Outside of having a strong founding team and finding product market fit, hiring the right people at the right time is crucial in helping scale both from an operational and product perspective. I have spent the last few months recruiting for a product role and have learned a quite a lot through the process.
I have previously written about getting a job at a startup, but here are some more points to add from both sides of the table.
Culture: this is by far the MOST important factor of them all. You need to hire someone who is a cultural fit–If they are, the rest will come. Startups are tough and having a team member who does not fit with the rest of the team will cause a lot of stress for everyone involved. You will know almost immediately whether or not a candidate is a cultural fit. Another key is that having a team that is in sync with the culture will foster open and clear communication–a very important aspect at an early stage company.
Investment: The best way to think about your hiring strategy is to think about how VC’s approach investing in startups (ignoring the equity considerations). Metaphorically, with any new hire you are taking a risk and investing in them with the hope that they will come in and add value to your product and thereby positively impact your valuation.
Timing: It is really important to keep in mind timing for filling role. Outside of the obvious (funding and burn), you need to make sure you get the timing right so that the person you hire can hit the ground running and learn as quickly as possible. If you ask yourself can we hit our goals and milestones without additional help and answer yes, then you probably don’t NEED to hire someone.
Always be looking: The management team should always keep an eye open for talent, even when you aren’t actively hiring. We are always recruiting and have met same amazing people along the way, some of whom we who we will hire as we grow. It is very easy to get caught up in product, testing, customer dev, etc and ignore the talent search. Doing this also helps build relationships and a talent pipeline that you can turn to or open up to other startups that are looking for good people.
Nature of the role: Although it may be difficult to do, you need to clearly define the role in the short and long-term and make sure the current team is aware of this new role. Defining the role will send a positive message to the team, provide comfort and security in what they are currently doing and you will come across as organized and serious to both your team and potential candidates.
Network and Involvement: As I have written before, the best way to find a candidate and for a candidate to find you is through a warm introduction and relationship. Most agree that this is the best approach and candidates who are vouched for by those you trust will almost always get more consideration from those who aren’t. One thing we like to look at is also how involved he or she is in the startup community. Do they attend meetups? Do they have a blog or online presence? Do they show a deep interest in the industry? Have they built a strong reputation in the community?