Hiring for a startup isn’t quite the same as hiring for a large corporation.
Why? Because the type of person who can thrive in a startup is quite different from the person who would perform better in a corporation.
So the question is, how can we tell the difference?
Fortunately, this is something you can determine with some certainty during the interview.
Here’s how you can tell if your interviewee is ready to work at a startup.
Ask about management ideas
Regardless of which position you’re hiring for, ask your candidates what they might do to solve business problems.
You can ask about real-life scenarios, including how management in their current jobs could improve. Or you could create a hypothetical problem and ask the candidate what they would do.
In the interview, you’re going to be looking for creative problem-solving skills and a willingness to voice their opinions about potential solutions.
In a startup, employees traditionally have more of a say in the decision-making, which creates more of a team atmosphere.
Find out about their career aspirations
One of the biggest benefits of working for a startup is that employees typically have an easier time advancing in their careers. A startup employee may be able to get involved in areas that aren’t written in their job description. And they also have a greater chance of getting promoted than someone who is working for a larger corporation.
During your interview, you can outright ask if that’s something that’s important to the candidate. Career advancement may seem like something that would be desirable to all, but you may be surprised. Some people really do prefer to remain in one position for the duration of their careers. Some employees will never want to be responsible for more than they are when they’re hired. This alone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad fit for a startup, but someone who fears responsibility may actually prefer working in a large company where they can avoid the spotlight.
Look for lifelong learners
Because working for a startup means you can usually take a more active role in the company, lifelong learners tend to do well.
Anyone who is committed to learning is probably going to have more information to apply to various problems and situations on the job, and they are likely to be creative thinkers. A lifelong learner is also likely to take a more active role at the company over time. Because their skills are constantly increasing, they become more and more valuable to the startup.
Evaluate their passion
Since there are risks to working for a startup, it’s important that the candidates you’re interviewing are passionate. They should have a passion for the job that can counter the risks. For example, if someone is extremely passionate about advancing in their specific career, they may take a job at a company that’s not as established, so they can take on more responsibility and gain experience.
Another example: someone who previously worked as a Director of Finance may have the opportunity to work as a CFO at a startup. The trade-off is that the company isn’t as established, so job security isn’t high. But if they’re passionate about advancing in their career, they may accept the job to be able to add that title to their resume.
The good news is that passion is difficult to fake. You may even be able to see passion in a resume based on the language someone uses to describe their job and accomplishments. But you’ll definitely be able to tell during an in-person interview.
Get character references
Ask around to see if you can find others who can confirm this person’s character.
You’d be surprised what you can uncover by asking around. You could find out that one of your top candidates was questioned for theft or might be working through drug addiction turmoil in their lives.
Depending on the source, you may take the information with a grain of salt, but it’s always helpful to hear what others are saying.
Look for a self-starter
Motivation is extremely important in any job, and because every employee is crucial to the startup’s success, it’s a good idea to evaluate each candidate to see who might be a good fit.
Look for someone who has a history of success working independently on projects. Especially in today’s climate, many startup employees are going to be working from home. So it’s advisable to find someone who doesn’t need constant instruction or handholding.
Hiring for a startup has its own unique challenges, but if you ask the right questions and do the legwork, you can easily find someone who fits right in with your company culture.
When you do, be sure to explain the ups and downs of working for a startup, so there are no surprises.