Hiring Strategies for Startups

After hundreds of hours of sweat equity that you have poured into your startup over the past 14 months your mobile rings with the most exciting news. A local angel investor that you have been building a relationship with over the past 4 months is going to lead your first funding round with a $200 000 investment. Your other two potential investors have now agreed to match the first investment closing your funding round with $600 000. After a few drinks with friends, the scarier thought arrives. You now need to recruit those key hires that you promised the investors would lead to your next stage of growth.

If you are as overwhelmed as most people in your shoes, here are my top tips for hiring for early-stage startups.

1. Have a Brand and a Vision

While it might not seem like a recruiting tip, having a company brand is important for securing your first hires. Since startups often cannot compete on salary with more established companies, having a brand and a vision that prospective employees can get excited about can help improve the quality of the first team members. Sell people your passion for starting the company and make prospective employees feel like they are an integral part of helping you to execute it.

2. Consider Remote Employees

Hiring remote employees gives you access to a much wider pool of talent beyond the people in your city. Finding the perfect fit for your business can be a simpler process if you are not restricted by geography. If hiring a remote employee is not possible, make the employment package more attractive by offering flexible work hours or work from home opportunities.

3. Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill

While this is phrase is true in many industries, it is especially true for startups. With such a small team, each person will have to roll up their sleeves and jump into the trenches with a number of different responsibilities that might be beyond their official scope. Hiring someone who has strong emotional intelligence, is motivated, collaborative, and believes in the company vision will generally outperform an employee who has stronger technical skills. Including others in the hiring process can help provide a second or third opinion to validate your thoughts.

4. Network

Similar to building relationships with investors, finding strong first hires often involves getting out to find them. When you have a business that is not (yet !) known, attracting staff through job boards will be difficult. Spending time at startup events and in coworking spaces gives you the chance to organically build relationships with people who would be a good fit for your team. That way, there will be a pipeline of talent to approach when that funding hits your account. Asking for referrals from others in your networks is also a way to capitalise on your networks.

5. Be Realistic

There is a fine line between being too picky and not picky enough. Since the team is so small at the early stages, founders often search for people that can develop code, sell the product, write copy and bake cookies for the team each Friday. While having someone with a diverse skill-set might be ideal at the beginning stages, it is also important to think about the strategy for the next 5 hires. This allows you to build a fuller picture of your initial team and how each person will contribute a unique skill set that will allow the company to continue to grow.

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