3 Key Hiring Principles for Startups


Hiring the first set of employees can be a daunting task for any startup. Having hired for various clients, many of them being startups, and also for our own organization, we believe the following can be easily considered as the key mantras for successful hiring:

  1. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

As a startup and especially if you’re investor-funded, you may be under extreme pressure to scale up quickly. “We need to quickly ramp up the team and launch the product at the earliest” – is a common conversation point in discussion rooms.

However, hiring too fast can actually prove to be counter-productive and you may run the risk of decreasing your “Talent Density” (a concept made popular by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings) i.e., the percentage of high performers in your organization. You should be very careful about the talent mix your organization should have. The right mix can help you roll out products timely, have more meaningful investor discussions, smoothen operations, and most importantly, shape the cultural DNA of the organization.

Having even one bad hire can put some serious brakes on your success journey. Rather than procrastinating in the attempt to make the relationship work or surrendering yourself to escalation of commitment, it’s better to immediately let go of the employee. For one person, you can’t risk affecting the morale of several other employees. Some people might get offended by the term “firing” but laying off doesn’t mean you have do it in an insensitive manner. You should always be compassionate during such layoffs and may also consider offering severance packages. 

  1. Hire the “Best Fit,” Not the “Best”

Hiring the best talent seems like a cure-all solution to many startups for their talent acquisition ailments. As a recruitment consultant, we often hear such statements from our clients:

  • “We want to hire from first rate Institutes only.”
  • “Let’s just poach people from Company X [market leader in the industry].”
  • “We are willing to pay handsome package to rockstar developers. We can even buy-out their notice period if that’s an issue.”

While strong credentials and impressive track record on the CV may seem like the most reasonable factors, they may not be sufficient to predict the future performance of the candidate. For example, the person might have performed well in a team earlier but may not be able to take full ownership of a work stream independently. Or, the person might have successfully led a large team of programmers in the previous organization but may not feel comfortable doing the heavy lifting required to get things done in a smaller setup.

So what you actually need to look for is someone who can be “good fit” for your organization – both technically and culturally.

  1. Hire Objectively, Not Based On Gut

Hiring managers would agree that hiring decisions are often taken within the first few minutes of the conversation with the candidate. You get a feeling whether you’re going to hire the person or not. Sometimes, it all boils down to the “likeability” of the candidate. However, such decisions based primarily on a gut instinct may go wrong. Have you ever been in a situation when you almost believed that the candidate would turn around the fortunes of your company, only to find later that the person couldn’t perform even the basic tasks?

To avoid such surprises and minimize error, start including more objectivity in your hiring process. Look for the actual skills and behaviour of the potential hires by creating coding challenges, conducting technical and behavioural assessments, performing psychometric analysis, and including role plays.

What best practices do you follow while hiring for your organization? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by Vineet Arora, Co-founder, TalentNiti

Image courtesy: Mashable

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Filed under Hiring, Interviewing, Screening, Startups

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