When you’re a startup, your achievements often become your next set of hurdles. Here’s the latest: Your organization is growing, but finding the right people to help you grow brings its own set of challenges. You need good people to help you now.

As part of a small team, it’s not uncommon for inexperienced leaders to be thrust into hiring roles without sufficient training. As one of those formerly inexperienced hiring managers, years of hiring has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. Perhaps the best lesson I learned is that talent and capability are not the most important criteria in finding the right candidate. It’s not necessary for them to have 100% of the skills they will need, but they do have to have the right values and traits.

Before you interview your first candidate for any role, it is important to have an understanding of the company’s basic values, as well as what you presently need for that particular role.

company values chart
Your team’s values should inform your hiring process


Outside of the core (hard-working, honest, on time, etc.), is “good with finances”, etcetera on the list? If it is, then pre-select interview questions that encourage the candidate to share stories that would showcase these values.

For example, if the role entails client management you could ask:
What are some of the things that you think about when you draft an email a client? In what situations would you opt to place a phone call instead of an email? -or- Tell me about a time that you were running late for a client meeting and how you handled it.

But before you start interviewing, think about this:
Is leadership one of the qualities you need in person you hire? Really think about it, because hiring the wrong candidate will cost… way too much.

Leadership candidates should have all of the qualities of your ideal employee and more. For a simple assessment model, focusing on two general areas can help evaluate whether the candidate has leadership potential:

1. Is the candidate inspiring?

If you already know what qualities you want in an employee then you probably know what they value. A leader will demonstrate the those values proudly, and they will have the desire to help others.

Imagine that your leaders should be inspiring to those they will be interacting with. You can define it however you’d like, but you should recognize it when you see it.

Key qualities: positive, confident, focused

2. Is the candidate inspired?

Does this person obviously love doing the type of work that they are being brought on to do? Do they think about it from time-to-time when they are brushing their teeth? Will they read and learn about it on their own, and talk about it whenever they are around other professionals? Do they show a curiosity for where their chosen industry is going and how it is changing?

Key qualities: motivated, passionate, committed

A true leader is inspired by their field, and it shows.

If a candidate passes this simple assessment and demonstrates professional communication skills (verbal, non-verbal, speaking, listening, and typographic) then they are worth consideration.

If leadership traits exist, they can be developed with other leaders. However, be realistic about whether your team has capacity to train up a young leader, or whether you need more experience now.

When planned correctly, your hiring process should do the hard work for you in identifying good candidates, allowing you to focus on growing your business.

If you like this article and want more tips on the types of questions that we ask, please like, share, and message us on social media to let us know.

About the author

enjoys working with entrepreneurs and innovators to solve problems using technology. She heads up Ascend from beautiful Eugene, Oregon.

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