Sep 18 2012

What Traits Should Your Startup Look for in a New Hire?

Not everyone is cut out for the startup life, so hire wisely.

There’s a lot of glamour associated with startup companies. If the media is to be believed, many startups (especially those based in Silicon Valley) are free-wheeling, shoot-from-the-hip, free-lunch-giving funhouses.

Yes, some startups break the 9-to-5 conventions of larger corporations and allow more flexibility, but startups also have the burden of either disrupting incumbents (Square) or creating industries out of thin air (Facebook).

People who are only attracted to the glamorous side of startup life won’t last long. Not when there’s a product launch that requires extra manpower and countless hours of your personal life. Or when your job description goes completely out the window and you’re asked to step in and do a job you’ve never, ever tried before.

That means the hiring decisions a startup company makes are key to the long-term value and success of the company.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) posed the following question to its members: “What is one common issue that you have faced with startup hires, and how have you rectified the situation?”

Here are a few of their responses:

Can't Adapt to Startup Style

"Team members, especially those from more traditional industries, may not be used to the change and fast pace involved in a startup. Some hires can get frustrated if the company changes direction on a project. Rectify this friction by making sure to communicate regularly the progress of the company and create a comfortable environment for questions so work is always aligned."
Doreen Bloch | CEO / Founder, Poshly Inc.

Alignment Adjustment Necessary

"There is nothing more wasteful than spending your and your teammates' time interviewing candidates who turn out to be an obviously bad fit because their skills don't align with your needs. Set criteria for roles very clearly. Be transparent about what you are looking for in a candidate, and let them know about your culture. Your goal should be to have the right people self-selecting to interview!"
Aaron Schwartz | Co-Founder and CEO, Modify Watches

Adopting the Startup Structure

"Not everyone can adapt to the ‘free-for-all’ environment that is a startup, and some startup hires (and the startups hiring them) get frustrated when tasks aren't handed to them, but they have to actively find work and be productive. One way to rectify the situation is framing the new hire's state-of-mind such that they start thinking about problems to solve and actionable solutions."
Danny Wong | Co-Founder, Blank Label Group, Inc.

Knowledge vs. Execution

"Interviewing candidates allows us to determine how knowledgeable they are, but in many instances, such knowledge doesn't translate to execution capabilities. In order to avoid that issue, we're now running contests: We hire the top three candidates for a month or so as consultants, have them compete in several projects, and offer the job to the best-performing one. The results are great!"
Alexander Torrenegra | Co-founder and CEO, VoiceBunny

Are there any other strategies your startup company uses when hiring? Let us know in the Comments.