KickoffLabs Blog:

Have You Hired the Right Team For Your Startup?

By Josh Ledgard

Sep 13th, 2016


It’s exciting time. You’re getting ready to hire team members to complement your startup. That means your business is growing. Woohoo!

But, before we break open a bottle of bubbly, let’s talk about how to hire the right people for your startup.

When hiring for a startup, it’s not just about filling a position, it’s about building your brand. Click To Tweet

Remember, when hiring for a startup, it’s not just about filling a position, it’s about building your brand.

The first people you hire will inevitably help define your business. That’s why you need to be intentional on who you hire.

No pressure.

Here are the most important considerations to keep in mind when hiring your startup team:

Here’s a list of places to find talent for your startup.

Get Clear About What Positions You Need to Fill (and Why)

What do you need help with? It sounds like a simple question, but it’s actually hard to answer. In the fog of starting up, it’s tough to know where one position ends and another begins. And it’s true– people who work at startups typically wear more than one hat.

But, you can’t hire someone when you’re not clear about what position they’ll hold. It’s not fair to them, and you’ll actually create an environment of failure.

Before you hire, write down a list of all of the things you need help with in your startup. Then, take a good look at that list and figure out if it can be filled (effectively) by just one person. Be honest.

You may need to hire two, three or even more people to handle these responsibilities.

For example, you may need a blogger and a social media manager, or a web developer and a web designer. While the two responsibilities can sometimes overlap, you want to hire the best person for each set of responsibilities, not just try to get by with hiring a web designer who can sorta do development.

Give Them a Test


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So, a candidate’s resume looks great, but does that actually transfer to your needs? Maybe, maybe not.

Instead of relying solely on a resume that may not reflect the true abilities of the candidate, give them a real test during the hiring process. Testing is a great way to find out if a candidate is the right one for the position.

The type of test you’ll offer will vary based on your position. Let’s say that you’re hiring for a customer service position. Create a test where the applicant must respond to a series of emails. Of course, these answers are only for internal use, but it can help you decipher soft skills, such as empathy, tone and professionalism.

Testing is great, but be careful to choose a short test that won’t overwhelm the participant. There’s nothing worse than giving your heart and soul into a test and failing (not that I would know anything about that). So, keep it short, but include key factors that will make it useful for analysis.

Consider Hiring Remote Workers

This isn’t 1959 anymore. You don’t have to just hire John from down the street because you can count on him to commute to work on time.

Now you can hire Juan in Lisbon, Sean in Dublin or Johannes in Berlin.

If you haven’t considered hiring remotely, why not? While you may want to curate a core staff in one location, there’s probably a space in your startup for a remote worker or two. For example, a writing staff or a web development staff, even customer service can be handled remotely.

Instead of looking for talent in a relatively small geographic location (your town), you’ll invite applicants from all over the world. By opening your position up to remote workers, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll actually find the right person for your startup.

Pay Them What They’re Worth


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One of the worst acts of self-sabotage is to try to get away with cheap labor. While you may stumble upon someone who doesn’t know their own worth, more times than not, you’ll end up with a person who won’t or can’t do the job.

It’s important, even if you’re a fledgling startup, to pay competitively. Your startup team will be instrumental in building your brand. And no, having free snacks isn’t part of your competitive edge.

After all, what you pay your employees reflects your company’s values. If you’re not willing to pay for premium service, you’re probably not going to give premium service either.

Make a Commitment to Growth

The best people to hire are those who want to improve themselves.

They want to feel like they’re part of something bigger. They want their work and contribution to mean something. Plus, if we’re speaking honestly, they want to be able to add this position to their resume.

Make it clear that your position will benefit the candidate’s future development, not just their bank account. Emphasize self-improvement.

Hire the Potential

Not everyone looks good on paper. On the other hand, some people who kill it on their resume may make you want to kill them in real life.

It’s not enough to base a hiring decision on the resume alone. Some candidates have raw potential that can’t be listed on a resume– give them a chance, just like you hope that someone will give your startup a chance. Look for candidates who have goals that align with your own, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Make It a Group Decision


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Startups are usually lean enterprises where all members of the team have to work elbow to elbow with each other. So, you need someone who jives with the entire team.

This is why I suggest turning the hiring process into a group decision. Get your key players involved. While you may or may not do a panel interview, you can still stagger the interviews so that each deciding member of the group gets an opportunity to meet with the candidate.

Then, compare notes and discuss any concerns and considerations as a group. If one candidate meets the approval the entire group, then it will be easier for that candidate to join your team.

Make Onboarding a Top Priority

You’re stressed for time, I get that, but one of the things you should always make time for is proper onboarding. Hiring the perfect person won’t get you very far if they have to feel around in the dark to find out what it is that they should be doing.

One of two things will happen:

  • They’ll create their own system that you probably won’t approve of (and which will ultimately cause friction with others on the team)
  • They’ll feel overwhelmed and disillusioned and start looking for another job immediately.
  • Neither option is good.

    That’s why onboarding is important. You’ll use this process to gently introduce the new hire into your culture, the way you do things, and why you do them the way that you do.

    The onboarding process doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. It just needs to be an thorough welcome, whether it’s pre-recorded videos, an employee handbook, access to a company wiki, or a step-by-step guide that helps them set up passwords and navigate through your system.

    By setting up the onboarding process, you’ll start your new employee out on the right foot.

    Final Thoughts

    Finding the right person for your startup begins with a clear understanding of how someone can fit within your team. Be clear with your expectations. And, above all, look for those who exhibit a passion that aligns with your own, even if they don’t have the perfect resume. And remember:  Sell growth potential not free snacks in the breakroom.

    Don’t miss this list of places to find candidates for your startup.

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