Building a Winning Startup Team: Whom and How to Hire?

One of the biggest challenges for a startup to face after fundraising is hiring the right people. Every employee you hire, especially at the very beginning of your startup establishment, influences the whole team, that’s why it’s more than important that you take a strategic and systematic approach in hiring them.

In this article, you’ll find our insights into what employees are worth hiring and our best practices on how to attract great talents. It will be useful if you’ve just started your business or are simply interested in improving your head hunting skills and vision.

Establishing The Right Mindset

In our experience, the key to building a team successfully lies in the way you approach the hiring process itself. In Building Your Startup: How to Make Your Startup Go Live, we’ve recommended that you start your business with only those people you need and add more people as your capital boosts. Before you decide to grow your team further, it’s important that you keep in mind the following: 

  • Be constantly hiring
    Don’t wait till the need for a new employee arises – make your recruiting process proactive, by constantly looking for good specialists. Study and realize the best recruitment practices, develop your talent pool, and don’t hesitate to invest money in your team’s engagement in this process. With this in mind, when a new project starts and you have a lot of new job openings, you will already have a pool of ideal candidates to select from and spend less time on the recruitment itself.

  • Make recruitment one of the priorities for the whole team
    Ideally, it’s not only the CEO and the HR manager who should actively take part in hiring activities. The best practice is when each team member is aware of what new candidates the company is looking for and helps, by advising potential candidates. To do that, implement an employee referral program, so that each contribution gets rewarded.

  • Build positive relationships
    It’s important to build and maintain good relations with all candidates, even with those ones you are not hiring now or rejected in the past. Or, we’d say, especially with those ones you’re currently not hiring or rejected some time ago. Firstly, you never know what projects can arise in the future – you might need those candidates later. Besides, every candidate you deal with may or does spread a word of mouth on your company. It is very important that you act in a positive and friendly way with them as this could attract other employees to your team.

  • Your perfect candidate will change over time
    There’s no doubt that your first employee will be different from every following one, especially those ones you’re gonna need in even 6 months. What you think is your perfect candidate now will be changed with every new customer. It’s important that you take a fresh look and evaluate your priorities regularly to avoid hiring people you do not actually need.

Now that you see the big picture and have the right attitude towards the hiring process, let’s take a look at what qualities could describe a good candidate.

#1. They Possess the Skills You’re Looking For

When it comes to hiring people, the first thing you need to identify is who your perfect candidate is. Build the exact profile of the candidate you’re looking for, defining exactly what skills they should possess, what level of experience they need to cover, whether a new graduate could be considered too, whether you need someone with in-depth knowledge in one specific area or with a broader range of knowledge, etc. One thing is for sure – your ideal candidate should fit the skills you’re looking for.

#2. They Fit the Corporate Culture

Things are quite simple here – you have to like your candidate before you hire them. This doesn’t mean you take only those people you feel sympathy for. The main point here is that you need to know that working with them will be comfortable for both you and your team. Look for someone with the ability to get along with them on a daily basis and add to the positive working environment conditions.

The candidate who doesn’t fit the corporate culture can create a negative working atmosphere and even bring the team’s productivity down. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people you work with. If they’re the best developer out there but they can’t work with the rest of the team, we do recommend that you don’t hire such a developer.

#3.  They Are Eager to Learn

Depending on the project, there’s no definite answer whether it’s better to hire a highly experienced developer or the one who’s learning fast and is ready to develop, together with your startup.

However, both of them have to be open to learning new things if they want to stay competitive and work in a long-termed project.  We recommend that you hire people for potential – as a rule of thumb, smart, self-motivating, and hard-working people manage to perform at a higher level of productivity, adjust to new conditions faster, and are more likely to bring creative solutions. 

#4. They Are Able to Multitask

A business undertaking always starts with a small team of a few people. As you don’t have much money to invest in hiring more people initially, you have to firstly rely on people who are able to multitask. Look for people who are eager to take on many responsibilities and have their finger in every pie. You’ll definitely need them, at least in the early stages of your company development. 

#5. Soft Skills Matter

Soft skills are often underestimated by people who occupy technical positions. As a rule of thumb, they tend to be more introverted, and it’s easier for them to demonstrate their practical skills rather than the soft ones. However, communication skills are no less important than tech knowledge and experience, even if you’re looking for a software developer. The abilities to articulate your thoughts clearly to people of different backgrounds, connect with them, work as a team player, and adjust to new employees/customers/partners are the basis for building a strong team with smooth communication processes.

#6. Look for the Things You Can’t Train

Having many good developers in a team is great, especially if they have much experience to share with other team members. However, when we talk about a startup, the number of team members is rather limited here. It’s not likely that one person can be a Jack of all trades. Besides, it’s impossible to teach all the skills, especially those ones that come “out-of-the box” with an employee, like enthusiasm, self-motivation, diligence, ability to play in one team, etc.  Thus, we recommend that you look for people with skills (both hard and soft) that you are not able to teach or don’t have the right person to guide in.

It All Starts with Attracting People

The ultimate attraction about your startup is about building a company that people are willing to work for. That said, when you are a small team of several people working hard on a new project, convincing top specialists to join you is not that easy. 

With this in mind, we recommend that you focus on the best practices to attract new people to your startup. Now that you know your ideal candidate profile, let’s move to the great ways to find and hire them.

#1. Attend and Organize Events

Networking is the key to finding not only new partners but also new employees. That’s why attending and speaking at local events are great resources for finding good candidates. Invite them to an event that you could organize in your office, like an open day, a meetup, a workshop, a coffee party, etc. This is your non-intrusive way to hunt for local talents and introduce your team in a more personal and informal way.

#2. Offer Flexible Work Options

In times of the COVID-19 pandemia, it’s important that you can offer flexible working options. Statistics say that employees place most value such perks as flexible working hours, more paid vacation time, and work-from-home opportunities. That will not only help you attract more people to your team but also increase the number of great specialists from other countries willing to work remotely.  Besides, this way you show that as an employer, you care about how healthy their work-life balance is.

#3. Be Present In Social Media

At the beginning of building your startup, you’re completely unknown to your potential audience. That’s why it’s highly important that you invest time and money in establishing your online presence.

If your company has no website, no blog, no Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, there are small chances anyone will get to know you (unless you’ve asked for recommendations). We do recommend that you take a strategic approach to all the content you have and build profiles in as many popular social media channels as possible from the very beginning – both your potential candidates and customers need to know that you’re alive and are actively developing.  

#4. Offer a Competitive Payment

No need to really explain this point – in most cases, people choose places with higher compensation, even if they’re offered many perks instead. Moreover, competitive compensation is not only about how you attract people to work for your company, but also about how you retain them. 

Of course, in the very beginning, it’s likely your employees will be underpaid. However, make sure you bring their salaries up to market rates as soon as you’ve secured your first funding – don’t give them a chance to leave your startup and then spread a word of mouth that you’re underpaying your employees. Building your reputation is not what could be postponed till later. 😉 

#5. Finally – Ask for Recommendations

Personal recommendations are the biggest and, probably, the only source of candidates when you start expanding your team. Here, it’s the time to practice your soft skills and win new hires, by simply communicating with them in a more personal way. Dedicate time to building your network both in the real world, by attending conferences and talks, and online, by adding people on LinkedIn or asking your 1st connections for recommendations. Maybe, your next great hire is in your 1st connections’ network or already knows/follows you – check that. 😉 

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