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7 mistakes startups make when hiring first employees

Hiring for a well-established company is different from hiring for a startup. And it seems startups don’t know how to turn it to their advantage—statistically, 73% of the new startup hires quit over a year.


All the same, any business success depends on a team. To make yours stronger, don’t make these 7 mistakes when looking for people.


Mistake No. 1. Paying little attention to your budget


It might be cool to have three new marketing specialists to boost your growth, but will you have enough money in a year to keep them on your team? Budget is always an issue at an early-stage startup, so don’t spend your money and time hiring recruits just to sack them in a while.


Solution: Sort out the budget for new recruits and then start looking for people.


Mistake No. 2. Knowing little about real wages


Pay rates change every six months and your search for people may turn fruitless if you offer below-market wages.


Looking at the wages your competitors offer isn’t the best idea. You don’t really know what their tasks there are and how well they work.


Solution: Conduct deep research on the market where you look to hire: build a pool of quality candidates, note their salaries and your budget. If you can, hire specialists who will do a salary survey for you.


Mistake No. 3. Hiring to patch holes


When you look for quality people just to fix a couple of things at your startup, you may run out of tasks for them pretty fast.


Say, you have a 300-person startup and headhunted an HR specialist to build clear processes around hiring and onboarding. You thought it would take a year, but your new manager did it in three months. What is he going to do next?


In a similar case, one startup asked the new recruit to supervise renovation in the office and procure furniture. But this isn’t the task you want to assign to an HR specialist and in some time he quit.


Solution: Create a job position with permanent tasks and room for professional growth.


Mistake No. 4. Absence of clear hiring process


Often startups either run a bunch of test tasks and job interviews or hire after the first call. The best way is somewhere in the middle.


You need to know three things: technical skills, soft skills and culture fit. But people will likely drop out if you overload them. 86% of candidates refuse to go through a long process: a questionnaire, a 15-minute screening, an interview with a recruiting lead, an interview with a tech lead, test tasks, and an interview with the CEO.


Solution: Combine job interviews and invite several top managers to them.


Mistake No. 5. Not assessing soft skills


You can teach an employee to be a stronger programmer, but you can’t teach someone to be nicer, more flexible and passionate. That’s what you really need in your startup. Employees who just clock in and out eventually quit, looking for their new passion.


Solution: Seek candidates who are ambitious and adaptable, who can take responsibility, work in a team and—maybe most important—want to work and improve your product. It’s best for the CEO to look for these traits during a job interview.


Mistake No. 6. Just looking for stars


If someone was a Google employee, it doesn’t mean she will help your startup. Experience with working at big companies is good, but it’s not a silver bullet. This person maybe worked for Google, but can she manage people and take responsibility?


Solution: Stick to your hiring process even if you are hiring someone from Google or Facebook.


Mistake No. 7. Being too shy when hiring


You are not offering huge salaries or stability; maybe you haven’t built clear processes yet and there’s no work-life balance whatsoever. And that’s okay—you are building a startup. If your candidate expects something else, don’t hire her.


Solution: Yes, you are not Google, but you can be a big name one day. So sell this promise, sell the opportunity to build something new and take on challenging tasks. Instead of huge salaries, offer free education, discounts, and insurance.



Cover photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash

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