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Startup management teams have a lot on their plate. In addition to the day-to-day tasks of running a business, they also have to focus on growth and scaling. This can make hiring for startups a challenge.
Key positions in a startup company will make or break its success. The management team must be able to identify these key positions and then find the right people to fill them.
The trajectory and culture of a startup are defined by the first 20 hires.
The management team must be very selective when making these early hires. They should look for people who share the same vision and values as the company and who have the skills and experience to help the company grow.
People who share the same vision will more than likely be committed to its success and less likely to leave when things get tough. They will also be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with growth.
The management team should also look for people who have "done it before."Kyle Lacy, former CMO of Lessonly (now Seismic), recently posted about this on LinkedIn.
In his words, "Do you want to grow from $1-10mm? Hire someone who's already done it."
There's no replacement for experience. Being in the trenches helping a company grow requires a lot of grit and some very specialized knowledge.
These individuals will be able to hit the ground running with a motivation that's probably not quite healthy to the work/life balance experts.
To find these individuals, the management team should look for people who have a track record of success in fast-paced, high-growth environments.
Serial Founder and Advisory Board Member at Columbia University, Cyrus Massoumi wrote why in, "Best Advice: Your First 20 Hires Are the Most Important."
"In a startup, the first 20 hires are the most important. Why? Because these are the people who will determine the culture of your organization.
The first 20 hires will impact your business in terms of shaping its direction and product."
They also have connections to funding and other resources that can help a startup grow.
To sum it up, when hiring for startups, the management team should look for people who:
-Share the same vision and values as the company
-Have the skills and experience to help the company grow
-Have a track record of success in a fast-paced environment
No one wants to sacrifice quality for their first few hires, but given the limited time and resources of a startup, the management team has to be very strategic in their hiring process.
The good news is that there are a lot of great people out there who are looking for an opportunity to join a startup and help it grow. With a little bit of effort, the management team can find the right fit.
As you analyze and assess your first few hires, interview intelligence software can help you focus on the key qualities that will help your startup succeed.
Early-stage startup hiring is far different than hiring for established companies. Startups are usually hiring for growth and looking for people who are willing to work hard, take risks, and have a combination of ultra-specialized and generalist skills.
Being an employee at a startup is more like being in a series of constant sprints. Whereas larger corporations often require more of a marathon approach.
To find the right candidates, a startup hiring plan should account for 3 primary factors: culture fit, skills, and past performance.
Cultural fit is the most important thing to consider when hiring for startups. The individuals who are hired will help shape the culture in the future and define the company's trajectory and speed.
They'll also solve many of the initial challenges and lay the groundwork for the company's growth.
It's important to find people who share the same vision and values as the company and who have the skills and experience to help the company grow.
People who share the same vision will often be better equipped to overcome the obstacles they'll face growing the brand.
Past performance is another key factor to consider when hiring for startups.
It's important to find individuals who have a track record of success in fast-paced, high-growth environments.
Startup life quite often requires a sense of urgency that can be difficult to maintain. This can lead to decision-making shortcuts that may have long-term negative consequences.
One of the biggest mistakes a startup can make is hiring too quickly.
I've personally experienced this in two hyper-growth startups, as the Board of Directors put pressure on the CEO to grow headcount.
The pressure to fill open positions can be immense, but it's important to take the time to find the right people.If you don't, recruitment and retention challenges will plague the company down the road.
Hiring too quickly can also lead to a lack of diversity in the workforce.In the race to grow, startups may inadvertently overlook qualified candidates who don't fit the mold of the "typical" startup employee.
This can hurt the culture and ultimately limit the company's ability to solve big problems on a global scale.
In the book, Trillion Dollar Coach, the authors, Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenburg talk about their mentor, William "Bill" Cambell's approach to diversity.
Bill, a former football coach, and mentor to many FAANG (Big Tech) CEOs used to say, "Invite new voices to the table," when asked about solving problems and building teams.
Startup hiring challenges are numerous, but by taking the time to find the right people and building a diverse team, startups can set themselves up for long-term success.
If you're hiring for startups, you'll be competing for talent with Big Tech.
We've put together a great resource for you to navigate the process called, "8 Ways to Compete for Talent Against Big Tech."
How to hire your first employee.
Hiring your first key positions in a small business can be tough and a little daunting, especially as the person responsible for running the business.
As the founder or CEO of a startup, it's likely that you wear many hats already and are used to being in complete control.
But as your business grows, there comes a time when you need to start delegating some of those to key people.
Alex Hormozi, Managing Partner at Acquisitions.com talks about this topic in his YouTube video, "This first hire nearly bankrupt me... but it was worth it."
Alex and his wife, Leila Hormozi grew a portfolio of brands from $0 to around $100MM in revenue in 15 years before selling part of the business to American Pacific Group.
He and Leila talk about the topic of hiring for startups constantly on their YouTube channels because they know it's one of the key factors to the success of your company.
You can repeat the process Alex explains in the linked video as you consider how to hire your first 10 employees.
How to hire employees for a startup:
At Pillar, one of our 3 main objectives is to help you create an effective hiring process. That's why we put together, "The Ultimate Checklist for Hiring Teams."
This guide covers everything you need to consider when hiring, from the job description to the offer letter.
You're going to face many challenges hiring in the current market, not to mention that startup hiring can be tough overall. There's a lot of competition for top talent, and it's hard to know where to start.
If you watched this video from Alex Hormozi (linked in the previous section) you'll have a solid mental framework for hiring your first team, especially the difficult task of identifying who to hire, and when.
Now create a list of required skills that a candidate must showcase proficiency in to succeed in the role and create a list of semi-structured questions to ask during the interview process.
Utilizing interview intelligence software like Pillar, go through the six-step process of interviewing mentioned in “The Ultimate Checklist for Hiring Teams” and assess each candidate on their ability to perform the necessary tasks.
Last, use the data collected during the interviews to make an objective, informed decision and extend an offer to your top candidate!
Replicating this process will allow you to create an effective hiring process for teams as well.
The best recruitment process for startups is most often a thorough search of the LinkedIn network a founder, co-founder, CEO, or board member has built over years of success in a given field.
Posting open roles and dealing with the hundreds of potential applications, as a result, can bog down the founders and distract them from the goal of building a great product, achieving profitability, and generating investor returns.
In this case, hiring a recruiter you trust can also be beneficial.
Interviewing for your startup is key. After all your goal is to create a culture second to none, build a world-class growth trajectory, and achieve profitability for investors.
So the process of elimination has to be rigorous, and it all starts with the interview.
A startup interview process starts with transparency, and values creativity, collaboration, and results above all else. So your interview questions should revolve around those topics.
Remember, a startup interview process is not about getting to know someone's resume, it's about getting to know them as a person and determining if they're a good culture fit for your company.
Great startup interview questions and answers will always come back to the company's core values and goals.
When in doubt, ask a "culture" question.
"Culture" questions can be anything from:
"What are your thoughts on failure? How do you handle failure when it happens?"
"What would you like to learn from the leadership of this company?"
"What's the most important thing in your day? How do you plan your day around it?"
"What goal are you determined to achieve this year? How did you prioritize the steps to make this goal a reality?"
The answer's to these types of questions will tell if the candidate would be a great cultural addition to your company.
Putting these and other questions into interview intelligence software will give you the ability to score each candidate and make an informed decision on who to hire.
The software will also help you keep track of all the data collected during the interview process so you can go back and reference it later.
Pillar created an AI-driven interview intelligence platform to help you hire effectively, efficiently, and equitably.
If you're looking to streamline your interview process, Request a demo today!