What to Look For When Hiring Startup Talent

Hiring for a startup is very different than hiring for a large company. It’s very important to recognize the type of talent you need to help your company grow. Some people are drawn to the culture, so finding the right blend for your organization is critical.


Previous Startup Experience

This seems pretty obvious, but generally you want to stay away from people who have worked only at large corporations. That's not to say all of these individuals are unqualified. Many of them possess valuable skillsets that can help neophyte companies achieve goals. However, many are not likely to have the right mindset or interest level to work inside this type environment. In effect, they might not be suitable personality fits to thrive.

Large corporate settings often feature very-defined processes and roles. Here, blurred parameters and ambiguous responsibilities may create high levels of uncertainty. Those conditioned to structure (to the point of rigidity) may bristle at a perceived lack of organization or stability.




Candidates with previous startup experience understand the flow of operations. They're comfortable with inherent ups-and-downs and alternative organizational structures. Not only do these workers know what they're getting into, they actively seek these opportunities. They possess a sense of professional self-awareness indicating a desire to build ideas and products with self-determination.


Small Business Experience

Many startup recruits come out of small businesses. If someone’s worked at smaller organizations, it’s a positive sign they’re interested in working in small teams and shouldering more responsibilities. These potential employees relish the agility and freedoms found at tinier companies. Perhaps they thrive in tight-knit circles with close communication and interaction. 


Personal Projects

Side projects are reliable indicators of commitment and passion. Look for experience like open source work or relevant personal projects to your company and/or industry. Aim for people who like to solve problems, try new things, and learn new skills during your talent acquistion search. You're seeking individuals ready to get out of their comfort zone. More importantly, you're prioritizing those with strong work ethics and entrepreneurial aspirations. 




Social Media Presence

Hire personnel that understand the Web, regardless of the role you want to fulfill. Here, you're searching for team members who are cognizant of social media and search engines. In other words, these potential colleagues recognize the importance of self-branding and reputation management. They value their credibility and how they're seen by others.

Check out sources like these to develop an understanding of these potential candidates. Read available blogs to gauge writing style, tone, and approach. Monitor social feeds on Twitter/Facebook for questionable content. Dig through personal sites/blogs and LinkedIn profiles for portfolios and projects.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Personal blog / website / portfolio
  • Instagram / Vine / SnapChat 
  • YouTube channel
  • Slideshare

Take a look at self-created content to see what interests them and what they publish both professionally and personally. 




2-Yrs+ Experience

It’s not uncommon to find great people who jump from job to job; they can get bored and want new challenges. However, a red flag appears when you notice someone who's jumped too often. What you’re really looking for are people who have been with their current employer for 2-3 years. It’s around that time when people start looking elsewhere, or at least are ready to be approached. You’re looking for that sweet spot where people are most receptive to change.


Each hire will have an impact on the organization and the culture. They will need to be adaptable to wearing many hats but also thrive on problem solving. The hiring process has changed for today’s millennials. They are not looking for job security; they want to work for a company that aligns with their passions.


The recruiting process needs to approach these job seekers differently. Get to know the candidates, really know them. Have an interest in what they have done and what they can do to help grow an organization. Skills can be trained while true passion cannot.


Check out these resources for more information: 


Need help building your startup team?

Work with Hub