As an entrepreneur, interviewing and hiring the right people for your team is one of the most critical decisions you make as you get your company off the ground. And in the early days of a startup, it’s also one of the most difficult.
When you’re juggling 10 items at once, working to secure funding, wearing multiple hats, and trying to convince others to believe in you, making time to introduce someone new to your business, let alone interview them, can be overwhelming and scary. And a finding someone with the right skill sets who can be successful in an unknown, unproven environment, is another challenge in and of itself.
Whether you’re interviewing for an assistant, a VP of Sales, or a co-founder, there are certain traits you’ll want to identify during the selection process to make sure your new team member will help you and your business thrive.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to realize that anyone you bring on board early on, you’re going to have to relinquish a bit of control to in order to free your time to focus on other items, and with that comes trust. Do you trust the person you are inviting to join your team? Sometimes this is a gut feeling we get, but trusting our instincts can often lead us down rabbit holes of regret.
One way to establish trust in a person is to gain a better understanding of the responsibilities they previously held. How much autonomy have they had in prior positions? Were they put in charge of work or projects that weren’t originally part of their job description? Were they privy to classified information?
Allow the applicant to give you specific examples of responsibility they’ve taken on in the past and how they handled it. You can also take this one step further and ask these questions of their references, too.
While most people won’t have as much passion as you do about your company, you don’t want to hire someone who’s just looking for a pay check or a day job. The people who are going to help make your company successful are those that will live and breathe the work alongside of you because it’s motivating.
Money may be a motivating factor in their work, but it should not be the motivating factor–if it is, they may not stick around long enough to see the fruits of their labor.
Whether they have passion around your product or services, the work environment, or the opportunity, there should be something that excites them about working with you and you should find this out in the interview. And make sure that what they’re passionate about aligns with the values of your startup.
Many people confuse passion and drive. Passion is the emotion inside of you, but drive is the force behind it. You can have passion without being driven, but you can’t be driven without the passion to motivate you to succeed. Startups are risky, you need people by your side who don’t mind taking risks and who aren’t afraid of failure. Because there will be times when you or they fail or make the wrong decisions or the skies ahead look bleak.
People that are driven will keep their heads up looking beyond the gray clouds for that one ray of sunshine to carry them through. And if they do hit that wall and have to stand down, they look for other paths around it. They’re never quite satisfied with the status quo.
But how do you identify someone who’s driven? Ask them about negative situations they came across and how they dealt with them. Did they make the most of it or did they just give up? Did they learn something from the situation and grow and apply the knowledge in the future or did they just shrug it off and blame someone else with no resolution?
Creativity isn’t relegated to only those people in artistic types of roles. If you look up creativity, it can be defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods or interpretations.
As an entrepreneur, you want to surround yourself with people who embody this thought. While it’s okay to operate sometimes under the adage ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’, your original team needs to be able to see new paths forward, create new solutions, and re-vamp old ideas.
After all, that’s in part why you’re venturing to start a new company, because you had a fresh idea you wanted to build on. And because you don’t have all the resources of a big corporation, you have to maintain lean operations and get creative with your team on how to move the company forward within your means.
It can be enticing to hire someone who has worked for a big name company, led a large division, or held a fancy title, but is that person also willing to grab coffee for the team, take out the trash, or negotiate with vendors? Are they open to departing from their nine to five routine for a ‘do whatever it takes’ schedule or giving up their corner office for a temporary make-shift desk? If yes, fantastic, but be sure when you’re interviewing candidates that they know what sort of ride they’re in for.
If your company is in its infancy, it should be expected that everyone chips in where they can and take on multiple roles until the company is able to grow and positions can be streamlined. And you should prepare them that the position they were hired for could very well change into something else over time as the company develops its identity in the market place. There are no guarantees in a startup, nothing is set in stone, and a company can only be as flexible as the people within it.
Every person you hire doesn’t necessarily have to have all of these traits in equal parts, but they should encompass enough of each trait to compliment your own and those of your current team. You may have a hundred other items vying for your attention at all times, but the interview is not a place where you want to skimp on identifying the right talent.
If you can single out the potential employees who have these traits beyond just the skills necessary to do the job, you decrease your chance of problems such as employee turnover or lost productivity due to missed expectations and job fit, and you increase your chance at creating a thriving environment for your company to prosper.