Top 10 traits for start-up success

by Angie Cave

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When you decide to create a start-up, there’s a lot on the line.

You have to keep your investors happy; you have to show that there is a genuine need for your product or service; you have to show that you have high revenue and growth potential.

All whilst on a shoestring budget!

That’s why it’s so important to hire the right team from the get-go — your start-up’s success depends on it!

Having the right team on board from the onset is a critical success factor for start-ups, and one of the most difficult to achieve.

Hiring the right employees dictates your organisation:

  • Performance

  • Ability to gain revenue

  • Growth potential

  • Company culture

  • Ability to collaborate

  • Company values

It also makes it easier to bring in new employees as your organisation becomes more successful, as your established team will have a clear understanding of your organisation’s expectations of them and their responsibilities.

However, it’s easier said than done.

According to Harvard Business Review, 80 per cent of employee turnover happens because of bad hiring decisions.

Bad hiring decisions can also:

  • Set you back between $7,000 to $10,000 for an entry- or mid-level position, and in excess of $40,000 for a management position, according to a CareerBuilder study.

  • Significantly decrease morale and work quality of employees around them:

    • Nearly half of employees decreased their work effort and intentionally spent less time at work due to a toxic coworker.

    • 38 per cent of employees intentionally decreased their quality of work.

    • 78 per cent of employees said their commitment to the organisation diminished.

  • Significantly impact your customers:

    • 25 per cent of employees who have dealt with a toxic coworker have admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers.


So, how can you ensure that you are hiring the ‘right team?’

Our resident start-up specialist, Angie Cave, interviewed some of Australia’s most successful founders and influencers in the technology start-up industry to find out what they’re looking for in their ideal hire.

Here’s what she found to be the top 10 traits that lead to start-up success — and her top hiring tips.


Top 10 traits for start-up success

Everyone I interviewed for this blog post was in agreement: 

It goes beyond the hard skills and experience that an employee brings to the table. 

The most successful people in the startup ecosystem possess certain personality traits that equip them with what they need to thrive in this type of environment.  

Here are the key traits that were most commonly cited by my sources:

  • T-Shaped People — These individuals are an expert in one area, and also have a secondary expertise in a number of other areas.

  • Comfortable in ambiguity and change

  • Adaptability / Versatility

  • Ability to work autonomously in an unstructured environment

  • Comfortable with working to shifting priorities 

  • Can-do attitude 

  • A bit of hustle and creativity

  • Passionate about creating something new/doing things differently

  • Critical thinkers / exceptional problem solvers 

  • Strong work ethic

The challenge, however, comes in identifying these personality traits — especially as many early-stage start-ups don’t have an HR department that specialises in finding the top talent in each specific vertical in which you require it. 


How to hire the employees you need for a successful start-up

To ensure that your start-up is confident in attracting and selecting the right candidates for your business, here’s where you should start:


Job Description

Before you start advertising your new role in your organisation, it’s imperative that you know what the role requirements are.

A job description is a complete, internal description that defines what the role is, and its relationships to other roles within your business and to your customer, including work standards, reporting lines (if required), compensation and progression structure.

It’s surprising how many hiring managers (both new and experienced) think that the job advertisement IS the job description, but this should not be the case.  

In brief, job posts sell, job descriptions tell.  

This allows for everyone involved in the hiring process to be on the same page for what the role requires before advertising, and it provides your organisation with a starting point to evaluate the success of your future employees against.

To read all about how to write a concise job description, click here.


Behavioural interview questions

There are a number of reasons why someone may unknowingly make a poor candidate selection and it usually comes down picking the candidate we “like the most.”

Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with going with your gut instinct and picking someone that we “like the most,” there’s a lot that falls under this umbrella of ‘likeability.’

We might like a candidate’s technical skills, people skills, their ability to build rapport, their potential cultural addition to the team – the possibilities are endless as to why you may like a candidate over another.

But, it’s also important to have a standardised way to suss out if your potential employee is the best person for the job. 

One of the most popular techniques is through behavioural interviewing, which evaluates a candidate’s future performance based on their past behaviour.

By asking questions where a candidate must explain how they’ve handled a past situation that’s similar to ones they may face in the role you’re trying to fill, it allows you to assess the candidate in relation to the knowledge, adaptability, skill and values relevant to the job and your company.

To learn more about the behavioural interview technique and gain access to 100+ behavioural interview questions, click here.


Soft skills assessment

Although behavioural interviewing is the most common interviewing technique, we highly recommend competency-based hiring instead.

Today’s job market is evolving so quickly that traditional qualifications, such as work experience, and degrees or diplomas, cannot keep up with this rapid growth.

Some roles are now hybrids of two or three positions; they’re so new to the market that they require on-the-job upskilling; they may even require soft skills that can’t be taught.

In fact, most employers believe that more than half of all current employers will require significant reskilling or upskilling by 2022.

Although behavioural interviewing is a great way to evaluate the potential of candidates based on their past behaviours, it does not address the root cause of our hiring issue:

It cannot accurately identify what competencies drive high performance in specific roles within unique company cultures.

In other words, we continue to hire based upon our subjective and biased opinion on what makes a person successful in the role we are recruiting for. 

This leaves businesses open to significant variations in performance and skill shortages in your workplace.

We’ve written an entire blog post about why successful organisations are switching to competency-based hiring, which you can read more about here.

As part of our service, we also offer the option of conducting our Sirius Competency Testing, which is tailored specifically to your company needs and the actual role being recruited.  

Each candidate is then rated according to their fit to the actual role competency requirements, greatly increasing the likelihood of selecting the right person for the job, and providing useful insights into potential development areas moving forward.

Please reach out to me directly to learn more about Sirius Competency Testing at or 02 9270 5240.


Stop interviewing, start auditioning

Finally, I also recommend a trial period to allow for your start-up and your new employee to ensure it’s the right ‘fit’ before committing to a permanent role.

After all, top football teams don’t recruit players by how well they SAY they can play.

Scouts will watch them play before deciding whether or not to recruit them.

As every person you bring into your organisation plays an integral role from Day 1, it’s important to verify beyond their CV, interview and reference check that they are as capable as they say they are.

To read more about how to stop interviewing and start auditioning, click here.

Whilst it may seem as though there is a lot to consider when hiring a new employee for your organisation – it’s much more costly having to restart the recruitment process if you engage an employee that isn’t what your start-up needs.

One of the best ways to ensure that you are hiring the right people is to have a dedicated human resources professional on staff to help accommodate this.

Click here to read more about how bringing in a HR team can revolutionise your tech start-up.

However, this isn’t always a possibility due to budget constraints.

To help you navigate these recruitment challenges in the start-up sector, Sirius People has launched a tailor-made solution for your organisation that goes above and beyond the traditional recruitment model.

Our holistic approach doesn’t just focus on hiring in the short term.

We work with our partners to fully equip them with the skills and processes to ensure their long-term hiring success.


Get in touch with Angie Cave today to learn more about how our Attract, Select, Engage framework can support your start-up in achieving your growth and scale up goals quickly and with little doubt in your hiring process!



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