Hiring Success! The Final 2 Steps to a Perfect Fit for your Startup

Hiring Success! The Final 2 Steps to a Perfect Fit for your Startup
May 31, 2016 Michael Skok

In last week’s post, I provided an introduction to a hiring framework designed to help startups recruit strong teams that will be integral to the success of their venture. I highlighted the three areas of focus critical to hiring candidates that fit:

1) Will they reinforce and add to your culture?

2) Will they really love the job?

3) Can they be successful at the job?

Topic #1 was covered in detail and included concepts tied to Cultural Quality (CQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ): two very important pieces of criteria needed to evaluate your potential hire is a good fit.

This week’s post covers the two other key areas: a candidate’s potential love for the job and their propensity for success, including a look at how to pursue A+ hires.

Step 2: Will they really love the job?

For an ideal hire, you’ll seek out your candidate’s passions and aspirations and check for alignments with the vision and mission of your business and the role you want them to play.

If they are inspired to go after the goals you are pursuing and see their particular role as meeting their own aspirations then they will likely be a good hire. Why? Because they will be doing the job for their reasons – not just yours. You’ll tap into their energy – while inspiring them with yours – resulting in a mutual fit.

And don’t worry about being too literal on this front. Few people – other than the founders or real natural entrepreneurs – may have vision. However, the candidate should at least be able to relate to your goals in some way. Good leaders help people see the impact individual roles and objectives can have on the bigger picture, ensuring employees feel they really can make a difference.

Through this approach, you can at least tap your potential recruit’s personal aspirations and determine if they naturally align with those of the position offered. At a minimum, make sure they are not opposed to it.

In the end, no matter the assigned role, people tend to naturally fall back to doing what they enjoy. Therefore, try to uncover their passions early and check if they meet your needs and have a place on your team. People who are passionate about what they do tend to take pride in (and thrive in) their role…and the results and rewards typically follow from that.


Step 3: Can they be successful at the job?

Evaluate for IQ and EKS balance

This is often the easiest question to answer as it relies on more tangible measures of your potential hire’s capabilities. IQ is very important, but not every role is about IQ, so I strongly advocate breaking a job down into the required Experience, Knowledge and Skills so that candidates can be appropriately assessed beyond just how intelligent they are.

The key question I always ask is:

  1. What is the most relevant Experience, Knowledge or Skill (EKS) you bring to the job?

(Obviously you have to drill into the EKS that you need to match your job spec.)

This question brings out the basics and if they’re listening the key word is “relevant”. This will tell you how much thinking they’ve done about your particular job and how (in their mind) they fit it.

All of this said, there is one area in particular I love to dig into – experimentation and problem solving. If you’re going to make a difference as a startup, hopefully it’s a big difference! And that may imply a breakout strategy or a breakthrough discovery or even invention, and at least some experimentation. You can find out more about this and additional interview questions here.

Think about what EKS is relevant to you and what attributes might be important to the particular job you’re hiring for. And whether it’s intense creativity or at the other extreme, plodding patience, weight them on your hiring checklist appropriately. One oft forgotten that’s pretty nearly always required in a startup for example is risk tolerance.

Identify the A players

Startups all want to hire ‘A’ players – and this can be accomplished by looking at three important ‘A’s. With Ability being the first ‘A’, that we’ve largely covered, two more to look for are Aptitude and Attitude.


Previous EKS is great. But with the rapid growth and change typical in a startup, you need the Aptitude to be able to adapt and learn new skills and knowledge or you’ll just as rapidly fall behind. Personally, I look for quick learners who are hungry to self-educate and are adept at handling change. Remember, if you’re going to make real breakthroughs, you will require a willingness to fail fast and learn even faster, as you break into new areas with undefined outcomes or boundaries.


This brings into play the other ‘A’. Attitude. Pursuing breakout opportunities requires the right Attitude toward things like problem solving, persistence, and participation in a team.

At early stage startups for example, I look for self-starters with positive attitudes who have the courage to embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and not just for themselves, but also from and with others.

A-players not only have the right Ability but also the right Aptitude and Attitude.

The + factor

In this world of hyper-competition, people often extend the notion of ‘A’ players to looking for A+ players. The best startups are clear that they have to have an edge in pursuing talent and they find ways to define it. It can be elusive, and I have talked to many startups about this. Everyone will have their own way of defining what makes their team stand out. But what might be in that A+ for you?


There are three things I look for: Athletes, who are Self-Aware and trulyAuthentic. They’re all pretty obvious qualities, but in a startup Athletes often triumph over experience. Startups in particular need the agility of an Athlete to adopt to change as discussed earlier.


I also love working with people who are self-aware because they are easy to work with and they are open about their self-professed strengths and weaknesses. They team well with others and are amenable to mentoring and coaching.


And last but not least, the hire really needs to be Authentic. Believe it or not I find some people have even convinced themselves of some things they really are not! For instance, a sales person may convince you with their selling skills that they are a fit when they really aren’t. Nothing against sales people, as I was one once, and respect the role. But it’s their job to sell and you don’t want to sell or be sold in an interview. There need to be natural synergies between the startup and the hire.

And that brings me full circle to conclude where I started out. It really is all aboutfit. If you can work your hiring process to evaluate whether you genuinely have found someone who can be successful in the job; love it for their reasons too; and reinforce your culture, you are likely onto a great hire. It will be a mutual fit, one that will not require you selling them to join you. They will know it’s right for them, just as you will know it’s right for you.

As ever, with humility, I am curious to hear what you have learned from your hiring experiences that we may share for other entrepreneurs to benefit.

Case Examples

Unidesk – Building a Founding Team

Unidesk – Building a Founding Team

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