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The Most Important Skills Early-Stage Hires Should Have

Interior Of Busy Modern Open Plan Office

When it comes to your very first team members, which skills are more important to you?

Interior Of Busy Modern Open Plan Office


When making early-stage hires, is it better they be skilled at one thing or be a jack-of-all-trades and why?


1. Specialized, but Adaptable PeopleERIN BLASKIE

“When we hire people for our agency, we look for people who are really strong in one particular area, but who are adaptable and can fill in the blanks where needed. As the organization grows, we’ll have amazingly talented people in specific areas who can focus on their crafts while also leading teams, driving projects and advising on what is happening in their industries/niches.”

– ERIN BLASKIENext Dev Media


2. Adapters and Skilled WorkersLIAM MARTIN

“This question really depends on what positions you’re looking to hire. If you’re hiring a bookkeeper, office manager, developer or anything else that requires a certain silo of knowledge, hiring the best candidate in that silo is a wise move. If, however, you’re hiring a manager, marketer, salesperson or executive, being multifaceted is incredibly important when you need people who can adapt.”



3. Jacks-and-Jills-of-all-TradesARAH SCHUPP, UniversityParent

“In the early stages, find people who are willing to do anything and learn anything they don’t know how to do. When you’re first getting started, it’s helpful if you have employees who are willing to do whatever it takes to help the company. I’ve found the most important attributes in an early-stage hire to be humility, strong work ethic, flexibility, aptitude for high growth and a team-oriented mentality.”

– SARAH SCHUPPUniversityParent


4. Flexible CandidatesKELLY AZEVEDO, She's Got Systems

“Although the position will determine the scope of skills needed, a more important trait is flexibility. Startups adapt quickly to the environment and jack-of-all-trades workers will need to set up and change projects quickly, while employees with focused skills will need to adapt as needs change. An HR specialist, for example, may need to switch from hiring interns to finding seven to ten developers.”

– KELLY AZEVEDOShe’s Got Systems


5. SpecialistsDANNY WONG

“As startup enthusiasts and the media fawn over bootstrapped startups that make a killing, many other businesses flourish because they have capital that they use for smart investments. If you can afford it, hire specialists (even in the early stages) who can deliver big results once the wheels start turning for your business.”

– DANNY WONGBlank Label


6. Culture FitsBHAVIN PARIKH Magoosh Inc

“The most important factor for hiring is finding a good culture fit. The right person can multiply the output of the team with his or her contribution. Skills can be learned, so it doesn’t actually matter if they’re skilled at one thing or a jack-of-all-trades, but culture can’t be taught.”



7. Jacks-and-Janes-of-all-TradesDANNY BOICE

“Jacks-and-Janes-of-all-trades are critical in a startup’s early days. You want passionate generalists more than specialists. One example for us is Virginia Lee. She helps with customer support, customer development, product requirements and even planning our launch party. She did all of this and deferred much of her salary in exchange for equity. We wouldn’t be here today without people similar to Virginia.”



8. Multi-Skilled PeopleADAM LIEB

“Look for people who can wear many hats. At an early stage, you don’t even know what your startup is going to need in three months. Don’t hire people with super-specialized skills that might not be applicable in a few months. Look for folks with multiple talents who can and are willing to do what it takes for your startup to succeed.”



9. Jack-of-all-TradesPANOS PANAY

“If I had to choose, I would say go for jacks-of-all-trades. Versatility in the early days of a business is key. You want people who can get their hands dirty and help across the board.”

– PANOS PANAYBerklee College of Music


10. People PeopleJohn Meyer

“I would tend to lean toward people who are all-stars in one skill, but only if they can also deal with people. That’s a must for my team. Once you have your stars in the core areas of your business, then plug in the jack-of-all-trades to fill the gaps.”



11. The Right FitBRENNAN WHITE

“You want the right people on board before worrying about where exactly the lines of responsibility are drawn. Because the business plan, competitive landscape and technologies will be extremely different in 18 to 24 months, the most important part is getting the correct, adaptable team in place as you finalize the direction of the company. A well-rounded employee is much more valuable.”



12. Versatile EmployeesHEATHER HUHMAN

“Ideally, you want to hire a candidate who has the strengths you desire, but who also has background knowledge in a variety of skills. By doing this, you will have an employee who can adapt quickly to new training, strengthen his or her skills and be versatile for your company.”

– HEATHER HUHMANCome Recommended


13. Added-Value HiresDAVID EHRENBERG

“Early on, you typically have such a small staff that you cannot hire just one person per task. Every hire needs to wear multiple hats. But that doesn’t mean that they need be a jack-of-all-trades, per se; that’s extreme. Nor do you want someone who is just a one-trick pony. You should hire for the middle ground — someone who has multiple skill sets and can add value in different areas.”

– DAVID EHRENBERGEarly Growth Financial Services


14. Versatile EmployeesCHUCK COHN, Varsity Tutors

“As you grow, specialization of roles becomes increasingly important. Early in a company’s life however, the versatile, Swiss Army Knife-type employees can provide a disproportionate amount of value while you are capital constrained and limited on the number of people you can add to your team.”

– CHUCK COHNVarsity Tutors


15. Specialized Employeescarlo cisco

“I think the only person who needs to be a jack-of-all-trades is the founder. For early hires, it’s better that they are exceptional in a specific area so you can have them focus on that. If someone’s a born salesperson, he or she should be selling. If someone’s an exceptional hacker, then he or she should be programming. There’s no reason to have the person spend time on a bunch of other things.”



16. Jack-of-all-TradesDave Smith

“In a startup, people tend to wear multiple hats due to the overwhelming needs of a growing company. Business owners keep human capital costs low while creating a tight-knit, unified environment in which everyone contributes to its success. Employees can focus their specializations to fit the needs within a department and hone their skills as professionals. It’s a win-win.”



17. Cultural FitsMICHAEL STATON

“Either skilled, focused individuals or jack-of-all-trades types will be successful in your company if they share your vision, fit in with the team, have a good interpersonal work style and are relentlessly focused on how to immediately contribute to your team. Skilled folks can help manage domains, but jacks can thrive in uncertainty and change. You need both.”




Originally published by StartupCollective.


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