How to Hire for Your Growth Team

After writing about how building the right team is central to succeeding in growth, I received a lot of messages from people asking how exactly they should go about hiring people for their team.

A lot of marketing people ignore the fact that the biggest factor in growing a business successfully isn’t the tools you use or the amount of experiments you run; it’s the people you hire. Building a great team is central to scaling your business.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to figuring out whom you should hire. As I’ve mentioned countless times before, every business is different and the exceptional successes tend to develop their own ways of doing things rather than emulating others.

There are only a few guiding principles for hiring people for your growth team that I’ve found are true of nearly all companies:

  • Passion is the single most important attribute. A growth team needs to be flexible and well-rounded. People need to take initiative and ownership. People who are passionate about what they do tend to learn quickly and take more initiative. You can send them home for the weekend with a book and they will come in on Monday with 100 ideas and a plan to test them.
  • Talent trumps experience. This ties in directly with passion. It is always better to have a talented person with little experience than an experienced person with little talent. If you’re working for a tech startup, chances are you are doing things you’ve never done before on a weekly or even daily basis. A talented and passionate person will grow with the role and the company. I’ve often seen experienced people with limited talent reach their personal zenith relatively quickly when in a fast-growing company.
  • Problem-solving is key. This might sound a bit clichéd, but an attribute I always look for is whether a candidate can solve different types of problems. This is especially important nowadays, where marketing and growth has become more technical and experimental. Growth is all about figuring out your goals and how to solve the challenges that come with it. If you hire problem-solvers, you can be assure that shit will get done.
  • Being entrepreneurial, but not too entrepreneurial is important. As I said above, taking ownership and initiative is vital. People who are entrepreneurial tend to thrive in lean environments because they get to be creative and take ownership. They are often results-driven and think about their role within the context of the whole company’s functioning. That being said, if somebody is too entrepreneurial, there’s always the risk that they just want to learn as much as they can before leaving to start their own company.

I’m sure there are plenty of other characteristics to look out for, but I’ve found these to be the most important ones for growth-related roles.

Obviously, these 4 traits alone are not enough to hire someone for your team. They also do not shed any light on which skills and people you want to go for when hiring. In order to figure that out, there are a few questions that you can think about to figure out what you need.

What is your vision?

Everything you do in growth should always somehow tie back to your greater vision. Ask yourself what the first principles of your business are, be that in terms of product, growth or culture. This will often go some way in narrowing your focus when choosing your hires.

I’ve mentioned previously that a a vision for growth relies on lead generation, product growth and branding. Those already indicate the range of skills that will be necessary for covering all bases. At Recruitee, our vision is based on the first principle that all forms of marketing and commercial activity should provide value. As a result, content and inbound efforts are at the core of our growth vision, especially with regards branding and lead generation.

Our focus on creating value through content means that we will always need people with content skills. It’s therefore no surprise that Recruitee’s first hire was a content person.

What type of product do you have?

The type of product or service you sell could influence the sort of people you will try to hire. The more technical the product, the more important product growth is going to be. The more innovative your solution, the more likely you are going to need content people.

The same goes for your business model. If you are a B2B company, you are going to need to make sure that growth and sales work closely together from an early stage.

The type product you have should always be closely linked to your vision.

What skills do you already have in the team?

This is going to be most relevant in the early stages of your growth. Chances are you have at least a co-founder or a small team who could cover some of the bases.

If you already cover some basic skills, you would be well-advised to hire for those that you do not cover. This might sound obvious, but a surprising number of startup founders feel like they need to be managers and c-suite executives from day 1. You and your team should be prepared to be full-on executors in the early days.

What stage of growth are you in?

One of the big factors in determining what sort of roles you’re going to recruit for is the stage of growth your company is currently in.

If you’re an early-stage startup, chances are you have a very small team, so you’re going to need to cover as much ground as possible. Execution will be the most important focus.This likely means that you will have to opt for people with more generalist or all-rounder profiles. When the business is young and you don’t yet know what does and doesn’t work, it can be hard to tell what your needs could be, even in the near future.

Once you transition from startup to scale up, you’re going to want to focus on covering all the skills needed for lead generation, branding and product growth. This will require more specialized people who can up your game in performance marketing, content, design, UX, CRO, analytics and development. This stage will also require you to hire people with the skills and personality to manage others, create solid processes and fully own their roles.

Eventually, when (if) you reach the corporate stage, you will be able to specialize further. You can then opt to build teams dedicated to and specializing in every stage of the customer journey.

What resources do you have?

This is pretty closely tied to the stage of growth you are in, though there are a lot of small startups with a lot of funding. I strongly believe that companies should not get too much funding too early on because it can tempt you to use money to delay all sorts of problems rather than tackle them early-on as most bootstrapped companies have to do.

If you have funding, your goal will be to cover the skills you need to cover. You’ll have access to more experienced people early on, but you should be cautious of over-hiring. Don’t ever recruit anyone you don’t need.

Assuming you don’t have funding, you are going to have to look for young talent rather than experience, in the same way that smaller football teams need to sign players with lots of potential in the hopes that they one day become stars. As is the case with football clubs, the very best companies never stop looking for the best talent. No matter what stage you are in, you should always keep an eye open for people with potential and create big talent pools.