12 Tips for Startup Founders Preparing to Hire Their First Employee

December 27, 2016

12:45 pm

There’s a lot of pressure surrounding your first hire. Consider this advice before signing on the dotted line:

Question: What is one tip you’d give another founder who is preparing to hire their first employee?

Hire Someone That Loves Your Product/Service

“The single most important thing to look for in hiring a first employee — or any early employee — is that they love your product and buy into your mission.  I don’t care how smart the next guy is, what his degree is in, if he’s better looking or if he’s a pro golfer. Any differences in intelligence, experience and communication skills will always be overcome by passion.”

Take Your Time

“Your first employee is going to be absolutely instrumental in the development of your company and it is critical that you take the time needed to bring in the right employee. Carefully vet and screen all candidates.”

Hire for Your Weaknesses

“We each have strengths and weaknesses. Hire your first employee to balance out the things you don’t do very well, so it’s easier for you to learn to delegate. Hate answering the phone? Find someone who’s a charming receptionist. Proposals take you hours every day? Look for a sales contract whiz.”

Favor Potential Over Experience

“If you only focus solely on experience, you are going to be disappointed. Look for potential: do they posses motivation and have that burning desire to be part of something amazing? That type of individual can be far more valuable to your company than someone that just looks good on paper. I’ll take someone that shows potential over someone that only looks good on a resume any day.”

Establish a Test Period

“It’s very difficult to judge character or performance after a few interviews. I quickly learned to establish a test/observation period before the hiring is official. This way you can get to know the person, see them in action, see how they work with you and determine if they are the right fit. If not, it’s easy to replace them with someone else without much loss.”

Don’t Rush

“Desperate to find help, founders may find themselves rushing to hire an employee, but it’s one of the worst things an employer can do, especially when hiring the first employee. Fit is an important thing when it comes to workplace culture. Make sure they fit the company’s needs and that they mesh with your personality, because imbalance just leads to lost productivity.”

Loop In Your Stakeholders First

“Do a kickoff meeting with all stakeholders before starting the search. Unless you get alignment from all stakeholders on the job description, responsibilities, interviewers, reporting structure and other filters, you’ll likely hire the wrong person or get all the way to the end of the process and not end up hiring the right person due to misalignment.”

Check for Resourcefulness

“Aside from experience, the main attribute to look for in your first hire, especially in a startup, is resourcefulness. You want someone by your side that will be able to figure out situations and problem solve throughout the way. This will make your journey to success a little less stressful.”

Have Clear Expectations and Training

“Always clearly define roles and expectations. Make sure they know the result you are looking to achieve with them, and take the time to properly train and onboard them.  “

Do Their job Before Hiring

“In order to manage the expectations for both yourself and your hire, you should do the job before any hiring decision is made. During the onboarding process, be sure to work very closely with them so they really get to know what you built the business on. Your new hire will be set up for success and be able to take that job to new heights. “

Incentivize Them Like a Founder

“When you hire your first employee, I recommend incentivizing them like a founder: low salary and high equity. Ensure that they have the right mentality of being in it for the long-run. See whether they’re willing to make sacrifices and be uncomfortable, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride in the early stages of any startup. Our first employees are now senior leaders who fully embody our culture.”

Find Someone With a Tenacious Attitude

“In the initial stages, you’ll need someone ready to hold on during the wild ride of building a company. If they’ve demonstrated a willingness to work hard in past positions, then you can feel secure that they can handle large, small and unexpected tasks.”

This article is courtesy of BusinessCollective, featuring thought leadership content by ambitious young entrepreneurs, executives & small business owners.

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC members generate billions of dollars in revenue and have created tens of thousands of jobs.

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