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Hiring tips for Startups

May 20th, 2019 by Mitchell Sullivan

“You don’t hire for skills. You hire for attitude. You can always teach skills”. Simon Sinek


For startups without a recognised brand name able to attract talent to them, they have to search for talent, and search effectively. Often, those startups lack the cash cushion and brand reputation that larger companies have to fall back on should the business make bad decisions. And hiring can be one of those business decisions that has a profound impact on every aspect of the company.


The startup world is unique in its constraints and also in its opportunities. The emphasis on building a great team is more important at a startup than in other established organisations. Every risk is magnified when a safety net is absent.


The founders of startups are often required to wear multiple hats  – one of those hats being the recruiter of the company. Analysing resumes, covers letters and conducting interviews can be difficult, particularly if you’re not familiar with the job title/functions you’re hiring for. But, building a great culture, hiring well-suited individuals and forming a great team is all within your control, when you take the necessary steps.


What you should look for when hiring for your startup:

1.) Hustle

2.) Heart

Who’s going to show up early and stay late? Who speaks as “we” instead of as “I”? Who can think on their feet and roll with the punches? Who will never answer a request with “that’s not my job”? This is the type of employee startups should be looking for. Someone able to wear multiple hats, looking for a challenge and able to find productivity in themselves.

woman entering office with bicycle

What you shouldn’t look for when hiring for a startup:

1.) What school someone went to.

2.) Their grades.

3.) Their past job experience.

The key to a good hire is finding someone who is a culture and work style fit. Hire for heart and follow your organisation’s mission.


From Kim Kaupe, co-founder of ZinePak and member of Forbes 30 under 30.


What you need to know when hiring for your startup:


  • Know your limitations. Microsoft, Apple & Facebook are just some of the brands that have invisible magnets pointing talent in their direction. Startups with little to no brand presence don’t have that luxury.


Know what you can offer, vs. what you can’t when comparing yourself to your industry competitors. You may not be able to compete on a salary or benefits standpoint, so don’t attempt to.


  • Compete where you can. Acknowledge your weaknesses and play to your strengths. You’re a startup. Embrace the startup nature, one that is full of freedom, not only in the way you operate but in the freedom and lack of procedures you administer to your employees.


Flexible working conditions, increased responsibility and making a real impact on the bottom line are all attractive traits that can drive talent to come to you.


  • Your mission and values come first. In order to convince top talent to come and work for you, you need to build a company with a great mission and vision that excites them. As the founder or hiring manager, you must be able to share your long-term vision with your potential employees and present your company in the best way.


“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” That single question was how Steve Jobs convinced John Scully, a Pepsi executive at the time, to join Apple (Entrepreneur).


Rather than simply being a cog in the machine at a large organisation, smaller companies have the advantage to bounce passion throughout the business. In large companies, you may never even meet the CEO. In a small startup, the founders and CEO are typically right there to excite and drive innovation. Bring that same passion and excitement to the hiring process and you’ll attract the right individual.


  • Be a great place to work. Costco employees make nearly double the average salary compared with their competitors employees. Costco also spends next to nothing on advertising compared to their competitors. Why? Costco relies primarily on word of mouth to drive sales. Word of mouth that starts from its employees.


By being a great place to work and taking care of its employees, Costco is able to slash advertising costs and create brand trust with its consumers  – something that every startup should strive for. Not only does this increase the trust your customers place in you, but increases the trust talent will have when being recruited by your company.


It doesn’t matter if your startup is in ideation, or achieved multiple series of investments, the overall hiring goal(s) should remain the same. Hire for passion and hire for heart, without being influenced by a polished resume. Maintain a strong culture, treat your employees right and broadcast your vision to the masses.

In Summary, 

Focus on 2 main aspects of your new hire:

  • Do they Hustle?


  • Do they have a Heart?

The focus should be on their attitude more than School status, Grades and past job experience.

Here are 4 Tips to help you make the best hire for your startup:


  1. Know your limitations.
  2. Compete where you can.
  3. Your mission and values come first.
  4. Be a great place to work.



If you enjoyed reading this then why not dive deeper into more tips for recruiters. 

- How Businesses Can Conduct Great Interviews 

- Why You Need Interns and How To Find Them 

- Why buiding Trust Is Important For Recruiters 

- Six Tips To Improve Your New Employee Onboarding