I’ve worked for global Fortune 500 organizations. I’ve worked for a private holding company. I’ve also “done” three startups. I bring some street cred to this blog as I’ve experienced birthing and burying a startup—and everything in-between.
I do admit I’m drawn to startups like a moth to a flame. This is particularly odd to me as nowhere in my upbringing was there an entrepreneur. My father worked for the same company his entire career. My mother was a teacher her whole career. They were the hallmarks of stability and risk-aversion.
This article is about traits startup founders seek in candidates. Of course, I wanted to read the list to see which traits I clearly possess—other than stupidity, which is what my Fortune 500 boss told me as I was leaving her to go work for an IT startup.
However, after reading the list I found that three traits, in particular, are universal. Startup to behemoth… anyone looking to hire today should be looking for these characteristics in a new employee.
Flexibility: In a startup, this means being able to move and shift with what the business needs. It’s a given you will be wearing multiple hats. You may clean out the fridge one afternoon, and the next day you’re on a plane to conduct due diligence on a potential acquisition. Wouldn’t it be lovely if regardless of company size everyone had a “flex” mentality? Nothing is beneath them and there is no challenge too tough to tackle.
Fearlessness: “Failures are inevitable and success is largely determined by how well you can cope with them,” said Timo Kauppila, co-founder, and CEO of Catchbox. While his reference was in regards to the volatile business that is a startup, can we not say this is applicable to any business? If you’re not taking risks, you’re not growing—as an organization or as a professional. I want that fearless gene in the DNA of every employee! “Give it to me,” “Of course we can!” and “Let’s go do this!” are all phrases I’ve heard from my fearless employees before they overachieve.
Fit: Anyone can hire for technical expertise or even proven leadership experience. It’s much tougher to hire for fit—but man, isn’t that what makes or breaks your company?! We’ve all hired the pedigreed, perfect resume only to watch that person go down in flames due to lack of cultural fit. Hopefully, we’ve also hired the “not so perfect” person on paper and witnessed him/her flourish because there was a natural fit.
Flexibility, Fearlessness, Fit… and while we’re on the “F” page, make sure your new hires can freaking have FUN! It’s a given in a startup environment and it would have made leaving that Fortune 500 just a bit harder!
Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.