How to Find and Evaluate Your Startup Team

| February 6, 2019 | Starting A Business

When you launch a business, one of the most pivotal decisions you’ll make is assembling your startup team. This group of people will play a vital role in your success, affecting your direction, your choices and your business’s ability to attract investors.

Early employees will likely become future leaders, so you want to hire the best people you can find. High-quality talent is three times more likely to build large businesses and grow them significantly, as well as four times more likely to exceed profit goals and five times more likely to exceed sales goals, according to Gallup.

Choose wisely. Here are the essential positions you’ll need to fill, tips on where to find good candidates, key qualities to look for during interviews and mistakes to avoid as you begin the hiring process. Learn them, weild them and build your business like a winner.

The Members


Every business needs a mix of people who bring different talents, strengths and mindsets. The first type of person you need is a visionary. This person is filled with ideas, imagination and isn’t afraid to try new things. A visionary is often the founder or CEO.


A startup also needs a leader. This person is organized and responsible for running the business based on the greater vision. This person could hold an executive position, such as chief operating officer, or they could be an office manager.


A business also needs an expert — someone who has experience in the industry with a firm grasp of best practices. If your business is in technology, for example, this person could be the chief information officer or a programmer.


Finally, the business needs a sales guru who will take the products or services to market. This person is the customer-facing representative of your business, so they should be a people person and an excellent communicator. This job may combine sales with marketing.

It’s possible for a person to play more than one role. The sales guru could also be a visionary, for example. However, the visionary and the leader should not be one in the same; those two roles require different mindsets — one person needs to create the big-picture view while the other person executes it responsibly.

Where to Find Them

When you’re looking for your first hires, start with people you know, tapping into your personal network and letting your contacts know you’re hiring. The advantage to taking this approach is that you’ll likely have prior knowledge of a person’s abilities and work style.

If your network search doesn’t result in good candidates, you can post an ad on a job board, such as Indeed or Monster. Provide a detailed description of the qualifications you need. In addition, many universities have job boards for students or alumni, and you can submit your ad there, as well. Also, consider attending networking events for your industry where you’ll meet people who are involved or interested in your mission. Take notes and collect business cards.

What to Look for During the Interview

The best startup team is a group of people with an entrepreneurial spirit, an appetite for risk and a willingness to take a chance on a new business. Look for people who have a strong interest in your industry. Your team may need to work long hours, and you want people who are dedicated and enthusiastic. Ask candidates about their experiences in your industry, and listen for that passion.

Check that the candidate has the skills and mindset you’re lacking. Look at their past achievements and experience. It helps if the candidate is well rounded and able to juggle responsibilities. You want someone willing to jump in and take care of a task, even if it doesn’t fall under their job description. You also want someone who’s comfortable with change and isn’t afraid to learn from failure or pivot when needed. Provide candidates with hypothetical scenarios and ask them to share how they would handle situations that involve prioritizing or multitasking.

Finally, ask candidates if they have questions for you. You want to hire someone who is curious and interested in learning more about your business, not someone who sits back and waits for instructions. Listen for intelligent, thought-provoking questions.

Avoid Hiring Mistakes

If you don’t have a background in recruiting, making your first hires can be challenging. Make sure that you don’t postpone the hire. You’ll be in dire need to fill the role and will be tempted to hire the first person you interview. Instead, create a hiring plan as soon as your company starts to see growth. Anticipate the roles your company will need to add, and develop a talent pipeline.

Also, don’t hire from the heart. Founding teams are often formed from passion but ultimately lack the proper know-how. You want to hire from the head, choosing people who are competent, professional and the right match for what you need.

Finally, make sure you screen for culture fit. Strong skills are not enough when it comes to building a strong team. Every employee should be a good fit for the company culture. As you grow, have each of your team members interview new candidates and compare notes. Don’t make the hire until you find the right person.

Growing your business is a big step for an entrepreneur. If you take the time to choose your startup team wisely, you’ll be well on your way to taking your company to the next level.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
  • All views expressed on the published articles at are those of each of the authors, and do not in any way represent the opinions of Mastercard International Incorporated or any of its affiliates (“Mastercard”). Mastercard is not responsible of the information contained in these articles.