6 min read

How To Build An Ideal Startup Team: What We've Learned

Natasha Harries
Natasha Harries April 22, 2021
How To Build An Ideal Startup Team

Test Candidates was established with the goal to revolutionise the recruitment process. For us, it was important that team members fully understood that mission. When scaling our team it is all about transparency, ambition and ownership.

Finding top talent with shared motivations, vision and the necessary skill set for any company, no matter its stage of growth, is tough. We approached scaling our team with one very clear philosophy: hire for attitude, train for skill.

Soft skills are perhaps more important than hard skills in a startup. Solid work ethic, resilience, flexibility and motivation are traits we look for.

To find candidates who are enthusiastic – and genuinely interested in your startup despite the challenges – is not easy.

Six things we've learned building a startup team

1. Your hiring process matters

Defining what is important to the business in terms of mission and values is essential and needs to be done long before the recruitment process begins. Have clear roles and responsibilities outlined, and ensure that the necessary skills for each of these roles have been clearly set out.

Networking is key when it comes to hiring for a startup. Hardworking, diligent and talented people tend to have business associations of the same calibre. If you're not sure exactly what or who you're looking for, it is likely someone else does.

Networking platforms are also an extremely powerful tool. Are your LinkedIn connections relevant to your field? Are you engaging with communities that are likely to contain your talent pool? Are you attending meetups? Hackathons?

Are you making your existing talent well known, so that their network is aware of their success within your startup?

Hiring for startups is 'everybody's job.' It is unlikely you have a dedicated in-house recruiter, nor do you particularly want to pay the fees of one. Look to set up a formal employee referral scheme in place to encourage colleagues to also be on the lookout for top talent.

Finally, get organised. The candidates you will be interacting with will be rare talent and very likely in process for more roles than just yours. Do not risk losing them by being haphazard about your recruitment process.

Lay out a clear number of stages and what exactly each stage will entail. Be clear as to when they will expect feedback and or a decision.

Do not mess around! No matter how busy you are, or what other areas of your business requires attention, you must make time to take care of the candidates involved.

2. Employer branding attracts talent

Often at the very beginning of a startup's journey, the only reputation a candidate has to go by is that of the founder(s) and existing team members, if any. So be sure to have a strong personal brand.

Be present on professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn. Ensure your company has a Glassdoor page (even if it is just you) so that they at the very least can see you are reputable and willing to be culpable.

If these professional platforms are not your style, make time to write up a personal blog, or draw attention to another project of yours that has been successful.

Your existing employees can also be a powerful tool when it comes to showcasing your brand. Ensure your existing team members are being showcased on your website. Invite them into interviews to allow your candidates a chance to get to know them and ask further questions.

Or get creative. You could share a video of them simply speaking about why they enjoy their role. What makes this startup a great place to work?

3. Build a diverse core team

You will not have a startup forever, so it is important to build a team you see being successful for the long term. Consider the long-term vision. What does the 'core team' look like and how will that core team look when you continue to grow? For example:

  • Product design and development
  • Customer service
  • Marketing and sales
  • Operations

Remember, you may not need an individual team member to represent every possible function. There is a lot of crossover between roles, particularly in the early stages.

Consider the functions required to give your business life, but that will also need to scale, or change over time and growth.

4. Candidate experience matters

The candidate experience is extremely important when hiring into a startup. In a smaller, more intimate company, any negative experience will leave a sour taste.

As already mentioned, when recruiting into your startup it is essential to get organised. Nothing is going to frustrate your candidates more than a disorganised, untimely and difficult-to-understand hiring process.

Be prompt; do not waste anybody's time. Be sure to review CVs thoroughly and in a timely manner. Give feedback and ensure it is genuine feedback that will help your candidate improve.

Be authentic. In advance of an interview, be sure to come armed with interesting questions that only apply to this individual. Pick something out of the CV and discuss it in more detail. If a candidate includes a personal bio, mention it.

Find some common ground. This is also a great method to relax your candidate. They will always perform better in an interview once the nerves have settled and you will gain a more accurate insight into their strengths.

5. Hire interns for your startup

hire interns for startup

Again, hire for attitude, train for skill. The very best talent will always be unemployed at least once in their professional life; immediately after finishing education.

Hiring interns is not only a cost-efficient way of hiring, but it is also likely that you will uncover some serious talent.

Many schools and universities have procedures in place that help you identify the most likely candidates that will work well within your startup. You can attend career fairs, advertise internship programmes or even offer work experience placements that may one day transform into full-time roles.

Interns will bring with them a thirst for knowledge. They will be keen to learn, to really get to know the 'world of business' inside out and will likely be the most dedicated member of staff you have. Not to mention they will possess the boundless energy every startup needs.

You can learn just as much from an intern as they can from you. After all, they're the future of the workplace and as a growing company, it is key that you stay 'on trend.'

6. Use recruitment software and tools

Using a hiring platform for startups is also a great way to improve the candidate experience. It can improve operations, streamline your hiring process and allow technology to do all of the hard work.

A psychometric testing platform such as Test Candidates not only frees up your time as the hiring manager, but it also helps eliminate unconscious bias and even provides your candidates with a user-friendly experience.

Natasha Harries
Natasha Harries April 22, 2021

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