Recruiting Strategy

Who Should Be the First Hire for a Start-Up?

Who Should Be the First Hire for a Start-Up?
HireHive Team

HireHive Team


Starting up a new business is an exciting time. You have a vision and a mission, and now you need to bring the entire thing to life. But this isn't a scene from Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. Your start-up has specific needs to ensure that your venture is on a path to success. Who should you hire first? Let's take a closer look.

Hiring from the Top Down

The most logical process for hiring talent in your start-up is to work from the top down. Chances are, you and your business partners will take on the top executive roles, which we will talk about below. But from there, there's a logic to the successive positions you'll need in your organisation. 

Top-down recruiting also means each senior manager sets the budget for their new hire or department. But hiring for a start-up is tremendously different from hiring in any other workplace scenario. These are the roles that have never been filled before. They're not replacements, and you don't already have a template for a perfect candidate, so there are a few more steps you'll need to take to make an effective plan. 

Establish Your Company Culture

Along with the specific industry, skill, and background necessary to accomplish any given task, a start-up needs to focus on developing a company culture before any actual hiring can begin. Your company culture is a blend of your brand, your environment, your mission and vision, and the expectations you have of team members. Some companies have a very loose and casual culture, such as Google. Other companies are much more polished and formal. As long as your company culture avoids some dangerous pitfalls, such as bullying behaviour or discrimination, there is no wrong way to develop a company culture. 

46% of job seekers cite company culture as a driving factor for accepting a job. And 91% of managers believe that shared values are more important than specific skills and backgrounds. You're not ready to hire without knowing who your company is, why your company does what it does, and how new individuals can fit into your culture. 

Develop Relationships

Start-ups are a lot different than other companies for another reason too. Many of the earliest positions come from developing relationships rather than posting job descriptions and hiring outside candidates. Try these strategies first before advertising for open positions. 


Networking events are a treasure trove of talent. This is also where you might be able to find passive candidates. A passive candidate is not looking for a new job but might consider a transition if the right position becomes available. If you can perfect your elevator pitch and get people excited about your opportunity, you may be able to bring talent into your organisation. 

Ask For Referrals

Referrals are a top way to find connections and professionals for your start-up. Talking to friends, family, former colleagues, and people in your community can open doors to even more possibilities. Tapping into their extended networks expands your reach.  

Use Social Media

In an era where our online interactions drive communication, social media is a great place to look for new talent. You can post your wants online and find people directly. Or, you can engage an audience with your content and build a network from which you can discover talent over time. 

Roles to Fill

Now that you understand some of the background, it's time to look at the order of things. Who should you hire first? Here's a list, starting from the top down, of how to build a great team. 


The top two positions for any start-up are C-level roles. The founder and any partners will often take on these roles, such as CEO and COO. 

Product Manager

This is a general title, though your situation may vary. A product manager is a go-to person for all things related to your specific service. They manage the strategy, vision, and development. It's worth it to bring a dedicated product manager as soon as resources allow so you're not overextended as a business owner. 

Technology Specialist

The next position is your technology specialist. This may be a Chief Technology Officer or a VP of Engineering, depending on your specific business model. Some companies choose to hire freelance or go with outsourced models, which can work in some cases. But having a technology expert on staff to be in charge will ensure everything works for your internal structure. 


As soon as your product or service is ready to push to your target market, you need a marketing professional to help. They need excellent promotional skills and be well-versed in the latest marketing techniques and strategies. 


It's also a good idea to hire a sales manager at this stage. While marketing generates leads, a sales manager will follow up on those leads and work the system to close the sales. 


It may sound like hiring a chief financial officer should be necessary much earlier in the process, but there are good reasons to wait until sales and marketing are up and running. Basic accounting can be easily outsourced, so wait to hire an in-house financial executive until you're truly ready. 

Customer Service 

The final piece to the start-up puzzle is customer service roles. This may also include day-to-day administrative functions. These employees will be the first line of communication with potential customers, so hiring great people is essential when you're ready to expand. 

Conclusion: Finding Top Talent

So how do you go about finding top talent for your start-up? As we mentioned before, there are several strategies, such as networking and social media. You can also work with a recruitment firm to help you source and hire top talent. 

But another consideration is using an applicant tracking system, so you're doing extra work every time you need to make a new hiring decision. 

With more competition for top talent, it pays for companies to consider all their advantages and the use of tools to assist in the quest to find talent. HireHive helps busy people hire great people. By having your entire recruitment process all in one place, you can post jobs, streamline your online application process, improve the candidate experience, and tap into vast global networks.

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