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Top 10 Ideal First Hires For Your Startup

Written by Judit Alvarez

on April 25, 2022

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Judit Alvarez

10 Ideal First Hires For Your Startup

One of the most significant steps in the life of any startup (and its founders) is the first hire. The first time a real employee – other than the co-founders – is brought on board, many things change in a company. The co-founders are no longer in it just for themselves, they are also employers now. 

Hiring your first employee is an important step so you better be well-prepared. Finding and recruiting new members for your team is challenging: “Who should you hire for your startup?” and “And who should you not hire?” It’s well-known that teams either make or break startup success. Today, we are going to talk about 10 types of candidates that can be the ideal first hire for your startup

Hiring the 3Hs: the Hacker, the Hustler and the Hipster

You might have already come across a well-known typology that describes 3 different types of startup employees. The 3Hs – the hacker, the hustler and the hipster. The hacker is of course your coder/programming genius. The hustler is your business developer, sales & marketing expert who follows up and closes deals. The hipster on the other hand is your creative thinker, whether a designer, copywriter or something else, is the one who gives your business the creative spin needed to reach the market. The 3Hs reflect perfectly three main areas to be considered for hires: tech, sales and creative. But although skills are needed personality is king in the startup world and here are the ones that you should consider:

  • The Self-Starting Drop-out

I know what you are thinking. A university dropout may not be the most suitable hire. But look at what else they are doing. You may want to remember what Bill Gates, Muriel Siebert, Elon Musk, and Elizabeth Arden all have in common. That’s right! They were self-starting drop-outs. Among your applications, you might find drop-outs that have self-started with various initiatives, projects, or ventures on their own. Give them a chance and invite them in. Ask them what they have done. Be curious. Learn more about their motivation. Most likely you will hear about their passion for doing something “for themselves”. While this may not be the most promising motivation for a corporate employee, it can be a great sign of a motivated startup team member.

  • The Unconventional graduates

Hiring fresh out of school is common for startups. After all, startups don’t always need someone with many years of working experience. Rather they need someone who is ambitious, driven, and wants to prove their skills and potential. As a short keyword analysis on Google reveals, many fresh university graduates explicitly search for startups. They can make great startup hires because they are eager to show their abilities. However, when you receive their applications, keep an eye out for the unconventional ones: The kind of graduate that might already have done their project. Look for entrepreneurial aspirations in their CV. Maybe they have been self-employed before? Worked while they were studying – not only the classical internships. Ask them about their motivation and why are they looking into startups instead of corporate careers?

  • The Failed Founder

The failed founder lives and breathes the startup spirit. They’ve been there, done that and are intimately familiar with the sacrifice, sweat, and tears. They even know and have experienced the “failure” and frustration of not succeeding with one’s venture. Not frequently but sometimes you might find a “failed founder” that wants to join your startup team. More so than in American mentality, Europeans may be cautious to give a failed founder another chance. In Europe, we too often see somebody who failed once with their company as being a bad entrepreneur. The truth is however that success studies have revealed time and time again most highly successful startup founders started and crashed several ventures before they launched their fortune-making ones. Working with a failed founder can be a massively enriching and valuable experience. You have someone on your team that might have gone through many of the things already that you are still about to experience. What a treasure! 

The vast majority of “failed founders” go back to corporate jobs after their one-time-venture-adventure. It’s only the passionate and driven entrepreneur types that keep coming back. The failed founder knows what they are getting themselves into. You won’t have to worry about employee retention in your startup with this one. 

  • The Ambitious Assistant

Hiring an administrative assistant as your first employee can also be a very wise decision. As a founder, you already have more than enough work on your hands. An assistant can take work off your shoulders and free you up for what you should maybe be doing the most: raising funds, building your network and valuable connections, and developing your business. But don’t just hire any assistant. Hire an ambitious assistant. They can go beyond taking work off your shoulders to take on additional tasks that your business needs to grow. Maybe they have specific talents or prior experience that can come in handy. While most of their work should be spent handling typical administrative tasks like scheduling and documentation, they may be able to deliver more than that. The right assistant can come on board and bring stability and well-proven processes to a corporate environment. After all, the startup grind is hard and chaotic enough.

  • The DIY Devotee

This employee is known for their character – doing all kinds of things themselves, finding all kinds of crazy solutions and hacking problems. They put up the big window garden boxes to grow salad in the office or tweak their laptop stand to suit their needs perfectly. You want a DIY devotee because in the early days you just don’t have the resources to delegate everything to a specialist. So a flexible talent with a DIY attitude will (have to) make ends meet. The DIY Devotee are the type of person you can give any task to and know: they are going to figure out how and get the job done.

  • The Motivated Mentee

The motivated mentee is a very special and unique type of first hire for your startup. There aren’t many of them out there, which makes them so extraordinary to encounter. What sets this type of employee apart is their motivation. They are not just looking for a job, or a “startup gig”. Their ambition is not driven by professional desire alone. The motivated mentee – as the title suggests – is looking to work for a mentor. Somebody who will challenge them, share experience and knowledge with them, and make them grow by presenting them with new tasks and situations. They realize that the best and fastest way to grow personally and professionally is to have a great mentor. For the opportunity to work for such, they will go the extra mile. There are a couple of things to point out about the motivated mentee. The working relationship with such an employee may be different than with any other employee, but it will very rewarding and special. Mentorship is a process that benefits both parties. While mentees get to learn on the fast track and grow quickly, mentors get to pass on their knowledge and reflect on their own experiences. They will deliver flawless and passionate execution, not sweating the small things or details. Mentor them and share with them your experience, because they look up to you. You spot them by asking for their motivation during the job interview.

  • The Community Connector

The vast majority of startups have their offices in co-working spaces and/or startup hubs. There are many reasons for that, but one of them is their network. The community connector is the kind of person that thrives in such coworking spaces and hubs. They are engaged in multiple hubs, take part in startup competitions, hardly ever miss a networking session, and can be seen at every startup event in town. While they can bring many valuable skills to the table, the most valuable one may be their contacts. They know other startups, potential investors, beta users and sample clients. The community connector lives and breathes the startup spirit. Naturally, this person probably does best in the sales & marketing or business development field where they can put their network to use for the company’s and their benefit. Moreover, the connector types may be able to refer to other great team members. They might be the perfect first hire if you are the introverted type who does not necessarily enjoy networking. 

  • The Geeky Genius

The geek may not be the most popular person on the team, they may not be the social wizard, but they sure know their stuff and facts. Many of the greatest founders and startup entrepreneurs out there are geeky geniuses. They are known for their deep passion for their field. It is their passion that gives them the strength to overcome the challenges and hurdles of entrepreneurship. Allow them to share their passion with you and they will be very thankful for it – and the investment in them will repay itself many times over. When geeks get to follow their passion, they become truly unstoppable hustlers.

  • The Nerdy Knows-It-All

Yes, nerds aren’t always the greatest people to be around. Their constant smart-assing, their fact-sharing, and suggestions can make them a bit annoying. But at least they know their stuff. And not just their stuff. It seems they know it all! Being nerdy is a way of life. (Nerds differ from geeks by the way in their strong achievement orientation and in being more studious than necessarily passionate about what they study.).The nerd is deeply driven by his curiosity combined with a certain compulsive desire to know it all. They gather facts, they suck up information and meticulously study details and be sure to remember them for the long term. These are all traits you want to have on your startup team! 

Nerds are typically very detail-oriented and conscientious people. They don’t sweat the details, they see the nuances and subtleties other people tend to overlook. This can be especially valuable for the busy startup every day in which you as the founder may sometimes be too busy and at risk of overlooking or forgetting about one or the other small aspect. That’s also how you will spot a nerd. You recognize them by their detailed answers to your interviewing questions, by their lengthy and positive descriptions of their University studies, their extracurricular activities, or that fascinating seminar they visited proactively on weekends. Nerds come in all shapes and sizes, they can be hackers or hipsters, maybe a little less on the hustler-side.

  • The Hands-On Hacker

If you are a tech startup, it goes without saying that an excellent coder/developer on your team is an absolute must. And in case you don’t have an experienced developer in the founding team, then your ideal first hire should most likely be a passionate and action-oriented developer. In other words, a “hands-on hacker”. By that, I mean a coder who has already taken part in hackathons because they are passionate about coding. Sure, they might have used one or the other black-hat technique in their time, but after all, they pretty much think in code. Whether they have coded pages, plugins, or programs – look for someone who does it out of an inner drive, not just because they were paid for it. 

 

Conclusion

Finding ideal first hires for your startup can be a challenging and daunting task. After all, you may never have done hiring and recruiting before. As startups live or die with their team members, you can’t afford to make a wrong hire. Look for the signs and when you find them, give them a closer look and consider giving them the gig. They may just be that one super-talent to send your company through the roof. And when you are ready, make sure you nail the onboarding process and start building the right culture. Did you enjoy this read? Subscribe now to our newsletter & read more every month!

 

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