Staffing for the 21st Century

Hiring Tips for First-Time Entrepreneurs

You’re a first-time entrepreneur. You have an idea that will change the world and you have been fortunate to find an investor to fund it. Now you’re faced with your biggest challenge yet. How are you going to recruit people to join you on this mission?

Here are some hiring tips to help you get started. I also included insights from two entrepreneurs who have been very successful at hiring top performers: Jason Jacobs, the co-founder and CEO of RunKeeper, and Boris Revsin, co-founder & CEO of CampusLIVE, whom I’ve helped recruit a senior director of product and analytics.

1. Make a plan.

Hiring the best people is critical to your success so you need a strategy or roadmap to do it well (like any other aspect of your business).

Start off by prioritizing which positions need to be hired first by determining the importance they will have to your business today. Then write a detailed profile of the ideal candidates. Jacobs adds, “They say when fundraising, if you ask for money you get advice and if you ask for advice, you get money. Hiring is the same way. Reach out to people you think would be perfect for the role and get their advice on how you are thinking about the position.”

Of course, the recruiting pipeline doesn’t just fill up with top candidates automatically. It takes a lot of work. You should outline a project plan with specific tasks that will help you build your list of prospective candidates. Here are some ideas and tasks you should follow to help you set goals and measure your success.

2. Work your network.

Working your network is a crucial piece of any successful recruiting effort. You should already be diligent about connecting with people on LinkedIn, which helps. And this point cannot be emphasized enough: A-plus players know other A-plus players. “You want the people you trust to recommend other top performers,” says Revsin.

Another great suggestion from Revsin: make your advisors and investors an extension of your recruiting efforts. They have extensive networks that should open up introductions to key people in the industry. Ask them to help make introductions for you. After all, they too are invested in your success.

3. Get out there.

You are your company’s chief evangelist! People need to see the passion in your vision and believe that the climb is worthwhile. So you need to be out there and visible in the community. Every major city has networking events going on within your industry. Attend big events like NY Tech Meetup in New York or WebInno in Boston, but also find out about smaller groups where people are talking about topics relevant to your business.

While networking is central to recruiting, it also helps build your brand and creates buzz. Once people are talking about your company, you might actually get requests from candidates actively seeking to work for you.

4. Recruit all the time.

You never know when you are going to be meeting someone who could be your next hire. Have your recruiting hat on at all times.

And if you already have a co-founder or a few early employees, make sure they are all out there helping out with the recruiting efforts too. Everyone should be involved, especially in the early stages. Make sure your story is consistent from everyone. Getting a mixed message about the position or the vision of the company is a red flag for most candidates.

5. Aim high.

If you are going to build a successful company, you need to find the best of the best employees. If you truly believe that your company offers amazing opportunities, be fearless and go after the top performers out there. Yes, people do leave Google.

You will want to move quickly, but don’t just hire for the sake of having a warm body in the seat. Take your time and do the proper amount of due diligence to help ensure you are making the right hires.

Jacobs validates this point. “If you aren’t over the moon about the hire you are about to make, don’t hire [him or her]. Every single hire in an early stage company is critically important to get right.”

Keith Cline – originally posted at has been a start-up headhunter for 14 years. He is the founder of Dissero, a recruiting firm that works primarily with VC-backed start-ups. He is also the founder ofVentureFizz, a website about technology and entrepreneurship in Boston. @VentureFizz

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