Starting a new business is exhilarating. You have a great idea, you’ve done your market research, and you’re ready to bring your vision to life. But as many founders quickly realize, hiring the right people can make or break your startup.
Established companies have systems in place to manage the hiring process. For startups, it can feel like you’re navigating uncharted waters.
Hiring is both an art and a science. You need to identify candidates that not only have the right skills but also fit your company culture. It takes time to find the perfect match. And when you’re a young company, time is especially precious. The lack of resources compounds the pressure.
To set your startup up for success, you need to be strategic about recruiting and hiring. Avoid these common pitfalls that many founders encounter. With some planning and creativity, you can build an all-star team to turn your big idea into reality.
Not Having a Clear Hiring Process
When you’re initially building your startup, roles and responsibilities can feel fluid. But as you begin hiring employees, you need structure and consistency. Taking a scattershot approach leads to making rushed decisions or hiring candidates that seem promising but end up not being a good fit.
Creating a hiring process forces you to think through what skills and qualities you need for each role. This helps you assess each candidate accurately and fairly. You should outline:
- Where you’ll source candidates
- How you’ll screen resumes
- Who will conduct the interviews and what questions you’ll ask
- Parameters for salary and benefits
- Timeline for decision making
Document the process so other team members can follow it when it’s time to fill positions. This ensures you’re all on the same page.
Bringing on employees is a huge investment. With a hiring process, you’ll spend time upfront to avoid costly hiring mistakes down the road.
Rushing to Make Hires
It’s tempting to want to hire fast when you’re getting your business off the ground. You need people in your seats to move your ideas forward. But if you prioritize speed over finding the right fit, you likely end up with hires that don’t work out.
Rushing through hiring means you may not take the time to thoroughly vet candidates. Without a complete picture, it’s harder to assess their abilities and cultural fit.
Particularly in the early days, every person you bring on has an outsized impact and influence. One wrong hire can be a major setback.
Be patient and allow enough time in your hiring process. Vet each candidate thoroughly across multiple interviews. Have them complete working interviews or simulations to directly assess their skills.
It may feel painful to keep a position open while you search for the perfect fit. But the short-term sacrifice will pay off exponentially when you find someone who propels your startup forward.
Trying to Do It All In-House
When starting a company, it’s tempting to keep everything contained. You want to do as much in-house as possible to retain control and avoid spending precious funds.
But for critical functions like hiring, working with external experts is wise. Recruiters have connections to extensive networks you lack access to. They can quickly source qualified candidates tailored to your specialized needs.
Particularly for executive hires, a seasoned recruiter’s input during the hiring process is invaluable. They know how to assess senior leadership roles that will heavily influence your startup’s trajectory.
You can also bring on an HR consultant to refine your hiring process and advise you on best practices. They can ensure you’re compliant on legal matters so missteps don’t come back to bite you.
Think strategically about where it makes sense to pay for outside expertise versus keeping things internal. You can’t be an expert on everything as a founder.
Neglecting Candidate Experience
When you list a job opening, you’re going to get an influx of interest. In your haste to fill the role, it’s easy to overlook the experience you deliver to applicants.
But you need every touch point with candidates to reflect well on your startup. An outstanding candidate experience boosts your employer brand as you look to make future hires.
Be prompt in acknowledging applications and scheduling interviews. Communicate clearly on the next steps and give rejected candidates closure.
If a candidate takes time off work or travels for an interview, cover their expenses. Send follow-up thank you notes after interviews.
Treating applicants well, even if they aren’t the right fit, pays dividends. They may refer friends or colleagues for future openings. Or they may apply again themselves if the timing is better down the road.
Not Prioritizing Culture Fit
Hiring someone with all the right skills for a role seems like the primary goal. But an equally important consideration is how well their work style and personality fit your culture.
Otherwise, they may check all the boxes on paper but their mindset and values aren’t aligned. Over time, these culture-clashing hires wear on morale and disrupt operations.
Culture fit goes beyond shared interests like being fans of the same sports team. Look at work ethic, communication style, growth mindset, leadership philosophy, and ability to accept feedback.
Discuss your startup’s cultural values and ask probing questions to assess alignment. Evaluate which qualities are non-negotiable versus areas with room for differences.
You want diversity of thought and backgrounds on your team. But cooperation and working effectively together require some fundamental shared values. Don’t underestimate the importance of cultural fit.
Moving Too Slowly
On the flip side, you can’t let the hiring process drag on indefinitely. At a certain point, you need to make a call or the role stays open. Leadership roles in particular have cascading effects if left unfilled.
Set expectations upfront on your timeline for hiring. Communicate clearly with candidates so they know where they stand.
If you have more than one promising candidate, compare them side by side. Look at not just their credentials but also their leadership presence and strategic thinking. Trust your instincts once you have sufficient data.
Don’t get stuck planning to keep sourcing candidates or adding extra interviews after you already have strong options. At some point, you need to take a leap. An employee who checks 75% of the boxes and can start right away often beats the elusive perfect candidate.
Micromanaging New Hires
You’ve put in the hard work to find a great new hire. But your job isn’t done once they start. They need the right environment to ramp up and thrive.
It’s tempting as a founder to look over the shoulder of new employees, especially if they fill an important role. But micromanaging hires prevents them from reaching their potential.
Give them plenty of initial training and resources. But also grant them autonomy to perform and use their best judgment.
Set clear goals and metrics for success. Then step back and let them work. You hired them for their skills and experience. Trust them to do the job.
Micromanaging experienced hires increases turnover. Give them space to use their capabilities and see the impact they can make.
Skimping on Employer Branding
Your startup’s brand typically focuses on your products or services for customers. However, employer branding for candidates is equally crucial.
In competitive talent markets, you need a compelling employer brand to stand out. This includes your careers site, job posts, social media presence, and recruitment marketing materials.
Clearly communicate your startup’s purpose, values, and impact. Feature team member stories and culture touchpoints.
A strong employer brand makes top talent seek you out, rather than only passive candidates responding to your job posts. It also builds goodwill for future recruiting.
Invest time and resources into thoughtful employer branding, even as a young company. Target it to the types of candidates you aim to attract.
Avoiding Tough Conversations
Managing people doesn’t always come naturally, especially when you’re used to technically focused founder roles. But improving your management skills pays enormous dividends.
Having direct but thoughtful conversations avoids misunderstandings festering with employees. Tackle conflicts or performance issues head-on before they spiral.
Feedback shouldn’t just flow top-down either. Solicit input from your team and be open-minded to hearing their perspective.
Coaching others takes patience and empathy. Admit when you make a mistake rather than stubbornly clinging to a viewpoint.
If an employee consistently struggles in a role, parting ways may ultimately be needed. But not after having transparent discussions to resolve issues first.
Developing management skills builds trust and loyalty. Employees that feel heard will go the extra mile for your startup.
Struggling with Remote Hiring
The pandemic necessitated remote work and hiring for many startups. Even as things return to normal, remote may still be a reality, especially for finding niche skill sets.
Hiring remotely has its challenges. Body language and other interpersonal cues can be lost over video. Distractions at home can derail interviews.
But there are strategies to make the process run smoothly. Send candidates video interview questions ahead of time so they can practice and submit polished responses.
Have them complete a small paid project to directly demonstrate their abilities. And coordinate virtual meetings with the team for different perspectives.
It takes some adjustments but strong remote candidates are out there. Widen your aperture beyond your geographical area to access them. Leverage tools like task management software and mentorship programs to train and collaborate.
Moving Too Fast Expanding the Team
The exhilaration of growth and new opportunities can cause founders to want to scale teams rapidly. But fast growth comes with its own headaches.
Too many new hires at once strain your ability to train and assimilate them. Existing team members get overwhelmed managing influxes.
Set deliberate team expansion goals based on what your current resources and bandwidth reasonably allow. Moving too fast reduces cohesion and quality.
Resist pressure to match the size of much larger competitors. Stay focused on what your startup does uniquely well, not conforming to outside expectations.
Steady sustainable team growth keeps culture and productivity intact. Be selective and strategic about adding roles chosen to address your specific bottlenecks and challenges.
Hiring with limited resources and experience creates growing pains for startups. But taking it slow, learning as you go, and fixing mistakes quickly will set you up for success as the team expands.
Leverage experts like recruiters and HR consultants to augment your efforts. Be adaptable to remote hiring and ongoing changes in the market for talent.
Above all, treat each candidate as a potential ambassador for your startup. A focus on excellence throughout the hiring process builds your reputation and momentum.
So there you have it – the top hiring hurdles facing startups and how to jump over them. With the right strategy and mindset, you can build an all-star cast even on a startup budget. Here’s to growing your dream team.