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Hiring? Read These Tips From A Startup Veteran

Posted by Early Growth

March 31, 2015    |     4-minute read (793 words)

This guest post by Robert Lopez was originally published on Justworks.

Hiring. It’s one of the most difficult, yet rewarding duties a manager has. I have had the good fortune to have hired over fifty people between my current role at Justworks and previously at Groupon over the last few years. That kind of volume taught me a number of important lessons and gave me insight into questions to ask to determine whether a candidate would be the right fit for an organization. I will divide this post into 1) attributes I look for and 2) questions I ask to determine whether a candidate is a fit for a given role.

Must-Have Attributes

Raw Intelligence

This isn’t only demonstrated by high GPAs or great test scores, although those are all great signs. Does the candidate understand your business? When you ask detailed questions about your business, is it clear that the interviewee has done his or her due diligence? Does s/he ask insightful questions about the future of the business? I also like to ask a brain teaser or two that tests analytical ability. No need to have a PhD in math, but having a solid analytical foundation is helpful for almost all roles.

Hard Work

While this might be a no-brainer, it is extremely hard to assess in an interview. Asking, “are you a hard worker” will surely get the answer you want to hear, yet you are better off wasting your time watching paint dry than asking that question. It’s better to ask about past or current projects that the candidate is extremely proud of and what it took to get them across the finish line. It will be easy to see if the descriptions brings out a potential hire's passion.


This is probably my favorite — Especially in high-growth environments. If someone always needs to be told what to do, I would prefer that they not work on my team. Of course, structure and goals are imperative, but once you give someone the basic guidelines, that person needs to run with them. Ideally this would include proposing new systems that make current processes more efficient or bringing an additional client on board when it was not expected.

My Go-To Hiring Questions

What are you most proud of professionally and why?

I love this question not only because it gives you insight into what the candidate is passionate about, but also but because you can see how well the answer aligns with the requirements of the role. For example, if you’re interviewing someone with a financial background for a sales role and she tells you about an excel model she built, she is probably not the rigth one. However, if she talks about a presentation she did and how she convinced her broader team to buy into the idea, then you have a solid candidate.

Give me an example of a time when you failed: what you learned, and how that shapes your thinking.

We all make mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge and try to learn from them. This question also shows how self-aware the candidate is. Self-awareness is huge in my opinion because people who are self-aware and open to feedback have a lot more growth potential.

What gets you excited to come to work and what are you passionate about?

I love this question because it can really bring out the physical cues in candidates. Body language is extremely important and the combination of the answer and the way the candidate responds is a great way to tell if someone is telling you what you want to hear or if /she truly wants to work in your organization.

It’s also important to note that mistakes will be made — as much as you try to weed out the bad ones, it’s inevitable that you will hire somebody who won’t work out. At some point, I’ll write a post on letting go of poor fits, but for now, I’ll leave you with this advice; try to make sure that you identify these as quickly as possible. Ask any good manager — it’s extremely difficult to change people so it’s better to make the tough decision sooner rather than later. Good luck.

Robert Lopez leads sales and business development at Justworks, a technology platform that helps entrepreneurs grow and manage their businesses by offering a comprehensive one-stop-shop approach for self-service payroll, compliance, and benefits (including health insurance, commuter benefits, and 401k).

Do you have wisdom to share on hiring? Share your experience and ask us questions in the comments section below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for financial support and advice.

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