Not everyone is cut out to work at a startup, so as the business owner, how do you find the perfect employee? Conduct your next round of interviews with these tips in mind:

picjumbo.com_HNCK4005Say ‘no’ to the ‘yes’ man.

Hiring a “yes” man into a startup company is a recipe for disaster. Chances are you will have a small staff as a startup, so hiring someone who brings nothing to the table in terms of new ideas is useless for you and your business. What you need is someone who is an independent thinker and isn’t afraid to voice opinions even if they differ from yours. When interviewing for a new employee, try bringing up current events to make small talk and see if the interviewee politely agrees with whatever you say, or has the confidence to counter your argument. 


What are the four little words that a startup business owner never wants to hear from an employee? “That’s not my job”. Let’s face it, a startup will not have a full staff of people to handle the everyday duties that sometimes aren’t so desirable. Hiring someone who has a strong sense of self-direction and initiative means you will have someone who is comfortable to work outside of their job description. How do you identify these gems? Ask potential new hires to describe a time when he or she went above and beyond their normal duties to exceed expectations at prior jobs.

Share your passion.

Your new employee must believe in your company and its mission as much as you do. Passion drives employees to work hard even when the hours are long and the money could be better. During the interview process, be sure to ask potential new hires what interests them about your company. Find out what their passions in life are and how they align with your company’s mission. Weed out the interviewees who applied simply because they want a job and not because they are truly interested in your work.

Eskimo, need some ice?

Everyone from your intern to your vice president must have a knack for sales. The bottom line is the top priority for startups and everyone must contribute to make the business successful. This doesn’t mean every employee needs to be on the street corner handing out fliers, but it does mean they should recognize a potential customer at a networking event and seize the opportunity to sell without being asked. You should be able to identify these strong-sellers by how they pitch themselves to you during the interviews. Interviewees who can’t make a strong case when selling themselves probably will not be able to do it for your business either.


The person you hire must have a desire to win. To go from startup to well-established business, you have to stay on top of the competition, and this means your employees have to be on board as well. Be sure to hire someone who knows how to reel their competitive nature in and direct it against other companies in the market as opposed to other employees at your business. Hiring someone who will instigate office politics will put a drain on your business and other employees. Ask interviewees about their previous experience working in a team atmosphere. See if they take all the credit for success they’ve achieved in teams, or if they describe it as more of a group effort.

Open to change.

When it comes to startup businesses, change is the only constant. Employees must be flexible and willing to go with the flow as your business grows and shifts in different directions. Employees that become easily frustrated or overwhelmed by change will not be productive in a startup environment. Ask your interviewees to provide professional references and find out how they’ve handled change in the past.

What characteristics do you find most valuable in employees? Tell us in the comments below!