4 Ways to Make Sure You Aren't Hiring the Wrong People for Your Startup Look beyond their resume, and take them for a test drive if you can.

By Mahesh Rajagopalan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


For new companies, building a team of all-stars is just as important as building a group of loyal customers. As a startup grows, entrepreneurs need to find new team members who share the same vision and passion. While hiring structures are in place for larger institutions, startups require a different approach.

After starting and building two companies from scratch, I've developed a few helpful ways to identify and work with new employees who will become an integral part of the company.

Related: How to Make Startup Hiring a Piece of Cake

1. Hire an extra lookout.

Startups are high-risk environments. Entrepreneurs and their team are constantly adapting to ensure the future of their business. When bringing on a new member, make sure he or she becomes a part of the lookout team. Don't hire someone who has the skillset you need but isn't deeply interested in what you're doing.

Not only do you want someone who can see opportunities and challenges in the horizon, but you need someone who isn't afraid to speak up and bring an issue up promptly. I value people who are forthright, honest and comfortable with speaking their mind.

2. See past the keywords in a resume.

When it comes to skills listed on most resumes, the list is typically long. In today's jargon-filled world, recruiters seek keyword matches resulting in resumes with keyword bloat. This makes it difficult to tease out the essential qualities that make a skilled team member based on what's written.

For this reason, ask the candidate to name their top two or three abilities, and quiz them on those topics. By finding out how well they know a topic or area, you learn more about their passion and how they approach work. My experience has taught me that it is better to hire someone who knows what they know well, even if they don't have the exact skills needed for a role.

Related: How to Make People, Not Resumes, Your Hiring Priority

3. Look for traits beyond what's written.

While skill and experience are obvious requirements, having a team member who fits the company culture is just as, if not more, important. Interviews are often rehearsed conversations scripted from a printed resume, where the candidates and interviewees discuss experiences listed. So change things up. Host the interview in a different setting outside of the office.

Dig deep to understand the specifics of how the candidate interacted and worked at prior roles to determine if they fit with the processes and values of your organization. Use the resume as a guide, but ask about experiences beyond projects, and get his or her opinion on industry trends.

We all work differently. Without good culture fit, an otherwise successful employee may fail to perform.

4. Ask for a test drive.

Working with freelancers is something I highly recommend for growing companies, especially with today's growing gig economy. This gives the candidate and startup an opportunity to explore their fit. Bear in mind, it isn't an option for everyone or every position. Recent graduates or freelancers are more likely to go this route compared to candidates from defined, traditional roles.

Today, approximately 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is comprised of contingent workers, and more than 80 percent of companies plan to increase their use of independent workers. At Picpal, I've worked with two freelancers who became full-time team members. They both started out on a short-term project, but as the company grew, their positions grew as well, allowing them to stay on as permanent team members.

Related: The Freelance Economy Has Seen Epic Growth

Growing your team is an inevitable part of business and entrepreneurs should feel empowered to change the way they identify and hire new team members. By understanding their personality and testing the waters, startups have a greater chance of finding suitable, long-term team members and champions.

Mahesh Rajagopalan

Entrepreneur, Enterprise Software and Mobile Messaging

Mahesh Rajagopalan is the CEO and co-founder of Picpal, a real-time photo collage chat app, and the co-founder and president of Resolvity, a leading provider of cloud-based speech recognition and authentication technology that automates customer service calls for Fortune 500 companies.


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