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Developing a hiring plan for a Startup: tips for interviewing & hiring the right people

May 7, 2023

Hiring the right people is essential for the success of any startup. As a founder, you need to ensure that you're building a team of skilled and motivated individuals who are passionate about your company's mission.


To do this, you need to develop a comprehensive hiring plan that attracts the right candidates and ensures a smooth hiring process. Although startups move quickly, and it may seem like extra work to develop a hiring plan for your company, we highly recommend doing so.


Documenting what you’re looking as you hire, as well as keeping track of your progress and goals, can help you determine whether you’re on the right track when it comes to hiring – or if you need to adjust along the way.


Some Steps to Consider when Crafting a Hiring Plan for your Startup:


Identify Roles and Skill Sets. The first step in developing a hiring plan is to identify the roles and skill sets you need to hire for. Think about the key positions that are critical for your company's success and the skills and experience needed for each role. For earl- stage startups, this often includes developers and engineers, and as a startup grows this list often expands to marketers, salespeople, customer service and success roles.


Write the skillsets down that you’re looking for, and don’t hold back! While you may not find candidates that meet every skill you’ve identified, once you have this list you’ll find it much easier to ask relevant interview questions and be much more direct with candidates about where or if you see their skills fitting your organization’s needs.


Prioritize Roles. Once you've identified the roles you need to fill, prioritize them based on their importance and the urgency of filling them. Some roles may be more critical than others and need to be filled before others.


We often hear from startups that they need to hire for certain positions before others are filled. Perhaps you want to hire a senior engineering leader within the next six months, but you urgently need an individual contributor engineering role filled. Knowing that soon, your individual contributor engineer will need to report into your more senior leader – this may be something you keep in mind as you interview engineers and look for personalities that will mesh well with the type of engineering leader you have in mind.


Determine a Hiring Timeline. Based on the prioritized roles, determine a timeline for when you need to fill each position. This will help you plan your hiring efforts and ensure you have enough time to find the right candidates.


Create Job Descriptions and establish hiring budgets. Develop clear job descriptions for each position that clearly outlines the job responsibilities, required skills, and qualifications.This will help attract the right candidates and ensure you're evaluating candidates consistently. You’ll also want to establish a hiring budget at this stage, dependent on the seniority and location(s) you want your hire to be based in.


Establish Recruitment Channels. Determine the best recruitment channels to reach the candidates you're looking for. LinkedIn and job boards are the obvious ones, but word of mouth is critical when hiring fora startup as well. Expand your definition of recruiting channels to asking VCs if they know of candidates who are looking or ask the members of your team to post on their personal LinkedIn pages that your company is hiring. You can also work with a recruiting firm, like Recruiting from Scratch, at this stage as another partner to help you find the best candidates possible.

Develop an Interview Process. Develop a clear interview process that evaluates candidates based on the skills and experience required for the position. This should include a clear set of interview questions and a rubric for evaluating candidates. While your process may change as you go and that’s okay, try to write down who needs to meet with each candidate and how many interviews you want each candidate to undergo before making a decision.    


Evaluate Progress. Track the progress of your hiring and evaluate its effectiveness regularly. Look at metrics such as time to fill, candidate quality, and cost per hire to make improvements to your process.


Evaluating progress goes beyond start date. Make sure you’re keeping track of how long your hires stay with your organization, and what the average retention is. Do you notice that certain positions have a high turnover? Are individuals leaving or new opportunities, or are you finding they didn’t have the right skills for what your organization ultimately needed?


Make note of your retention rates and see if you can determine any patterns. Hopefully, by following a solid hiring plan – your retention will be excellent!


Hiring for Executive Roles at a Startup – Additional tips to consider


Hiring for executive roles, such as a Chief TechnologyOfficer (CTO) or Head of Product, requires a different approach. Here are some additional factors to consider when hiring for executive roles:


Relevant Experience. Look for candidates with experience in the relevant executive role, preferably in your industry or a similar one. They should have a track record of success in the role and be able to bring valuable insights and experience to your startup. For example – if your business is a SeriesA company, and you want to continue fundraising, can you look for candidates with experience in bringing a company from Series A to Series D?


Leadership Skills. Executive roles require strong leadership skills. Look for candidates who have experience managing and motivating teams, and who can create a culture of innovation and collaboration. Ask candidates about the largest size of a team they’ve managed, but also look for candidates who can speak to mentoring their hires and growing them into leaders as well.


Strategic Thinking. Executives need to be able to think strategically and understand the company's overall business goals. They should have a strong understanding of the market and competitive landscape and be able to develop a roadmap that aligns with the company's vision. While C-Suite executives should have ample experience in their select field, they should also be able to understand other functions of the company, like marketing, sales and product development, and know how to work with these leaders as well.


Technical Expertise. When hiring for technology roles, such as a Head of Engineering, consider leaders with a strong understanding of the relevant technology and who can work closely with the engineering team to ensure that a product is feasible and meets technical requirements (for example). In addition to leading – do they also know how to execute, and are they comfortable also rolling up their sleeves?

What other tips would you add to this list in crafting a successful hiring plan for a startup? 

Want to see more posts on startup hiring? Check out this post on when to hire a Head of Product for your startup and this post on hiring a Chief Technology Officer.

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