There’s no atmosphere quite like that of a startup. The future is filled with big possibilities, while working with a small group of colleagues gives you a feeling of camaraderie that’s almost impossible to find in established companies.
Achieving that sense of optimism and rapport requires hiring the right people. Here are four qualities that separate the real deals from the wannabes:
1. They buy into your vision.
Your employees should evince at least some excitement about the mission and vision of your fledgling company. You can determine whether they possess this quality during the interview process.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re developing an app that will help ordinary people choose their ideal overseas vacation. For lots of folks this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you want to make sure that they wring every last drop of pleasure from the experience.
Ask your prospective hire why they want to work for you. If they say they’ve been dreaming of helping ordinary people choose their ideal overseas vacation since childhood, they’re obviously kissing your behind and you shouldn’t take this as a sign that they’re stoked about your product.
The important thing is that they get why your product could be useful to others, and that they’re enthusiastic about teaming up with you to bring it to life. Candidates who could take it or leave it–it’s just a job like any other–won’t have the kind of relentless energy necessary for getting a new business off the ground.
2. They’re easy to get along with.
I don’t know about you, but I like being happy at work. A significant part of my enthusiasm has to do with the simple fact that I genuinely enjoy the people I work with.
Try to hire people whose personalities click with your own. This doesn’t mean that you should share the same hobbies and favorite movies; it just means that you can see yourself spending eight hours a day with them.
Keep your other employees in mind as well. One bad apple can spoil a whole barrel, and a new hire clashing with an established team isn’t something that a startup can afford.
You’ll have to trust your intuition, and you’ll certainly not be correct in your assessments 100 percent of the time. Invite your prospective hire to meet the rest of the team, so that you can have the benefit of their insight, too.
3. Where you’re inferior, they’re superior.
Getting along is important, but you never want to surround yourself with a bunch of clones. I once had a colleague who would only hire yes-men–employees who were replicas of himself, right down to their ideas, sense of humor, and even the way they looked.
It engendered the most stifling, boring environment I’ve ever had the misfortune to work in. It also limited what we were capable of achieving as a company, because the replicas were busy pleasing my colleague rather than seizing opportunities to grow.
Employing a copy of yourself merely duplicates your blind spots and weaknesses. Employ people who are strong where you are weak and who supplement your blind spots with 20/20 vision instead.
To achieve this goal, create a list of your entrepreneurial shortcomings. Ruthlessly identify the gaps in your knowledge and skillset. Figure out where you’re not particularly great or terrible, but just kind of meh. Keep this list in mind as you interview prospective hires, and prioritize those who complement your style versus showering you with compliments.
4. They know how to multitask.
When I started my company, Nav, we could fit the entire crew into a single smallish room. There was so much to do, and never enough time to do it. There were days when growing to our current size, with over 100 employees organized into well-managed teams, seemed like a hopeless pipe dream.
Each of us had to adopt the attitude that there was no task too big or too small for us to take on. We had to be ready to wear whatever hat was needed at the moment, regardless of whether it was a comfortable fit.
The ability to multitask was a must. We had an advantage in that most of us had previous involvement with startups, which is usually a good sign that a person can handle doing multiple things at once.
Ask prospective hires to give you examples of when they’ve juggled numerous tasks successfully, but pay just as much attention to their resumes. A history of working for startups, along with glowing references from the latter, is a sign that you’ve struck gold.