Hiring for any organization is more of an art than science. You can master the art but you cant have a perfect formula for the exact fit. Otherwise, we wont have been discussing this over and over. Now, coming specifically to startups.
- Startups need owners and not workers:- Our education systems (at least in India) are highly conditioned to make workers and not owners. BTW, this goes back to, when we (Indians) were being ruled by British. The point is, never hire people who were mere workers in any organization. They are used to do their jobs, pack their bags and leave. One should look for a personality with ownership qualities. He/she should feel the pain, if something is done with low quality or behind schedule. Since, they take ownership, they will fight with you (founders) if they think that this course of action will screw things up. Believe me, its real motivating and inspiring working with these kind of people.
- See their existing work:- Ask people to send across their existing work on any product or service. In interview, build scenarios around that product/service and ask all kinds of questions. This will give you a fair enough idea, how much influence they had in their current organization. This will distinguish workers from owners.
- Truth and honesty:- Ask them why they want to join a startup. They will give standard answers which you must have heard many times before. Tell them to be as honest as they can be about why they want to come onboard. Give them adequate time to think, if they are not sure. This happens more often than you think. The idea of this step is to identify desperate people from informed people.
- Motivation and Inspiration:- Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.
- Never ever get desperate:- Startups often have to build stuff very quickly. It takes certain number of employees to do so. Startups often get desperate and hire what is available in front of them. Thought process is, let's shoot for the stars and at least reach moon. The cost of wrong hires is too high. The biggest cost is, startup death.
- Finally, managing the right hires:- I know this goes beyond the question, but is equally crucial. Entrepreneurs/Founders really need to learn how to manage talented people. I have seen lot of good people leaving companies because they are not treated well. Its a very tricky situation, since your success is dependent on the right hires. You need to manage them well and always treat them as owners in your startup. Talented people always have multiple offers and are not afraid of losing their jobs.