The first employee of any start up plays a crucial role. It is in fact a process by which the culture of the organization begins. Navigating this challenge is not easy for start-ups!
Co-Founders typically are seen to be friends or colleagues and it is very often the employee whom they hire that turns out to be the first external person joining the team. While it is possible that the employee might not really be a complete outsider, but someone in what I could call as the latent network (one which we do not access frequently in the course of our work) and pull him into the active network (that which we access very often).
As someone who has helped a few start ups in their hiring, and seen many others make their choices, I find there are two broad requirements that emerge out as the most required in my opinion:
- Willing to push and attempt to think beyond what he/she already knows
- Hungry to work hard if need be
In addition to this, possessing the knowledge and the skill would only add up to the person as positive points. But the real deal breaker would be hiring a person who is not willing to think knowing his/her limits and having no enthusiasm to learn if it takes. Simply put, I am looking at the right attitude fit before I look at the aptitude fit.
Knowledge and expertise of an individual could come with a well defined self-image; the start-up founders would need to know, to what extent these would be beneficial for the company and at what level it would be detrimental to the company's prospects!
If the employee is one who would take up additional responsibility beyond what is expected of him and executes this it would be an added positives, the founders however should be willing to give this freedom to the employee to explore and work with them.