Top Startup Mistakes: Screwing Up Hiring

I post tons articles that I find around the web to help my followers move your businesses forward. Often, people write in asking me to elaborate on pieces of those articles, so I’ve started a series to do just that. I recently posted an article from Entrepreneur about common mistakes people make when launching a new company. The first of those big mistakes that I want to address: getting the hiring process wrong. 

When you’re building a business, your team is everything. Who you hire will make or break your success. A great hire can add incredible value to your company and free you up to focus on your real strengths while a bad hire can tank your business by costing you time, money, and customers. That’s why the phrase “hire slow; fire fast,” is so popular.

Despite knowing this, however, messing up the hiring process is one of the most common causes of stress and even failure for new businesses, so here are some tips to prevent you from blowing in your business:

Firstly, make sure you’re not getting into the hiring process until you’re really ready for it. Sometimes when new entrepreneurs first get started building their businesses or they’ve recently raised funding or gotten a revenue infusion, they want to run out and hire a huge team. This could be because the entrepreneur lacks confidence and feels he or she needs to bring in a ton of experts to succeed or it could be because the entrepreneur wants the ego boost of having a bunch of people on the payroll. Either way is a bad reason to hire. The only right way to do hiring is to hire to fill gaps in company needs and to improve the efficiency of the company. Before you begin hiring anyone, assess whether what they bring to the table is more or less valuable than what you’ll have to pay them + the time spent training and managing them + the other costs of hiring like taxes, benefits, and payroll. If someone will have a negative ROI, don’t hire. It’s as simple as that.

Secondly, if you have decided that you’re ready to hire, make sure you hire the right person! New business owners spend most of their time feeling like they need to put out a million fires and that there isn’t nearly enough time in the day to get even fraction of their to do lists done. That means that once it’s time to hire, they often feel like the sooner they can get someone into the position and take some of the load off, the better. However, putting too much weight on getting someone onto the team quickly is a great way to end up with even more headaches because you’ve chosen the wrong person. Taking the up-front time to assess if a candidate is really the right person for the job will pay immense dividends down the road.

When you’re going through the hiring process, of course, look at the skills and experience of your applicants because you need someone who knows their stuff and can hit the ground running. However, perhaps even more important than the candidates’ skills are the candidates’ personality, work style, commitment to your company, and long-term goals. Finding someone who is a good fit for your company’s style and culture is just as make or break as finding someone with the technical skills you need.

Additionally, make sure you play by the rules in the hiring process and beyond. The last thing you need is a migraine-inducing lawsuit because you violated employment law or didn’t clearly document your compensation agreements. This is especially important if, after bringing someone onto the team, you realize that you’ve made a mistake and need to let that person go.

Remember the adage “hire slow; fire fast.” Hire slow means add roles only when necessary and take the time needed to find the best candidates for those roles. Fire fast means don’t let a bad hire poison the well with a negative attitude or sub-par work. If you made a mistake in hiring, rectify it quickly.

Making a mess of hiring is an incredibly common – and incredibly damaging – mistake made by all too many entrepreneurs. If you follow these tips, you’ll be ahead of the game and can save yourself a lot of future stress.


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