Hiring Tips & Insights: 12 Tips for Tech Founders to Win at Early-Stage Hiring

12 Tips for Tech Founders to Win at Early-Stage Hiring

By Philip Joubert

Your early hiring decisions as a founder can make or break your company. After hiring more than a hundred people in the last few years, and seeing numerous companies hire with OfferZen, I thought I’d share some tips to help level up your hiring process in the early stages of your company’s growth. Philip_12-Tips-for-Tech-Founders-to-Win-at-Early-Stage-Hiring_Inner-Article-Image

1. Don’t outsource hiring

Hiring is not admin to be outsourced – it’s a critical business decision. Early hires especially have a big long term impact.

Airbnb founders were involved in every hire up to 500 employees. You should be interviewing at least the first 50 hires.

2. Hire slow

Having a bigger team is not an accomplishment and it actually slows you down at the start. Only hire when you absolutely have to.

WhatsApp only had 55 employees when they were acquired for $21B.

3. Write a scorecard

Before you interview anyone, make a one-pager that describes the role.

My scorecards include:

  1. Mission: What they need to achieve
  2. Competencies: What skills they need to have
  3. Background and personality: What type of person they are

4. Create a hiring process

Process is boring, but it saves time and effort in the long run. A standardised process also helps you assess candidates more accurately.

At OfferZen, we use the following five-step process:

  1. Phone screen
  2. Interview
  3. Homework task
  4. (Virtual) onsite
  5. References

5. Get hiring advisors

If you’ve never done the job you’re hiring for, then find someone who has.

I’ve had great success asking a friend (or a friendly stranger on LinkedIn) who has done, hired and managed the role before to tell me what to look for.

6. Don’t be rude

Interviews are a chance for the candidate to prove to an interviewer that they’ll be good at the job. Don’t use them to prove to the candidate how smart you are.

  • Be curious about them
  • Help them to do well
  • Don’t ask brain teasers

7. Look for proven skills

Everyone makes claims, so how do you know they can deliver?

  • Find out if they’ve done it before: Ask for hard facts about their past work and achievements.
  • See if they can do it now: Ask them to do real work – for example, write, code or present.

8. Hire for strengths, not lack of weaknesses

If you filter out candidates because they have weaknesses, you’ll end up making lukewarm hires. The best candidates often have big shortcomings.

Set up your interview process to identify strengths, rather than seeking only flaws.

9. Be compellingly transparent

People should know what they’re in for before they join. Be open about where the business is at, what your plans are and the risks.

Importantly, also explain why you believe in the mission and why you think the company has a good chance to win.

10. Sell, sell, sell

The best candidates always have many options. They don’t need you or your startup.

Some founders feel hurt when people have doubts about joining. They believe that the right candidates don’t need convincing. Don’t be that founder – hustle to get the best!

11. Don’t stop before it’s done

Hiring is done when they accept your offer, right?

Wrong. Their current employer has their entire notice period to convince them to stay. Give your new hire a weekly call or email with updates on the company until they start.

12. Own your mistakes

No matter how good your process, not all hires work out.

A hiring mistake is never their fault – as the founder it’s always on you. Be upfront with them, treat them with dignity and help them land on their feet if you can.


If you’d like more useful insights to up your hiring game, we’ve just published our State of the Software Developer Nation Report! We asked over 3500 developers what they think about their careers, salaries and what they’re looking for in their next job opportunities. Check it out here.

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