10 hiring tips for early-stage startups

by Annina Menzi

There are several factors which play a key role if a startup becomes successful and starts to fly or not. One of those essential elements are the persons driving a venture. Even the best ideas can fail miserably if the human component is not working out. In short — team is core. Here are some tips to have an eye on when you are growing and need to hire:

1. Vision buy-in

As a founder it’s crucial to understandably share your overall vision. When hiring first employees you’re most likely not able to pay huge amounts of wage or numerous fringe benefits. Consequently, you want to achieve that prospect employees believe in what you want to build and see their potential contribution to it — in this way you transmit motivation and meaning through your vision. #startwithwhy

2. Culture fit

In startups teams are relatively small. Hence, every new employee has an influence on team culture and norms. Therfore, don’t underestimate the soft skills as they are the glue within your team. Hard skills are for sure important, but in such a small team equally decisive for a good fit. Test if potential employees match into your team culture before your hire. Give time to mingle with the rest of the team over lunch or for a few hours in the office. The buy-in from your team is imperative for every hiring decision.

3. Transparency about compensation

We all know that talking about money is a delicate topic. As you might not be able to offer a standard salary it is even more important to communicate your compensation possibilities in a transparent way. Don’t waste the time of candidates and yourself, by not being clear about what you can offer. #nohiddenagenda

4. Expectation management

The daily routines, responsibility range and work atmosphere in a startup can vary immensely from a corporate job. Explain how working in a startup might look like for a newbie. Fast changes and required adaptions are likely to happen in a startup. Be clear about the actual needs and responsibilities of the role you want to fill and give an outlook on how they may change over time.

5. Sound human

Take advantage of being a startup and attract potential employees by communicating on an eye level and with modesty. Don’t make the mistake to sound bigger then you are and to oversell yourself. Soon after hiring, you would face the challenge to keep your new employees in your company. #100%human

6. Hiring criteria

Having a clear picture in head for whom you actually are looking, will help you go through the hiring process. But let’s face reality, sometimes there are so much open roles and tasks, you might loose the overview. Try to go with a simple trick: before you even start to talk to potential employees, write down clear must-haves and no-goes you have for hiring. This will already simplify your decision process a lot.

7. Common rating errors

When interviewing candidates there are several common errors you want to avoid. For example the ‘just like me effect’ — Don’t hire somebody only because they are very similar to you and you get along well. Most of the times we tend then to neglect a real analysis of the hard skills this persons should bring along. The ‘threat effect’ describes the situation when you fear if the candidate can make you look ‚bad’ in your role due to their expertise or superiority. There are many more rating errors you should check out, because when you start to understand them you are capable to minimize them. #failingforward

8. Build your reputation

Not all job seekers knocking on your door are a fit for your startup. Be eager to build positive relationships with all candidates you meet, even if they do not match at all. Take this as an opportunity to turn these persons into company advocates and don’t look at it as a waste of time — they might lead you to new opportunities.

9. Get hiring support

If you are not an experienced hiring person, reach out to your surrounding to find support for the process. This is even more crucial if you are a single founder. As a basic rule you should always have a second opinion when going through hiring decisions.

10. After the deal, is before the deal

After your candidate has accepted your offer, the hiring process is not over jet. During the first weeks/months of work you’re goal is to strengthen the confidence and motivation of the new employee. Run a smooth onboarding process, give the opportunity to make a real impact but don’t overwhelm at the same time. Make them feel welcome and provide what they need to be successful. You’ll be impressed how this influences your retention rate on a long-term as well as the accomplishments of the new team members.


Originally published at zurich.impacthub.ch on August 5, 2017.

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