Reference Project – Start-up Company

«Falling into the sympathy trap when recruiting in start-ups»

Starting point

The founders of a young and dynamic event agency were no longer able to do everything by themselves due to a high volume of work within a phase of growth. To ease the workload quickly, they had to hire someone in a short space of time. They were mainly interested to ensure that the new hire would fit into the team and share the young and fresh spirit of the company. After a short time problems appeared regarding the new hire, as the person didn’t take work seriously enough and the professional distance to her superiors was also lacking. She left the company, as the fun factor wasn’t as high as she had expected it to be.


When hiring, the founders have primarily focused on the personality of the person they were looking for and placed a lot of stress on their enthusiasm for their work and their company. They have not sufficiently tested, which competencies and skills the candidate was able to offer in order to get the support they needed. Instead, they adapted the role to the candidate rather than the other way around.


Clearly define the function before hiring: Which tasks should be taken over? What competencies are needed for the role, both technical skills and personal traits?

Name the upcoming challenges of the role: What are the key issues? What are the hard nuts to crack going to be? What are the expectations of the founders towards their new team member?

Make sure you measure skills and competencies during the recruiting process with objective methods, to avoid falling into the sympathy pitfall.


  • Develop a job description with detailed information regarding tasks, expectations and competencies.

  • Create a realistic company profile: What is our corporate culture? What do we expect from our employees? Motto: We are a great and cool company, but in the end we have to perform above average to achieve our goals.

  • Structured interview and personality questionnaire focusing on skills, competencies and business behavior.

Key Take Away

Friendliness increases the likelihood of employment. Therefore make sure you compare your candidate towards objective criteria such as competencies and skills.

Define the job description before starting the hiring process and don’t create a job for a candidate, just because you like the person. Keep this in mind to make sure you receive the support you, as a young and dynamic company, are looking for.

Startups are dynamic and interesting to work for, but people also have to perform well. Always emphasize both sides during the recruitment process.