For startups, few things have as much immediate impact as the types of employees hired to work there. An “A Team” could launch a startup from obscurity to industry-wide respect, while a team full of clueless and incompatible individuals could sabotage a company in less than a year. In other words, the desire to hire the ideal employees for your startup is absolutely crucial to its success.
The hiring process is one of the first tasks a startup will undertake when it’s up and running, so business owners at any stage in the process —from conceptual planning to purchasing office space— should keep the tips below in mind when scoping out ideal employees:
Value Specialized, Relevant Skills
Large companies have the financial flexibility to hire people as long as they’re “fast learners” and have a somewhat relevant educational background. For startups, there’s not nearly as much flexibility. Big companies can overcome “beginner’s mistakes” from hiring a bad batch of new employees due to their deep pockets, but oftentimes startups cannot. These mistakes cost too much in time and money for a cash-strapped startup to overcome without consequence.
As a result, startups need to value specific, specialized skills as opposed to wide-sweeping descriptions like “can learn quickly” when looking to hire the ideal employees. For example, a startup seeking an employee to be responsible for social media should hire someone with prior social media experience in their specific industry, as opposed to someone with social media experience in general.
Seek Out High Levels of Competitiveness
Competitiveness is an asset in the workplace. If an employee strongly detests having a potential lead snatched away by a competitor, their competitiveness will prompt them to work even harder in the future to avoid this. To detect a level of competitiveness during a job interview, ask the prospective employee about extracurricular interest. If they exude confidence and express a passion for anything competitive —from fantasy football to cross-country running— then they likely have a competitive nature that, if everything else checks out, will be beneficial in the workplace.
Set a Probation Period for New Hires
Many startups provide new employees with 2 or 3-month long trial periods to test out if they’re a right fit. During this time, they may pay the employee an hourly wage as opposed to a salary. This can be an affordable and efficient ways for startups – who have little wiggle room for first-timer mistakes – to evaluate whether an employee is the right fit for their business and work environment.
Report New Hires, As Required
To avoid an unnecessary penalty, remember that any new employee or re-hire must be reported to your state directory within 20 days of them working there, under federal law. As a precaution, be sure to look over your individual state’s hiring laws to make sure you’re in compliance.
Value References, But to an Extent
Any serious prospective employee will likely have several references, which is a quality source to determine character and work ethic. However, it’s important for startup owners to make sure that these references are relevant — whether it’s a fellow startup the prospective employee worked at, or something within a relevant industry. A glowing reference from a huge company within an industry irrelevant to yours will mean very little, at least compared to candidates that shows off relevant experience.
With patience and some tactful selectivity, your startup can hire a group of employees that any owner would proudly consider an “A Team”. If possible, seek out employees with relevant skills, a competitive drive, and passion and experience within the industry. They have the greatest potential to help elevate a startup to wide recognition.