Entrepreneurs make their first hires in all kinds of situations, according to Businessweek. Many don’t even wait for significant revenue to come in before they decide to make a hire and put up a free job posting seeking that first employee. There are many circumstances that can predict hiring – intellectual property is one, and even the nationality of the entrepreneur can play a role. However you’ve gotten here, it’s time for you to make your first-ever hire. It may be exciting, and it may be terrifying, but you’ve got to get through it. The best first hire can really set the tone for your business moving forward. Here are a few signs to watch out for:
1. They’re a Little Entrepreneurial, Too
Your first hire should be someone who’s an entrepreneur in spirit, if not in practice. As a startup, you’ll encounter situations and decision points that established companies won’t. You want an employee who will be able to meet them head-on with you – and that’s someone who has something a little different to what it takes to succeed at an older firm. The best differentiating factor you have is entrepreneurship. You’ve got it – so look for it in your candidates. Do any of them seem willing to put in the time and effort necessary to be a startup employee? What are their track records of innovation and quick pivots? These are the things you should be looking for to differentiate your awesome candidates from the ones who just meet the requirements.
Of course, you’ll need an employee who, while entrepreneurial, understands you will be calling the shots. Input may be welcome, but the final decisions will always be on you. Finding this perfect balance may take some time, so comb through that resume database and don’t settle.
2. They’re More Than Worth the Salary
One reality your candidates are going to have to contend with is that startups usually can’t offer lavish salaries to their first hires. Even if you’re offering equity, that won’t pay off for a while. What you’re looking for is someone who will do the work with the passion you need but at a pay grade you can provide. This is going to mean seeking someone out who is really sold on your startup’s mission and vision – without this fundamental match, it will be very hard for you to motivate that first employee to do well. On your end, this means paying as high a salary as you can afford. Cheap labor may be appealing, but the kind of drive and dedication you want is already worth more than the biggest pay package you can offer – underselling your business for cheap labor is likely to get you exactly what you paid for.
3. Their Success is Proven
It’s often tempting to take a chance on someone as untried as your company, and it can work out well in some situations. However, for your first hire, you really want someone who has brought value and results to previous employers. A careful review of the resumes you receive is your first step in hiring someone like this. An in-depth interview is the next. Ask questions about specific contributions, and reasons for leaving. You’re looking for someone who changes jobs to take on the next big challenge, not someone who leaves when the going gets tough. Additionally, you want someone who has taken responsibility for projects that matter, and delivered on their promises. A good employee will be able to give you concrete examples of their prior success rather than buzzwords and vague assurances.