How to Hire the Right People For Your Startup

How to Hire the Right People For Your Startup
How to Hire the Right People For Your Startup

6 min read
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Hiring the right team for your startup will contribute greatly to its success or demise. In fact, having the wrong team was listed as the third most common reason for startup failures. Therefore, it’s important to choose your team wisely. But how?

Knowing how to build a team is like casting a play or picking players for a sports team. You need to be able to identify not only each team member’s individual skills but their chemistry when they come together as a team. While there’s no formula for making the right choices every time, there are some tell-tale signs that can help you spot if someone is right for your startup.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your Dream Team.

Do they have the hard skills? Well, this may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how often founders will hire someone only to find out that their employee doesn’t have the skills they bragged about on their resume. If you’re a tech startup and are hiring someone to code, it’s important to know exactly what skills you need from them and be certain they match it. Administer a skills-based test to make sure they have the skills you need.

What are their goals? You want someone who will grow with your startup. You don’t want to have to re-hire and re-train people every few months and have your front door be a revolving one. Ask them what their short and long-term goals are. Ask them if they’re interested in growing with the company. Let them know that it’s important to you to hire someone who’s invested in the company. Ask them why they want to join your company and why they think you’ll still be a good fit for each other three years down the road, five years and more. Finally, ask them what they’re passionate about. While not a direct question, their answer can give you a clue to where their interests lie and if they might be changing careers somewhere down the line.

Do they fit in with your startup’s culture? Every startup has its particular culture that’s ideally built around the startup’s mission and leadership attitudes and decisions. Neil Patel, founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics says, “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that culture is really important. I used to think that you could just hire smart people and expect them to do wonders for you. But if people don’t fit within your company culture, they will be more likely to butt heads when it doesn’t make sense, quit when things aren’t going well and not care for your company.” Remember, you’re building a team, not just hiring someone to fill a role.

Will they promote diversity in your startup? Diversity is very important to startup success. According to Tatyana Mamut who leads diverse teams in tech companies the likes of IDEO, Salesforce and Amazon, women make up 75 percent of purchasing decisions and 40 percent of employees who make enterprise purchasing decisions are women. Women’s perspective is therefore key to designing products that generate meaningful and marketable impact.

Can they handle pressure? Startups are pressure cookers! Even if your startup is about making an app with meditation classes to CEOs, all of the work that goes into making that happen adds up to pressure. They are uncertain environments where things can change drastically from one day to the next. They often require commitment to working long hours from team members and deadlines can be brutal. If the candidate doesn’t have experience working in a high-pressure environment, ask them some questions during the interview about how they would handle certain scenarios under pressure. Bonus points if you use scenarios that have actually happened in your startup.

Are they problem solvers? Startups generally don’t have departments the way larger businesses and corporations do. Their team members tend to wear a lot of different hats and often have to learn new skills on the fly and be very flexible on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, someone who wants a well-defined role and won’t diverge from it or who needs things to be stable and predictable in order to maintain productivity isn’t an ideal fit for a startup. One of the greatest types of team members for startups are problem solvers. Problems solvers are people who face challenges with a positive and creative attitude. They won’t run to you every time there’s a bump in their code, rather, they will use their resources and skills or even engage other team members to find a solution. Asking the candidate hypothetical questions on how they would handle a curve ball during the interview to give you a sense if you’re talking to a problem solver.

Do they work well with others? Teamwork is essential in a startup. Your team members won’t be shut off from each other in cubicles. They’ll be working together and often playing roles that both overlap and depend integrally on each other. An ideal candidate is someone who will enjoy a lot of face time with team members and thrive on collaboration. They need to be able to speak up and express their ideas in meetings and brainstorming sessions and to assert their opinions on decisions while respecting other team members’ ideas, therefore good interpersonal and communication skills are key. As Elon Musk said, “My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.”

Do they complement the team you already have? If you’re hiring because someone is leaving or because your startup is growing and you need more staff members, think specifically about each of the team members you already have. If it’s feasible (i.e. if you’re working with a small team that’s under 30 members) make a list of your team members, their roles and their attributes. Think about the type of person you need to fit in with the group you have already established. Do you need someone to drive and motivate the team? Or do you have some great leaders already and you need someone who offers a more supporting role?


As you read through resumes and conduct interviews, remember to search for candidates who fit your company culture and possess both the hard and soft skills necessary to contribute to your venture’s success. Look to strike a balance with diversity in order to better serve your company and your clients and find those golden problem-solvers who will make your life easier on a day-to-day basis. And, last, but not least, hire people who can handle the pressure of a startup’s fast pace and uncertainty. Happy hiring!