Apart from the business idea itself, hiring decisions in startups are probably the most important decisions to make. People really underestimate just how important these decisions are at startups. Picture a startup with two founders looking to hire a team of ten. There is no room for a mis-hire in a team so small. Every hire in a startup has to be the right one, because the wrong hire could prove fatal for the venture.
Also read: 5 steps to build a winning startup team.
So what skills should a startup founder look for when searching for employees? Every startup is different and their needs differ according to what they are looking to achieve, but the skills listed here are needed by every prospective startup employee and are believed to be the most important by various startup founders.
- A willingness to learn: A desire to want to help the business/founder on any level necessary is a great selling point. A startup employee who sees every opportunity as a chance to learn something new is one of the best things a founder could ask for. The ideal startup employee is always on the lookout for new experiences and not afraid of change. Curiosity is a very powerful trait that will keep startup employees sharp and always up-to-date. Startups need to follow and react to new trends very quickly. This requires startup employees to think beyond the positions they are currently working in, and always seek new challenges. Curiosity also helps employees remain engaged in their work, with little need for external motivation. This is very important in startups, where the founders themselves are innovators and there is little room for employee engagement.
- Knowledge of sales: most startups have a product or service that they sell and as such need good salespeople, but very few salespeople are interested in the startup community. And what’s more? The younger generation (millennials, mostly) don’t seem to think of a career in sales as “cool” and this mentality is making qualified sales representatives one of the most highly sought-after hires. Experience in sales: knowing how to convince people to part with their money for a product or service is a vital quality in a startup employee.
- Project management: Ability to pay attention to detail when handling multiple projects at once will get you noticed very quickly. While looking for startup employees, founders value management skills in employees alongside expertise in their respective departments because when the company begins to grow, these initial hires will assume roles that require more management skills.
- Resourcefulness: Being able to work independently and solve problems is crucial to success at any startup. Founders value startup employees who come up with solutions they weren’t expected to deliver. Opportunities don’t usually fall into waiting arms so startup employees who show resourcefulness when they’re in uncharted territory are of immense value to founders. Resourcefulness is an especially fundamental quality for a startup or small business because there are always more tasks to be done, and never enough people to do them. Startup employees simply have to figure certain things out on their own because sometimes there are no books you can read, and no life lines you can use.
- Marketing and SEO skills: In today’s world of ubiquitous connectedness(I keep stressing this), you will be hard-pressed to find a startup without an online presence. As such, social media – and other digital marketing – experts are valuable to startup founders. Founders will place a premium on startup employees who can double as experts in their niche and digital marketers with SEO skills. As a founder of a growth company said, “the most in-demand marketing hires are those who can understand SEO strategies or—even better—read and manipulate code. Founders are looking for that marketing person who can also do a bit of hacking for the company. Whether it’s scraping websites for info to target a set of customers or the ability to do the development necessary for an initiative you’ve planned, having these skills is a giant plus.”