Building your startup’s core team is one of the most exciting times you’ll experience as an entrepreneur. You’re about to staff the people responsible from ushering your dream into reality, and hand-pick the teammates you’ll be working alongside for the foreseeable future. The future is ripe with possibilities, and who you hire is (typically) entirely your call.
But before you get too excited, there are some tips you should follow to ensure you’re hiring responsibly—before it’s too late.
Before committing to a new hire, make sure you follow these tips:
1. Double check your legal compliance
First, take a moment to ensure you have all the systems in place to stay legally compliant. At a minimum, you’ll need to have workers’ compensation insurance and a plan to withhold taxes from your employees’ salaries. Depending on your industry and specific location, there may be other requirements to meet before you hire people; if you’re in doubt, hire a lawyer to help you sort things out.
2. Know the difference between your short game and long game
You might have a long-term vision for the team you want running this company, but don’t allow that long-term vision to dictate your short-term hires. Just because you want an assistant eventually doesn’t mean you should hire an assistant first thing. Instead, come up with separate plans: one to focus on getting you through the first phases of growth, and one to focus on long-term development.
3. Fill in gaps with independent contractors
Hiring can be a long and arduous process. You’ll need people to help you get through in the meantime. Consider recruiting a team of independent contractors to be on call for some preliminary work before you commit full-time hires, and for spillover work once those positions are filled. Upwork and Fiverr are good places to start.
4. Focus on one hire at a time
It’s tempting to build your team out as soon as possible, but this can interfere with your priorities and make it harder to focus on the qualities that make an individual a good worker. Instead, focus on just one hire at a time.
5. Prioritize generalists over specialists (at first)
Specialists are masters of a very specific skill or department, where generalists are adept at jumping between responsibilities; they have soft skills like communication and critical thinking. In the early stages of your startup, there will be many diverse responsibilities to handle, so you’ll want a generalist who can float between them.
6. Seek talent over experience
In general, you should plan to seek a person with talent over someone with extensive experience. Experience is valuable, but also comes with baggage; experienced candidates may be more ingrained in their old habits, and tend to be more resistant to change. They’re also significantly more expensive. In most cases, an inexperienced yet talented candidate is the better option.
7. Don’t forget about your brand culture
You may interview a candidate with a near-perfect resume. They’ve had years of experience in your field, they’re capable of doing great things, and they’re excited to come work for you. But you can’t forget about the importance of culture fit. Does this person embody your brand’s core values? Do they have the type of personality and working style that will fit into the culture you envision? If not, their perfect resume may not work so perfectly.
8. Draw talent from multiple sources
You may have a preferred source to find potential recruits, but if you want a diverse pool of candidates, it’s a good idea to draw from multiple sources. Get on social media, use hiring websites, and talk to other people at networking events. You can always filter out unwanted candidates later.
9. Be transparent in your interviews
You may be tempted to exaggerate the working conditions or near future of your startup, to make the job seem more attractive, but avoid this. Startups often face high employee turnover, but you can mitigate this risk by being transparent and setting reasonable expectations from day one.
10. Slow down
You don’t need to fill your positions immediately, and you’ll make mistakes if you rush to do this. Take your time and be methodical and judicious in your hiring.
Building the Team
As you make more hires, your decision making process will have to shift slightly. Instead of finding the next person, you’ll be finding the next full-fledged team member. You’ll have to keep different personalities and team dynamics as you move forward, potentially delegating the hiring process to other team leaders or recruiting people specifically because of the culture fit. It’s a long-term process, so if you want to be successful, take it one step—and one hire—at a time.