Get it right first time – how to successfully hire your first startup employee.

There comes a point in the life of any startup where you need to think about hiring your first employees – a decision so critical that it can make the difference between the success or failure of the business. Put simply, your first employees will help to set the tone and culture of the business, moulding how people behave and what will and won’t be valued as the company grows and develops.

For new business owners, hiring your first employee is a big step. Not only do you have the financial commitment to paying that person each month, it is a sign you are taking your business seriously and are ready to commit to growth.

So how do you get it right?

  1. Identify your values

Well, the first step is to clarify your values as a business owner. What is really important to you in the way that your business operates? How do you want to do business? What company image would you like to project to the outside world? What traits will you be asking the new employee to adopt? Having a clear understanding of your business values will help you to define the type of person that will encapsulate them. Remember, the recruitment process is a two way street, how will you sell your business and role to a potential employee if you haven’t yet shaped how things will work?

For example, at Leading, we value energy, enthusiasm and ambition as much as we do experience. For us, it is important that we hire people who are prepared to roll their sleeves up and undertake any task that needs completing – in our culture, we have no room for the “that’s not in my job description” type of person. On the other hand, depending on what you are creating, you may want employees who are able to focus purely on their designated responsibilities without being hungry to branch into other areas.

  1. Structure your interview process

Make sure your interview process is rigorous so that it weeds out any candidates who aren’t 100% committed to working with you (or for a startup!). Secondly, ensure the interview process is multi staged, having candidate’s complete psychometric assessments, undertake tasks that form part of the job role, or even observing how they interact with other potential employees will help you to understand more about what they can bring to the table and whether they are right for your business.

A crucial error that new business owners often make is to hire employees who are identical to themselves. Whilst having a similar outlook can be positive to ensure behaviours are aligned, it is also important to diversify and find employees who can offer a fresh perspective and look at challenges and opportunities in a different way.

  1. Focus on the candidate’s personality

Let’s face it, one of the most important factors you need to consider is personality. Whilst having the right skillset to perform a role is essential, the simple fact is that skills can be taught, personalities cannot! Make sure that as well as interrogating their experience, you are also paying attention to softer skills – interpersonal skills, communication skills and emotional intelligence are all equally as important as a qualification on a CV.

  1. Define what’s in it for them

Frankly, joining a startup can be scary, particularly in a world where the majority of people value security. So, in order to attract the best talent to your startup, you need to work extra hard! It is essential you understand what will motivate that person to join – for example, are you prepared to offer shares in the business? Could you provide a flexible working arrangement for a parent? Do you simply need to offer an outstanding results based bonus package? By identifying what motivates that individual will help you to secure their services.

  1. Continue to measure progress

Once you have found the right person to come on board, it is important that you consistently monitor whether they are delivering in line with your expectations. Keeping the lines of communication open will allow you to provide feedback and give the employee an opportunity to share any concerns they have with you. Remember, when it is time to hire your next employee, they will be looking to this person for guidance so you need to make sure they are right!

At Leading Strategies we support new business owners to get their startup off the ground. To find out more about the work we do, please visit: