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The Secret to Hiring Top Startup Talent

Posted by Early Growth

March 19, 2013    |     5-minute read (942 words)

Originally published in StartupNation.

What’s your secret for hiring Olympic-level talent for your team?

This was the question posed to twelve business experts. The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. Know Your Weaknesses

It’s easy to get excited by talented team members who speak your language, but if you want your startup to succeed you’ve got to court and hire talent who are strong where you’re weak. Many owners are great visionaries and struggle with implementation—they need the people who can execute consistently to help realize that big vision. -Kelly Azevedo, Shes Got Systems

2. The Trust Approach

Hire only those you would trust in hiring others without your consultation. If you only hire people you believe in that you would let hire others on your behalf, your going to bring on top talent. -Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

3. Tap Into Your Ecosystem

Your startup ecosystem is all around you: where you are and who you work with. If you’re hiring for a specific position, consider your entire ecosystem as an ongoing networking opportunity. Let everyone know exactly what you’re looking for. Mention the opening to business partners and vendors, at coffee dates and on social media. Remember, there’s no cost to word-of-mouth advertising. -David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

4. Set the Bar Higher

To hire the best talent, post your job on a website that has access to numerous jobs boards, such as ZipRecruiter. Look for candidates through social media as well. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, interview each candidate thoroughly, and set the bar high. Remember, there are more job seekers out there than ever before, so there’s just no need to settle for anything less than the best. -Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

5. Create a Hiring Strategy

A hiring strategy is essential to success. This means aligning talent with your culture and having evaluation processes that ensure the talent will fit. Map your growth plans to determine a hiring forecast--who will you likely need to hire and why. That includes both similarities--what every hire must have to fit in the business--and differences--how they fill gaps and complement existing talent. -Susan Strayer LaMotte, exaqueo

6. Utilize One-Way Video Interviews

I regularly utilize one-way video interviews as a way to learn more about candidates and get a sense of their fit for the position and our company. The benefit is the candidate can complete it on their own time, and I can review his or her responses when I’m available. It’s an easy way to determine who’s serious about working at our company and who might not measure up to their written resume. -Heather Huhman, Come Recommended

7. Don't Wait for Inbounds

I hired most of the engineers at by sending them a cold e-mail, directly. They weren't even on the market yet. They didn't reach out to us and formally apply to a job posting on our website. In some cases, they already had full-time jobs (though, were willing to leave). It may seem counter-intuitive, but I think you need to actively recruit your talent, not sift through inbound CVs. -Andrew Montalenti,

8. Network Before You Need to Hire

When you’re ready to hire at a startup, you’re probably desperate to get some help in the office ASAP. That can make it harder to select someone—you want to chose the first person who can do the job. But if you can build a network ahead of time, you can recruit someone who can do more than the job as it stand, someone who can grow with the company. -Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

9. Provide Life-Changing Experiences

To recruit the best talent, you need to show how your startup will provide a life-changing experience for employees. Ask yourself, “Who’s our company backed by? What will employees learn? Will it be fun? Is this an opportunity to be part of something special?” -Matt Wilson, Under30Media

10. Treat All Your Employees Like You Treat Your Customers

Our goal at Zaarly was to help people make money doing what they love and let you discover and work with those talented people. As we created that mission we realized we needed the same mission for our team and created and published our "Employee Handbook" ( We made a public statement about our most valuable resource and it makes all the difference. -Eric Koester, Zaarly

11. Tell the Truth

Be transparent and never "sell" them on dreams that won’t come true. Startup life is hard and BSing people on that doesn’t create trust. -Brent Beshore, AdVentures

12. Passion and Drive Can't Be Taught

Look for passion and drive—exceptional intelligence or skill don’t mean a lot if the person you’re hiring isn’t passionate about what the company does and doesn’t have the drive to make things happen on their own. Identify evidence of initiative in order to know that the person is going to figure out ways to improve the company by their own accord. -Alex Lorton,

What's your secret for hiring Olympic-level talent? Come on...let us know in comments below!

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