End Start-up Growing Pains: How to Evaluate your Potential Hires

When starting a company, a lot of luck and coincidence plays into the people who come on to your team. You never know the reason why a particular person turned up in your life at the exact moment you’re trying to get your fledgling company off the ground. While meeting new people and growing your start-up can feel haphazardous, your actual hiring process doesn’t need to be just as crazy. Here, I discuss a few tips to find and evaluate potential new hires at the earliest stages of your company’s growth

Interns & Referrals

I often talk about finding people who are passionate about your mission to join your company. Young people, particularly the incoming generation, are among the most passionate workers on the market. They’re full of energy, excited to learn new things and (if you’re lucky) want to help you grow your start-up's schtick into something that will change the world.

Interns are a great source of new ideas and energy in a startup. Furthermore, you can train these young workers to perform tasks in the way that best suits your workflow. While I still think it's important to bring people in who will challenge your ideas, younger interns are more likely to adapt to a new work environment than their seasoned veteran counterparts.

Referrals are another excellent way to land yourself excellent new hires early on. When they come from a trusted source (coworker, old boss, etc.), you can rely on that person’s judgment that they’re a skilled person that will work hard. However, you want to be careful about the referrals you decide to hire. Just because someone’s technical skills match your needs doesn’t mean they’ll be a cultural fit with your existing group and ideas.

Forming the Interview process & Questions

To identify the best fits for your startup, you must explicitly define both your interview process and the questions you ask each candidate. Discuss amongst your team, what ideas and values are crucial in your organization? What do you value most and where do you see your company in the next year, the next five years? Formulate questions that reveal the truth about these candidates to see whether their goals align with yours. Trust me: no amount of technical prowess will replace an employee whose vision works in tandem with his or her boss’. When you hire for skill only, more often than not that hire will blow up in your face and leave disaster in their wake.

Craig Cooke’s interview questions for his company match perfectly with his organization, Rhythm’s, values and mission. He asks potential new hires, “Do you think you’re a positive person?” because a positive mindset is crucial to Rhythm’s work environment. He asks, “What is your relationship with your coworkers like?” because respectful teamwork and communication drive a large percentage of Rhythm’s successful workflow. Create questions that reveal the truth of each candidate, and you’ll quickly discover who is or isn’t a fit.

Another way to solidify your choice of hire is to put each candidate through multiple interviews. Have them meet with their future coworkers, see how they pair personality-wise and if there’s a shared cultural interest. The workplace is the second home, and you want to make sure your family gets along. Furthermore, the more eyes on a particular potential hire, the better; you never know if you have an unconscious bias making you believe an awful person is brilliant (and believe me, this happens to the best CEOs). Conduct coding or design tests, make sure this person can code the languages they say they can: the extra confirmation pays off in spades.

Trust your growth

When you start bringing the right people into your company, you must start delegating. As a CEO its very hard to assign tasks and responsibility to other people because your company is your baby and it must be absolutely perfect. But think about it: you hired these people because of their passion, their work ethic and their shared belief in your goals. If you hired them, you clearly hope that they can take some of the work off your hands.

Trust your growth, and trust that the people you’ve hired can, in turn, hire more excellent people. If you’ve correctly established a great interview process that’s rooted in your company’s culture. Then you can teach it to others. These people who share your values will know what to look for in future coworkers, and the trust you bestow in them will make your current employees work all the harder to fulfill your faith in them.

Craig Cooke brings more than 20 years of interactive, marketing and management experience to Rhythm. As CEO, Craig drives the direction of the company through his vision, strategic planning and execution. He is actively involved in marketing initiatives, research and development, business development, vendor selection and strategic partner development. He also participates in hiring and producing high-quality solutions that deliver true value to clients. Craig takes a consultative approach to problem solving with clients. Essentially, he believes in helping people, delivering quality, demanding excellence and being accountable.

Craig’s leadership has driven Rhythm to be recognized as a fastest growing private company for five years in a row by Inc 5000, Orange County Business Journal, as well as a “Top Places to Work” in Orange County by OC Register and Orange County Business Journal.


Rick Girard is the Founder & CEO of Stride Search, an Orange County-based recruiting and consulting firm.  Rick brings world-class leadership to firms across the nation to meet highly challenging business and talent acquisition objectives. With expertise in creative sourcing, consultative management and winning placement strategies, Rick Girard plants the hiring seeds for his partners’ success.

While not running a School for Gifted Mutants as Professor X, Rick hosts Hire Power Radio Show, a weekly series on OCTalkRadio.net which serves as an entrepreneur’s resource to solve the most difficult hiring challenges. When not on the air, Rick regularly gives talks and writes valuable content for Hiring Managers and Job Seekers alike. His mission: elevate and sharpen the industry standards of exclusive professional search.

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