Skip to main content

The 5 Traits Startups Should Look for When Hiring

When hiring for your startup, look for these five traits in candidates—they hold far more weight than hard skills in determining the success of your company.

Woman In interview

You know your startup is great. Now, you just need to find the people who agree—and will make it even better. 

We are in a tight job market; employees and candidates have the power more than ever to choose from a plethora of job opportunities. What does that mean for you? Higher turnover. And you aren’t alone—81 percent of businesses agree that high turnover is a “costly problem.”  

The best way to reduce high employee turnover is by hiring the right people to begin with. Along with elevating your employer branding (which should speak directly to the type of person you’d like to attract), looking for the following five traits among the candidates in your startup’s talent pool can help ensure you aren’t wasting time and money investing in the wrong people. 


The 5 traits your ideal candidate will have: 

1. Urgency. Startups are a lot like working a dinner rush at your town’s favourite pub—it is all-hands-on-deck, you feel this crazy adrenaline and at the end of your shift you’re totally exhausted yet feeling accomplished. The only difference is that when working at a startup, the dinner rush lasts through breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack and well, you get the idea.  

Having a team with bias towards action is the key to your startup’s success. Those who wait for everything to be perfect before acting, are likely to slow down your business’ growth. Similarly, those who sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for someone else to make the decision before they act are probably not right for your startup either. For help finding these go-getters, check out these five simple ways to attract the right talent. 


2. Resourcefulness. As a startup, you’re still figuring sh*t out. There is no real playbook for the position you’re hiring for and often you’re asking the individual you hire to help define the role. Those who are not resourceful, are not likely to be able to succeed in the latter. You need individuals who are able to identify problems and figure out how to find the solution without much in the way of handholding. Plus, a resourceful individual is likely to be a package deal and often possess other traits that can be pivotal in your startup’s success. 

There are many ways you can determine a candidate’s resourcefulness during the hiring process. One way is to pay close attention to the details a candidate mentions from your job posting and better yet, your career page (psst, if you don’t already have one, click here for 4 Startup Career Page Mistakes to Avoid). Their ability to ask targeted questions shows they’ve prepared for your interview and done their own research before meeting.  


3. Attitude. Startups tend to have a tight knit team (often full of people wearing a lot of different hats, therefore, crossing paths in their work). The last thing you need is for toxic energy to swoop in and swoop out taking your company culture along with it. Your company’s culture should be apparent throughout the candidate experience.  

If you think work culture is just a fluff industry term, think again. Culture impacts your bottom line whether you are aware of it or not. Highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, according to a recent Gallup report. And let’s just get real here, no one wants to engage with colleagues who are a**holes.  

When interviewing candidates for your startup, spend the time to get to know who they are outside of work. Small talk is never a waste of time in the hiring process; you get to know an individual’s working style really well by hearing about their passions outside their professional lives. 

To help determine if a candidate is the right culture fit for your startup, set preliminary calls for them with the team member(s) they would work most closely with on a day-to-day basis. We cannot stress the importance of listening to your employees (after all employees are your brand). To find more people like your best people, listening to feedback is crucial.  


4. Transparency. When looking for the best candidates for your startup, pay close attention to their communication style before, during and after the interview. There are so many unknowns in startup life, but having a great team of collaborators can make that more of an exciting fact rather than frightening one. Not only can strong communication skills make or break your internal success as a team, it can be a dealbreaker for customer service.  

Plus, let’s face it—your startup is growing and there’s a good chance you don’t have it all figured out. What does that mean? There are likely better solutions and processes your company could adopt. It is vital to surround yourself and the rest of your team with individuals who aren’t afraid to tell it how it really is and challenge ideas with constructive criticism. Those strong communicators on your team will be able to accomplish this without impacting your company culture. Remember, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.  


5. Passion. As the one hiring for your startup, you likely already know this: if you join a startup for the money, you’re not likely to last long. We won’t sugar coat it, working for a startup is hard. The hours can be long and the fast-paced ambiguity is not for everyone. When looking for the best candidates to join your startup, look for those who have clear passion about the company’s mission. With the constant ebb and flow of startup life, individuals who resonate with your company’s overall mission will stay aligned through the lows, celebrate the highs and ultimately, stay productive through it all.  

There are many ways you can weed out individuals based on this trait alone (for some highly useful, highly guarded industry secrets on how to attract your ideal candidate download The Ultimate Guide For Startup Employer Branding), but to start, simply ensure your job posting states what your ideal candidate should be passionate about. For example, as a startup ourselves, Pivot + Edge looks for candidates who are passionate about helping other startups; who aren’t afraid to wear multiple hats (because we all do); who ask for forgiveness rather than permission; and who want to work fully remote.  

To really dig out if a candidate is passionate about your startup’s particular venture, ask an open-ended question during the interview process about what they know of your startup’s work, what problem they’d be most excited to solve if they joined the team or what they do in their spare time. For example, if you are a tech startup in tourism, there could be value in knowing a candidate is well-traveled. 


When hiring for your startup, business acumen is not everything; really take the time to understand the personalities and people that will propel your company forward. If you’re looking for the best way to attract candidates with these traits (along with all other specific traits that best suit your startup) download The Ultimate Guide For Startup Employer Branding. It is completely free and we’ll be honest, with the amount of information we are giving away…it probably shouldn’t be! In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to drop our team a line. 


Hiring Great People For Your Startup

Related Posts

Hiring for Diversity in 2022 and Beyond

Making diversity and inclusion a priority for your company is not only the right thing to do but can also help your company and team grow in exciting ways. Building your brand while keeping diversity in mind can help attract potential candidates who will bring a wide variety of talent and ideas to your team.

Keep reading

Join our Community

Return to top