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Where to Begin When Hiring for Startups?

Where to Begin When Hiring for Startups?

Any company is only as strong as its employees. While larger corporations can afford to lose a bad hire, start-ups simply do not have that luxury. It is critical that you get it right.

Careful investment in the hiring process (both time and money) can position you for growth and success while protecting you from potential problems later on. A poor performer can have a negative impact on the rest of the team, stifle sales, and harm your fledgling reputation. In contrast, the right employee will propel your company forward.

Consider hiring to be a new skill. You will get better at it with practice, just like any other skill. Hiring will become easier as your team expands and there are more people who can bring new perspectives and share the load. But it will be difficult at first. Here are some pointers to keep in mind.


When Should You Hire From Your Network?

"Start-ups tend to grow in the image of their founders – this can be both a good and a bad thing, as the 'bro cultures' of Silicon Valley have demonstrated," says Katie Jacobs, Senior Stakeholder Lead at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

"They frequently hire through their networks." While this is great for bringing in people you trust or who are well-known, consider the diversity of skills, experience, and perspectives you will ultimately require."

The first few employees are critical to your company's long-term success. With that in mind, it's a good idea to go with quality you can trust. This is especially true in the sales department. "Don't hire outside of a second connection for your first couple of sales hires – go for someone known to your advisory board or network," says Matthew Evans-Young, Investment Manager, Foresight Group.

Then, as soon as possible, put in place a proper recruitment process. Recruitment planning, strategy development, searching, screening, and evaluation/assessment are the typical stages. In the long run, it's worthwhile. Hiring solely through your network can result in hiring in your own image, which can have a negative impact on diversity and innovation.

When Should You Seek Outside Assistance?

Jobs boards are a less expensive alternative to recruiters, so make them your first port of call. Take the time to research which specialist job boards the people you're trying to reach prefer, and invest in posting on these sites as well as more generalist ones. For example, if you're looking for a developer, consider advertising on Hired, Snap, or, and if you're looking for a marketing or communications hire, consider PR Week and Campaign. "Think carefully about the skill mix you need when scoping the roles, writing job descriptions, and creating advertisements," Katie adds.

While recruiters do come at a cost, they can help you cast a wider net. They're especially useful for more senior or difficult-to-fill positions, as well as in highly competitive industries. Again, each profession has dedicated recruitment agencies (for example, VMA Group is a PR/communications specialist), so it's best to do extensive research before approaching them.

Product-Market Fit is a Foregone Conclusion, but What About Product-Employee Fit?

It is critical to match the characteristics of potential hires to your product or service. "How to approach recruiting sales staff is an early consideration for a start-up," Matthew says. "Do you want a model that pays $100-200k per year, big game hunters to wow customers, or graduates answering phones and passing on leads?"

The answer is dependent on the product you're selling. If you want to move complex software systems, for example, you'll need a suitably experienced and polished expert who makes a good first impression. If you're dealing with a high volume of FMCGs, a workforce of enthusiastic graduates will suffice. In any case, "a good rule of thumb is that salespeople should deliver three times their cost," says Matthew.

You should also consider the types of jobs you are creating. If you need an experienced creative professional with a specific skill set but are unable to commit to a permanent position, hiring a freelancer is a viable option. Examine sites like PeoplePerHour and Freelancer. If your venture's success is dependent on a complementary, cohesive team, you must hire dedicated full-time employees who believe in your vision.

Consider Team Balance and Dynamics

Make sure you don't sleepwalk into a major problem if you're scaling quickly. For example, don't undervalue or under-resourced customer service. "Take a look at how many tickets your support staff is dealing with," Matthew says. "You could invest in customer support technology or training materials to help deflect problems, or you could hire a customer success team." Salespeople will often pick up on this, but if you're scaling quickly, you'll need an account management function in addition to a front-line salesforce.

Make certain that your workforce is well-balanced. In the case of tech start-ups, for example, because the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is the most familiar with the platform and product, they are frequently dragged into day-to-day issues such as bug fixes and dealing with customer inquiries. Consider a secondary management function, such as a Chief Architect or Head of Engineering, who can act as a layer between the CTO and junior developers when possible.

When you're ready to expand your team Hirize is here to support you along the way, sign up for a free 14-day Hirize trial.