12 Characteristics to Look for in Early-Stage Hires

Getting the details right is especially important for newer companies. What’s the No. 1 characteristic you look for when bringing a new hire on board in an early-stage company, and why is it so important?

New hires
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These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

1. Self-Sufficiency

When bringing on a new hire in an early-stage company, make sure they are self-sufficient. In other words, can they perform daily tasks without someone looking over their shoulder? If so, they’re probably a great fit for your company. New business owners rarely have time to micromanage and follow up on every task, which is why self-sufficient employees are extremely helpful.

Damanjeet Singh, FunnelKit

2. Adaptability

Adaptability and flexibility are critical characteristics for anyone joining a team in the early stages. With any new business, priorities and processes can change quickly, and even the culture can evolve. New hires need to be willing and able to change direction quickly and efficiently, without much hand-holding from leadership.

Samuel Saxton, ConsumerRating.org

3. Resourcefulness

Find someone who is resourceful. While you’re still establishing vendor relationships, standard operating procedures and internal staff, it’s important that new hires at an early-stage company are adaptable enough to find the right resources to solve problems fast without letting small things snowball into big roadblocks. Resourceful individuals will dramatically increase productivity.

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

4. Enthusiasm

I look for enthusiasm. The workload in a startup is unpredictable and diverse, and only employees who are enthusiastic about the growth of both the business and their career can thrive in such an environment. So, I value the candidates’ intrinsic motivation as much as their skills and knowledge during recruitment.

Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz

Learning about the new industry before changing career

5. Curiosity

One of the characteristics I look for when hiring new members is curiosity. I want my team members to be curious. I think curious people are smarter, more innovative and more intelligent than those who aren’t. They often have the willingness and desire to learn and understand more about everything.

Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP

6. A Drive to Win

In the early stages of a startup, there are so many challenges and obstacles that it is important to hire employees who have the drive to win. This drive helps them be motivated and optimistic, and when challenges come, they are more than willing to make things happen. I also look for people who are coachable. Usually, such people are adaptable and fast learners.

Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day

7. The Ability to Thrive in an Informal Setting

What I look for is someone who thrives in an informal setting. This means they like working in a place without formal titles or strict hierarchies. A new hire must communicate well and collaborate with others, even if it means going beyond their primary role and responsibilities. This is important because it ensures that the new hire can hit the ground running and help achieve success for everyone.

Blair Williams, MemberPress

8. A Proactive Mindset

Proactive employees possess a growth-oriented mindset. They learn quickly and are eager to find creative solutions to projects on their own rather than relying on instructions alone. In addition, they have great potential for rising quickly within the organization due to their enthusiasm and willingness to take risks and deliver results.

Tonika Bruce, Lead Nicely, Inc.

Customer engagement
photo credit: Edmond Dantès / Pexels

9. The Ability to Communicate Well

Someone who is a good communicator is able to bring out the best in people. They are able to lead and get people on board with ideas. They use their words to gain consensus and to explain what they need and when they need it.

Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc.

10. A Willingness to Ask Questions

The willingness to ask questions is a major characteristic that I value in a new hire, especially when we’re working on something new like a startup or rising technology. A person who asks questions is someone who reflects. They’ll be less likely to make mistakes and they’ll learn more too. This also shows that they communicate well — making them invaluable for early-stage companies.

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

11. A ‘Go-Getter’ Attitude

In an early-stage company, I would prefer onboarding go-getters on my team. To make an impact, I’d need a team that’s action-oriented and gets work done on time. This would ensure that the set deliverables are on track and we are steadily progressing toward our goal. Getting started, a company can’t afford any delays. So, a go-getter attitude would be a must-have characteristic for me when hiring.

Jared Atchison, WPForms

12. Passion

Every person you recruit to build your first-ever team must be well-aligned to the company’s ideologies and greater goals. Skills are important, but you can always upskill a person when needed. There is no compromise when it comes to their passion and dedication to the company’s cause. Get that right and you will have yourself a team that rallies to make the business a success from day one.

Bryce Welker, Big 4 Accounting Firms