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Building Your Startup Team: A Guide To Finding The Perfect Hire Hiring for a startup often times means hiring for the first time. It could be that the company is a one-man show that has reached the point where one person can't do everything on their own.

By Suhail Al-Masri

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First of all, hiring for a startup often times means hiring for the first time. It could be that the company is a one-man show that has reached the point where one person can't do everything on their own. This is when the company is ready to transition from one multitasker to a team. It could also be that the company has a small group of co-founders who are ready to grow. In either scenario, hiring with little to no experience in the recruitment field can be very challenging.

There are several steps that need to be taken to complete a successful hire, such as creating job descriptions, determining which recruitment methods to use, creating a talent acquisition and retention strategy, determining salary and compensation packages, etc. All of these steps can be hard to crack when a company is still in infancy.

Second of all, entrepreneurs and startups have very specific talent requirements. When a company is still in the kick-off phase, it requires the type of talents who are:

• Malleable and can easily multitask

• Flexible and are able to adjust to constant change

• Entrepreneurs by nature and have the passion for new businesses

• Highly dependable and natural leaders

Because smaller companies are always changing, growing, restructuring, and experimenting, they require employees who have the ability to adjust and grow along with the company. At the same time, they also require employees who are fond of the idea of startups and have the determination and the passion to see their companies excel. In a sense, entrepreneurs hire (aspiring) entrepreneurs, and that's not always easy to come by.

Third of all, the fact that smaller businesses and entrepreneurs do not have the time and the resources to dedicate for talent scouting and screening poses another dilemma. In-house resources for startups are often limited and tied up to other functions of the business. The process of searching, screening, shortlisting, interviewing, assessing, and hiring candidates can be quite time-consuming and demanding. Startups may simply lack that time.

Sourcing, screening, and shortlisting startup talent

To address these challenges, companies of all sizes, industries, and locations are putting recruitment technology to use and making great strides. In fact, over three-quarters (76%) of respondents to the Hiring Practices in the Middle East and North Africa Survey report that online recruitment has facilitated the process of hiring talent in the region.

Without doubt, technology can do wonders even in the fields of recruitment and talent management. Startups are making use of a multitude of tools that include the classic and highly effective job postings tool, in which they are able to provide detailed job descriptions; set up automatic filters and screening questionnaires; and segment their applicants based on the specific needs they have for their business.

Other startups are using a highly powerful CV search technology, which affords them access to millions of quality candidates at a click of a button. Along with this, a multitude of tools and features, such as the ability to pre-set filters, save CVs in customized folders, and use boolean and advanced search functions, is making it much easier and more efficient for companies to quickly find their talent needs.

When companies are in a real pinch and they just need to quickly hire high-caliber talent, they can complement such technologies with a talent sourcing service, such as Source2Hire from This service provides a shortlist of candidates who are qualified, interested, and available to start the job. This way startups with limited resources can focus on other critical functions in their business and only get involved in the interview and hiring steps.

The point is, numerous tools and technologies are available for startups across the Middle East and North Africa to put to use and effectively hire talent. Hiring nowadays does not need to be a complicated process or an extra burden for companies.

Interviewing startup talent

At this point, conducting a job interview can seem quite simple: use the shortlist of candidates, meet them, ask them questions, and compare them with other applicants. But how can you guarantee that a good interviewee will translate into a good employee for your startup? The cost of a bad hire is very high. Keeping aside salary expenses, the cost of training, customer complaints, and hiring replacements that keep adding up in the long run.

To prevent this from happening, here are the five things you should look for when interviewing candidates for your startup:


1. A passion and a dream similar to yours

Statistically speaking, most startups have funding issues and could ultimately fail. In order to succeed, startup founders need overachievers on their team who will agree to put in 200% and be fully dedicated to the company. Ideally, you need people who believe in your vision and are passionate enough to want to help transform this vision into a reality. In the Middle East, five in 10 professionals would want to work for a company where they feel their work is part of a greater purpose, as revealed in the What Makes a Company an Attractive Place to Work? poll. So "passion" is already a common point of interest with many job seekers out there.

The best test during the job interview is to ask candidates to speak about something they are passionate about and see if their passion aligns with yours. You could also ask them how they have pursued their passion up to this point in time and how they plan to keep pursuing it when they join your company.

2. The skillsets you vitally need

With a naturally small team, you have to hire people who are, one, multiskilled and, two, skilled at something your team lacks and needs critically. You should already have an overview of their skills from their CV and application, but you can always ask them to elaborate during the interview.

To verify their skills, look for past achievements; areas where they have used these skills to benefit a previous employer. It also wouldn't hurt to test them on these skills, as evaluating someone in action is much different than hearing them talk about it. This way, you will avoid hiring someone who appears to be confident and skilled but, in reality, isn't as competent as they claim to be.


3. Flexibility

Startup founders don't usually follow a structured process in their work as they're probably still figuring it out themselves. They often change their initial assumptions about the market as they learn more about their customers and the industry in which they operate. On top of that, they are simply much more susceptible to change as they introduce new products and experiment with different tools and strategies. As a result, their business model could also be frequently altered to suit these changes.

As a growing startup, you'll want to look for flexible people who are comfortable with change, are willing to adjust their workload and habits, can focus on implementing new processes without getting distracted, and are ready to learn from their failures.

4. An entrepreneurial spirit

Startups are risky and you need to gauge whether your candidate is brave enough to take the leap of faith in your business. Their entrepreneurial spirit can be associated with their willingness to bring new and innovative ideas to the table.

Along with this, your employees would need to have a sense of ownership towards the business by being as passionate as you are to solve problems, develop your products and offerings, and see every project or task they handle through completion.

During the interview process, you could assess this area by giving the candidate a series of hypothetical (but relevant) situations and see how they would tackle them while maintaining an eye on your business objectives and vision.

5. Curiosity and a willingness to learn

Dedicate some time at the end of the interview for candidates to ask you questions. This is a good time to judge how well the candidate knows your startup and how interested they are in learning more– not just receiving information and instructions.

Apart from this, having a curious mind is an extremely important quality in a fresh company. This is because everything is new and everyone is experimenting and learning on-the-go. The more intelligent and thought-provoking the candidate's questions are, the more you should consider hiring them.

Related: How To Forge More Productive Relationships With Employees

Suhail Al-Masri

VP of Sales,

Suhail Al-Masri is the VP of Employer Solutions at Al-Masri has more than 20 years of experience in sales leadership, consultative sales, account management, marketing management, and operations management. His mission at goes in line with the company's mission to empower people with the tools and knowledge to build their lifestyles of choice.

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