I was recently invited to share my startup journey at the #Startup Grind by former b-school mate & founder of #StartupPartners Mahesh Kabra. And during the Q&A, he happened to ask me how I went about hiring the ‘right’ people for my startup team.
While I jokingly said to him that I subscribe to the ‘hire & pray’ school of thinking – because there is no real way to tell if the person that you are hiring will be the right choice for your team in the long run – that got me thinking about what actually we look for, consciously or unconsciously, when we evaluate people to join us in our startup journey.
So here’s my list of the top 3 attributes that I hire for:
Hire a Believer
Founders are hustlers – we’re constantly selling people our vision…our dream…our unsubstantiated belief that we will achieve our vision/dream 🙂 – and more than anyone, it is important that your team believes in the dream that you’re dreaming.
Related Article: Five Lessons From My Startup Journey
Whenever I meet or interview people and tell them about my startup, I always start with the problem that I set out to solve – of helping people regain control over their weight & their bodies – and I wait eagerly for that answering sparkle in their eyes.
I wait to see if they ‘see’ the problem too and believe that it is one worth solving. And you can always tell when your vision or idea excites someone – they listen more closely, lean in, get more animated, contribute instances from their lives and basically bond with you. That, for me, is the first sign that this person is a believer & could potentially walk the walk with me.
Hire for Dependability
Any business, and most especially a startup is about ‘getting work done’. And most often, the work is painful, unexciting and not glamorous by any stretch of imagination. In such situations, while founders have to soldier on, early employees often wonder what they’ve signed on for.
And this is the time that a solid work ethic of dependability & sincerity is invaluable – people who will struggle with their conscience before letting you down. People who will stay up nights and feel guilty about leaving a job undone. People to whom you can handover something and know that it will be done – no matter what – and if it cannot be done, that the person will warn you well in advance that it can’t be done and why.
Finding this is like finding a pot of gold but it’s not as rare as you imagine. It can also be encouraged as a quality by making such early employees your team-leads, so that they set an example for the rest of their team & also subtly indicate the qualities that are valued within your team.
Hire for Staying Power
I am always wary about hiring jumpers – people with 4-8 months experience in multiple organisations before mine. While one or two such stints may be a coincidence, more than two raise my eyebrows.
Startups are about hanging in there when the going gets tough. And delivering against unimaginable odds, day after day, without getting daunted. I can’t afford to have people who get bored, or scared or both. I’d rather have someone unimaginative and dependable, who will plod stolidly on and not think too much about all the many things that can go wrong – than someone creative, excitable and nervous, whose nerves I spend most of my time soothing.
In conclusion, I still subscribe to the ‘hire & pray’ approach because it is difficult to identify these traits in an initial few meetings. But I strongly believe that finding the ‘right’ people is not that difficult – because when the smoke clears, they will be the people left standing by your side 🙂
Happy hiring, folks! May all your problems be good ones…