Hiring the first team for your startup can be as unpredictable and tricky as playing Monopoly. In this article, Ill share a few ideas to give you an edge in the game and ensure a confident start for your venture. My advice here is drawn from my extensive experience in recruitment across various companies, working with startups that achieved successful exits, and assisting startups in their growth.

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Strategies for Startup Hiring

Before starting the hiring process, consider possible strategies.


Buying properties or paying rent?

In Monopoly, when you buy properties, you can charge your opponents rent. Alternatively, you can land on the properties they own and pay them rent.

Similarly, in business, you can outsource some functions, while you can hire others in-house. The founders of a startup usually perform the C-level roles, so lets focus on the rest. You need to hire specialists in-house whose work will generate profits. For tech startups, engineers and designers play a critical role in ensuring product functionality and user experience, so you should hire such specialists as part of your team. Secondary functions like back-office operations, recruitment, and customer support can be outsourced.


Sticking to one Part of the Board or diversifying?

In Monopoly, you can choose to purchase properties with the same color border to allow building houses and hotels, or you can diversify across colors. The analogy with startups here is about determining your business needs. One strategy is to identify repetitive tasks that consume too much time and hire specialists capable of handling them. Alternatively, you can build a multifaceted team equipped for various business needs, from engineering to marketing.


Investing in railroads or real estate?

Just like in Monopoly, in an early stage startup, you can choose where to spend your money: on aggressive team growth and hiring expensive candidates or gradually hiring the initial team members while simultaneously building processes within the team. Regardless of the experienced specialists you hire, the company will eventually face growing pains, so its essential to refine processes alongside rapid team expansion.

Now, lets talk about the steps in this game called hiring and what you should focus on.

5 Strategies for Startup Hiring

  1. Define who you are and what you want to achieve.
  2. Look for specialists with startup experience, not just “expensive candidates.”
  3. Build an onboarding process, develop employees, and create a corporate culture.
  4. Nurture relationships with your clients and rivals.
  5. Ensure you’re aware of all labor laws in the location where you’re hiring.

1. Define Who You Are and What You Want to Achieve

A picture of the Go space in Monopoly
Image created by the author.

The first step in the hiring process is much like choosing a game piece in Monopoly — it doesnt impact the game itself, but it defines you. Similarly, at the beginning, you need to figure out who you are and who you need. Embrace your companys spirit and think about the type of people who align with it.

Different positions in your company may require different types of individuals. For some roles, youll need people with strong dominance, leadership, and decision-making skills. For others, youll be seeking influential, charming, sociable, and emotional individuals.

In recruiting, theres a concept called a candidate persona. This is a profile describing the type of specialist that fits your company and is interested in working there. Typically, a candidate persona includes details such as where they live, their educational background, professional experience, career aspirations, hobbies, salary expectations, career ambitions, job-seeking methods, networking habits, and forums they engage in. Once you determine your needs, youll have a clearer picture of who youre looking for and how to attract them.


2. Look for Specialists With Startup Experience, Not Just ‘Expensive Candidates’

A picture of the Boardwalk and Park Place spaces on the Monopoly board
Image created by the author

Just like in Monopoly, you might be tempted by Boardwalk or Park Place, but you need to be cautious and careful with your finances. Besides, having folks with experience in well-known, large companies doesnt necessarily guarantee excellent employees for your startup. Large companies value different professional and personal qualities compared to early stage startups. Id recommend looking for hidden gems and selecting employees who have worked for places built from scratch or in small companies. Sometimes, your Mediterranean Avenue candidate can become a superstar in your startup.

Unlike large companies, you can be flexible. You can offer employees flexible working hours, remote work options, the opportunity to work and learn directly from the best (i.e., you), rapid professional growth aligned with the companys growth, and even offer them dreams like options and the possibility of never working again after a successful exit of your company. Offer them a grand vision, like sharing your mission to change the world! The best tactic is to first understand what interests the person and what they want. Show them attention and respect for their needs on a human level; this is what will set you apart from big, impersonal corporations.


3. Build an Onboarding Process, Develop Employees, and Create a Corporate Culture

A picture of the Water Works space in Monopoly
Image created by the author.

In Monopoly, utilities might not be the most attractive properties, but they provide a steady income throughout the game. Similarly, in your startup, processes, tools, and systems play a similar role. They might not be immediately noticeable, but they create a highly productive work environment and help retain valuable employees.

Establish a reliable onboarding process. Each employee should understand their goals, who theyll interact with, and whats encouraged and discouraged in your company. Develop your employees, enabling them to learn new tools and propose innovations to you. Create a positive and inclusive corporate culture so your people can communicate and collaborate effectively with each other.

All these processes will help you attract and retain the best talent.


4. Nurture Relationships With Your Clients and Rivals

A picture of the Community Chest space in Monopoly
Image created by the author.

In Monopoly, you need to use Community Chest spaces to influence other players and follow your strategy. Similarly, in hiring for your startup, you need to consider your customers and competitors and influence them. For this, youll need a marketing specialist who understands your business domain. If youre unsure whether you need a lead generation or product marketing specialist, hiring a marketer focused on user acquisition and growth might be helpful.


5. Ensure You’re Aware of All Labor Laws in the Location Where You’re Hiring

A picture of the Jail space in Monopoly
Image created by the author.

In Monopoly, landing in jail can halt your progress. Likewise, while hiring for a startup and being flexible, you should avoid the temptation to cut corners. Doing so can lead not only to legal consequences but also damage your employer brand.

Before you start hiring, make sure youre aware of all labor laws in the location where youre hiring. Alternatively, hire professionals for local recruitment. Treat each candidate with respect, understanding that everyone is different and may interpret the same seemingly innocent words differently. This way, you can create a diverse and inclusive team.

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Roll the Dice and Build Your Team

With the right approach, your first successful hires will provide a solid foundation for the growth and development of your company. Remember, your goal is not to hire the best and most expensive candidates, but those who are the right fit for you, now and in the long term.

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