8 Startup Hiring Tips from an HR Exec

Hiring is hard. I spent 15 years in corporate HR before becoming an executive coach and founding an HR consulting firm focused on startups and small business. Just yesterday I gave a workshop where we talked a lot about early hiring in small startups. Here are the things that the leaders found most useful:

  • What are the top 3-5 technical or functional skills the candidate will need to be successful? Use a phone screen to weed out anyone who doesn’t meet the bar.
  • Be realistic. If you can not find or afford the person you’re looking for, change your plans! Maybe you need to pay more, or move some skills from the mandatory to “nice to have” column.
  • Get all of the interviewers aligned. It’s frustrating if you are giving candidates the thumbs up and they’re consistently being rejected by other folks on your team. It’s ok to have different opinions, but make sure you’re in agreement about what it is you’re looking for.
  • Culture fit matters! Someone who was successful in a formal and hierarchical environment may not be successful at a startup. Know what you value whether it’s problem solving, decision making, team work, etc. spend time checking those soft skills.
  • Think long term. What will this person be doing 1-2 years from now and how does this role fit into your growth plans? The last thing you want to do is staff up only to lay people off later.
  • The way you feel at the end of the interview is probably how you’ll feel working with this person. Are you energized, tired, excited or confused?
  • Remember candidates are always putting their best foot forward. If the candidate is bad mouthing previous employers, has too many stories about conflict with co-workers or bad bosses, those are all red flags.
  • Reference checks work! Some people have given up checking references assuming they’ll always be positive. You’d be surprised what you can learn if you ask the right questions. Hiring is a big commitment so do everything you can up front to get the best possible person on your team.

Our mantra? Every hire should be someone who’s irreplaceable.

Mikaela Kiner is the Founder of http://uniquelyhr.com/