5 Tips For Hiring At A Startup

Hiring for your team is coupled with a billion emotions. Excitement. Fear. Confusion. Frustration. The list goes on… What exasperates these emotions more than anything is when you are hiring for YOUR company. Your precious start-up that you’ve brought into this world, with little to no help. But you know deep down in your heart of hearts that it’s time to grow your business and bring on a team to support your continued growth.

I could comply a list of 100+ tips for “Best Hiring Practices” and make you fall asleep by #32. What I’d like to do is focus on some specific insights that are beneficial to hiring for a startup. The goal is to provide you with a few takeaways that will hopefully make the hiring process a little less stressful and a lot more successful:

  • Don’t “box in” your candidates – I LOVE this tip (not to be biased or anything). One luxury of having a new start-up is that you are creating the foundation of your choosing. There are going to be specific hiring needs that you have, absolutely, but you are in a unique position to have people join your team that are not cookie cutter. During interviews, if you come across rare personality traits and intangible gems within certain candidates, you HAVE to jump on them. You will realize very quickly that they are few and far between. If you’re seeking a Senior Sales Manager and you end up on a 45 min phone screen with a recent graduate with undeniable passion and drive, figure out where they fit. Chances are they will be with you for the long haul – helping you grow exponentially and help mold your culture. And while we’re on the topic…
  • Maintain your culture from the beginning – While this may seem obvious, if your environment is a priority to you, it’s your job to set expectations up front about what you want your company to look like. With that being said, it is very difficult to sustain your initial culture as you grow. Not impossible, but difficult. Every hire adds a slightly new flavor to the mix, whether it be positive, negative, or just a little different. Make sure you establish your vision from the get-go and be sensitive while speaking with each potential hire.
  • Your “perfect” candidate is going to be passive – We see this quite often. The “best” candidates are more than likely employed. Clearly because they are awesome. If you are on a mission for that ever-so-popular purple squirrel silliness, be cognizant that it will take some courting and a little finesse. Do not assume they will jump on your opportunity just because you flattered them with a reach out. To be honest, they are probably getting hit up multiple times a day. If you’re finding this process to be difficult or you feel like you lack the tools to be successful, use this as an opportunity to partner with a boutique recruiting firm. Especially with a Director or C-Level role, where the hire can change the landscape of the company, utilize a team that with capture your vision and act as a company advocate.
  • Trust your gut – Across every aspect of life, your gut does a VERY good job about making decisions for you. During the hiring process, if you feel any type of inkling that something is “off” about a candidate or something is missing and you’re uncomfortable, listen to that instinct. What you want to avoid is hiring someone on a whim that you feel 75% about, just for them to leave in the short term or confirm through their work that your intuition was on point.
  • Let your team meet the candidates – Especially when you are a small, agile team, there is huge value in allowing your existing team to meet the top contenders. Ultimately, they are going to be working with them daily and their opinions can provide a lot of insight if they can last long-term. Consider their feedback during your decision-making process. They have the same goals as you do and want to make sure their work environment continues to be upheld.

Growing a team from scratch is daunting and there’s going to be headaches and questions and random nonsense that comes up that you weren’t even expecting. The best advice is acknowledging that there will undoubtedly be mistakes made, couple with a lot of wonderful decisions. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out and if you have advisors or resources that know the space, do not neglect any advice from them either!

If you are going through similar growing pains, we’d love to talk with you about how we assist in building your team!  Feel free to reach out to us directly at

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