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Startup Recruitment: 5 Questions to Consider During the Recruiting Process

Hiring new employees at your startup means your business is reaching new levels, which is great news. But it's imperative that you hire candidates who fit the culture and have potential in addition to a specific skill set. Look for these five factors as you search.
startup recruitment

Despite what popular TV shows may show you, startup culture is known for being fast-paced with very high stakes. It's also a marathon, not a get-rich-quick scheme.

That's why when it comes to startup recruitment, you'll need to make sure that candidates can hack it. Not only that, but you'll want to make sure they want to join your company for the right reasons. Here are some things to look for when hiring new employees for your startup.

Are they in it for the company's mission or do they want a big payout?

Part of the issue with recruiting for your startup is that you may run into candidates who are there based on a romanticized version of what it's like to work for a startup.

Blame it on TV, social media, or outliers like Mark Zuckerberg, but there is a notion floating around that there's potentially big money in startups. More specifically, there's a chance the startup may be a raging success, gets bought out for millions, and then everyone cashes a fat check.

When interviewing potential new employees, you'll want to find out if this is one of the reasons why they want to work for your company.

There can be a big difference between someone wanting to work for a company because of its core mission and someone wanting to work for a company because they're hoping for a big payout someday. As a startup founder, you'll want to know where candidates fall in the spectrum. Of course, you may find quality candidates who are motivated by both of these factors.

What's their risk tolerance?

As we already mentioned, startups are risky. The Statistic Brain Research Institute pulled together data that shows startup business failure rates by industry and by year. Depending on the industry, a startup could have up to a 58 percent chance of failing. Additionally, 25 percent of startups fail within the first year. The failure rate jumps to 71 percent by year 10.

So what does this mean for recruiting top talent for your startup? It means you'll need to assess their risk tolerance to see if they can handle the uncertainty that comes with working for a startup.

Startups have 58% chance of failing

Do they fit into your company culture?

Each company has a specific culture when it comes to operating smoothly. In order to avoid disrupting the ecosystem you've already built, you'll want to make sure culture is an important part of the startup recruitment process.

One way to gauge whether a candidate will fit into the culture you've created is to have members of your team interview them. At the end of the day, they're all going to have to work together, so you want to ensure they fit in.

Do they have a real weakness?

Among a range of effective interview questions, a common one that founders, recruiters, and managers may throw out during the startup recruitment process is "What's your biggest weakness?"

Startups don't have time for drivel so you'll want to pay close attention to the answer. For example, were they authentic enough to admit a real weakness or did they give the tired "I work too hard" non-answer?

The reason you want a real answer is simple. Maybe the answer means they really aren't a good fit. Or, maybe someone else on your team can compensate for the weakness while this candidate's strengths can compensate for theirs. Knowing this during the startup recruitment process can help you fill in the gaps and manage a team more efficiently.

Do they have potential?

Sometimes startups change and grow very quickly. As a result, one of the issues many startup founders run into is their original employees experiencing difficulty when rapid growth occurs.

Additionally, while experience is important, sometimes potential is the determining factor in whether someone will thrive at a startup. The bottom line is startups need people with a vision and the ability to grow, not just bullet points on a resume. One way to spot potential is to look for certain qualities they possess not just at their previous jobs, but also outside of the job itself.

For example, maybe Amy has less work experience than John, but Amy has gone out of her way to join associations, spearhead projects, and take classes to improve her skill set. Meanwhile, John has worked in management positions for several years and is looking for his fourth management position at a startup. In this case, perhaps Amy is the better candidate because you believe she has the potential to be a rock star for your company.

Hiring new employees for a startup is fun and exciting because it means your business is reaching new levels. If a candidate has the right intentions, fits the culture, and has potential in addition to a skill set, then they may be the best candidate for you. Just make sure that you comply with applicable regulations when hiring so that you mitigate exposure to any potential discrimination lawsuits.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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