9 Tips for Startup Hiring
Nothing will slow your startup down like having the wrong people in place.
What’s the most challenging part of starting a company?
Some would say it’s finding co-founders. Others might complain about the hassles of legal formation or state regulations. Still, others will insist that it’s gathering seed capital.
My answer is simple: finding and hiring great people.
Many challenges are associated with building a startup: technology risks, financial hurdles and legal roadblocks. Yet nothing will slow your company down like having the wrong people in place, or even having the wrong number of the right people.
1. Find the right people
When you’re starting out with a few founders in a garage or lean office, it can be tough to find great people — and that's when you need them most. This is especially true if you don’t have a name for your company or a track record of success for yourself as an entrepreneur.
Hiring the wrong people can be worse than not hiring at all. Someone who doesn’t share your vision or isn’t motivated by your mission will sap time and energy that could be better spent on grinding away at your business.
One tip for hiring the right people is to get introductions from your friends and formal colleagues. This is a very helpful way of finding the right people, and it's more likely that they will share your vision and stay motivated with your mission.
2. Be prepared to pay well for top talent
You might be tempted to skimp on salary and other compensation to get someone to join you. This is a big mistake that perhaps all of us bootstrappers have made! The cost of hiring the wrong person is too high, as it will take time and money to hire a replacement later. Be ready for this added expense by including good salaries and benefits in your initial budget.
Remember that the cost of hiring the wrong person is much higher than what it would cost to spend a little more and hire the right person. Be sure to have a budget in place that includes good salaries, benefits and maps out all overhead, but gird yourself to drop money for the right people.
3. Prepare to be patient
When you’re ready to hire, plan to make the best possible impression on candidates throughout the onboarding process. You should expect your first hires to take a few months to get up and running. An effective hiring process is an investment in your company's future, so it’s essential to give new employees enough time to learn the ropes and become productive members of your team.
You should allow your first hires to take a few months to really get up and running, and give them some time to make an impact.
4. Know who you want to hire and what you need them to do
As you put together your hiring plan, it’s important to think through the specific skills and mindsets you need in each role. Make a list of what you expect from candidates on a daily basis before they join your team so everyone is on the same page right from the start.
Meaning, don't think every graphic designer or software engineer is the same. There are very different tactical tasks for these professions, and be sure you've spent time elaborating on the daily work.
5. Be transparent throughout the hiring process
Transparency will go a long way towards developing trust and rapport with candidates. You should be clear about what you’re looking for, what the company is like to work with and how the hiring process works.
If you are looking for someone with a specific skill set, be upfront about it. Provide information about the company so that candidates will have an idea of what it is like to work for you. Be clear about the hiring process so that the candidate interested in joining your team won't have any questions.
6. Don’t wait to get organized
It can feel great to get a new employee on board, but don’t stop there. You should have your new hire’s role clearly defined, the necessary tasks outlined and an idea of what you expect from this person five months down the road.
Take the time to outline their role and explain what you expect from them in the future.
7. Don’t compromise on cultural fit for raw technical skills
People who are good at their jobs should have no problem fitting in with your company culture. If they don't, you have the wrong person! Don’t hire someone just because they are smart or have specific technical skills that you need right now if you’re not willing to make room for them in your company culture. It’ll be pretty evident if someone doesn’t fit in, and then you’ll have the extra challenge of fixing that problem.
Do your best to match the cultural characteristics of your company with the one you are hiring for. This will help make the new hire feel like they want to be a team member and not feel like an outsider.
8. Don’t hire someone who isn't willing to take risks
Setting up your company for long-term success means taking some risks. Make sure that the people you hire aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and jump into something new if need be. You want passionate problem solvers in your corner, not timid employees who are scared to make a mistake. If they aren’t willing to take risks, the odds are that their performance will suffer, and you'll be forced to push them out the door anyway.
Try to find someone who is a risk-taker and is not afraid to take the initiative, which will benefit your company's future.
9. Don’t hire someone just because they went to a fancy school
It’s hard to tell what someone is capable of just by looking at their resume, so if you’re about to make an offer to a candidate who went to Harvard but doesn’t have the skills you need, stop yourself. You are better off hiring someone with less impressive credentials who can deliver results than hiring someone with more impressive credentials who can’t. There is a tendency for many people to look at a person's educational background when hiring someone. While an impressive degree may impress the interviewer, it does not always translate to actual skills in the position.
Follow these tips, and you should be able to find the right person for your company while keeping your hiring costs low and avoiding a lot of wasted time. You want to build a team that will grow with your startup long-term, so take the time to find people who will mesh well with your company culture.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor