What is the best way to hire top candidates for a startup?
There are two approaches to this answer. The first relates to finding candidates. I have offered a lot of advice about this in some of my other, but I will recreate some of that content here so that you don’t have to go looking for it :).
If you’re just getting started and have very little money to hire great talent, here’s what I recommend:
- Talk to everyone you know — chances are that if you’re the kind of person that is going out and creating a startup, a lot of your friends are similarly talented people. So ask them for help! Talk to friends, family, friends of family, and college classmates! Utilize your network before looking anywhere else!
- Put an ad on and offer equity instead of a steady salary. You can also say that you are looking for interns originally, and as the company grows you can transition them into paid employees.
- Put an ad on using the same strategy as AngelList.
- Visit a startup conference. — If you live in the city, this will be very easy to do. Need help finding one?
If your startup is further along, you already have some employees working for you, and there’s enough free capital to invest a little in recruiting, here’s the plan:
- Put an ad up on . I’ve used this several times and have been very happy with the talent that has turned up. It’s going to cost you about $100, but if you do it right, it could be very worth it.
- Start an employee referral program. There is a ton of advice out on the web about how to do this successfully. and execute!
- Utilize any of the above methods as well. — You’re a startup CEO. I don’t need to tell you this, but here it is: There is no reason to spend money if it’s not absolutely necessary. Exhaust the free resources before turning to the paid services!
The second approach relates to how to interview and vet candidates in order to find the right person for the job.
And on this point, my best advice is to hire for attitude, and train for skills.
This is harder to do than typical skill hiring because attitude and intent is much harder to measure than hard skillsets.
One creative way to measure attitude is to take your potential hire out to lunch and have the server mess up their order. Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab, does this to observe how the candidate reacts to a “fire.” Does the candidate become flustered? Or does she/he handle it calmly and professionally?
It’s a small detail, but it could be the difference between a successful hire and an ongoing headache.
Another good idea, especially in the startup environment where things are fast paced and unpredictable, is to observe how your employees respond to uncertainty. Assign them tasks early on in their hiring process that they have little or no background in to see whether or not they are capable of autonomous learning and problem solving.
Robotic employees don’t perform well in a startup setting, and you’ll be happy to filter them out before you get too far down the line.
That’s all the advice I have for now. Good luck; I hope you find the right people!
For more answers,! 🙂
Dimi has a pretty great answer, but I think that we can go deeper to help you hire top candidates for your startup … faster, easier, and better.
Let’s enhance some of his tactics withbuilt for teams that would appreciate things like a free tier and a … soooooo, startups :).
- Talk to everyone you know
- Yep – at Breezy, we make it easy for the employees that you already have to
- Put an ad on
- Sure, you should actually post your ads everywhere that can, and Breezy makes it easy to with a single job description in just a few clicks
- Put an ad up on
- Same secondary bullet as above … 🙂 Also – while you’re at it – why not source people directly into your pipeline from sites like LinkedIn AngelList, Github and Xing? Our lets you do it in two clicks.
I’ve got a few more tips of my own that I outlined in this post:
But no need to go searching around, I don’t mind re-typing 😉
- Jump into forums, when & where you can. Slack is great for that, but remember that sometimes the original forum that spawned the Slack channel is more active.
- Also, consider what else separates your job from the masses – is it a Remote-only position? Try posting to job boards like and Again, this is just super-honing in on the audience that may be the most beneficial to you.
And don’t forget about your future here … hiring is never really a one-and-done situation, so make sure you’re tracking where your best candidates are coming from – that’s where Breezy’s built-income in.
We’ll let you know exactly which sources (paid, unpaid, social, referrals, whatever) are giving you your most successful candidates, so when it comes time to hire again, you don’t need to test out new places to find great people .. you’ll already know where to, uh, startup 🙂
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