Startup Hiring Mistakes

Startups are appealing to many people for many reasons, not the least of which is to be an early hire at the next Stitch Fix, Roku, or Okta. If you ask any investor, a startup’s team is the most critical element to its success. Thus, hiring is one of the most important activities a founder is responsible for. So, what are startup hiring mistakes and how can they be avoided?

The first mistake seems obvious, but founders continue to make it, is hiring friends. This can be tempting because you already know them and you can more easily justify their skills. However, it’s your existing relationship that makes it a bad reason to bring them into your startup. It’s not a clean slate and never will be, the dynamic at play is not worth it for the company.

A related mistake is to hire people that are like you. Founders think that other outgoing, energetic people will be a great addition to the company. They might be, but more often than not they aren’t. If you want to build a successful company, you need diversity. And not just race or gender, but different ways of thinking. If everyone thinks like the founder, you’ll lack innovation and creative tension that delivers better results.

A third mistake is to hire people from big companies. Some investors will often push for this as they bring a proverbial pedigree. The logic goes something like this, hire people for where you want to go, not where you are today. That can be a recipe for disaster. The startup life is far different from corporate life and the majority of people that have had success in large organizations may not perform well in a startup.

Not taking your time is another mistake. Hiring the best people is absolutely critical. Unfortunately, founders often can’t see the forest through the trees when it comes to getting people on board quickly and rush to take the first candidates that meet some of their criteria. Take your time and don’t settle for okay, when amazing is out there. These hires are people who will be instrumental in your growth.

Finally, if someone tells you they can do it all, be wary. It’s true that early stage startup employees need to wear a lot of hats, but that doesn’t mean you should hire a generalist who doesn’t have a skillset that will translate to a specific role as the company grows. As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none.

So what trait matters most for startup hiring? As Angela Duckworth wrote, Grit. She defines it as passion and perseverance. We think of it as finding people who are internally motivated and tenacious. These behaviors can take a variety of forms and it’s important that they are additive to the culture of the organization. It’s important that the founder understands and can articulate the mission and vision of the company to bring in the right people. If you can’t motivate and inspire the people you’ve hired, you’ll lose valuable time starting the process all over again.

For more information on how to avoid hiring mistakes, send us a note. As an executive search firm, Sheer Velocity has seen a plethora of mistakes. Therefore, our recruiters can help you avoid making the mistakes others have made before.