5 Traits to Look for in Your First Hires


Meredith Wood, Fundera

Your small business has reached a cornerstone, and you’re ready to make your very first hires. Watching your company grow is exciting, but with it comes a lot of stress. Finding the right employees is enough to make anyone sweat.

Making your first hires is an important step towards continued success. Of course, you should employ people who will love the company as much as you do. But remember, you’re a startup — your first employees are going to be the ones who join you on your company’s journey, so it’s smart to treat this part of your journey as though you are hiring future partners.

Think of the type of business you want to be five years from now. Then hire employees who demonstrate that image. With a thorough interview process and enough enthusiasm, you’ll find the perfect fit for your business. Here are five traits to look for to get you started.


1. Enthusiasm

A good attitude goes a long way, and positivity will always benefit company morale. Happy employees mean a more productive workplace, which means faster growth and better output. Look for candidates who are enthusiastic about your company and, most importantly, your mission.

The best small business employees are open to (and excited by!) wearing multiple hats and handling tasks outside of their comfort zone on a daily basis. A good attitude is critical in any workplace, but it can be make-or-break for a growing small business. It’s normal for anyone to get stressed out once in a while, but if you can find an employee who is passionate enough about the business to stay focused on the end goal, you’ll be in a far better place for it.


2. Life beyond work

Sure, you want employees who excel in the workplace, but finding people who exhibit passion outside of the office will help you determine who has a “go get ‘em” attitude. Look for individuals who know how to go after a dream. Paying attention to candidates who are pursuing, and achieving, personal goals means you’re investing in employees who know how to work hard. Individuals who lead well-rounded and fulfilling lives will work better in the office.


3. Grit and hustle

In your past job interviews, you’ve probably been asked to talk about a time you overcame a challenge. Sure, the purpose of the prompt seems obvious — you want an employee who won’t burn out when things get tough. However, working at a small business can be stressful. Though it has many benefits and may prove to be more fulfilling than working at an established company, you’ll need an employee you can count on to think logically and remain calm during stressful times, especially when you’re operating as a small team.

Look for individuals who know how to hustle when considering your team long term. Remember, your first hires will be more like partners than employees, especially as your company begins to grow. Hire individuals who will act as future managers.


4. Connections to your network

Do you know others in your industry or community who are just getting started? Maybe you have friends of friends looking for new opportunities or you have connections to your former university. Your first hires need to be reliable people you can trust with your company. Reaching out to your network, especially when searching for your first employees, means finding employees you can trust.

It’s a good idea to look for candidates with whom you have at least one mutual connection who can vouch for them. Connections you trust and can verify the quality of worker your hire will be. If you find a candidate without any connections, ask their references as much as you can about their job history and work ethic.


5. A diverse resume

Examining grammar, spelling, and syntax on a resume is a given. However, spend extra time reading between the lines and studying the candidate’s job history. Chances are most employees — especially your first few — are going to need to cover more than one responsibility.

Working at a small business means juggling more than just your standard job duties, at least until the company grows. An individual who has worked in a variety of roles will often feel more confident covering a lot of bases and job duties. However, it’s important to look for candidates who have worked a job consistently and aren’t “job hoppers,” especially if you want your hire to stick around for the long run.


And … once you’ve made your hire

Looking for the right employee is a lot to juggle, and it’s easy to overlook the small details. Hiring someone is a process, and it’s good to know the legal process and paperwork required to have employees. After that, you’re going to want to take steps like setting up workers’ compensation insurance and a time tracking and payroll system. You’ll also want to consider everything from employee benefits to vacation policies as well. The sooner you iron out the details, the easier it will be to flesh out your team and continue to hire the right people for your company.

Hiring your first employees is something to be proud of. It means your company is growing and, business-wise, you’re going to have the ability to reach further than you were before. Interviews can be stressful, especially if you’ve never been on the other side of the desk, but getting the right hires in the door will help you grow.

Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. Meredith is also the Senior Financial and B2B Correspondent for AlleyWire