Startup Recruitment: Part 1 - Nail your hiring strategy

The purpose of this playbook is to give you the tools and resources to make hiring a little easier for your fintech and crypto startup. We’ve scoured the internet for the best resources out there on hiring and we’ve collected that wisdom here in 3 articles covering:

  • Shaping your hiring strategy AND a job repository of common roles
  • Candidate sourcing methods AND a list of job boards 
  • Creating a positive candidate experience AND an interview toolkit 

In the near future, we’ll also dive deeper into compensation levels (stay tuned). 

This article marks part 1, starting with key questions you should address before kickstarting your recruitment process. We’ve also included a repository of job descriptions for common roles we’ve found in similar fintech/crypto startups that will help you write your own. 

8 questions to shape your hiring strategy

1. What problem are you looking to solve with this hire? 

Hiring for the sake of hiring just because you’ve got money in the treasure chest can lead to unnecessary overhead at best, and can break your company at its worst. You need to have a reason, a real problem you’re trying to solve to make a hire. 

Example: The company is growing rapidly - revenues have 3x and the company has gone from 5 to 50 people. If 12 months ago it was easy for you to have a clear view of everything that was going on, now it’s much harder to keep on top of it all and communicate that back to the entire team. You also have little capacity to take on new projects that could make the business more efficient. You’re looking to solve this set of challenges and hiring a Chief of Staff could do exactly that. 

But having identified a problem isn’t enough. You should get to the depth of the problem. Is this a problem you already know how to solve but you need someone to execute for you? E.g. You can’t keep on top of my emails and calendar - I need a virtual assistant to come in and do this for me. Or do you need a problem solver to help craft a solution to the problem? E.g. We’re struggling to scale our sales process and we just don’t know where to start. 

Not every problem requires a hire to fix it? If you’re dealing with an immediate problem that doesn’t have a long term horizon - e.g. we need to produce more content as we’re gearing up to launch, your best solution is getting a freelancer, not a full time hire. But the answer is a yes if it’s a consistent problem.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you clear on the problem you are trying to solve or will you need help figuring this out?  
  • Are you clear on the solution or will you need help figuring this out? 
  • How clear are you on the execution of the solution or will you need help figuring this out? 
  • Is this a short term issue? 
  • What is the urgency or solving this issue? 
  • How much priority are you willing to give this role over others?

2. What’s the most important metric you’re trying to drive for your business? 

You’ve raised your round. Now you’ve got a set of milestones you need to achieve to put you in a strong position to raise the next round. Ask yourself what are your milestones, what are the top metrics you need to drive to reach that milestone, and what hire you’d need to get the company there. 

Example metrics: 

  • Getting to $1m ARR in the next 18 months
  • Publicly launch our second product by the end of Q4
  • Growing our community from 5,000 to 10,000 members by the end of Q3 

But what if you have a long list of hires that can help you achieve your milestones and a limited budget. Prioritise by asking yourself if any of the hires on your list will help you build your company’s moat. 

Example: Community is core to your startup - you co-build with your community,  it’s your primary distribution channel (that’s why your CAC is low) and it’s what makes you different from your competitors. A community manager is a core hire, and one that you should make sooner rather than later especially if you’re spending too much of your time on community and have little time to do anything else. 

3. What kind of culture and values do you want your hires to reflect? 

Your first hires will have a hand in shaping the culture of your startup. Getting it wrong now means making life much harder for yourself - it’s much easier to create the right culture than fix a broken one. Make time to write down what you want your company culture and values to be like, and make sure they are an integral part of the hiring process.

What does that look like in practice? Ask questions that test whether a candidate is value aligned. Make information about your company culture and values available to candidates - our portfolio company Sequence has an open source employee guide anyone can have a look at. Make a culture fit interview one of the steps candidates need to go through before they get a job offer.  

4. Do you need a subject matter expert or a jack of all trades? 

Whether you need a specialist or generalist depends on a number of factors including: 

  • The type of startup you’re building. Are you building a cutting edge fintech startup that leverages machine learning that requires you to hire a machine learning specialist with a specific skill set?
  • The stage of your company. If you’re still in the 0 to 1 phase of company building with lots of fires to put out you might need people who can wear multiple hats more than a specialist who might be really good at scaling processes. 

5. Is this a leadership role? 

Although the terms senior and leader are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. If you’re looking for someone to join in a leadership capacity, you envision them to build out the function and own it, be the person who everyone in that function reports to. And the skill set and experience you’ll need them to have will be different from a different hire. 

Example: You might expect your VP of Engineering to lead and evolve the engineering strategy and implement a technology vision for the organisation, evaluate and assess the tech stack and engineering org structure. You wouldn’t have the same expectations for a Senior Engineer.

6. Senior vs Junior: How experienced should a hire be? 

Whether you need someone junior, mid, or senior will depend. Someone with less experience may ask questions, require really clear instructions and a higher level of commitment from the team to ensure the success of the role. More experienced candidates with a track record may bring subject matter expertise, be more organised, have strong communication skills but also  carry specific ways of execution. 

To help you figure it out, ask yourself:

  • What level of expertise do I currently have on the team and how closely do you intend on having this resource work with this new hire? If expertise already exists, are they experienced enough to manage, mentor and direct? 
  • What level of output are you expecting? Is there a clear plan in place that needs to be executed on or will you require elements of strategy and leadership to work out the plan? 
  • Are you (or the team) prepared to hand-hold, monitor and coach/train a less experienced hire? 
  • Who will work with them day-to-day and how do you envision the team/function playing out? Is there a support system in place to allow them to learn, grow, collaborate, thrive and prosper? 
  • How much budget do you have for the overall team to execute on the planned roadmap? 

7. How reachable will this resource need to be? In-person vs remote 

Your answer to this question will have an impact on the talent pool you’ll be able to tap into for your hire. If you’re building a hybrid/in-person company your talent will have to be located nearby. If you’re going full remote ask yourself: 

  • What communication tools do you have in place to ensure this person is reachable when  needed? 
  • How closely will the team need to work with this person? Will short online stand-ups suffice or will the existing team need to collaborate for longer periods of time? 
  • What time zones are key to the operation of your business? Would a 5+ or 5) impact the productivity of an existing team or cause issues? 
  • Are you logistically set up to hire internationally? You will need to look into local labour laws if you’re hiring full-time employees vs contractors. Are you set up to pay in their local currency etc. 

8. What resources do you need to ensure this role succeeds? 

We’ve intentionally left this to the end. When hiring, the first questions that come to mind often involved the budget, such as: 

  1. How much will this hire cost and how will it impact the runway? 
  2. How many hires will you need to make and what will be the cost structure of the team overall?
  3. What’s a competitive compensation package? 
  4. Who can you afford to hire and for how long? 

Whilst all very important, you’ll also need to consider the overall budget you have allocated to solving the problem. One hire may help with execution - but does this account for your overall roadmap? 

But it goes beyond compensation. You have to ask yourself if you can afford the time, capacity and additional resourcing to ensure your hire can do what you’ve hired them to do:

  • Do you have the right resources/processes in place for this person to come in and do what they do best? 
  • Have you factored in the operational running costs (e.g. software, tools, hardware) that come with that hire, and the additional budget they’ll need to do their job well? 
  • Who will be the person in charge of onboarding and training this person? How much capacity are you willing to commit and how will this impact the productivity of the existing team while the new hire finds their feet? 
  • Do you have an additional budget allocated for the execution of the plan? E.g. marketing budget for a design, content creation, performance ads etc if you’re making a marketing hire. 

Job Descriptions

You’ve got a clear grip on your hiring strategy and what role you need to hire. Where do you start? Writing compelling job descriptions to attract candidates is the logical next step after having your hiring strategy. But easier said than done. 

We’ve compiled a job repository from opportunity opportunities across the industry. It’s important to craft your own as each company is looking to solve their own problems (which may not be exactly the same as yours). But let them serve as an idea of what you may want to include. 

View Job Repository

Final thoughts 

1. Be realistic with demands. We all should strive towards to make A+ hires. But it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes requirements might not be attainable. Example: Requiring 15+ years in crypto when bitcoin wasn’t even a thing 15 years ago…

2. Experience matters but not at the expense of getting stuff done. You might want to hire someone who is really experienced, but that hire might not be a good fit because they are better scaling instead of getting in at the ground floor and building. You need to make sure that your experienced hires have a getting shit done attitude and have a hunger for learning and building.  

3. Culture matters. The first hires that you bring into your team are going to shape the culture of your organisation. Be thoughtful and selective about the characteristics you hold valuable and look for those qualities in candidates. 

4. Tools and resources. Leverage existing tools that may help you streamline your hiring process.Here’s a short list that may be handy for your HR toolkit. 

Further reading: 

If you want to go deeper on all things hiring strategy here are some relevant resources:

Part two of our recruitment playbook looks at how you may go about sourcing top candidates. Read: Startup Recruitment: Part 2 - Sourcing top talent