for advice. Here’s some keys to making the right decisions when expanding your staff.

1. Hire Early

A surprising tip is to hire your first employees as soon as you need and can afford them, don’t put it off. Many founders continue to wear all the hats for much longer than necessary in order to conserve resources, maintain control, or some other reason which seems perfectly legitimate at the time. But after hiring, it becomes obvious that a dedicated employee takes so much burden from the founders that they can achieve goals far faster than expected. So don’t delay. If your budget can handle it, hire as soon as you can and speed up your growth.

If you will need a large staff, the first person you hire should be a recruiter. That being said, make sure you use extra diligence in your interviews when you recruit the recruiter. The person you hire will have an influence on the shape of your company far beyond any other single employee. Choose wisely.

2. Hire for Potential

Potential is more valuable than already learned skills and accomplishments. If you think back on your career thus far, chances are before you started your business you dealt with a manager that was unfit (and unprepared) to handle the challenges of the workplace. This is the effect of hiring for experience over potential.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Fernández-Aráoz, senior adviser at executive search firm Egon Zehnder said, “Having spent 30 years evaluating and tracking executives and studying the factors in their performance, I now consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior management to the C-suite and the board.”

Your company is still growing and changing, be sure your employees can do the same rather than hiring based on their past performance and skills.

3. Find People with Passion

The first employees of a startup will form a core for the company in the future. Be sure the people you hire are not only passionate about your success but also share your company vision. Employees should be in alignment, all working toward a common goal and not at cross purposes.

Self-starters are a must.

As your company changes and adapts to the markets it competes in, your new employees must be able to change and adapt as well. Find people who are able to adjust to new circumstances and keep their focus despite distractions and are comfortable with change. Employees should possess personal drive to grow in their industry and as a person.

Some of the best employees for a startup have a similar mindset to the people who founded the business. Interview with an eye toward identifying applicants who can solve business problems while still maintaining your objectives and vision for the future. They should feel a real sense of ownership in the company- and actually want opportunities to grow.

4. Don’t Rush Through the Interview Process

An important factor to consider is how well a new employee will fit in the culture of your company. Early on, this means can they work effectively with each of the founders. Make sure these early hires interview with each of the founders to be confident of their compatibility. This can mean a long series of interviews, starting with phone screening interview questions, moving to in-person interviews, and wrapping up with personal meetings with the founders. Not every candidate will make it to those final stages, but your final picks should go all the way before a decision is made.

Don’t just take statements of skills on faith. Have candidates demonstrate the experience they have by performing tasks related to the position. Have salesmen sell you something, project managers create a plan for a new product, or a marketing person create an advertising campaign.

Always make it clear that you're looking for someone who can grow with you, not just an everyday employee. The best way to do that is make them truly one of you and make it clear to them that they have a stake.

5.Make Sure You’re Communicating

Set the tone for good communication. It’s no secret that good communication is a major factor in a company’s success. If your interview process is messy and candidates are left wondering whether or not their application went through, it’s time to make a change.

As you go through this hiring process, you need to make contact with your candidates. Sometimes just to check in, other times to schedule new interviews, and finally to either make an offer or notify them there will not be an offer. To ease this burden and keep communications consistent and timely, consider drafting recruiting email templates for each of these circumstances. This will save you time and can go a long way toward keeping friendly relations with your candidates.

Hiring your first few employees is a major milestone for any startup. Keep these valuable lessons in mind in order to find candidates who will drive your company to grow and succeed. Their value to your business will grow every year as they dedicate their passion and skills to meet your vision. As you grow, they will grow with you, profiting you both. Take the time and care necessary to find those star employees. It will be time well spent.

What tips do you have for hiring your first employees? Share your experience in the comments.

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Gary J. Wilkinson

Gary Wilkinson, internet marketer in UK, England

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