We all agree that the success of a startup has a whole lot to do with the team behind it, as much as the actual concept driving them. How do we work together, make decisions, celebrate victories, problem solve, achieve our goals? Process and success depends on people, the individuals behind the great concept the business is trying to deliver. So the best time to make sure you can build The A-Team is in the beginning. When you’re growing your team and hiring new people.

The majority of work opportunities come from meetings with mutual friends and colleagues. And there is a good reason for this. Especially in the age of startups. Work opportunities often come from referrals because they are the people that know you and your character. Technical ability must be paired with an ability to work with people. Are you someone that people would happily recommend for an opportunity, or do you focus only on the task at hand?

The opportunity of letting go and inviting others in to participate and help grow your business can be hard. You want to hire the right people whom you can trust to get the job done.

Prepare a robust interview process, void of any bias or self interests from hiring managers. Diversity in a team is crucial for a business’s success and survival.

Structure your interview with a solid score system for each of the candidate’s answers and avoid doing panel interviews at all costs so you don’t succumb to ‘groupthink’.

Rate before review. Discuss candidates after your own personal review has been done and remember the interview should only account for a small percentage of your decision. Scoring should be done immediately after each question.

Sample-work test are the best and easiest way to measure how a candidate is likely to perform a given task that is directly related to the role they’re apply for.

Hiring the a-team

Crucial books for any business startup to read are Work Rules by Google’s Laszlo Bock and What Works by Iris Bohnet.

Above all else it is a really exciting time as you progress and grow as a team. For a young startup creating a well thought out interview process is key. You’re building a movement as much as you are a tool or service. Keeping these points in mind it’s also important to factor in these elements of character. Let’s get into the facts: a study carried out by Leadership IQ, found that 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months.

“The study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills.”

These elements below can also be learned by an existing team. Don’t go banging your head on your desk because you think you have the wrong people. Consider these highly transferrable skills that everyone should learn and practice immediately. So let’s look at each briefly:

Pie ChartCoachable
This has to be one of the most important traits when it comes to anything relating to relationships. Professional, personal or romantic. If someone can’t be coachable they are going to hold your team back from growing. Life will be pretty hard for them as an individual. Not just at work either. The easiest way to see if someone is coachable is by asking them how they handle criticism. This is a question you should ask all of your team members, even those in higher positions. If a leader can’t take criticism it will be hard to foster innovation. An important thing about being coachable is accepting that feedback can come from anyone; the cleaner, the boss, the person who shares a desk with you.

Emotional Intelligence
Plainly this means how people process and manage their own and other’s feelings, emotions and behaviours. In a way this one is a combination of all of these elements, so after reading through each and applying them, you will probably get a good idea how they manage their emotions. Emotions are inevitable, we all feel them throughout our day to day lives. Some are unpleasant, others are nice but none of them have to be unbearable. It’s extremely common for people to be so afraid of feeling a certain way, they will often avoid the feeling at all costs.

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We can’t stop those feelings from happening but we can help debrief and debunk any negative learning taken away from the event or situation which caused it. For example if someone had a really bad experience being corrected, they may feel attacked and get defensive when being corrected in a way that is not intended to be negative. It’s important to know the corrector may have been wrong in the way they were correcting them. Does your company have a healthy culture when it comes to giving feedback or criticism? It can be good to openly talk about these aspects of your company to make it a safe place.

Everyone will appear to be enthusiastic during the interview process but sometimes that enthusiasm can start to drop after a few months of being in the job. A study done by MIT found that when the issue of money is off the table, three things motivate us; autonomy, mastery and purpose. These things also come hand in hand with having ownership over our responsibilities and tasks. If we are happy with the work we are doing and the decisions we are making we will be more energised and enthused, having access to a higher level of sustained motivation. We go into these subjects in more depth in our previous blog posts here and here.

If the job requires a certain character you should find someone who naturally fits the role. Simply define what kind of character you think is best suited for the job and why? Maybe it needs to be an extrovert, someone who is naturally comfortable at presenting to large groups. Or is it a more introverted character you need? Someone who is a good listener and has the right knack to mentor others, one on one? Define the character and look for those characteristics in the person you are interviewing.


In summary, it’s important we recognise the traits above are fundamental characteristic that every team member should have, if we want to be a successful unit. Not just the boss and not just the new guy, but anyone contributing to your company’s purpose. What are some of the things you find are helpful when interviewing a potential candidate? We’d love to hear. Maybe you have a way of setting this culture beyond just an interview process? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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