4 Strategies for Hiring the Right People at Your Startup

Opening your doors to the wrong employee can be a costly mistake. Know where and how to recruit your next team member.

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By Brian de Haaff


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Are you ready to start hiring for your startup? That is a positive sign that your venture is taking off. You must be doing something right. You have probably also realized that you cannot do all the work yourself -- you must hire soon, or your business will suffer. And you might break.

You are understandably nervous about hiring employees. You have key roles to fill and need to find self-starters who will make an immediate impact. You cannot afford a costly hiring mistake.

I know why many managers are afraid of a bad hire. I have been there too. Adding the wrong person to your team hurts -- but it stings even more in a startup. But when you approach hiring in a sensible, well-ordered way, you can alleviate the fear of hiring the wrong person.

Related: The 6 People Every Startup Needs

Hiring people does not have to be unnerving. In fact, I enjoy the process of meeting new people and learning about their experiences. I get excited by the possibilities of what new employees can bring to any team.

I have hired many people over the years -- and the majority of them have been a great fit. We have a hiring framework that identifies the key qualities that we value and I have become more adept at helping prospects figure out if we are a good fit for them too. And sure, some of having hiring success is just having good fortune too.

So, how do you know that a good person has the potential to be great at your company? Here are four suggestions that have served me well throughout my career.

1. Recruit in the right places.

You are not likely to find qualified candidates by posting your job opening on giant career sites. Instead, dig deeper and go where the best candidates are. Post the position on niche career sites and your own website. Share the opening on LinkedIn, so your connections can help spread the word. And always have your eyes open to potential talent who might be right for future roles. It is never too early to start building relationships with the right people for your team.

2. Know your company's core values.

Before you hire anyone, identify what your company values are. For example, at Aha! we created The Responsive Method. It embodies our core values such as velocity, kindness, hard work, teamwork and attention to detail. We move at a fast pace and hold each other accountable so that we can all achieve our goals.

We look for employees who embody these values -- and have been fortunate to be able to find them. That's because we wear these values on our sleeves, which is how many of our employees have found their way to us on their own. When you are bold about stating your beliefs, you will attract like-minded employees.

Related: Mistakes Will Happen in Building a Startup -- But You Will Learn From Them

3. Ask behavioral questions.

When you interview potential candidates, the last thing you need is for them to recite their resume. Instead, seek to discover how the candidate's past actions relate to your values. Asking behavioral interview questions will help predict how the candidate will perform for your company.

Here are some sample questions:

  • How do you prioritize your work on a daily basis?
  • What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
  • What made you most angry at work last month?
  • What goals did you set for yourself last year?

4. Make your move quickly.

The best candidates will be in high demand. They will likely receive several offers from other companies if they are actively looking -- including some that are more well-known than yours. If you want to compete, you cannot afford to drag your feet.

Being responsive is the best thing you can do. Once you are ready to extend your offer, contact the candidate immediately. You should also notify the others whom you interviewed as a courtesy. Even though this role will not work out for them, it is always worth maintaining relationships with strong candidates. Startups grow quickly, and you might have the perfect fit for them in the future.

Hiring a new employee is always a risk. There are no surefire ways to guarantee who will work out and who will not. The first step to finding the right people involves identifying what matters most. When you define your company's values and standards and follow them yourself throughout the hiring process, you are more equipped to find the right people who will bring them to life.

Related: You Can Get Better Job Candidates by Not Relying on These 3 Sources

Brian de Haaff

Founder and CEO

Brian de Haaff seeks business and wilderness adventures. He has been the founder or early employee of six cloud-based software companies and is the CEO of Aha!, makers of product roadmap software. His last two companies were acquired by Aruba Networks and Citrix.

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