What to Look for When Hiring for a Startup

By Adolfo Hatcher

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Hiring people for a startup is usually more difficult than it is for a reputable company. If your business is just entering the market, it can be tricky to convince top talent to join your team. Think of it from the potential employee’s perspective: it’s risky to commit to working for a startup when you have no idea how successful it may or may not be. This article lists a few qualities you should look for in potential candidates in order to find the best fit for your small company.

Hiring for a startup is much different than hiring for a big company. That’s mainly because having the right people around can make the difference between failing after a couple of months and making history. Keep in mind that the people on the ground floor of your company are the ones who determine what direction your company takes. Consequently, you should be looking for talented, motivated and goal-oriented individuals. The more passionate, the better.

Unfortunately, attracting top talent can be difficult due to the fact that you are just starting up and haven’t made a name for yourself, yet. People can be reluctant to join your small company, especially if you don’t have any prior experience in the recruiting department. However, you can focus your efforts towards finding unpolished talent, individuals that are inexperienced in the traditional sense, but ready to grow and develop their skills in a less formal environment. Here are a few things you should look for when selecting potential candidates for your job openings.  

Desire to Learn and Grow

Look for candidates who are interested in developing new skills. The ideal people for your startup are those who volunteer or engage in side projects related to their field. This shows that they aren’t afraid of hard work, as long as they are offered the possibility to grow professionally and expand their horizons. For instance, a designer with an impressive background in freelance work can be more suitable for you than one who worked for the same company for the past five years. The first shows that he/she isn’t afraid to take risks, interact directly with clients and sell their skills on a regular basis.

Look for people dedicated to trying new things and getting out of their comfort zone.

Social Media Presence

If you own a Web startup, you need to hire people who truly understand how the Internet works. A strong social media presence shows that they are open, communicative and technology-friendly. You can also learn a lot about a person by reading their tweets or analyzing their LinkedIn profile. A complete lack of a social media presence or a completely inactive one is a red flag.

Flexibility

Startup life is rarely 9-to-5, so you should look for candidates who are ready to roll up their sleeves and give it their best. Also, people working for a startup usually have to take on certain responsibilities that aren’t necessarily listed in the job description. While some candidates can find this prospect appealing, viewing it as a challenge, others might be uncomfortable in such a dynamic work environment.  

When you are considering more applicants for a job, a good idea is to ask them to take a pre-employment personality test. This way, you can ensure that the people you are hiring aren’t going to run from a task they aren’t familiar with.  

Creativity

Creativity is extremely important when for a company just starting up. Creative people tend to be more flexible and outgoing, not to mention they often show the ability to come up with ingenious solutions to problems that may arise along the way. A wise move would be to ask people to offer you a glimpse of their creativity during the application process. You can require them to send you an “out of the box” resume or ask them how they would solve a pressing issue you are currently dealing with.

Passion

Passionate people make the best startup employees. Startup environments are tough, and long hours can test even the most dedicated and responsible people. That’s where passion comes in; without it, employees might be tempted to leave when things get tough. Think of it this way: someone with enthusiasm and dedication can succeed with the right training, even if they are inexperienced. A candidate without passion however, is unlikely to be a good fit, even if they have all the right skills and expertise needed.  

Seventy five percent of startups fail. Make sure yours isn’t one by surrounding yourself with positive and innovative individuals. Focus on finding passionate people, ready to stick around for the long haul and help you stir your company towards success.

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