Finding the right employees: The key to a successful startup

By Editor March 17, 2015


For many of my clients, we start the hiring process for them, helping to get their businesses off the ground and build a foundation for success. I’ve seen all the wrong hires and even made some myself, so I use my experiences to ensure my clients do not make the same mistakes. As a CEO or director, it’s important to find the employees that can take your company to the next level, because at the end of the day, employees make or break your business.

Multitasking, time management and an ability to learn quickly are qualities frequently found on resumes these days. Let’s face it, these are basic qualities that should also be assumed for any employee. In the competitive world of business today, the last thing a startup should look for in an employee is a ‘basic’ person.

When looking for potential employees, CEOs and directors need to look for applicants that compliment the startup environment of the business: The innovative, creative atmosphere coupled with the rise-and-grind attitude. It should be noted though that each startup is unique, so the qualities required by one startup are not necessarily those required by another. However, in a market that is constantly changing and becoming increasingly competitive, any startup should look for employees with certain invaluable qualities.

The ability to work independently as well as collaboratively.

Independence has always been a desirable quality in employees, but in today’s startups, collaboration is just as important. Startups need employees that are functional on their own but also mesh well with others. In today’s tough startup environment, teamwork and collaboration are greatly encouraged. Successful staff members should be able to take and give feedback without offending or insulting others. In other words, an ideal employee should be a team player without necessarily depending on the team.

Well versed in the art of #hashtagging.

In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on social media for things like marketing, research, and even basic communication, knowing how to navigate social media is extremely valuable. Any employee that recognizes the power of the ‘#’ and can accurately identify the ‘buttons’ associated with each form of social media has potential to be a great asset to your startup team. On the contrary, if someone you are interviewing thinks ‘a tweet’ is merely the sound a bird makes, I would think twice before adding them to your marketing or research team.

Strong sense of personal accountability and responsibility.

Managers and supervisors at busy startups do not have the time, nor should they feel the need, to constantly check in on the progress of their employees. With huge projects and approaching deadlines constantly cycling through the office of a startup, employees should be self-sufficient and know what they need to do and how they are going to do it in order to meet a deadline. Startups should seek employees that can take matters into their own hands and make critical decisions when the occasion calls for it.

Willingness to contribute and voice opinions (when appropriate).

An employee should feel comfortable contributing ideas and should not be afraid of speaking his or her mind. Therefore, startups should seek confident individuals that will not only contribute and actively participate, but will also constructively critique their peers. This does not necessarily mean that a shyer, more reserved person cannot be an asset to the startup. As mentioned earlier, the ideal employee for one startup may not translate for another.

Sincere passion or at least a strong curiosity in the business.

The promise of a paycheck can only motivate a person so far. Individuals who are passionate about their jobs or careers are typically more motivated to do well and deliver excellent results. This is especially true for startups, where success may not come immediately. In general, people who care about their work make for far better employees, so when comparing applicants, take heed of whether or not an individual is actually interested in the mission of the startup.

Ability to adapt.

All offices, big or small, operate at various paces. As most startups know first-hand, days can be fairly unpredictable and there may be more than a few glitches. As a result, startup employees need to be able to adapt without compromising the quality of their work. An ideal candidate should be able to ‘keep his or her cool’ when ‘it’ hits the fan.

One last piece of advice:

When in doubt, use your instincts.

People often fail to appreciate the power of instinct when it comes to meeting new people. If there is an immediate ‘feeling’ that someone has potential or a hunch about a particular applicant, take it seriously. Especially if the decision lies between two comparable candidates, one should ask whether or not one applicant would fit in, credentials and resume aside. A person could have all the right qualifications with an impressive resume, but attitude, personality, and presence can have a more profound impact and ultimate value for your company.