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Lean, Mean Hiring Machine: How To Successfully Staff Your Bootstrapped Startup

I recently had an interview with Sharon Schneider, founder of Moxi Jean, who said if she ever applied to another job after starting her own business, she would be immensely more employable. It’s true that founders, especially bootstrapped ones, have the inevitable tasks of becoming the PR, business planner, marketing, social media guru of their startups. There comes a time when you need to take some of these hats off and put them on better-fitting heads.



It’s tempting to immediately start hiring, especially after landing some funding for your startup, but Eric Ries, the Lean Startup master, says that hiring smarter, not more, is the key to productivity and success.



So all of you bootstrapped startup peeps who are ready to pass the baton, here are four principles to consider before adding to your team.


Hold Your Horses

If there’s a job you think justifies hiring a new full-time person for, make sure you first:


  1. Write out a detailed job description – You’ll have a clearer idea of what skills the new recruit will need and you will also be able to better define the tasks.
  2. Have another person in the company perform the tasks – This will help you see just how critical the position is and if someone else on the team can manage the tasks (thus, saving you the recruitment hassle).


Again, obtaining funding doesn’t necessarily mean you immediately hire. Test to see what positions require the most outside expertise, and look at hiring accordingly.


Flip Through Your Rolodex First

“It’s who you know” doesn’t just apply to the benefit of job seekers; if you’re looking to hire, look no further than your Rolodex. OK, no one has a Rolodex anymore. But, social media is now our best networking friend.



Start by looking at your inner circle for talent.  Who have you worked with before that would kick-ass at your startup? Also, see who you’re connected with in you LinkedIn account, Facebook, etc., and start making the reach. Knowing the people you hire will make it easier for them to integrate into the team and give you a head start on assessing their strengths and weaknesses.


Flexibility Over Skill Set

The tech world is an ever-changing one, which can make hiring “techsperts” for your startup… well… tricky. When looking at candidates, it’s ideal to have someone that has a flexible aptitude (rather than a specific skill set) who can easily adapt to your startup needs and the inevitability of technology growth and changes.


The Importance of Company Culture

Another helpful hiring tip is to have a recruit come in for a test day. Give them a simple (or difficult depending on your evilness) task to complete and see how well they do, how they communicate, etc. Then take the recruit out for drinks with the team and see how they interact in an informal setting.



Finally, debrief with your team and ask yourselves:

  1. How well did they perform the tasks at hand?
  2. Do they have great bar banter?
  3. Do we want to work with this person day in and day out?


Lean startups cannot afford to hire recruits that are not actually needed, not in your circle, not flexible and can’t hold their own in your company’s culture. Hiring then firing soon after is not only expensive but also hard on team morale. Follow these principles and you’ll be on your way to hiring success.


Photo Credits

Author : Holly Hutton

Born in the Big Easy and raised in the Sunshine State, Holly has spent the last five years brunching in the Big Apple and bantering with Big Ben. As a wandering writer, techy-in-training, and avid alliterator, Holly has written everything from educational policy and political news briefs to web content and travel blogs. She is thrilled to be a part of the KS team and working with a community of smart, savvy, entrepreneurs on all things startup!

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