Article by Robert Szvetecz


Recruiting checklist for start-ups: what really matters

The world of start-ups is characterised by innovation, flexibility and a dynamic working environment. The search for qualified specialists who not only fit the company professionally but also culturally is a challenge. In this blog article, we look at the special features of the recruitment process for start-ups and how Schulmeister Management Consulting, as an experienced partner, can support start-ups in finding the best talents.


Difference: recruiting start-up and normal company?

Hire for attitude, train for skill.

In the start-up environment, the question often arises: should employees be selected primarily on the basis of their personality or their professional skills? A balanced mix is crucial here! While established large corporations are looking for clearly defined expertise, in the start-up environment you should rather look for a positive attitude and the willingness for further development.

The philosophy "Hire for attitude, train for skill" emphasises the importance of the right attitude and motivation. In the start-up environment, which is characterised by constant change and flexibility, a positive attitude towards one's own mission proves to be a decisive success factor. This does not mean that technical skills are neglected, but rather that the focus is on applicants who are willing to learn new skills and adapt to the requirements if necessary. In contrast, established companies often place more emphasis on existing expertise to ensure immediate productivity.

Generalists instead of specialists when recruiting for start-ups

Start-ups need flexible team members who are willing to think outside the box. Focusing on generalists instead of specialists allows for a more adaptable company culture, especially in the early stages. 

The three biggest mistakes in start-up recruiting and how to avoid them

1. Lack of clarity in the requirements  

Start-ups often make the mistake of not clearly defining the requirements for the position to be filled. This leads to an inefficient search and selection of candidates. In the rush to fill a vacancy, start-ups sometimes neglect to define the exact requirements. This can lead to bad hires and dissatisfaction in the team.

How to avoid this mistake: Before starting the recruitment process, it is crucial to define clear and precise requirements for the position. A detailed requirements profile helps to focus the search on the right candidates.

2 Corporate culture & team fit

Another common problem is underestimating the importance of corporate culture when selecting candidates. The focus is solely on professional qualifications. In the endeavour to attract technically competent employees, people sometimes forget how important the cultural "match" is - especially for start-ups.

Here's how to avoid making this mistake: it's important to clearly communicate the company values and team culture from the outset. When selecting candidates, you should not only consider their professional skills, but also their personal values and characteristics. If you have resources, it even makes sense to evaluate the existing team. This means that you analyse all team members who will be working closely with the new colleague and then look for inconsistencies. What are the no-gos? What qualities are essential? Is there already an organised person in the team who could complement a new creative mind? Or do you have enough industry experts to integrate a newcomer with new perspectives and ideas into the team?

3. Wrong timing in the search for personnel

One mistake that is unfortunately often overlooked is starting the recruitment process too late. The need for reinforcement is only recognised when bottlenecks are already noticeable. In the often hectic start-up environment, the focus can be on immediate challenges and the need for additional resources is only recognised when bottlenecks have already occurred.

How to avoid making this mistake: it's crucial to recognise the need for new team members early on and start recruiting proactively. Planning and proactive action help to avoid bottlenecks and strengthen the team in good time.

Checklist: what should start-ups pay particular attention to when recruiting?

Recruiting for start-ups brings with it specific challenges that make it more difficult compared to established companies. On the one hand, rapid growth and constant change in start-ups create a dynamic but also volatile working environment. This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan staffing requirements precisely and to define requirements precisely in advance. In addition, there is often a lack of established structures and processes, which makes the recruitment process more complex. Added to this is the challenge that resources are usually limited - be it financially or in terms of personnel. The limited budget can make it difficult to invest in large employer branding campaigns or to set up an internal HR department.

In this context, the following comprehensive checklist is presented as a guide to help start-ups overcome these challenges and create an effective recruitment process.

1. Clearly define the requirements

  • Take a close look at the needs of the existing team in order to create a precise job description. Which tasks can you already cover yourself? What expertise is required?
  • Create a detailed requirements profile that includes both professional and personal skills.

Note: Maintain flexibility

Nevertheless, it is important to remain flexible. It can make sense to hire candidates who do not have all the necessary skills, but whose willingness to learn and motivation are convincing. However, in some situations, especially in management positions, sound expertise and experience are essential. Here, operational skills can be dispensed with, while expertise and experience have top priority.

2. Corporate culture

  • Communicate the company values and team culture clearly and authentically.
  • When selecting candidates, consider not only professional qualifications, but also the cultural fit. This is one of the most important aspects, because teamwork and a pleasant working environment retain employees in the long term. In addition, it has been proven that this also significantly increases productivity.

3. Proactive timing and needs identification

  • Identify the need for new team members at an early stage to avoid bottlenecks.
  • Regularly discuss your resources in general meetings to determine current and future personnel requirements.
  • Start the recruitment process proactively to allow enough time for a thorough search and selection.

4. Versatile use of channels

  • Use platforms such as Xing and LinkedIn for an extended search in your own network.
  • Enquire at specialised job portals such as, or to search specifically for suitable talent.
  • Don't forget your social media profiles! Use Instagram, TikTok & Co to creatively communicate your corporate culture and your day-to-day work and thus draw attention to yourself as an attractive employer.

5. Establish professional processes

  • Create transparent recruiting processes to make the search and selection process efficient. This not only helps you internally, but also gives applicants structure and security.
  • Implement clear steps, from the receipt of applications to the final decision.

6. Benefits instead of salaries

  • The highest bidder doesn't always get the best talent - especially with start-ups, it's more than "just" the salary that counts. Score points with attractive benefits.
  • In the application process, emphasise the possibility of direct exchange with the management level in order to arouse the interest of candidates who value flat hierarchies and close exchange with management.
  • Introduce individual benefits that are tailored to the needs of your employees. These could be, for example, a flexible holiday model, workation or additional health benefits.

7. Ideal candidate profile for start-ups

  • Define exactly which professional skills and qualifications characterise the ideal candidate for your start-up.
  • In addition to the professional profile, personal characteristics also play a huge role for start-ups:  
    • Adaptability (dynamic developments, fast-moving)
    • Willingness to learn (especially when it comes to new technologies)
    • Motivation and initiative (essential)
    • Creativity and problem-solving skills
    • Team spirit - collaboration is essential
    • Entrepreneurial thinking
    • Enthusiasm for the mission and vision of the start-up

Our Conclusion

With our tried-and-tested checklist, you can lay the perfect foundation for start-up recruiting. Clearly defined requirements, authentic communication of the corporate culture and proactive identification of needs are crucial.

When it comes to recruiting, we are there for you! If you need support, we at Schulmeister are ready to provide you with the best possible guidance and support when it comes to recruiting.



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