First Hire For Startups: Ultimate Guide On Who To Hire First

Published on
May 8, 2022

When deciding to forge your own path and launch a startup company, every decision you make can and will affect your future. But no decision is as important as choosing the right team to help you get the business off the ground. The first hire at a startup business is everything: this will set the tone for your company culture, the quality of your product, and even the tools and strategies you choose to use as an organization. Needless to say, this is a big deal.

In this article, we’ll present the ultimate guide on how to make your first hire for startups.

Why Are First Hires So Important?

Chris Hughes. Eduardo Saverin. Sean Parker. You might recognize these names for their connection to the founding and startup of Facebook, and all three have gone on to be wildly successful with every project they’ve worked on since. As the first hires of Facebook, these individuals built the foundation that the company as we know it was built upon. If the first hires for Facebook had been different, who knows if it would be the trillion-dollar business it is today.

Obviously, not every business is Facebook, and not every startup will become the same overnight success. But the theme remains the same: the positions you first hire for startups and the people you choose to fill those roles play a major role in what your business will look like in the future. 

If you hire the wrong people, the foundation of your organization will crumble. You could be plagued with high turnover, a toxic work culture, and even a failed business. Hiring the right people shores up the foundation you’ll build on for years to come. 

When Is It Time to Start Hiring?

There’s a good chance that if you’re already researching how to hire employees for startup companies, you probably believe you’re ready to do so. But how do you know when it is really the time to start hiring? Historically, startup founders have said they knew it was time to hire when they started feeling like a certain process was taking up too much of their time.

Think of it this way: often when you notice a pain in your body, you’re likely to try to self diagnose and deal with the pain as long as possible. But if the pain doesn’t go away, you still end up needing to see a doctor to determine the issue and give you a solution. 

In the same way that waiting too long to see the doctor can allow the problem to spiral out of control, you need to make key hires before.

What Role Should Be the First Hire at Startup Businesses?

After establoshing that it is time to start hiring, you then need to figure out who to hire. There is no blanket answer for this question. When it comes to the first hire for startups, it all depends on your skills, the kind of business you’re in, and many other factors.

Most founders consider the following questions when planning their first hires: 

Where Are Your Gaps?

Do you have any gaps in your skills that are somehow holding you back? Perhaps you’re a non-technical founder with big ideas for some tech-forward tools. You might need a developer to make your ideas fully functional. Your gaps, in this case, are tech design and, maybe, industry-specific knowledge. When it comes time to your first hire, start by filling in the gaps that are essential to moving your business out of its current stage and into the next. 

What Are Your Weak Spots?

Your weak spots are not the same as your gaps. Weak spots are skills that you can do but not very well. Perhaps you struggle with public speaking and presentations. You try to do a product demo but stumble through your words and aren’t great at answering questions. As a result, you’re losing potential customers you might have otherwise converted.

In this instance, your weak spot is your sales and customer success skills. It might be a good idea to make your first hire someone with experience and proven success in sales. This will strengthen a weak spot in your business and help foster growth to get you to the next stage. 

What’s Working Well?

As a founder, you might think the first hire for startups should be in an area where you’d like to expand. But pause and take a second here. Think about what is already working well for you. The best way to accelerate growth when you have limited bandwidth is by focusing on what you’re already doing well. Rather than take a risk on hiring for a role in a new area, consider hiring for a role that will help you expand the parts of your business that are already showing a return. 

Where to Find the First Hire for Startups

You’ll likely have no issue finding applicants for your first employee at a startup. However, the trouble usually comes in finding qualified candidates. Posting a role on a job board is a common tactic for hiring, but it may not get you the type of applicants you’re looking for.

Here are some other methods you can try:

Check Your Network

The first hire for startups often comes from the founder’s personal network. Think of people you’ve worked with in the past: someone with a great skills and a personality fit for your company may be a phone call away. If not, the people you know may be able to recommend someone from their networks. 

Social Media

Post jobs on LinkedIn and other social media pages where they can be shared easily. 


Most investors have a wide network of companies they’ve worked with in the past, and you might be able to get a good referral from asking yours. They may also be able to connect you with founders at other startups who may be able to make a strong recommendation.

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