How to hire your first employees


When building your startup, a chief executive officer (which is you) and a chief technology officer are really all you need.

Hiring any other top-level management staff is a waste of fund. You don’t need a vice president of sales when you are still building out your product. And you don’t need a human resource manager when it’s just you and the CTO working late nights. And there is the first rule to hiring your first employees; don’t hire someone unless there is a clear role/task the person is coming in to attend. You simply don’t have enough money to splurge an employee who isn’t or won’t be working at full capacity. When you have a clear task that neither you nor your CTO, (or a freelancer) can handle, follow this checklist to hire for the role:

1. Ask for referrals

The first line of action is to ask your immediate connections for recommendations. This might seem rather obvious, but founders often throw open positions on job boards immediately. This is not bad in itself. But while job boards will get more people applying for your job, the process of finding the right candidate might turn out to be about as fun as looking for a particular kind of a hay in a haystack.
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Asking your immediate connections means you get pre-screened candidates. The quality of your connections, of course, play a huge role here.

2. Hire for flexibility

At the early stages of your startup, there is nothing more important than employees that can fill in many different roles. And that should be the first criteria after culture-fit (more on this later.) In your desire for proven talent, you might be tempted to hire candidates with a big business track record. These sort of star employees will often not be a good fit. Why? Because they are often coming from big corps with defined ways of doing things and clearly specified roles. Early-stage startups aren’t wired that way. There are no specified roles. It’s the only way they can move fast and grow. The other side to flexibility is also important to mention. You need to be flexible in your requirements. For instance, more and more employees are looking for opportunities that allowed for remote working. You should be ready to accommodate that.

3. Hire for autonomy

You don’t have enough time on your hands to spoon-feed your employees with granular instructions. So look out for employees that can take initiative and can think on their feet. To tease out this kind of employee, give them a hypothetical problem pertaining to their role and ask how they’d solve it. If your candidate is asking for a playbook or blatantly tells you he had no clue, that’s a big flaming red flag.
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4. Hire for culture fit

Your company is only as good as its culture. Even when a candidate has checked all the boxes, you want to be careful about hiring them if they don’t fit in your culture. Of course, here is assuming your culture is healthy. Understanding your culture will require you having some internal conversations around your core values and your mission.

5. Leverage employee connections

When new employees come in, they are coming with their connections. And they are a good source for future employees. When your employee recommends someone else, chances are the new person will be successful at the job. Because they already have a fair picture of the work and its requirement, thanks to their connection.

6. Move fast

Hiring quality candidates is an arms race. The best candidates are in high demand fielding many offers from different companies. If an employee meets all the requirements of your checklist and the culture, move quickly to close the deal and get them settled. The quality of your employees will determine the quality of your product.  Although there is no watertight way to consistently get the best employees on your team, this checklist can make sure you are not drawing blank. __ Have you built a team you are excited about? How did you do it? Tell us in the comments. __
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