10.15.19 3 Key Traits to Keep in Mind When Recruiting for a Startup

Next up in our startup series, our key account manager and team veteran, Emily, shares with us the ins and outs of recruiting for a startup. Whether you’re building a team, or on the lookout for a position with a local startup, this article will give you an inside look at what to expect. If you’re just tuning in, check out our first article in this series: 4 Reasons to Join a Startup.


If I have learned anything during my time at a startup, it’s that your job title and description are typically only a fraction of the responsibilities and opportunities that you will be tasked with.

As the first hire in business development at a startup, hiring wasn’t a place I expected to dedicate my time. However, being presented with the opportunity to help recruit emerging leaders who embody the culture we were molding will forever be one of my favorite, yet unexpected, contributions to ScriptDrop.

As our company began to outgrow our tiny office in a shared startup space, the culture we wanted to create and preserve quickly became top of mind.

Recruiting at an early-stage startup is unique.

It is important to not only get the right people into your organization but it’s key to ensure they’re in the right roles.

In fact, 23%1 of small businesses say they failed because they did not have the right team from the start.

When roles are still being established, it can feel like a shot in the dark to accomplish this. Candidates who will thrive in the fast-paced environment are often tough to find. Therefore, our existing team decided early on that we wanted each potential employee to embody a few key traits from our culture.

1. We want to hire people with grit.

Grit wasn’t a word I had put much thought into until an all-staff meeting. Our CEO spoke about work ethic vs. grit. Having a strong work ethic is something a lot of candidates boast about, but it only gets you so far. With a great work ethic, you can learn to do things, and possibly learn to do them well.

Grit makes the connection to deeper goals and values.

Grit gives you the why behind the work. It gives you the bite and the fight needed to face adversity, learn, pivot, and continue on toward achieving those goals for the underlying mission.

How do you identify grit in a person? You feel out their connection to your organization’s goals, mission, and vision. How have they achieved personal and career goals up to this point; how will they contribute to the goals of your organization?

2. Diversity, in every shape and form, was intentional.

The gender gap for small businesses is huge, with 73% identifying as male and 25% as female2.

Diversity is a beautiful thing. It’s a key attribute for an organization full of potential. If you aren’t intentional with hiring, your underlying bias will pull you toward people who are just like you, people you’d “want to grab a beer with” is the saying I’ve most often heard. It’s great to love everyone you work with; you spend an awful lot of time with them.

What this does, however, is stunt your potential as a company. It keeps blind spots where blind spots already exist, and it keeps new thoughts and ways of doing things from coming to light.

Startups can’t improve effectively with the same set of eyes. This requires an employee pool of diverse background, thought, race, age, culture, gender and more.

With each employee we bring on, it’s an expectation that they identify ways to improve processes and procedures as well as bring new ideas to the table. It’s important not to identify the candidate you want before finding them. It’s better to identify the holes that exist and how a new person could fill them.

3. Everything is everyone’s job.

In a startup, it’s not possible to solely work within the parameters of a job description. Some candidates will thrive in this environment, while others thrive with a playbook of steps to take to get from here to there with no diversion.

Early-stage startups need employees who know what needs to be done and are willing to do any and every step in between.

If something needs to be executed, it’s everyone’s responsibility to see that it happens. Collaboration, teamwork, quality communication, and a will to work harder mentality — these are all necessary for candidates to embody. And also, the willingness to have a ton of fun.


By identifying the culture we want to create, we identify the way we wanted to recruit. The people in an organization are the culture.

If you want a positive environment in which employees can learn and grow, the key is to recruit the type of people you can learn and grow with. Selling an honest idea of your organization to candidates, you will attract talent who identify with your mission, bring new ideas to the organization, and will grow with your startup.


1 https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/03/startup-statistics-small-business.html

2https://smallbiztrends.com/2019/03/startup-statistics-small-business.html