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The Most Common Mistakes Startups Make When Recruiting

Running a startup is a very exciting but also a very vulnerable time. Hiring your first employee(s) is a thrilling experience, although one of the biggest challenges you will face at this point. 


Catch 22

Startups frequently end up in a Catch 22 situation where they have a solid concept and business model to help solve a problem for a specified target group. For the startup to get to this point, they will need resources to hire more people, finish, test, and launch the product or platform. But to get there, you need to prove revenue. Startups who aim to enter the B2B enterprise space also regularly struggle with bootstrapping themselves to a self-funded machine (and don’t count on an odd-ball venture like selling your furniture to power this machine). However, everything has a solution, and even Catch-22’s have an escape hatch - one of which is hiring the perfect fit to help scale your organization. Together with your new hire, you will climb the ladder together and reach that hatch with enough determination and creativity. Set out and do what others in the market seem incapable and unwilling to do. Let’s hire someone, shall we? 

Smling man of color on his computer

Who Do You Actually Need?

First and foremost, you need a living, breathing person to join your team. That’s pretty simple to find in this world, right? But just being able to breathe is quite an easy criterion to fulfill. What you need to do is ask yourself who your ideal candidate is. This way, you will be able to recognize them when you see them or read their application. Even though you find a marketer who is great at their job doesn’t necessarily mean the person correlates to being a good team member in your startup. We can put up a list of things to help you define your ideal candidate.

  1. Personality
  2. Expertise and interests
  3. Aspirations
  4. Current, short, and long-term goals

You don’t want to work with a person whom you don’t get along with. We’re not saying the candidate needs to be an exact clone of you or your team, but a person with a good personality who you like is better suited (but be careful not to fall into the "like-me" bias). Secondly, what kind of expertise and interests does your candidate have? No one is an expert at everything, but find out where the candidate can support and shine within your startup. Next, you need to find out why they are interested in starting at your startup - what is a key motivator for them, and is this motivation enough for them to succeed in their new role? Finally, find out what they are focused on at the moment, months from now, and even maybe years from now. 

To give you an outline of finding out who you need, we can say that the candidate you need to be looking for is those who directly impact your ability to build a business. So, get to work, start writing, and describe your ideal team member. Keep in mind that you will not meet these criteria 100 %, and there is no such thing as the perfect candidate. Remember that your main goal is to have the ability to point out the right fit when you see them.

Save Time, Save Money

When you’re deciding on your final hire, you need to make sure to not rush into anything. You don’t want to end up hiring a candidate who looked perfect on paper and interviews but underperforms at their tasks. You may feel pressure to hire someone quickly and go with the first person you think seems fitting. However, spend time describing your ideal candidate thoroughly. Although describing the ideal personality, expertise, aspirations, and commitment can be a tough challenge. Sitting by yourself writing down criteria, drinking coffee after coffee, and cracking knuckles is stressful and is going to take up a lot of your time. This is why you don’t need to be afraid of seeking help - after all; successful people are rarely afraid to admit when they need help.

Finding a mentor or recruitment company that has overcome this challenge multiple times can be a great investment, as being by yourself or with a small team can put a toll on your hiring process. It is, of course, possible to do this by yourself, but think of the time you could waste evaluating the wrong candidates, the money you could waste by hiring the wrong candidate, and the progress your startup can make from hiring the right candidate early in the process. This is why the catchphrase “teamwork makes the dream work” exists. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to wait for long!


A group of four in front of laptop

Make A Decision Sooner Than Later

As discussed previously, you don’t want to rush into anything, but you also don’t want to wait too long. What if your hiring process takes too long for a candidate, and they end up at another startup where they excel? Many startups struggle with deciding on who to hire during the hiring process. However, hiring another person to join your one-person or small team is scary and an excitable exercise. Remember that there is no such thing as the perfect candidate - but there is such a thing as a proper candidate. Here is a quick list of bullet points to check during the hiring process. 

  1. Define your ideal candidate profile.
  2. Look in the right places - don’t be afraid to get creative with where you search for your next hire.
  3. Explain the opportunity and role in your startup in an engaging way - take a marketing approach and try to incorporate storytelling.
  4. Offer proper compensation (and be transparent about it).

Walking through these steps with a hiring team, a mentor, or a recruitment company can help you on your way if you’re struggling to figure them out by yourself. Seeking out help if you’re sitting by yourself or a small team in a startup is a great way to make it easier for yourself.


As we can see, there is much more to hiring the right candidate than just posting a job ad and hoping for the best. The hiring process can be a bit like searching for the right LEGO piece - it can be a challenge at first, but when you finally find it, everything falls into place. So, find out who you can help you get out of the Catch 22 phase and send you on your way to the top! 

If you need further help with your recruitment efforts or would like to outsource them, you can always start a conversation with us or check out some of our additional recruitment resources.

Author profile Meagan Leber

Growth Marketing Manager at Amby, who loves writing about the tech, venture capital, and people space.