When you are hiring for a startup, you need to have a different mindset. You can’t focus solely on a candidate’s hard skills and assume it will be enough. It’s critical that you also consider how each new hire will alter your company’s culture. Since you’re in the early stages, the influence of a single personality can create significant shifts culturally. Conversely, if the person doesn’t mesh with your small team, they can be incredibly disruptive. 

Ultimately, in a survey of why many startups fail, having the wrong team came in third place. Only a lack of market need and running out of money ranked higher. Plus, dealing with and replacing one bad hire can cost you as much as $240,000. Often, that’s more than a startup can shoulder so that single misstep could be dooming. 

As a result, you need to make sure that you handle the hiring process properly. If you’ve ever hired for an established company before, then you first need to forget everything you think you know. Your company’s situation is different, so you need to treat the process as such. If you want to make sure you approach startup interviews properly, here’s what you need to know. 

Interview for Potential and Passion 

While you may need your new hire to bring certain skills to the table, you shouldn’t focus on the core competencies alone. Often, a role in a startup will morph and change quickly, ensuring it can align with the company’s needs as the startup grows. As a result, the skillset you hire for today might not be exactly what you need tomorrow. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you should hire for skills you might need in the future, either. Instead, you need to assess the candidate’s level of potential and their passion for the opportunity. When an applicant can learn and grow quickly, they will be adept at acquiring new skills as they are needed. Plus, if they are enthusiastic about the job and the chance to work for a startup, they’ll pursue professional development opportunities with enthusiasm. 

Further, candidates with this mindset are typically great additions to your culture. Their excitement can be contagious, particularly when you can support their desire to keep learning and developing. They may also be better at facing challenges and might be inclined to remain optimistic even when faced with an obstacle. 

During the interview, spend time learning about the candidate’s achievements and previous periods of growth. Additionally, gauge their attitude and passion for the field and opportunity. When you couple that information with the skills they bring to the table, you can make a wiser hiring decision. 

Take Your Ideal Culture into Account 

When it comes to job performance, 77% of employees believe that a company’s culture plays a significant role in whether they can do their best work. Whether your startup already began establishing its culture or you know what culture you want to achieve, make sure you keep it in mind when hiring. Since a single new hire can fundamentally alter your company’s culture, you need to make sure that their personality, values, and behavior align with the organization and your vision. That way, they can integrate into your existing culture and elevate it, allowing you to mold your startup into the ideal work environment. 

Usually, behavioral interview questions allow you to discover whether a candidate will fit into your culture or help you create the one you want. Exactly what you’ll need to ask will depend on the culture you want to achieve. For example, ask them to provide examples of how they would react to scenarios that they may encounter with you. Alternatively, allow them to describe their ideal workplace, including its culture and values, to gather the information you need. 

Don’t Overlook Soft Skills 

The majority of technical capabilities are trainable. Teaching someone to use a particular system, review specific data, or generate the right report isn’t challenging if the new hire is willing to learn. But, traits like integrity, self-awareness, and authenticity usually can’t be taught in the workplace. Similarly, improving a person’s communication skills, turning them into a motivated self-starter, making them a better collaborator, or crafting them into a leader isn’t easy if they aren’t fairly adept already. 

As a startup, you can’t afford to overlook the soft skills or traits a candidate does or doesn’t bring to the table. You likely won’t have the time or resources to fix issues in those areas and might not be able to tolerate problems. 

Asking behavioral questions to gauge a candidate’s personality traits and soft skills is critical. Otherwise, you might have an issue that could lead to a bad hire. If you don’t know where to begin, present various scenarios that would require a person to use the skills you want to assess. Ask the interviewee how they would act under those circumstances. You can also ask for relevant examples from their past experience that aligns with certain traits. 

Ultimately, you have to approach interviewing differently when you are hiring for a startup. That way, you can ensure that you have the right team, increasing your odds of success. 

If you’d like to learn more about startup interviewing, the team at Cloutera can help. Contact us to speak with one of our recruitment specialists today and see how our hiring expertise can benefit you. 

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