How to hire the right people for your start-up – StartupSmart

We all know about the ‘war for talent’ and the importance of getting the right people to join your team, but in a start-up it can make all the difference between whether you succeed or fail.


Particularly in the early days, the days are long, the budgets are tight and the chances are if you’re lucky enough to be drawing a salary, it will be small, as profits are put back into the business. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over half of businesses fail within three years in Australia, so it’s important you hire the right people to give your business the best possible chance.


I set up the Zendesk Melbourne office in 2011 with two people that I had hired over the phone: a salesperson and a customer support person. Since that time we’ve grown to 30 people in Australia and 45 across the Asia-Pacific region. Next year we will double that number. It doesn’t matter who you’re hiring, here are a few things to consider:


1. Hire for attitude


You might be running a technology start-up, having developed some incredible software that is set to transform businesses all over the world. The potential candidate doesn’t need to know everything about the technology or your market, they just need to have the right attitude and you need to be confident they’ll get the job done. You don’t need ‘thinkers’, particularly in the start-up phase, you need doers, and lots of them.


2. Find the self-starters


Hire people who don’t necessarily have the ambition to run their own company, but have a high self-esteem, who push your organisation to do right by your customers, and take pride in seeing a job done well. People talk about team players, and it’s important the candidate can work in a team, particularly as there aren’t too many places to hide as a start-up. You need people, particularly in sales roles, who can motivate themselves, take the knocks and get straight back up again.


3. Forget the questions


My hiring routine for many years has been to meet candidates at the office and talk about our company while introducing them to various members of the team. I learn a lot from first impressions, especially from how and who the candidates choose to interact with, and perhaps the intimidating experience of running up and down stairs with me talking. Then it’s coffee time, with a couple of slightly left-of-field questions, to see again how they react. I have only ever scared one candidate away.


4. Be flexible with the role


As start-ups and business owners, you wear many different hats, so it’s important to define the role you want your candidate to fulfil initially, but also for them to understand that it will evolve. Do they understand what the job involves? Have you been honest with them about what your expectations are? And that they can influence and make their own role as the company grows? So many businesses will embark on a search but won’t determine who they’re looking for. The candidate might be able to fulfil the role but would they fit culturally in your organisation?


5. Don’t settle


It’s tempting to hire someone because they’re available and you need someone as soon as possible. But don’t settle. Be sure that you think they’re the best person for the job and your start-up and if they’re not, you might need to so some additional work to ensure you find the right person. Good people and great people make all the difference.


6. Have some fun


It’s important to have fun, so take a break and ensure your team enjoys their work. Nobody can sustain working all hours around the clock. It’s important to take a break, have a beer and recharge. Your team are your best ambassadors for your company, so if they’re enjoying their work, chances are they’ll tell someone about it and that person could be your next superstar hire.


Michael Folmer Hansen is vice president and Asia Pacific managing director at cloud-based customer service software provider, Zendesk.

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