[Startup hiring] How to easily hire your first 10 employees

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For the founder of any startup, hiring your first 10 employees is an exciting task, but it can also be daunting. An employee can bring new skills, perspective and the bandwidth needed to take your business to the next level. But the entire process can be difficult, particularly without hiring experience or a dedicated HR team.

Here, I will walk you through each and every step of the process of hiring your first 10 employees, from start to finish

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What are the benefits of expanding your team?

As the founder of a startup, you need to ensure that your company is growing at a quick pace. But how do you do that with just a handful of people? Hiring employees offers a lot of opportunities to increase your company’s revenue, work capacity and brand recognition. Hiring the right employee can…

Take your business to the next level. You will be able to pursue new revenue streams and grow your business. This will also help bridge your company’s skills gaps and drive rapid growth with just one hire. Free up time for you to focus on key objectives. Hiring new employees allows you to delegate tasks and increase your bandwidth, boosting the company’s productivity and freeing up time for you and your team members to focus on what’s important.

New employees mean increased growth. Employees who bring new ideas and a forward-thinking approach can inject creativity and innovation into your business. This will help you make critical process improvements, recognize new opportunities and help the team see things from a new perspective to stimulate advancement and growth.

When you look for potential investors for funding, doing so after hiring your first 10 employees puts you in a better position because you can show the investors that you have a team of people (apart from you) to actively work on your product and get customers.

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When is the right time to start hiring your first 10 employees?

Very often founders make the mistake of hiring too fast and trusting new employees too much. On the other hand, taking your own sweet time with your initial hires can also be detrimental!

In small businesses, employees often take on many roles, frequently switching from task to task and working outside their job description to keep up with business growth. Over-extension can eventually lead to burnout, low productivity and inefficiencies in your business.

Also, when a startup receives seed funding, the investor almost immediately expects you to expand. You need to be able to quick yet smart hires that will benefit your company. Either that or you want to start raising funds and need employees to help your business gain traction

To maintain high business growth and employee morale, following the right key performance indicators will tell you it’s time to expand your team.

Why are the first 10 hires the hardest to get right?

interview first employees

For any founder, getting new people who they can trust is extremely difficult. Your first 10 employees will affect your next 90 hires. They may very well go on the become the HODs or team leads of the various functions. Startups don’t always have any room for error, especially with low budgets and few employees down everything. A small misstep could cause a huge loss, both in terms of time and money.

Startups find it difficult to provide competitive salaries. And as a result, might miss out on quality candidates. Also, low brand recognition especially when compared to bigger companies makes it difficult to convince candidates to join.

In a hurry to grow quickly, some startups end up hiring the wrong candidates who aren’t a good fit with the company culture. This causes problems in a fast-paced startup environment.

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What kind of candidate profiles should you consider for startup hiring?

Did you know that wrong hiring is one of the most common mistakes made in startups that cost them in the long term? Very few founders realise that they need to be able to fire fast if they have made a wrongful hire. Look for generalists (not specialists), who are proactive. People who are laid back will only slow your business down.

Interns offer a fresh perspective and are highly motivated. You could also hire them for short term roles, to work on specific projects. Contractors are also a very good way to go. They can cover at knowledge gap at lower costs as compared to full time hires.

What kinds of roles should you consider hiring for your start-up?

Different early-stage companies and startups have different budgets and needs. You need to figure out the perfect candidate profile that works the best for you. Here are some of the roles you should look at

  • Either an Operations manager or a Human Resources Manager. Preferably this hire should be done before you make the other hires because they will be able to help you. Also, with the adoption of a payroll software, they will be able to keep track of changing policies and compliances even while working from home.
  • A marketer. Someone who can qualify leads, create content, knows about SEO and email marketing etc.
  • A salesperson. Your salesperson should be so good they should be able to sell ice to an Eskimo. Particularly because they will be the only salesperson on your team. So onboard and train them well.
  • A financial manager. Someone who can handle all the finances, budgeting work and also keep track of the bottom line.
  • Product manager. Your product manager is the one who will oversee the developments made to your product and how they can be improved further.
  • Engineers (in case of a SaaS product). At this point, you need to be building your product at a super-fast pace. So hire more engineers!

How do you get someone to join your early-stage startup?

Now you know why these first 10 hires are important. You also know what kind of roles to open up. But how do you get candidates to apply? This is something a lot of newbie founders struggle with. So don’t worry you’re not alone. Try doing some of the following things to convince candidates that your company is the best place to work.

Employer reputation is everything. You need to showcase your values, mission and goals. People will join either because they see potential in your product or you. Sell your employer brand. Also, use future tense while talking to candidates or even in the job description. Focus on where the company is going. It sends the message that you believe in your company and know that is going to grow and not just fizzle out.

Convince the candidate that you can offer a steep learning curve. Talk about your experience and how you can teach them more. This too has to be evident in the way you write the job description.  This is especially the case with interns and freshers.

What are the steps involved in startup hiring?

  1. Do your research
  2. Choose a specific yet catchy job title
  3. Create a standout job description
  4. Post the JD on relevant channels
  5. Review applicant resumes and make a shortlist
  6. Interview your top candidates
  7. Check employee referrals
  8. Keep your recruitment efforts organized
  9. Choose the best candidate
  10. Make an offer of employment for the employee
  11. Notify rejected candidates as soon as possible
  12. Handle your legal obligations

Download Ultimate Guide to hiring your first 10 startup employees

Dos and don’ts of startup hiring

If you’re reading this section, you know all the steps and details that go into hiring your first 10 employees, why they are important hires and even how to onboard them. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind that you should or should not do during the entire process.

Things that you should definitely keep in mind while making the first few hires

  • Look for potential and soft skills and a good background
  • Keep your company’s goals and vision in mind throughout
  • Be crystal clear with all details at every step of the way
  • Keep current employees in the loop about new hires
  • If you feel like you’ve made a wrong choice or wrong hire anywhere along the way, let the candidate or employee go. 

Complete no-nos for startup hiring. Do not…

  • Rush through the entire process just because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done
  • Try to copy your competitors’ style, methods or strategies (every company is unique)
  • Be afraid to ask many many questions
  • Hesitate to reach out to a professional or any other core team members for help
  • Underestimate the power of a quality onboarding process

job description


When you’re first hiring for your small business, look for an employee who wants to be a part of your business and who aligns with your idea and dream. You want to find someone who’s prepared to give a lot of themselves and their time to the job. 

Treat your applicants well.

Prioritize your candidates, impress them and give them a great hiring experience. Recruiting and onboarding are two of the most critical areas that need to be addressed. Because every new employee you add to your startup can either move it forward, slow it down, or push it backwards.

The Ultimate Guide to Startup Hiring – Download eBook for Free


How much does it cost to hire your startup’s first employee?

This completely depends upon you. Firstly, choosing the medium through which you want to advertise for the job, the time you take to hire someone, the number of applicants’ interviews etc all make a difference.

When should I hire my first employee?

You should think of hiring more people when you experience a-
1. High employee turnover rate.
2. Unusual spikes in customer complaints.
3. Frequently falling short of goals.
4. Regular needing to extend deadlines.
5. Inability to take on new projects or clients.
6. Need for specialized skills.
7. You haven’t taken time off in months.


Not to be considered as tax, legal, financial or HR advice. Regulations change over time so please consult a lawyer, accountant  or Labour Law  expert for specific guidance.