What to avoid when hiring new team members

What teams get wrong when hiring new members

Sophia Ellis
Nov 07, 2017

How to hire the right new team?

Older companies are finding it difficult to keep up with agile, “younger” startups. Many think it’s because of their size and bureaucracy, which are definitely relevant factors. But, there’s one trap both startups and large corporations frequently fall into: hiring wrong.

The cost of hiring an employee that either is not a good fit for you (or leave because you are not a good fit for them) is a huge hit. The cost of a miss-hire (assuming you both find this out early on) is about 30% of that employee’s yearly earnings. Some estimate the overall opportunity cost to be even higher. Companies are creating an expense that can easily be prevented.

The problem for large companies is that they tend to hire more of the same, leaving no one to be an “outlier” to bring in new ideas and challenge old norms. However, startups have different hiring issues, and they can be even more detrimental given the time and financial limitations at hand. Companies of any size need to consider the following to avoid the trap of a bad hire.

What to avoid when hiring new team member

Don’t think about culture too late in the game, make sure you hire the right new team!

Conversations on culture are put on the back burner until it’s too late and there is a mix of people expecting different environments. At the beginning, when there’s just a few of you, it’s totally fine. The culture is usually panic and urgency, anyway. However, when you start to grow, when roles are identified and processes are further detailed, having a clear, concise idea of what your culture is is vital to getting the right employees. Hiring short-term employees outside your core team and losing them every couple of quarters is a big hindrance to efficiency.

How do you not fall into this trap?

As soon as you get past five employees, have a conversation. Set the ground rules and determine your team “culture” in three bullet points.

Are you a remote-friendly team? Are you more autonomous or group work oriented? Are you competitive or more collaborative with each other?

Outline this and bring these points up the next time you’re searching for a candidate. No matter how brilliant someone’s qualifications are, if they are not going to work well with your team, chances are you’re going to lose them, time, and money.

Don’t hire people who don’t understand how your new team will work

Previously, I worked for a “startup” elsewhere before moving to Barcelona to work with Hibox. This startup was angel funded and had the entire executive board put in place.  They were lifelong corporates. It didn’t work well. They insisted on doing things the way they were used to despite wanting to move, improve, and act like a tech startup. Great technology, great concept… Wrong people. These employees were used to a set way of doing things, set hours, and they wanted nothing outside of that.

It’s often difficult to take someone out of an environment like that and expect them to understand and thrive in a startup environment. Some corporate experience, especially in sales, can be really helpful, but the work style will be difficult to integrate into a startup.

Look for employees who have some sort of autonomous work experience in the past. Ask about self-motivation and individual work experience in the interview process. Or if your team have a lot of processes, look for someone who is used to more direction and doesn’t get frustrated as such.

Don’t hire those who know everything, hire those who can learn anything

Someone coming along with some experience in an interesting sector can sound like a done deal. But be warned, these hires aren’t always the type to last or be the greatest benefit in the long run.

Often, you’re going to find that the “jack of all trades” employees are the greatest assets to your team as they can take on different roles over time and solve problems across departments. Everyone is going to have their core competency, of course. But don’t underestimate the value of someone who has a strong ability and work ethic to learn. Skills (mostly the ones your startup needs) are out of date in max 5 years. If you hire employees that are lifelong learners with a hand in a few evolving areas, you will get much more value out of them in the long run instead of someone who has a lot of experience in one specific skill.

Hire someone in your team who wants to learn

When looking to hire, ask about their self-education habits and what they’re working on outside of what first made you take a look at their resume. You’d be surprised how much this tells you about the value of a team member.

When looking to expand your team, learn from the mistakes of many, many other teams and keep these three points in mind. You could guarantee a team that makes the company successful each year and avoid a huge tent in your budget.

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