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How to hire for your startup

Rome wasn’t built in a day, or by a single Roman! At some point, you’re going to need to hire an employee, or 5. But hiring can be hard. Where do you even begin? Here. You begin here. We’ve got a helpful handy dandy guide to get you started on that path to team bliss.

Identify the need

One of the trickiest questions to answer when it comes to hiring is just that: When to hire. Taking the leap and deciding to add someone to your team is a big deal, especially if you’re a smaller company. The key thing to consider: pain. When stuff (support, development, administration, etc) gets repeatedly, painfully in the way of your other responsibilities, it’s time to hire.

To be clear, we’re not talking about a bad day, or even a busy few weeks. If you’re going to make the investment (both in time and money) to find and hire a new employee, make sure the need is sustainable.

Once you’ve decided that you do need to hire, it’s time to critically consider the position you’re hiring for. For example, if you’re hiring for customer support, do you just want someone to handle support tickets and phone calls, or do you want that person to also be able to write content and be your social media spokesperson. Those are two dramatically different jobs and candidates. It’s probably easier to start with a list of responsibilities, but this is a good time to get a jump on the next step and go ahead and turn that list into a full job description.

Don’t worry too much about considering personality at this point. That will come later when you interview applicants and will probably be largely instinctual. For now, focus on pain points and the job itself.

Accepting Applications

Now that you’ve decided to hire, its time to spread the word. Almost. First, you’ve got to finish up that job description and think a little more about the hiring process. You don’t want to just wing it when it comes to hiring someone. There’s going to be a few stages to this, and for everyone’s peace of mind, and the timeline, you need at least an outline in advance. First you’re going to post the job description. Being that you’re a super cool company with awesome perks, everyone is going to want to work for and with you.

Which is decision one, how do you want people to apply? Resumes are generally a waste of time, they provide no information on how a person thinks, behaves, problem solves, etc. You’re not going to make a hiring decision based on where someone worked 10 years ago, so why ask for a resume? Instead, ask a series of questions in the initial application. This will not only help you narrow candidates down by the answers, it will also help you narrow down by the lack of answers. You’ll be amazed by how many applicants don’t follow directions!

Some of the questions will depend on the type of job you’re hiring for. But a couple standards include

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • How will your skills/experience help you with this job?
  • How can you make the company better?

If you’re a remote company, it’s important to ask if the candidate has ever worked remotely before. Going from a traditional office to a remote start-up is quite the transition.

If you’re hiring for lets say an engineer or a designer, you may want to ask for examples of projects they’ve done. If you’re hiring for a customer facing role, you might want to ask how they would handle a dificult situation.

The application is your first step in finding the right fit. Use it! Consult your list of necessary qualifications or traits and structure the application to those.

Where to post

You have the job description and application questions ready. Now it’s time to post the job. In general the big job sites are a waste of time. They throw a wide net, but also attract a wide, very unspecific, audience. Focus on job boards that are specific to the job you’re hiring for. For example if you’re hiring for Customer Support, you might want to check out Support Ops or WeWorkRemotely. There also many niche job sites to find more qualified candidates, like these design jobs or marketing jobs. We also like to use a service to manage the inflow of applications, instead of just a jobs email address.

First Round

You’re a pretty cool guy/gal/company, which means lots of people are probably going to want to work with you. And so all the applications come flooding in, don’t get stressed out, you just need a plan. For starters all those applications can be sorted into two batches: not right for the job and maybe. Those that aren’t right for the job should (if possible) get a polite email saying so and wishing them the best of luck in their future endeavors etc etc etc.

As for the rest, you’ve got some decisions to make for the next steps. You could jump right into an interview (phone, video, or in person), but we find it works best to have a second step, between the application and the interview. This is the task section.

The goal is to get some insight into how the person tackles problems and the kind of work you can expect to see from them. This is not a time for you to try and get some free work out of people. The task you give should be a few hours tops, no more than 5 and that’s for the designers and engineers. Again, this is less about the finished product, and more about how the applicants communicate and problem solve.

Go through the results and narrow down again, another pile of maybe’s and another pile of ‘not right now’.


Finally, the interview! Depending on your set-up this could be in person or over video chat. The goals of the interview are a little more intangible. You’re not checking boxes, except to confirm that you haven’t been spoofed by some sort of alien robot, based on the application and task you should know that the person is qualified. Now it’s all about personality and communication. How do they present themselves? Is there an easy reporte?

This isn’t science and there’s a fair amount of gut instinct about who will fit well with your team. Not everyone is great in an interview, so do leave some benefit of the doubt for nerves or the like, but even accounting for interview jitters, you should be able to get a feel for personality.

The hire

All that work, hopefully now it’s paid off and there’s a clear winner, that perfect match of personality and skill that is exactly what you need. Phew, the hard part is over, time to send over the offer letter and get that contract signed on the dotted line! Then, pop the champagne, you hired an employee!! If you just didn’t find the right person for the job, just go back to the top and repeat again, maybe tweak where you post the opening or rewrite the job description if needed. Never fear, your perfect employee is out there somewhere!

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