10 Pro Tips to improve your hiring at an early stage startup

Hiring & Talent
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George Mazzella Headshot
George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite
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Anyone who has started a company will tell you that hiring talent at the early stages is one of if not the hardest thing you will face as a founder. With limited cash and little-to-no structure to fall back on, it takes a certain type of individual to want to join an early stage company. That said, you’d didn’t get into this game because it’s easy. You’re trying to do the impossible and we at The Suite are here to help you out.

When considering an employee at an established company it’s easy to decide on skills, experience, and an endless list of things you’d like them to possess; however, allowing this list to grow too long at this stage could make an already difficult search process impossible. So, instead of honing in on particular experiences, focus on people who are adaptable and have spent time in numerous functions. No two days are alike at this stage and you want people who will evolve to the needs of the organization. To do this, you'll need to ask the right questions.

Once you find someone who is highly adaptable, make sure they share in your vision. Building a business can best be described as a war of attrition, so make sure they have enough fuel to keep that fire burning even in the hard times! Aside from those two guiding points, these tips will help you close the search process faster and get back to building your business.

Here are 10 tips on startup hiring from the pros:

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because someone spent 5 years at Google doesn’t mean they are the best at what they do. Hire on skillset, not brands.

2. Leverage your network for referrals to find those who others speak highly of. And never stop meeting new people.

3. Don’t limit your hiring to people who are within your circle. Push yourself and reach out to people on various social networks to find the best talent possible.

4. Learn to assess grit. Without grit, it’s unlikely that you’ll succeed at his game. Be sure you find fighters who will go to war for your shared dream.

5. Look for a thirst for knowledge. There is nothing more toxic to an early stage business than someone stuck in their ways.

6. Don’t hold out too long looking for the perfect person because they don’t exist. Like finding an apartment, identify the must-haves then be flexible on the rest. You can’t afford to waste time this early on.

7. Let them work on other consulting gigs. You’ll save yourself a lot of money and sometimes, there just isn’t a need to have someone fulltime all the time at this stage.

8. Be wary of people who worry too much about reporting lines, titles, and pay. Too much of a focus on these things could be a sign of a toxic person and toxic employees at this stage are like cancer to your business.

9. Don’t worry about the perfect “round peg, round hole” fit. People learn and adapt, worry about the alignment of vision & values first and the rest will come.

10. Do NOT use a recruiting firm. You are tight on cash as it is, do you really have $50,000 to $100,000 (or more) to spend on a single hire? This is your business, go out there and sell it!

In the end, every company is different and every situation requires unique action. That said, these tips should give you a general guide of some best practices to follow. Remember that if this was easy, everyone would do it!

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George Mazzella Headshot
George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite

George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers.  Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.

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