#Asia Looking to hire? Here are 5 qualities you should seek in a job candidate


Image by Ted Murphy

Image by Ted Murphy

There’s no doubt that the journey to be a successful entrepreneur and build a world-class company starts from the idea. Founders who’ve managed to identify a problem and an existing gap in the market are already one step ahead.

But unfortunately that’s all it is – a single step. No startup is a one-man show. For companies to truly make it big and leave behind a lasting legacy it’s pivotal to invest in and build world-class teams. High-caliber employees can execute and scale the business aggressively – after all that’s what separates the good from the great. Edison wasn’t joking around when he said, “Two percent is genius and 98 percent is hard work.” The words hold true now more than ever.

Finding the right team for your startup is, of course, easier said than done. The talent crunch and difficulty faced by employers in filling positions doesn’t help either. Disruptive web businesses flush with cash are increasingly competing against each other as well as with top-tier traditional employers to hire the best and brightest. Prospective job applicants have never had it better.

Having said that, one of the biggest mistakes a startup founder can make, especially in the early stages of the company, is to hire the wrong person. Don’t hire for the sake of hiring, or because you’re desperate to fill the position. Tread carefully and cautiously. To make life a little easier, here are five qualities you should look to find in a candidate before making them an offer.

Image by Samuel Mann

Image by Samuel Mann

1. Passion

As a CEO, it is undoubtedly your passion for solving problems which compelled you to dive into the murky waters of entrepreneurship. But you need your employees to be as motivated as yourself. They should take ownership of the company and be equally invested into its future as you are.

So how exactly do you understand whether a prospective candidate shares, at least to some degree, the same passion as you do? One way to find out is to analyze the level of interest they show during the interview. Are they asking probing questions? Are they curious to uncover the startups’ medium-term plan? Do they see themselves growing side-by-side with the company? These indications will help you understand whether they’re a good fit.

2. Creativity

Of course, your startup is solving a problem, which is why it exists in the first place and has enough money to hire. But what if the approach towards solving that problem isn’t necessarily the most effective or frictionless? Astute and smart employees can foresee when a business might need to alter its approach – and how best to position it within the competitive landscape.

Scanning through an applicant’s CV should give an idea of how they’ve dealt with solving problems in the past. Job hunters are taught to highlight achievements so it’s likely that their resume will have such examples. If it’s still not immediately clear then the interview will give you ample opportunity to understand whether they’ve thrived in leading or managing projects by themselves. Be sure to ask them about challenges they faced and how they used their personal ingenuity to navigate through them.

Don’t lose hope if a prospective employee is a fresh graduate with little work experience. Delving into their university projects can also help give an idea of how well they’re able to innovate and adapt. Examples could be a senior-year thesis, or a project they worked on in combination with a faculty member.

See: 5 questions to ask yourself before accepting a startup job

3. Determination and grit

Working at a startup is by no means an easy ride. The unstructured nature of your job means it’s necessary to fill several roles – and fill them ably. Founders should look for candidates who don’t view challenges as insurmountable and have the will to keep ploughing through.

A way to quantify these qualities can be an analysis of how they performed at their previous jobs. Did they exceed their KPIs or was their performance below-par? If it was difficult for them to meet their targets, then what did they do to overcome the problem? If they’re applying to your company just because they’re disheartened and unwilling to accept challenges, then a startup job is probably not the best fit.

Image by Britt-knee

Image by Britt-knee

4. Leadership

Successful companies don’t have just one leader – they hire individuals who are capable of providing leadership at all levels. Employees who are willing to lend a helping hand to their colleagues and understand that success is about empowering an entire team and not just about individual glory will substantially increase the reputation of the firm.

Successful startups scale aggressively, which means there is a strong likelihood for widening responsibilities and advanced job roles. In such cases it’s best to promote from within as existing employees already understand the culture and are best equipped to face challenges.

Of course, for that to happen, it’s important for employees to think and act like leaders. Again, a prospective employee’s past should give you an idea of whether they have the capability and bandwidth to step up to the plate. Ask them for specific scenarios where they’ve put the team first and resisted the urge to strike out on their own. Another quality of leaders is the willingness to constantly learn – so ask them whether they’ve ever been put out of their comfort zone and what they did in such a case.

5. Adaptability to culture

The last thing you want is for a new employee to introduce a culture of mediocrity in your company. Not only will that demotivate existing employees, it’ll also make it far easier for competitors to catch up.

Admittedly, it’s almost impossible to determine whether a candidate will be a suitable fit. However, if they tick off on the previous four points, then the chances are much more likely. You want your startup to be nimble, aggressive, and innovative while your employees remain humble and understand that they’re in this for the long-haul.

See: 4 books every aspiring startup founder should read

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