How to Define a New Role at a Startup

How to Define a New Role at a Startup

As a startup founder or team lead, you already have a lot on your plate. Growing the business and keeping it running on the day-to-day is hard enough without throwing hiring into the mix.

When it does come time to hire, it can be difficult to gauge what your team needs. This is made even harder when a startup is young or lacks a defined company structure.

Defining a new role is the first step to making a great hire. Wrapping your head around the required skills, personality, and experience of a new employee will save you time and sanity in the long run.

Required Skills

Start by thinking of the tasks and responsibilities that the new role will be responsible for. Then, make a list of skills a person will realistically need to accomplish these tasks successfully.
Let’s take a graphic designer as an example. The new hire might be responsible for designing for a variety of formats, building out your brand, and managing web design. To do these things, the designer will probably need skills in the Adobe Creative Suite and HTML & CSS.

Now, take it a step further and envision how this person will fit in with your team’s current skillset. If there are gaps with your current team, a new hire might be able to fill them. For example, the graphic designer might also need illustration skills or have experience building teams. Think of any skills that might not be explicitly implied in an average description for the title, and add them to your posting.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at job descriptions for similar roles. If you have other employees, ask them to draft a description what the new hire’s day-to-day should look like and any skills they feel would round out the team. This gives you a candid peek into how your team thinks a new employee could contribute to overall goals.

Personality and Characteristics

When the team is small, finding a personality that fits in with your organization’s culture and vision is just as important as finding the right skillset. Before interviewing people, think about your company culture and what a person needs to excel within your team.

Start by considering your industry. If you build software for the non-profit sector, a genuine interest or passion in the area you serve could be fundamental to the role.

Also consider the team you already have and their personalities and working style. What would a person need to fit within this structure? Do you need a flexible person that’s ready and willing to take direction, or do you need a confident go-getter that will proactively seek out work instead of waiting to be directed?

Take stock of your current employees’ strengths and weaknesses and think about how an ideal candidate’s personality traits would fit in and complement them. By doing so, you’ll be bringing your company to the next level with each additional team member.

Experience Level and Company Structure

One of the most important factors in finding the right candidate for your organization is to find the right experience level for your needs and budget allowance. Would you like a hungry entry-level employee that’s ready to roll up their sleeves and learn, or do you need a more seasoned professional that can help lead the team when you’re offsite?

Many startup founders and team leads wear many hats, but juggling responsibilities can lead to inefficient and overwhelmed management. If you already have several employees reporting to you, it could be a good time to bring in a more senior employee to manage teams.

On the other hand, if you already have a solid team of senior employees ready to take on more responsibility, this could be a good time to bring in a more junior member to take on production.

Growth Strategy

Thinking about how each hire affects overall growth is an important thing to keep in mind. Depending on your product, you may require talent upfront to bring your product to launch, or you could keep things lean until the product is ready to enter market.

Also consider how this role fits into your startup’s needs in the short and long term. It’s natural to need evolving skillsets as a company grows—generalists are usually fundamental at the beginning while specialists are more helpful when the team reaches larger sizes.

Of course, budget should also be top of mind. As you define a new role, consider your reason for hiring and how your needs balance with what you can afford. If you’re short-handed after signing a big contract, consider the stability and longevity of the role before hiring full-time employees. If the demand is beginning to grow but your profit isn’t stable, consider freelance or contract talent. This will help you fulfill your current requirements without overextending budgets.

Defining Roles Sets You Up For Success

Building a team from scratch is one of the hardest things founders and leads have to do. Taking time to define the role before digging in can set you up for success in the long term. It helps set expectations for you and the new hire and gives everyone a framework to work from.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to trust your gut. In a lot of cases, personality outweighs skills that can be taught over time. Sometimes assembling the right group of people is more important than meeting the responsibilities set on paper.


Find your next new teammate by posting on Authentic Jobs.