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The Review

How do I avoid hiring the wrong people


If you’re ready to grow your startup team, you’ve probably heard about having “a plan and a process” to prevent your company from making hiring mistakes.

But what does that mean exactly? It’s clear that you need to know what you’re looking for, but how do you ‘hone your decision making’ or ‘hire for fit’?

Develop a “hiring philosophy”

Hiring for your startup is a positive sign that your venture is taking off. So congrats on doing something right. But before you hire anyone, identify what your company’s values are. What’s your startup’s mandate and what personal attributes you and your co-founder(s) do your employees have that contribute to it? Answering these questions might seem like a drag, but when you state your startup’s core values -kindness, attention to detail… teamwork anyone?- they can guide employee behaviour and in turn, help you set expectations on what traits your next hire should possess.

Hire for “fit”

It’s a concept that’s hard to define, but anyone can tell when a company’s office culture and their employees aren’t a good fit. For example, imagine having an open office environment that focuses on group work, but every employee is an introvert. At its core, cultural fit means making sure that employees’ behaviours are in sync with an employer’s values. It’s important to make sure the individual you’re looking to hire continues to balance the cultural scale.

Create a “structured interview process”

Interviews should always be (past) performance and competency-based. However, umbrella questions are only good to get the ball rolling, so make sure you get specific. For example, if you’re looking for a new sales rep, make sure you ask questions specific to their field like “how do you keep up-to-date on your target market?” or “explain something to me.” Having a set of specific questions for every sales candidate you interview will help you have a fair and structured interview, and will make it easier to decipher which one would be best suited for the job.

“Hone your decision making”

Be clear with your co-founders on what you’re looking for. If you’re about to interview a candidate together, make sure you’re all on the same page. Meet before the interview to make a list of a few words or points you both think the ideal candidate would touch on. You should also look at the first few tasks your new employee will be taking on in their role and ask yourself what skills they’d need to accomplish them. Your process of finding the right person for the job is only as strong as your ability to articulate what your startup is looking for.

Attitude vs. technical skills

When it comes to choosing between someone with a good work ethic versus the right skill set, it’s best to go with the first. Many technical skills can be taught, but behaviours such as an individual’s character traits would take much more time. If you want to make sure a candidate ‘fits’ your startup’s culture, give them a hypothetical social challenge to see how they go about solving it. Overall, when it comes to finding the right candidate, attitude is usually a better gauge than the right skill set. Don’t believe us? Ask someone who’s had an experience with choosing the opposite.