Why You Should Hire on Characteristics and Train on Tactics

At any given point in time at a fast growing startup, you’re hiring across functions, levels and specific disciplines. It’s difficult to find someone who checks the boxes across the most important skills, let alone someone who has the combination of those talents plus the more intangible qualities or characteristics that have the potential to accelerate positive outcomes, specifically at the critical early stages.

We recommend you dare to hire based on characteristics and train on tactics – emphasizing intangibles over functional skills as you plan for and develop your talent priorities.

As we pick up the thread on strategically building your team with people, not jobs, we want to share insights on how you can determine the key characteristics that, when represented throughout your team, will contribute to alignment, momentum and ultimately long-term success.

Once you have the key characteristics codified, defining profiles, prioritizing networking, nurturing relationships and measuring results will come more easily.

Whereas company values are centered on beliefs and competencies around existing or developing strengths, characteristics are inherent qualities that individuals possess and exhibit in life and at work.

Startups need to determine which characteristics will be most important in differentiating and driving performance – now and in the future. Importantly, these characteristics should ring true regardless of the role, function, level or tenure of a team member.

Where should startups begin?

Leave Roles and Skills Off the Table

Think broadly about your team and what you need them to display day in and day out to give your startup the best chance for success. We find characteristics like intellectual curiosity, ownership and drive to be key differentiators across all disciplines and career stages.

Prioritize the List

There are a hundred things you could put on the list, but when assessing talent, you have to optimize for what is most impactful since it’s rare to find someone that will possess all of the characteristics and all the skills you need for a given role.

Clarify How You Believe these Qualities Manifest in an Individual’s Life and Career

As you recruit and evaluate potential team members, you’ll need to identify experiences or sources that are likely to correlate with individuals who possess the characteristics. Be creative and open-minded here. This is a unique opportunity to explore more diverse sources of talent. Because characteristics are inherent, you may discover and unlock new avenues or profiles that complement and enhance the existing makeup of your team.

Determine a Consistent, Structured and Focused Way to Evaluate Characteristics

Spend time building out a thoughtful line of questioning that helps you understand and gauge how a person has demonstrated these characteristics consistently and with tangible results.

Dare to Hire on Characteristics and Train on Tactics

If you find a person who has all the characteristics but has gaps on other dimensions, take a chance. Transforming inherent qualities is tough, while developing skills and expertise is achievable.

Dedicating time and effort early in the life of your startup toward creating a people-focused team building approach will help you successfully navigate the complexities of recruiting, performance and development as your business evolves and grows.

Thanks to my co-author for this post, Josh Scott. Josh co-founded and was the COO at Craftsy, an online education and eCommerce community for passionate makers. In this role, he hired hundreds of colleagues as the company scaled to serve over 10 million members. Now, Josh is a board member and/or advisor to companies including: Betabrand, Havenly, Guild Education, and Craftsy and is a Techstars Mentor. Please contact him via LinkedIn.

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