Why Startups Should Be Open To Recruiting An Upskiller

startup teamThis guest column is authored by Stephen Pritchard, Marketing Executive, Adzuna

Many startups are facing a problem right now: they just can’t get the staff. While there are lots of people looking for jobs, the very best often demand more money than a fledgling start up can afford, or are snapped up by bigger tech companies that have proved themselves over the years.

Whatever the reason behind hiring difficulties, an underqualified employee doesn’t have to be a disaster – as long as you find one that is ripe for upskilling. There are, however, a few essential qualities you should look out for:

A quick learner

This should be obvious, but if a candidate is ideal in every other way it can be easy to overlook this quality. Perhaps try explaining some difficult concepts to your candidate at the beginning of an interview and test them on their knowledge at the end – if they have difficulty retaining the information or communicating the concept clearly back to you then you are likely to run into problems further down the line.


If you’re going to put time and effort into developing an employee you want to reap the rewards, so it’s worth taking a look at their employment history to see if you can determine whether they’re likely to stick around.

It might be tempting to disregard a job-hopping candidate immediately, but don’t be too hasty. Try to establish why they’ve never stayed put for long – it might just come down to an unlucky string of poor workplaces. Meanwhile, if a potential recruit became frustrated in a role that didn’t allow them to develop their skills they might relish the challenge of learning on the job.

Nevertheless, a candidate who isn’t able to demonstrate loyalty or commitment in any aspect of their life will understandably cause alarm bells to ring. If you don’t believe they will repay your faith and investment it could be best to keep looking.

Commitment to self-improvement

Academic qualifications may give some idea of a candidate’s ability to learn, but a demonstration of gaining new skills on the job is far more valuable. Make a point of finding out in an interview if your potential hire has a naturally curious mind – someone who has the initiative to discover answers and solutions for themselves will be a worthwhile addition to your team.

Expertise in other areas

Past performance may be no indication of future success, but a candidate that has excelled in other roles will understand the feeling of success and so should be keen to achieve it again. However, such a candidate should also be able to demonstrate humility – they may suddenly find more junior colleagues calling the shots, which isn’t something every ego can deal with comfortably. This leads us to the next thing you need to look out for.

People skills

Possession of good people skills is a positive trait in any staff member, but it’s especially important for someone who will be learning on the job. The new hire will need to feel confident asking for help and advice, but will also need to be sensitive to the demands already placed on other team members. A new hire that can’t easily negotiate this balance may start to upset the dynamic in the office, which if left unchecked could easily begin to negatively affect productivity.

When should you try to upskill a candidate?

For certain roles it will be impossible (and sometimes even illegal) to look beyond candidates with the necessary qualifications or experience. There’s no easy way of getting around the talent shortage in this situation, and hefty recruiter fees and a bumper salary may be the consequence.

For other roles it may pay to be open minded: a candidate whose values align with your company culture and has a strong work ethic can be better in the long run than a disruptive personality that otherwise meets a list of requirements.

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