Hiring First Team Members


Katlynn Sverko

Hiring can be a daunting task. After all, the success of your business idea relies on bringing strangers on to your team with skill sets you likely do not have. How do you validate bringing someone onto your team if you are unable to determine if their skill set is actually sufficient?

The team determines the success, not the idea. People have ideas all the time, what they do not have is a winning team. A team needs to work hard, work smart, and work together to have the best chances at reaching success.

There are five (5) main phases in the hiring process:

  1. Plan
  2. Attract
  3. Evaluate
  4. Decide
  5. Offer


Before bringing on your first team members you must be clear on what positions you are hiring for. What skills do you need to get your company off the ground? How much time commitment are you requiring of your new hires? How much can you afford to pay? Planning is one of the most important aspects of the hiring process. Without proper planning, the likelihood of hiring the right people decreases drastically. Here are some things to consider when planning to build your team and creating a formalized job description:

Responsibilities and expectations of the role

Hours of expected work per week


Benefits of working with you as opposed to someone else

Minimum required skills and education

Interview questions and evaluation criteria

Budget for use of job posting platforms

How long the application period will remain open

There are numerous online tools that are able to assist in job description creation. You can find examples of job descriptions and templates on Workable.


In order to get candidates to apply for the job you are hiring for the applicants need to be able to find your job posting. Place your job posting on an online job search engine like Indeed, Monster, Workopolis, or AllJobs.ca. Take time to evaluate each of these options and consider the number of applications you receive. Leave a minimum of one week to attract applicants. If you do not receive more than one application per day, it is time to revise your job description and expectations.

You can also look to alternative job posting boards like BUNZ: Employment and Entrepreneurial Zone Facebook Group.


Interviewing can be a time-consuming and confusing endeavour, especially when interviewing for positions with skill sets you do not have, such as web developer or digital marketing strategist. Before holding interviews make sure that you create your interview questions and evaluation criteria beforehand in order to get the most out of your interview process. 

If possible, talk to someone who currently works in the position you are hiring for, so long as they are not applying to the job. Talking to someone with experience, but who is not working in their own self-interest by describing themselves as the perfect candidate, is extremely valuable in creating the best interview process possible. If you do not have an individual you can discuss the position with, take time to research questions and, just as important, answers to technical questions that can demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge of their field. There are plenty of resources online that can help with this such as Indeed’s 7 Web Developer Interview Questions.

Quick keys to successful interview evaluation:

  1. Ask everyone applying to the position the same questions, so you can later compare the answers more objectively.
  2. Write your applicant’s answers down. It is very easy to forget what was said during an interview, especially when conducting a series of interviews. Writing answers down also allows you to fact check answers later.
  3. Make notes on the candidate’s communication. Are they calm and quiet? Or loud and dismissive? Do they communicate their answers clearly?
  4. Conclude your interview with the question, “Is there a question you wish I asked but didn’t?” As this allows the applicant to demonstrate additional knowledge on the subject and their preparedness, or lack thereof, for the interview. 


If you have completed the planning, acting, and evaluation phases successfully, a decision should be relatively easy. Compare the responses from the candidates and their confidence in their responses. Understand that some individuals may be naturally less confident than others, but it is imperative that their responses are clear and communicated well. To make the decision process more objective, you could also create a rubric, allocating points for critical areas. The candidate with most points at the end is selected for the job.

Remember: Find the fine line between technical skill and passion for your business. You are looking for someone to complement your skill set, but also someone who is agreeable to work with. You want a team player. If given the choice between an all-star with a negative attitude and a knowledgeable team player, go with the team player, always. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant agrees, all-stars are known to be preemptively dismissive of ideas and adverse to contradictory beliefs. Read a transcript of his podcast Work Life with Adam Grant: The Problem with All-stars.


You have decided whom you want on your team and now it is time to offer them the job! Take into consideration that at this point your candidate may have been interviewing at multiple companies and could receive additional job offers. Make sure your offer letter displays your excitement of offering your top candidate the job and lay out the benefits and expectations of the role. Your offer letter should include:

  1. The name of the applicant
  2. The position title they would receive within your company
  3. Responsibilities of the position
  4. Typical work hours
  5. Rate of pay
  6. Date the position must be accepted by
  7. Request for date and signature

Only after your top candidate has accepted the job should you send out follow up letters to unsuccessful candidates. Send out the letters too early and you may end up without an employee at all.

Be sure to have your new hire sign an employment agreement. You can find a sample new hire agreement form provided by MaRS here.

Wrap Up

The hiring process can seem overwhelming, especially when you do not know what to look for at the outset. By tackling the hiring process one phase at a time, you will be able to overcome and avoid recruitment pitfalls, while validating your own decision-making process.  It is important to leave yourself time to find the correct candidate. Leave yourself a minimum of one (1) month to attract, evaluate, and offer, and remember to take into consideration that if your candidate is employed elsewhere at the time of the job offer, they are likely required to give two (2) weeks notice before leaving their previous employer. 

Good luck and get hiring!

Resources: Workable: Job Descriptions, Indeed, Monster, BUNZ: Employment and Entrepreneurial Zone Facebook Group, Indeed’s 7 Web Developer Interview Questions, MaRS: New Hire Form: Sample Template

Additional Tools: 

MaRS: How do I find talent

Sequoia: Recruiting tools for your startup