Hiring for Your Startup: Sue Kim, Co-Founder of Libbler Gives Advice on Hiring a “Minimum Viable Person”


Sue Kim is co-founder LIBBLER, a cloud-based recruitment platform innovating the way employers identify and attract high potential talent with smart matching technology. She has more than 12 years of experience delivering operational strategy and workforce initiatives, and as part of LIBBLER, she actively advises employers on the best way to manage their people strategies. You can follow them on Twitter @LIBBLER.

The business of people for startups

Having the right people in the right positions is a critical success factor for any business. Strategic hiring requires a true understanding of your business, the skills needed at a given time, and the culture you want to create. This is why in a startup, hiring decisions should be fully owned by the founders.

“Hire slow, fire fast” is a well accepted business mantra. It emphasises that you should be discerning about whom you bring to your core team, and also be quick to act when things are not working out. But can startups really afford to hire slow when there’s smaller window for survival? Would it be wise to fire fast when it’s so difficult to hire in the first place?


The reality is that startups take on tight timelines and challenging milestones. As such, many treat hiring as an afterthought. We often hear founders say, “I’m sure once we start making money, we can hire good staff.” But they neglect the fact that without the right people, they may never get there. After working with startups, and having made my own share of missteps, I instead propose the following: Hire MVPs, let the firing happen naturally.

Hiring MVP

Heard of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? You can apply it for people too. Hire a Minimum Viable Person (also MVP!): someone that can help with your immediate needs, even if they don’t obviously check all the boxes for long term. You simply can’t tell how good someone is until you actually work together, and also you probably don’t know what your startup needs in the future. Minimize your risk and start with a temporary contract, even part time for some roles, with clear pilot deliverables to test the working relationship.

(Last year’s LIBBLER interns)

To come up with the deliverables, assess where your startup’s core workstreams are centered on. They should all fall under three buckets: make product, make money, and manage business growth. If you have other things on your list, you should perhaps take a hard look at your current work and question whether they are ‘must haves’ at this point. Prioritize the tasks in terms of impact and the skills you don’t already have in your team. Ask yourself – “What should I be doing more for the business to grow? What’s keeping me from doing it?” These are the things you should delegate to the new hire.

Don’t waste any time once you’ve got the ‘TO DO’ list. Proceed with the assumption that it’s going to take you a while to find and convince someone to join your startup, up to 3 months depending on the role’s complexity and labor market. So instead of taking weeks to interview and choose, as soon as you know the candidate can do what you need and he agrees to the terms, hire and test right away.

During the trial period, have frequent feedback loop. It shouldn’t be any surprise to either of you how things are going by the time the trial period is up. Most importantly, if you are satisfied with the MVP, do everything to keep him/her! (I’ll leave the ‘how’ for another article).

Firing naturally

With so much on your plate, the stress of having to fire someone can be consuming. But, lucky you, you are on a short term contract, so you can let the firing happen more naturally. Having said that, to be able to ‘let the firing happen’ without causing too much disruption to your business, continue your search and build a talent pipeline even after you have already made the hire, and never stop. You should be living and breathing your workforce plan as you build out your business.

Sue Kim on Startbase.HK: Sue Kim


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