11 Red Flags Startups Should Avoid When Hiring

Getting to a point where it’s time to hire employees is a huge milestone for startups. But there are lots of things to consider when looking to hire someone to join your startup team, including whether or not that person’s goals are in line with the company goals and how good a fit the candidate is with the company culture. Ultimately, it might just be a matter of what your instinct is telling you about the candidate’s character and motivation.

red flag

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, this question:

“What are some major red flags that startup management teams look for when hiring new employees?”

Here’s what the YEC community had to say about hiring for your startup:

1. Gut Check Test

“A candidate may meet all of the requirements on paper. They might present well in person. But, most importantly, do they pass your gut check test? Don’t let your urgency to hire cloud your vision. Including several stages of interviews during the hiring process will help you to get to know the candidate better to be able to determine if they will truly be a good fit.” ~ Abbie Davies, My First Yoga

2. Watch Out for Slow Responders

“In the early days of a startup, there is little redundancy. This means if an emergency hits you need all hands to help, regardless of what time it is. It’s hard to tell in an interview if someone will be there when servers go down at 3 a.m., but a great test is seeing how quickly candidates respond to your communications. If they really want to join your team, they’ll be all over them.” ~ Jason Evanish, Greenhorn Connect

3. Is it Just a ‘Job’ to Them?

“Some people looking to be hired just want a job and are not there to really contribute to your mission. Get to the root of why they want to work with your business and if there is a passion there. If there’s no passion you know all you need to about bringing that person onto your team. You need a solid group who like the idea, want to help it grow and also learn more along the way.” ~ Ashley Bodi, Business Beware

4. Did You Do Your Homework?

“I interview prospective employees on the phone first. One of the questions I ask is what they know about my company. Repeating sound bytes from my job posting will not cut it. If someone has learned nothing about my company before applying, I know that they are not the kind of person I want working with me. I need employees who make things happen–not ones who wait for things to happen to them.” ~ Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia

5. A Lack of Personal Projects

“Whenever I’m considering a new hire, I go looking for any side projects that individual has worked on — blogs, open source projects and so on. Those sorts of projects tells me that a potential employee can work on her own without me staring over her shoulder. It also says that a person is a self-starter, which is a great indicator that she will do well in a startup situation.” ~ Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

6. ‘I Don’t Like Being Micromanaged’

“This is an immediate red flag when brought up in an interview. Employees who generally use this line are those who don’t want to be managed by goals/results, and instead, wish to run with their own agendas or what “feels right” to them.” ~ Warren Jolly, Affiliate Media Inc.

7. Unclear Goals

“Always ask prospective employees about their goals. Not only will it tell you interesting things about their personality, you’ll also be able to determine whether this person will be a good fit for the company in the long run. If they don’t have any goals or their goals are unclear, proceed with caution. They may be taking the job for a paycheck instead of working with directed focus.” ~ Lisa Nicole Bell, Inspired Life Media Group

8. Concern With Hours

“It’s not that we all need to work 120 hour weeks. It’s not that you have to be in on Sunday. It’s not that you need to give up your girlfriend or gardening. It’s that there are no hours; a startup is a mission and a mission doesn’t have a daily start and end time. If something breaks at midnight, we fix it. If the sun begs an afternoon run, take that run. This isn’t a job. This is a lifestyle.” ~ Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

9. I Love the Startup World!

“Do they really? Why, what have they done, who do they know and how are they trying to get involved in the startup scene? Do they have a clue how different the role can be at a startup compared to a big company? Many people who “love” the startup world actually want a big corporate job but they heard tech startups were cool.” ~ Jared O’Toole, Under30Ceo.com

10. Is This Employee Too Entrepreneurial Minded?

“If you are hiring an employee, you’ll want to find someone who is on board for the long term. Startup management teams often can sniff out when a candidate is too entrepreneurial and has no intention of staying with your team for longer than a few months. Listen to your gut and if this person is the type who simply wants to work for themselves, don’t hire them.” ~ Matt Wilson, Under30CEO.com

11. Honesty and Integrity

“Skills and knowledge can be taught where as honesty and integrity are inherent to the personality of the applicant. Search for honesty and integrity first and then select the most skilled from that list. Not having honesty and integrity will cause problems and cost real dollars down the line.” ~ Lucas Sommer, Audimated

Red Flag Photo via Shutterstock

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.