Who to Hire for your Startup

Here is a simple framework to evaluate candidates for your startup: are they fast, correct, and coach-able? Hire away! Anything less? Tread carefully, or not at all.

This video represents day #9 and #10 of my 30 day maker challenge - In the span of 24 hours I scripted, shot, edited and finally uploaded this video. I learned quite a bit by pushing the boundaries of my know-how from my last video, and I hope it shows. Other than general improvement (and whatever advice you leave in the comments below!) I only wish I had rigged my audio a bit better - it was the wrong type of mic, and a bit too far away (though it sure seemed close…). More opportunity for kaizen!

Incidentally, we are hiring at https://blissfully.com - if after watching this, you think you’d make a good fit… let’s talk!


My name is Aaron. I'm a cofounder and CTO at blissfully. I built multiple companies and advise others. I've written millions of lines of code, but the most important thing I've ever done or will ever do is bring excellent people together to create world class teams.

What makes a great hire is simple.

They need to be fast. They need to be correct, and they need to be coachable.

Fast means a bias towards action. Lots of output, someone prolific, who just does. Correct means someone with great instincts, thoughtful execution, and are more often right than they are wrong. And for coachable, these are people who take feedback well. Generally they are people with a growth mindset who are always looking for opportunities to improve. Whether those opportunities come from things they discover on their own or from feedback from others.

Let's break down all the possible combinations.

First there's someone who has none of these traits. They're slow, they're wrong and they're unwilling to improve. We would never choose to work with such a person. If our hiring processes functioning, they would never clear our bar.

So moving on, let's talk about somebody who has just one of those two traits, someone who is fast but wrong and unwilling to improve. This kind of person is a chaos whirlwind. They create new work for others who are now responsible for cleaning up their messes. Likely there's a fair amount of ego or carelessness that prevents them from being self critical enough to truly improve.

Next someone who's coachable, but slow and often wrong. You know, this person, they receive feedback well, they take it on the chin and yet somehow never seem to improve or get their act together. Being coachable only matters if you apply it and applying, it requires many iterations, many opportunities to improve.

Lastly, you have the most deceptive of these, who has only one of these three traits. The one who's always correct, but slow and not coachable. It's hard not to be wowed by intelligent people, but do not, and I repeat, do not hire a philosopher king or queen. Many a project's been destroyed by a smart person who doesn't contribute and is divorced from what their colleagues are doing. It doesn't matter how smart someone is if they don't apply what they know and if they can't work well with others.

All right, let's move on to the folks you actually might hire. These are people who have two of these three traits.

Let's start with somebody who's coachable and fast. This is a good combination for someone early in their career. They take feedback, they turn on a dime, they apply it and they seek more. This can take someone who's inexperienced, give them many opportunities to improve and hone their instincts until they become someone who is also correct over time. The trick here is making sure you have enough bandwidth to properly manage this type of person. But if you can provide them that feedback, this is great.

So what about somebody who's correct and coachable, but not necessarily fast? This type of person can form the healthy bedrock for your entire team. They do good work and they're thrilled to receive feedback. They aren't the fastest, but they're solid, and that counts for a lot. You'd do well to build a team with a healthy dose of this type of person. Projects are generally marathons and you need a consistent heartbeat, powering everything you do.

Next, we have somebody who's fast and correct, but not necessarily coachable. These types of folks are real self-starters, lightning bolts, who can take nothing and produce something with complex interactions and nuances without much input or feedback. This is fantastic for new products or features, but it is a little bit of a risk when working with a broader team because they aren't coachable. This can create a weird form of "maverick" dynamic. If you can't feed them a steady stream of new territory to own, they may butt heads with other people in other parts of the project. But they can be ruthlessly effective. If you're building a larger team, I'd start with correct-and-coachable and then add in a dash of fast-and-correct on top.

Finally, I'd like to introduce you to the all star, the Ninja, the 10X-er. Someone who's fast, correct, and coachable. Their instincts are right more often than not. And they move at blazing speeds. They put out work fast, so fast you'll be routinely impressed by them. And they're coachable as well! They adapt to whatever strategy you hand them, and work well with the rest of the team. And they will crave new ways that they can grow and improve to continue being an uber-person that they are. You can actually find this person at any point in their career, even on the early side. Look for people with a large body of demonstrated work, multiple interests and someone who peppers you with questions about what you're working on. Such a person is destined for leadership. If you're building a startup or a small team, find as many of this type of person, as you can to form the center of your culture. Not only will you produce a extremely compelling product, but this will actually form an attractive group for other such all-stars to join in the future.

Okay. Now let me take a bit of a left turn. So plot twist! You can apply this exact same framework to identify great companies. What if you're looking for a job, what kind of company should you join? Does the company have a bias to action, but consistent output. Do their products and services feel correct? Does the company have a growth mindset, always seeking to level up their understanding, their products and their people. These are the types of companies that can identify an opportunity, find product, market fit and survive hyper-growth. You should be qualifying that company the same way they'll be qualifying you.

And if you find such a company, follow the advice of Eric Schmidt and "get on that rocket ship". Thank you for tuning in. If you liked this video hit like and subscribe.