If you’re a start-up or small company making the decision to grow, hiring a new team member is a big decision. Erica Svensson from specialist recruitment company Salt rounds up the advice from Salt’s recruiters on the considerations of hiring staff for a start-up.

To a start-up, everything can seem a major risk. A crucial way of limiting this is to find skilled employees that will fit the company’s culture and values. Employees can either help the dream come alive or destroy it. As start-ups’ needs are very individual, it is important to continuously judge what skills are necessary and when to take the risk to expand. Too soon could mean the end of a company; too late could mean missing out on an excellent opportunity. It’s a tricky decision to make.

The best way to do it is to make sure that adding employees has true business relevance. Employing staff is a costly and time consuming process and if the business doesn’t justify the need to hire the implications can be huge.

To ensure that a new person isn’t needed to replace a previous hire that turned out to not quite fit your company’s culture after two months in, it is essential to have a clear skill set in mind before hiring.

As with any project, it always takes longer when you don’t plan beforehand. Carefully consider about the position and the skills needed. This may take time, but in the long run will ensure quality and a swift hire. Limit risks by understanding your market. Who knows about hiring trends within the specialist area you want?

A good mix of networking, referrals, social media and advertising is good if you have time and the network, however a professional staffing service can provide more assurance and support. Once skills, team fit, seniority level and interview process are clear for the role, explain this to potential candidates and move steadily through the interview steps you have laid out.

The cost of a bad hire can be huge. When it comes to deciding who to hire your gut feeling plays a big factor. For start-ups, recruiting is more of a journey than a process. Make it simple and follow a similar procedure for all interviewing candidates. It will become smoother when everyone knows what to expect.

Ensure that the applicant meets as many people in the company as possible; make the applicant feel wanted and emotionally invested. Ask current employees for their feedback on candidates. They will all have valuable and varying opinions of the person that may have been overlooked by the hiring manager.

The fast-paced and dynamic nature of start-ups also extends to the hiring process. It is vital that candidates are comfortable with the quick decision making style of start-ups. As a start-up, be decisive about hiring. Don’t move too slow when you have found the right candidate, or you’ll risk losing skilled and unique people.

A tough decision is whether to hire a specialist or a generalist. Hiring a generalist can spin a number of plates as you’ll be taking on a person who can cover several roles, but might end up spreading them thin. Furthermore, having someone with too broad an area might not give the focus and attention required to a business.

A specialist will be effective in a more technical role, but they might not feel comfortable outside their area of specialism – a lot of smaller business will require people to take more on than just their core responsibility.

Hiring the wrong person can have many implications for employers, especially start-ups who can’t afford to waste time on building the wrong people. However, as outlined above, there are ways to minimise the risk.

One key thing to remember is that a great candidate should be passionate about your brand, bought into your company values and excited about the idea of working in a start-up. Investing in skills and developing your staff is always a good option, but values and attitude are more difficult to change.

If you’re having trouble reading your gut feeling, why not hire a great-on-paper candidate on a temporary or contract basis to begin with? This can be a great way to see if they’re a good cultural fit before offering them a permanent contract.


Erica Svensson is part of the marketing team at Salt and interviewed a number of the company’s specialist recruiters. Salt (and their APAC operation “Sodium”) is a specialist digital recruiter that represents everything that is innovative and emerging in the digital world. Be it e-commerce & customer insight, digital marketing, online advertising, web technologies or cloud, Salt understands the challenges and opportunities of digital. 

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