The Comprehensive Startup Hiring Guide

Published in
4 min readSep 13, 2019


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As your startup begins to grow, every new hire changes the company’s DNA, so it becomes increasingly important to take a strategic, systematic approach to hire.

5 Things To Look For In Prospective Hires

Finding the perfect hire can seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

1. Attitude vs. Skills

It’s easy to fall under the trap of assuming the most qualified candidate is your best option. However, attitude is actually the best indicator of new hire success. Asking questions while interviewing candidates will allow you to uncover the type of person they are, what motivates them, and character traits that make them unique.

The best practice is to determine technical qualifications in the first round(s) of the interview process and then focus on the attitude/emotional skills of a prospective employee.

Attitudes to Look For:

  1. Honesty
  2. Integrity
  3. Humility
  4. Perseverance
  5. Initiative

Interview Questions to Ask:

  1. Can you describe a past situation at work that led you to grow as a person?
  2. Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you had made a mistake. How did you handle that?
  3. How would you describe the perfect work environment for you?
  4. Can you describe a situation where you didn’t agree with a boss or supervisor, and explain how you approached the issue?
  5. How do you react when asked to do something beyond your capabilities?

2. Potential vs. Experience

An important question to ask: “Is it better to hire an experienced candidate or one with less experience but more potential to learn and grow with your startup?”

Finding the ‘right’ mix of potential vs. experience will depend on many things: the role you’re recruiting for, company culture, the capabilities of your existing team, and your long-term growth plans for the startup. Remember to keep in mind that as your startup grows and develops, these will also change each time you make a new hire.

3. Culture Fit

Culture fit is just as important as finding someone with the right skills, particularly for your earliest employees. This is because your earliest employees are integral to building your company culture.

Image from Unsplash

It is important not to confuse ‘hiring for culture fit’ for ‘hiring someone just like you.’ Doing this contributes to a lack of diversity within your startup team, and you would be missing out on the creativity, experience, and knowledge of more diverse applicants.

4. Soft Skills

You probably listed out a handful of hard skills on the job description. Although these skills are extremely important, there are certain “soft skills” to look out for as well. Things like communication skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork, creativity, adaptability and empathy are just as important as practical skills, which are easier to demonstrate.

5. Generalists vs. Specialists

“What’s my best option? Hiring someone with a wealth of experience in one specific area, or someone else with a wider range of experience in a number of areas, but less in-depth knowledge?”

For your earliest employees, you may be better off selecting employees who are generalists, so you can use their wide skillset to help out with different areas of the business. However, as your startup grows, you will need employees with specific skills. It has become increasingly more common for startups to look for ‘T-shaped’ employees as their earliest employees.

Image from Cobloom

Your Perfect Candidate Will Change Overtime

All startups change and develop rapidly, which includes the roles you hire for. Before calling in candidates for interviews, it is important to reassess your priorities regularly to avoid hiring candidates that were perfectly suited for what your startup needed six months ago, but don’t fill the skills and experience gap that you have now.

You must also consider your company culture for your first hires. They will be directly responsible for passing on your company values to your next rounds of hires.

Corl is an investment company that provides funding for early-stage, high-potential startups. Revolutionizing the traditional funding industry through revenue sharing provides founder-friendly growth capital.

No equity. No board seats. No personal guarantees.




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