Tips to hire the right person for your startup

Tips to hire the right person for your startup

Summary: Recruiting for a startup is always a challenge for founders, but there are some considerations such as defining the job scope and managing people's expectations that would help entrepreneurs in this respect.


Having worked with a few startups and spoken to a few of my entrepreneur friends, colleagues and seniors in the industry, I've realized one of the most challenging things for startups is recruitment.

Hiring the right candidate for an evolving, emerging business is crucial and, typically, the right candidates tend to be those who are reliable, possess entrepreneurial traits too, and takes the initiative regardless of the circumstances.

But the question is, how do we go about ensuring the latest recruit is good and will be an asset for the amount of time, money, resources and mentoring you are about to invest in him or her? I'm not sure if there's a sure formula for success here, just like any other aspects of entrepreneurship. So I thought of taking a look at a few key elements that might help in making these decisions easier as an entrepreneur in today's market. 

What do you need?

As much as you'd like a jack-of-all-trades type of employee, it's not ideal. Yes, it's always good to have someone who can take on the mantle of any job witout having a specific scope, but you should always define the boundaries for the employee to get the most out of him or her.

Try and create a job description as simple as needed, but give a perspective of tasks that the candidate can expect to tackle. Define key skills that are required for the job. Set expectations on what you're offering and what you need. Decide what skills are trainable and what are not such as soft skills like empathy, and weigh up the importance of these aspects to the job.

Don't stress on recruiting stars

Not every role needs a star candidate with outstanding attributes. Some of your employees may possess such great potential but lack team spirit, and they may eventually become misfits in the company. It's okay if one's skills are not up to the mark, but the person must have the right attitude and willingness to learn. Stress on how much you are willing to focus on providing the right kind of mentorship from the start, rather than just focus on hiring folks who know everything and have amazing skills but aren't willing to learn and grow.

Choose a complementary 'intrepreneur' 

It might be an ideal scenario for some entrepreneurs if they could just clone themselves to form a company, but that's not likely to happen. As an alternative, look out for employees who show a sense of entrepreneurial spirit, or "intrepreneurs" as I'd like to call them. These are people who have the potential to be thought leaders, and likely manage the company on their own without much handholding.

Usually you'd be able to identify these people assets through scenario-based questions and psychometric tests if you can afford to invest time and resources on these assessments. 

Tap into your networks, resources

This is something a lot of entrepreneurs these days work on and benefit from, more often than not. Small businesses tend not to recruit via the conventional interview route but would pick up employees through startup events or hackathons.

However, be sure to set the right expectations and make sure the candidate knows you're hiring based on their skills and ability, rather than existing friendships. This will help you make sure you don't hire the wrong person and the potential recruit will know the company's vision and what he or she is expected to deliver once hired. . 

Share your startup's vision 

On that note, it's important to deliver a clear vision of your dream, goals and objective for the company. Having the bigger picture will help potential recruits understand the roles they will play in helping you achieve these goals.

Sometimes it's even good to be blunt and honest to tell a candidate what he or she does not match up yet in terms of their present skills level vis-a-vis the job they are interviewing for. Always help them set individual milestones and ensure your expectations are laid out clearly. A mismatch of expectations always ends up badly, both for the company and the employee.

These are just some basic considerations I think play a key role when hiring candidates for startups. No matter what stage of the startup cycle your company is in, these attributes go a long way in ensuring the right kind of people join your company.

There are, of course, other aspects that come into play and these may come into effect later on as the business grows. What do you think? Any other aspects or fundamental tips you think could be handy for entrepreneurs looking for the right hire? 

Topics: Start-Ups, India, IT Employment, Leadership

Srinivas Kulkarni

About Srinivas Kulkarni

Srinivas is an avid blogger and a technology enthusiast who has worked for a couple of digital/tech startups in India since 2010. He has also worked with a few technology clients dealing with tech startups in India and Asia-Pacific, giving him an insight on the country's startup space. In his spare time he listens to audiobooks, podcasts and is a passionate travel blogger.

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  • awesome article

    I like your whole infomative article and how you described it..totally knowledgeable...
  • My two cents

    I think a crucial step while hiring would also be to strengthen the process via which you go about attracting the "right" candidates for a startup environment.
    Having worked extensively on startup recruitment, I have noticed that a lot of startups rely on word-of mouth. While this might help in the initial stages, it is not a reliable process while rapidly scaling up teams.
    Some others rely completely on jobsites until they realize the irrelevancy of candidates among the 200 resumes that reach their inbox.

    I have found fixed fee consultants specializing in startup recruitment to be very effective in helping startups recruit. These consultants are well tuned into the working of a startup and are adept at filtering relevant candidates.
    They also work on a fixed cost so the chances of their focus shifting to another opening that offers greater commission (like the usual 8.33% recruitment consultants) are non existent. Additionally, since they promise a new hire within a fixed period (usually a month or less), they become more reliable than the jobsites and commission based consultants .

    I might sound like I am on a self propagating agenda since I work with a startup in India ( that specializes in startup recruitment, but this very experience also gives me the exposure of working very closely with startups on their recruitments on a daily basis and vouch for the efficacy of this method
    Lavina Hasija
  • Tech giants hiring strategies

    Thanks for these tips, Srinivas. Hiring the right person for your business is like choosing which brand of cars you prefer to buy within your budget. If you’ve picked the right one that is less expensive yet the features are too much for you then that’s considered a good decision making. By the way, since you’re talking about ‘tips’, I hope this blog I found on Facebook will also contribute more strategies for startup entrepreneurs in hiring the right person.