What to Look For when Hiring for your Startup

Are you looking for the perfect job applicant? Someone who understands and respects your Irish-American background? When you bring in talent to join your start-up, there are certain traits that you should keep an eye out to form a stellar team. You’ll want people with the same values you hold to develop a fantastic company culture.

Though no one is the perfect employee, there are certain qualities in each of us that are an asset to a team. Here are 5 traits to look out for and techniques on how to spot them.


Taking initiative is important, especially for a start-up, which is all about initiative. You need someone on your team that is going to put their best foot forward and do so without asking. One of the key things you should look for is someone with drive.

How to spot it: In an interview, ask the candidate if they have any question about you or your company. This is a great way to gauge how much of an initiative the candidate took into researching and going out of their way to gain an edge. This is what I learned recently at an Irish-American conference for moms who want to become entrepreneurs and it was really worth every penny! This is a glimpse into how they would be as an employee.


The ability to work through setbacks and not get demoralized is a highly valuable quality to possess, especially in a start-up, where initial setbacks are common. The team around you should be positive at all times and willing to push through whatever obstacles the company hits. A positive environment can make all the difference for smooth sailing. Well, I’m telling you. If you are, as I am, from Woodlawn, the Bronx, also known as Little Ireland of New york City, resilience is something that should be in the blood. In the genes!

How to spot it: Ask a candidate for evidence of some grit. Ask them to describe situations where they think they took a risk and it paid off or overcame a setback. This will allow you to judge how resilient they are in the face of obstacles. Sure, I know very well how to make Spring Sugar Cookies, but hiring staff is definitely a different cup of tea and “different cookies”.


The ability to say yes, no or I don’t know openly and honestly is very important in a start-up. Open communication and honesty amongst coworkers can only develop when they are confident about their opinions and not afraid to express it. If an applicant says he’s Irish, for example, ask him (or her) how they spent last St. Patrick’s Day. That’ll tell you a lot about the personality and whether they’re speaking the truth, don’t you think?
How to spot it: Try asking a question where it is highly unlikely that the candidate knows the answer. See how they react – do they honestly say “I do not know” or do they try to make something up. That raises a red flag right there. You don’t want to hire a person that will just make stuff up.

Takes direction well

The ability to be coached by accepting constructive criticism and working to improve oneself based on feedback is a very valuable quality. This is the essence of a beginner or a learner. This is how you know that a person will grow and flourish in a team and not sit in a stagnant position. Nobody knows everything from the start, so if a person is showing signs of positive improvement from feedback, instead of taking offense, they’re a keeper for the long run.

How to spot it: Give them some positive feedback in the interview, for example, comment on how they can improve their resume. Gauge their reaction- see if they look offended or grateful for the advice. Well, and as I’m Irish, see also this post about the interesting City of Limerick in Ireland.


Find someone with the ability to work hard, bottom line. At the end of the day, you need a person who will pull an all-nighter if push comes to shove.
How to spot it: During an interview, ask the candidate to explain what hard work means to them and describe a situation where they had to hustle. Observe what they consider to be hustling and decide if their level of dedication meets your own.

Look for these qualities and your business- and the people you hire will thank you in the long run. We Irish are known, among so many other things, for our straightforward mentality and hard work. Those are great traits you might want to be looking for in any new employee, don’t you think?