Hiring For Startups: 3 Principles You Can't Afford to Compromise


Getting a business started is stressful enough. Throw in some humans with ideas, needs, and emotions, and soon you might just be a heartbeat away from an entrepreneur's breakdown (don't worry, we've all been there). So how do you avoid a potential ticking time bomb and make the hiring process work for you? Who should you hire? How do you know if they’re right for your business? Follow these three hiring principles, and you'll save your early stage startup from a lot of human-related trouble.

1. Hire based on fit, not desperation.

It's a classic rookie move to hire that guy (or your friend's cousin) because you “just need help”. However, in the early startup stage, who you bring on board can drastically shape the future of your company. So, be selective! Take time to thoroughly interview each candidate and get the rest of your team involved. For example, you could designate your co-founder to watch the candidate's body language while you focus on their responses. If you’re on the fence, give them a second interview — just be sure not to wait too long in between. Be prepared to be decisive if you feel it could be a good fit, but never hire out of desperation.

If you end up hiring a person who seemed to be a good fit in the beginning and things start going downhill shortly thereafter, don’t drag it out. Be clear and communicate the issues, but if no resolution comes about, fire fast. Let the person go, start the process over, and trust that you’ll find the right fit. Your team is arguably your biggest investment.

2. Hire based on your company values.

One of the perks of having your own startup is having complete control over what your company stands for. What qualities in people are most important to you? Why did you start your business in the first place? Before you even think about hiring someone to join your team, have your company values written down. Then, when you know what kind people you're looking for, go find them. If they don’t have the same values as your company, they’re not the right fit. Move onto the next candidate. It’s a lot easier to start fresh from the beginning and hire based on values, rather than attempting to make your current hires conform.

3. Hire based on the desire to work, not the desire to earn.

At first glance, it should make sense to hire the person who really needs the job, right? They’ll show up every day and give it their all because they can't afford not to. But you'll be the first to attest to the dynamism of working for an early-stage startup. Hours can vary week-to-week, budgeting and expenses may be optimistically tight... If things appear to be unsteady ahead, jumping ship may seem like an appealing option. If you hire someone who is financially strapped, you may be hearing from them every time there is a bump in the road.

People who love the work they do and have bought into your startup's vision are more likely to ride out the storm with you. They may be working part-time elsewhere or freelancing for a while, but that's okay. Don't rule out these individuals until you’ve secured more capital. You need them on your team now.

Save yourself from the headache and find the right people the first time around because they're out there. Follow these three principles and trust your gut. If a candidate has a solid resume, but something feels off in the interview, don’t hire them. Trust your intuition. Hold out until you feel better about the decision. Your team is worth the investment and you’ll be grateful for it down the road.