Developing a Hiring Process for Your Early-Stage Startup

This is part six of an eight-part series, exploring the ins and outs of growing your startup team. From attracting talent to developing an interview process, get ready for a complete crash-course in building your early-stage startup team.

Click to read all eight parts as a complete post, or download as a PDF.


Having a clearly defined hiring process is essential to help you avoid expensive hiring mistakes that can destabilise your entire startup team. Hiring isn’t something that early-stage startups do regularly, so you want to put a process in place as soon as possible — something to guide you through step-by-step so that nothing gets overlooked or forgotten.

Once you’ve written a job description and started advertising your vacancy, you should start to get applications coming in. To manage the hiring process in a simple and easy way, there are five stages you need to follow, from application to making a hire.


1) SCREENING WRITTEN APPLICATIONS

The very first step of your hiring process will be to screen written applications. In the first instance this will involve comparing applications against the required skillset listed in your job description. Candidates who don’t meet your ‘must-have’ requirements will automatically be counted as a poor-fit for the role. Additionally, you may have identified other red flags that indicate someone will be a poor fit for working with you, that are linked to your startup’s culture and values.

Once you have identified good-fit candidates, you can progress them on to the next step in the process. To get an idea of how they work, it’s a good idea to integrate some sort of practical skills test into your hiring process.


2) PRACTICAL SKILLS TEST

This will vary depending on the type of role you’re recruiting for, and can be done either as part of the interview, or can be a way for you to further qualify candidates before inviting them to interview with you.

For example, when I applied for my role with Cobloom, I was tasked with writing a blog post to demonstrate my practical skills, so that the team could assess whether or not I had the right skill set to be a good fit for the role, before inviting my in to interview.

As well as confirming that candidates’ practical skills are in-line with your expectations, a skills test is a great way to get insight into less tangible traits such as attention to detail, their ability to work to a brief, and how they respond to feedback.


3) IN-PERSON INTERVIEW

By the time a candidate reaches the in-person interview stage, you should be confident that, on paper, they’re a great fit for the role. They will have demonstrated that they’ve got the necessary skills to succeed in the role and meet the requirements you laid-out in the job description.

Therefore, your interviews should be less about quizzing the candidate on their skills and knowledge of the job, and more about making sure they’ll be a good culture fit for your startup’s values.

Your interviews for a specific role should all follow the same format, so that you ask the same questions to each candidate. This will enable you to objectively compare candidates, and ensure you’re not favouring one over another due to a perceived gap in one area, simply because it wasn’t covered at interview.

I’ll cover interviewing in more detail in the next section of this post.


4) MAKING A DECISION

At Cobloom, we have a spreadsheet that scores applicants on culture fit (are their values aligned with the company), practical fit (travel time, salary expectations etc) and skills fit (how well they completed the practical skills test). This enables us to be objective in our comparisons.

Additionally, where possible, you want to involve other people in the interview process, so you should individually take some time to evaluate each candidate before collating feedback. This can help negate unconscious bias and group-think, and also prevent you making decisions based on your gut reaction.

When you’ve identified the best candidate for the job, it’s time to make an offer, and to inform unsuccessful applicants that you won’t be moving forward with their application.


5) COMMUNICATING WITH UNSUCCESSFUL APPLICANTS

One often-overlooked part of your hiring process is responding to unsuccessful applicants. It’s essential that you remember to do this in a timely fashion: there’s no point in making applicants wait for weeks to hear back from you, only to find out they’ve been unsuccessful at interview.

Responding to unsuccessful applicants promptly, with helpful feedback from their interview, can make a lasting impression, and mean that even if you don’t hire them, they might recommend your startup to someone in their network, further down the line. Alternatively, they might be suitable for a different role, or the same role if you re-recruit in the future, when they have additional skills and experience.