Startup Hiring: 7 Tips to Make Sure You Get Only the Best Employees - ManageWP

Startup Hiring: 7 Tips to Make Sure You Get Only the Best Employees

A "Now Hiring" sign.

In what has been the two year history of ManageWP so far, the most mistakes I have made were regarding hiring. I often relied too much on the candidate’s test scores or was in a hurry to hire. I inevitably made some bad decisions.

However, we are a more mature and stable company now and I have learned from my mistakes. In this post I want to go through the successful process I follow for recruiting new hires. If you are working on your own startup or plan to in the future, these are the key things to keep in mind when hiring.

1. Define Your Startup’s Mission and Values

It took me a while to realize that the goal of a company is not to make money but to fulfil a mission. The way you fulfil the mission is to have your values defined and surround yourself with the people who share those values.

Your primary goal when hiring is end up with someone whose personality and outlook aligns with your values. When you have a mission and set of values that you firmly believe in, you get an extra ‘detector’ when interviewing candidates and should be able to ‘feel’ which ones fit.

2. Use Poor Spelling and Grammar as a Filter

I am still amazed by the number of spelling and grammar errors I see in candidate CVs. Your CV is your one shot at getting a job. You are supposed to give your best at it. Make the best possible impression.

Someone who hasn’t even seen fit to proof read their CV is someone I do not want to work with. I like to hire people who care about details.

3. Have the Candidates Present Themselves to the Entire Team

Ask the candidates to prepare a short presentation about themselves and their past experience. Have them present this in front of your entire team. This will serve as a stern test of their ability to operate effectively under pressure and give you an insight into their character. For instance, do they have a sense of humor (always good in a startup)? Do they display symptoms of excessive anxiety in carrying out their presentation?

You’re hiring a person, not a robot, so it is key to make note of their human attributes.

4. Look for Optimists and Those with an Attitude

In any startup things will inevitably go wrong at times, so try to surround yourself with optimistic people. That will make hard days easier to cope with. Also look for those with a strong attitude (any attitude is better than none).

If the guy on the other side of the desk is brilliant but you can not imagine having a drink with them one day, it’s probably not going to work.

5. Ask Yourself Choice-Maker Questions

Over the time I have compiled a list of questions that help detect hires versus non-hires. Take time to ask yourself the following questions during an interview:

  1. Would I like this person to lead one of the teams one day?
  2. Would I be upset if they left for the competition?
  3. “Kindergarten test”: Do they play along nicely with the others? Are they curious?
  4. “Sunday test”: If this person was working alone in the office on a Sunday, would that make me more likely to come to work?
  5. If I had to sit next to them for six hours on a transatlantic flight, would it be interesting?
  6. Would I invest my money in their startup?
  7. Will they help me achieve the company’s mission?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No” then it’s probably not going to work.

6. Close the interview with a Yes or No

If at the end of the interview you do not have a clear yes or no, you have not prepared well enough. The decision to hire should be made by the time the candidate is ready to leave.

Basically the choice is “Yes” and everything else (“maybe”, “we’ll think about it”) should be taken as a “No.” It’s too pivotal a decision to feel unsure about.

7. Have a Referral Program

Nothing works as good for hiring as referrals from your current employees. Since these are the people who have already passed your tests and fit into your company’s vision, it is likely that their friends will too. Have a referral program that rewards anyone who refers a friend you end up hiring.

This does not have to be a huge sum (we have a $1,000 referral award) but it should be made clear that you endorse hiring in this way.

Photo Credit: Zach Klein

Vladimir Prelovac

Vladimir is the Founder of ManageWP, and is a frequent contributor to the WordPress community - in the form of numerous plug-ins, tools, WordCamp talks and a book by the title WordPress Plugin Development.


  1. kasiakrn

    You really made a point in this post, great read. We were also interested in the topic of hiring people for startups, so we wrote this post about it: . Feel free to drop by. Thanks!

  2. Jovana Miljanovic

    This was really a great read.
    I wish more people would think like this, because it is what brings the best from talent pool to any company.

  3. Mathew Porter

    As a business owner of a startup, we are now at the stage to be looking at hiring… The issue we are finding is the disposable cash to attract someone who is skilled enough to warrant a salary level at least on par with our own… It almost seems as though qualified staff are to expensive and are not necessarily redilly available in our location or close by… We are now at the stage of possibly looking at a less experienced member of staff who has a lower knowledge base and investing our own time in training them.

    Nice points though, exactly what initial things I have looked at before interviewing candidates for positions when hiring at previous employers.

    1. vprelovac

      There are only so many qualified and experienced people. Perhaps consider internships? We started doing that and you’d be amazed with the young talent out there.

  4. McBart

    Vladimir, Thanks for posting these thoughts. Very insight full. I like to read more of your entrepreneur experiences. Also thanks for the awesome MWP T.

    1. vprelovac

      Thank you Bart, I write whenever I can!

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