Hiring for Your Tech Startup? Here's What You Need to Look For

In the booming tech industry, early stage startups have a lot to consider when it comes to hiring. Knowing who to bring in, and when, can make all the difference. The smaller your company is, the more each hire affects culture and performance. The most effective way to find candidates who will last, and more importantly, move up in the company, is to know what you are looking for. Startups are exciting places to work, centered on growth and innovation. They are also incredibly fast-paced and demand a lot of their employees. The biggest mistake early stage startups can make is hiring based on hard skills or years in the game, rather than soft skills or specific experience in hyper-growth companies. Without focusing on the key attributes required to succeed, your hires will burn out quickly and employee retention will be low.So what are those key attributes, and what kinds of candidates should your team be focused on? To make it in the competitive tech industry, you need a strong team. We talked to the recruiting experts at Syndicatebleu and compiled the 8 most important qualities to look for in a tech startup hire.

1. Someone Scrappy

Growing tech companies are working with smaller budgets and less resources than a larger company that is publicly traded or has a lot of funding. You need someone that has experience stretching budgets and getting the highest return with the smallest investment. Someone coming from a larger company may be used to working with million-dollar marketing budgets or expensive analytics software, as well as outsourcing to specialized agencies for things like SEO, content, and creative. An early stage startup won’t have that kind of money at the onset, and it’s on the employees to do most of the heavy lifting. In most cases, this hire will be a one-person team, or the first person in their role at the company, so they will be tasked with implementing new processes themselves. You want someone eager to start at the ground level, and willing to build their way up (without a coordinator or outsourced team to help).

2. Someone Adaptable

A growing tech company is constantly pivoting and changing strategy to be successful. Your goals in quarter one may not be your goals in quarter two because of market changes, new insights and advice from investors. A successful tech employee needs to be able to roll with the punches and pivot with ease. Target hires who have experience taking on unexpected challenges, pivoting successfully during huge market shifts, and taking on multiple roles. These are the kinds of candidates who will thrive in the unpredictable startup environment.

3. Someone with a Sense of Urgency

At larger, more established, companies, it takes 6 months to a year to implement large projects and strategies. The timeline is much shorter for a hyper-growth startup, and things that usually take months need to be completed in weeks. Candidates need to be comfortable working quickly, efficiently, and innovatively in order to meet deadlines. Coupled with this, the culture at many early stage startups is to put long hours in now, anticipating the payoff of your hard work later. Candidates should be passionate about the product or service, and willing and motivated to work beyond the typical 9 - 6 workday in order to get things done.

4. Someone Collaborative

It is not uncommon for a larger company to have 20+ employees in each department, all working somewhat independently. At early stage tech startups, most departments -  think product, marketing, sales, engineering, customer success - only have 2 or 3 people. For this reason, startup employees are forced to collaborate and work closely together in order to succeed. The ideal candidate will understand how product affects marketing, and marketing affects sales, and how it’s all interconnected. People who can communicate well with other teams, and work collaboratively with their own, will be the most successful.

5. Someone Self-sufficient

As stated above, at a tech startup, most hires will be the first or second in their particular department. There is no blueprint to work off of; they will have to write the blueprint themselves. A typical early stage startup will see a Head of Marketing who reports directly to the CEO, and their two job functions are entirely separate. Meaning, the Head of Marketing needs to have complete ownership over their side of the business and not wait to be told what to do. You need someone that has experience running teams, programs and campaigns on their own. During the interview, ask candidates what their 30, 60, and 90 day plans would be and what their ideal KPIs look like. This will give you a good indication of whether or not they can work independently and run their department solo.

6. Someone Growth-minded

A company in Series A to C funding rounds needs to grow quickly in order to survive. New and existing investors want to see impressive month-over-month growth, and your next round of funding may depend on just a few key figures - such as revenue or user growth. A lot of startups make the mistake of hiring great leaders too early. They hire people with amazing ideas who want to spend time ideating and conducting user research, but those hires ultimately don’t work out. You need someone who can focus on actionable, tangible strategies that bring in immediate results. Of course, your hire should still be able to think long-term and holistically, but knowing when to prioritize quick growth is key.

7. Someone Versatile

The truth is: working at a high-growth company means doing things beyond the initial job description. When something needs to be done, whoever is available will be asked to lend a hand. A sales leader may be asked to write content. An engineer may be asked to do a user study. Your hires need to be multi-faceted. The name of the game is versatility. When looking for candidates, remember, at the onset, your teams will be lean. Focus on hiring generalists instead of specialists at the earlier stages. Don’t worry, they can get more segmented as the company grows.

8. Finally, Someone Fearless

Working at a tech startup is an inherent risk. It might fail. But it’s high risk, high reward. You need people who not only understand this, but are excited by it. These types of employees will be motivated to take risks of their own, try new things, and get creative. Startups need that energy of hustle and innovation to succeed. You need someone who will step up to the plate when things get tough, not jump ship.  Even tech giants like Apple and Amazon almost failed in the early days - but having dedicated teams propelled them to where they are today. Hiring in the early stages of your tech startup can be scary; there is so much to consider. Luckily, the recruiting experts at Syndicatebleu are well versed in the nuances of the dynamic tech industry, and are ready to assist you in creating a hiring strategy. The right team can make or break you in this industry, and we have a curated pool of talented and innovative candidates to recommend. Let us help you design the perfect match. Get in touch today.

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Founded in 1981 by Susan Levine, Career Group Companies was created to set a higher standard for recruiting. For over four decades, we’ve partnered with our valued candidates and clients to cultivate perfect career matches for administrative, creative, fashion, events, and executive professionals at top companies nationwide.

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