Hiring 101: Defining Values and Making Your First Hires

Three tips to successfully find, interview and hire your first employees.
Aug 13th, 2019  |  Sabrina Kelly
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Your first few hires are arguably the most important to the success of your business—so it makes sense that founders put a lot of time and energy into getting those first few hires right. 

But, when you really boil it down, there are some best practices that founders can follow to successfully source top talent from the get-go.

Here are three, quick-and-dirty tips for founders to focus on:

  1. Define your values and don’t overthink it. 

  2. Leverage the expertise of your mentors when hiring for positions that you don't have experience with.

  3. Learn the basics of holding successful interviews and assessing candidates. 

Define Your Values and Don’t Overthink It

It’s important for founders to have a clear vision of their company before recruiting any candidate. Not only does it make it easier to see if candidates match your values and way of working, but it also enables you to better attract top leadership talent. “If everyone on your team is saying the same thing in terms of what makes your business unique, why you do what you do and the types of people you care about, it shows cohesion. And that’s really inspiring to a candidate.” 

To pull this cohesive description together, just get your co-founding or leadership team in one room and ask yourselves a few introspective questions, like what gets you out of bed every morning and why you value each other. While it’s vital to have this collaborative culture discussion with your team, it doesn’t have to take over all other business operations. Rather, developing culture should be an ongoing process of discovery.

Leverage Your Experts

For a founder who wears multiple hats, it can be difficult to take a step back and ask for help. But doing so can be game-changing when hiring talent outside your team's expertise. In fact, it can not only help you better understand the role you're hiring for, but also give you the inside track to onboarding the best candidates. “In those cases, it’s really important to leverage your mentors with expertise in those specific disciplines.” 

“Try reaching out to a few different mentors and ask them about the best person they’ve ever worked with in that role. Encourage them to get specific about the skills and behaviors that person exhibited.”

Mentors can also be a major benefit when it comes time to interview. Not only do they usually have direct experience with the interview process, but they can offer a valuable perspective on each of your candidates, as well.

Learn the Basics

"There's a whole discipline of how to effectively recruit, but there are some simple things you can focus on to be really thoughtful and remove bias in your hiring processes."

A simple roadmap could look like: first taking a step back and outlining what the business needs to accomplish over the next six to nine months, then considering the skills that are already on the team related to your business objectives and identifying gaps. Once a founder has identified those gaps, they can build a job description based on the behaviors and skills that are currently missing from the team. 

After identifying who needs to be hired and why, a founder can start to focus on making the hiring process successful by structuring the interview to find the best candidate while avoiding bias. 

Sabrina Kelly
As Vice President of Talent, Sabrina leads the team that helps Techstars to maximize the value of our most important asset - our incredible network of people. Sabrina's career has taken her across multiple markets in the US and Europe. Starting with an early love for talent in the NYC startup scene recruiting top technical talent for companies like Spotify, IAC and Etsy then gaining exposure to startup HR in the Boston market before ultimately leading People Operations globally at Techstars for five years.
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