This is an edited re-post of something I wrote in March of 2013. I am revising it for lessons learned and such.
I am on my 6th Startup in my life. I have been an exec at most of them. A couple I actually was a co-founder at. Most the time, I was brought in as the seasoned grown up to help facilitate growth. A number of times, I actually had to the the grown up and work hard to prevent management issue with young, in-experienced co-founders.
The one thing I always liked about a start up was the fun in building a company. It is a lot of hard work. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that work hard to build their respective companies. The hardest job, is hiring talent for your company. I have looked at thousand upon thousands of resumes’ in my time in startups, and it gets all a blur after a while.
Sincerity. This is big for me. I have distain for shallow people. If a person feels passionate about working in a collaborative environment, and doesn’t come across like they are God’s gift to programming, it is a great step towards a candidate. Now mind you, I do not want to confuse ego with a douche attitude. Ego is good. Inflated ego is not.
Confidence. A person who shows confidence impresses me. Even if they do not know the answer, but know how to be professional and confident, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can solve a problem with resources. If they are over confident (see braggart), it is a red flag.Stay away from the braggart.
Manners. If a candidate has basic manners, they get a vote in the “could be a strong contender” camp. (Believe it or not, there are people who have bad manners in an interview, like texting, email, etc).
Hygiene. Believe it or not, this matters. Please do not come in with a funk. You will be working with a group of people who know basic hygiene.
Technical Acumen. Unlike the mighty Google, all I care is if you know what a hash map is, what a hash table does and whether you can reverse the order of a singularly-linked list. I want to know , if I am hiring you as a server engineer, do you know what a LAMP stack is, or a practical framework that makes you smile in the mornings. If I am hiring you to be an IOS developer, do you know the framework and Objective-C. If I am bringing you on to be an Android dev, do you know Java, bonus if you know NDK (and C), and you know what an intent is.If I am hiring you as a firmware person, do you know C, power management, and how to do the max for the minimum? If I am hiring you to design hardware, what about the toolset you use, etc? If you talk a lot and evade the questions, you are not going to be working with us. If you do not know an answer, and I can see your problem solving skills are good, I am not going to hold it against you. (FWIW, I have, myself, blown interviews. Being asked transmission line theory when I was going to be a logic designer on CPUs).
Understanding of the Platform. This might sound like the previous bullet item, but it is more about hardware. I do not care if you know the clock speed of a chip, I want to know if you know how the code you write can affect memory usage, translation buffer thrashing, cache issues, etc. If you know that, you have won a special score in my mind.
Simply put, do not come across as a dick. If you are genuine, smart, love working together and are not hung up on religious things like (mercurial vs git vs svn) and want to work hard, but have fun at the same time, you would be welcome.
Something I disagree on with past board members (and maybe current 🙂 ) is the hiring of a business person. If your board forces you to do this, make sure you get someone good. If they come in asking for a HUGE salary and other perks, stay away from this person. If they want to help build your company, they will work hard for a startup salary and an equity position. Make sure, also, that they have experience in the area you are targeting. Do not hire a carrier-oriented person if you are targeting consumers.
The wannabe is the person who wants to do a startup for the quick exit and the bragging rights. It is all about impressing the groupies who follow the shallow startup community. They are usually marketing themselves, and have no time to apply their talents (if any) to your startup. They love to go to every networking event, party with all the groupies, and talk on social networks on how they are a rock star. Never once do they give credit to their co-workers, or even their boss. It is all about them. They show up late for work, and usually have to leave to go attend these social events. And when you do ask them to perform, they make up excuses why they can’t. Flush them ASAP, as they will be poison to your team.
Again, building a new company and making it thrive and grow is hard work. But it can be rewarding, especially with the right people and the right investors. Just remember, your people and your capital are the life blood. Do not waste capital on bad people.