Should you let people’s past experience come in the way of hiring the best fit for your startup?


This guest column is by Vikram Upadhyaya, Chief Mentor and Evangelist at GHV Accelerator

It is very tempting for the founder of a company to try to tackle as much as they can in the mistaken notion that they can control the outcomes. However unpleasant the truth maybe, remember, you alone do not possess all the skill sets necessary to grow the startup. Therefore, hiring the right people becomes very important.

It is good to have an early start at hiring to facilitate the founder in executing his vision and add value to the startup’s skill sets. But the key is to hire someone who meets the specific needs of your business. And this is where most startups tend to go wrong.

Over the years, businesses have been programmed to hire people who come with strong credentials and have already proved their worth in their previous jobs. They fail to realize that the requirements and expectations vary from company to company. So, just because someone has performed well elsewhere doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for you.

Therefore, before initiating the hiring process, it is important to take a closer look at your own company. Be very clear about its culture, values, technology, service, product and ideas that you wish to promote. Based on these it will be easier to identify the necessary skill sets required to take your startup to the next level.

The toughest part is finding the right people and narrowing down the resumes which strike a resonance with your requirements. It is an all consuming and stressful process going though numerous resumes and references. But, as Richard Branson rightly puts it, “There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team”. He further says, “If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success.”

Just focusing on the resumes of the ones who are in good organisations and performing well is not enough to get you the right person for your startup. Instead of dwelling on what a person ‘has done’ in the past, it is important to shift the focus to what he ‘can do’. Try to forget his past laurels for a while. Look at the skills or expertise he is bringing to the table and how he can leverage those to add value to the startup.

An exhaustive multiple round of interviews of the candidate is also in order if you have to find the right fit for your startup, so you can understand different dimensions about their personality. Many a time, people who may have been only average performers in an organised set up may work wonders in a startup where the approach and needs of the job are different. Somebody who may have seemed like a maverick in a larger organised set up can possibly be the right personality for a startup needing out-of-the-box thinking.

A good place to start fitting the candidate to the organisation is to look for the right personality which suits the company’s culture. Mostly what startups need is not an employee mindset but an owner’s mindset. Since a lot of things are to be grown from scratch, somebody who can is proactive and can take ownership of their tasks without worrying about personal petty gains is a big asset. This trait can easily be viewed as non conformist in a larger established set up and may not be considered acceptable.

Also, unlike established businesses, startups have more fluid roles that change with market conditions. Also, with limited resources at hand, it is important that everyone is flexible enough to stretch and go beyond the call of duty to contribute, whenever the situation demands so. Moreover, they should not only believe in the founder’s vision, but be equally passionate about making it a success. A go-getter attitude will only prove to be an icing on the cake!

Sometimes, doing small tests, whether verbal or written, can give a great insight into the psychological and mental capacities of a candidate, which the resume and interview may not reveal. Even seemingly well performing individuals could fail on some crucial parameters such as teamwork or temperament. So in spite of coming with strong credentials, they may not make for a good hire for your startup.


People are the biggest asset for any business. So it is important that you hire only the best people who fit the role based on a variety of factors. So, while you may certainly look for someone with a sound past record, remember that your job doesn’t end there. You ought to see how well the individual fits into your unique requirements.

Finding individuals who collaborate with each other positively, learn and grow together, and are as charged up as your are about the startup are valuable assets and will pay great dividends in the future.

By basing your decision purely on past performance, you’ll be overlooking other vital parameters and may end up putting not just the person’s career, but also your startup’s fate at stake.

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