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3 Ways to Avoid a Hiring Disaster

With this basic framework, you can put the right people in place.

A ‘Now Hiring’ sign is displayed during a Job News USA career fair at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Photo by Luke Sharrett — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Alexander McKelvie, department chair of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.

Hiring the wrong people is always a major concern, especially for a start-up where new members are coming in at the foundational stage of the business. If someone is one of five people working at a company, their role by default will be critical and likely not very structured; they’re likely to wear many different hats over time. Early hires have a significant impact on the subsequent development of the company and you should deeply consider their potential to fit in before extending an offer.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of business school students embarking on entrepreneurial endeavors, and the subject of early-stage staffing has often been a point of discussion. Here’s a basic framework for three issues to consider if you’re trying to avoid hiring the wrong people for an early-stage venture:

Shared vision

It’s important to have early team members with a similar outlook on the business. You may disagree on tactics, but if you don’t agree on the fundamentals, there will be many struggles down the line. You don’t want your team to get bogged down with a rehashing of the mission during or between every meeting or project.

One study found that almost two-thirds of new venture failures stem from people issues like this. Ventures can face similar challenges when bringing in new investors as well; you need to share with them the vision of where you are going in order to focus on how you can best get there.

Versatile team players

Start-ups in particular need to have people who can fit different roles. It’s great to have a functional specialist, but that may limit their ability to contribute to the overall business early on. Finding a jack-of-all-trades will help maximize the minimal resources you may have, such as allowing you to handle many different types of projects without having to outsource or hire more people beforehand. Employees who can grow with the company by learning new things will also pay dividends down the road. They can likely be promoted to new positions or take on additional roles within the company, minimizing the expensive and time-consuming process of recruiting for specialized roles.

Good rapport

It is also critical to find employees with whom you will get along on a personal level. With the late-night discussions and pivotal conflicts that come up with early-stage start-ups, this will make it a lot easier to stay focused on the mission ahead. Getting along well with colleagues also helps your team focus better on potential problems. When you have a positive work environment, conflicts are only about process or strategy, not personalities.

Thoroughly vet a potential hire

There are a few ways you can go about finding the right hire. Obviously, if you have the ability to get to know someone first before making the hiring decision, that’s always best. Bringing someone in with whom you have worked in the past means you are familiar with their skillset and work habits, and you can ensure that they will be a proven team player who can deliver.

If you don’t know the person, then find ways to do so. Rather than a quick interview or glance at their resume, try putting them in situations where you can observe how they think and react, in order to determine whether they will be a good fit at your company. This will also help you see what they can contribute.

Referrals are great when looking for the right person to add to the team. Ask other people who you work with and trust to think about their networks. If they sign off on a candidate, that’s a good sign. Go further than the usual reference checks. Ask about how the person deals with conflicts or about their work habits, to determine how well they will mesh with your team.

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Originally published at on November 4, 2016.

Originally published at

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