Illustration by Signe Valentin Andersen

This post is part of a series where we’ll take you through what we believe to be the best tips on growing a team. It’s based on experiences from our combined 15 years working with recruitment but most importantly on how we ourselves grew the Valuebeat team from 2 people to 19 people 18 months later.
Check out the other posts in the series:

  1. Our basic principles for recruiting.
  2. How to attract talent when you’re a startup with nothing to offer

# 1: You can’t always plan for what you need

Our number one priority when setting the initial Valuebeat team was tech. We knew we needed to build a product – and we needed to build it fast. We needed capable, plug-and-play hands on deck that could solve that immediate problem NOW.

But when it came to setting the team as a whole, it was never a matter of hiring for now or even hiring for the next six months.

It was about finding people that could grow and then letting them grow in their role.

The logic of a recruitment plan is mapping out strategic goals and what specific hires you need to get you there. We have created plans in terms of which areas of the business we need to grow to get us to our series A and – crucially – what burn rate we can afford.

Just as important as recruitment plans are, you need flexibility for jumping on opportunities when they arise.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a startup with little to offer in terms of attraction or any other kind of organisation.

This is an opportunity hire: a candidate that won’t fix predefined tasks and urgent needs, but who is available here and now and will be a valuable asset for the long run.

An opportunity too good to miss.

There are at least two advantages to jumping on an opportunity like that:

  1. That new hire will help set a direction and imagine new goals that you’ll need for growing. Especially being a startup, there is no beaten track ahead of you. But no matter what kind of organisation you are, finding people that can challenge your own power of imagination is key.
  2. They won’t necessarily come again when you know you need them.

Which leads us to our second argument.

# 2: The talent you can get right now probably won't apply when the timing is right for you

At its core, an opportunity hire is a person you take a chance on because you’re hiring for their potential and not your immediate need.

The chance you’re taking is by getting your hands on talent when the timing is right for them. Not right for you.

This requires moving from being reactive relying on job postings and sourcing to being proactive and spending time and attention on LinkedIn and other platforms where you can keep track of who’s changing positions. And who all of a sudden will be ready to have that cup of coffee that they otherwise wouldn’t bother.

This gives you the chance to sell your organisation, your mission, and your potential in a much more potent format – a conversation – than you would ever be able to by creating a generic job posting.

# 3: Be honest about what to expect

The straight-up pitfall of hiring for opportunity, potential, and future needs is that your new employee most likely won’t be able to work on what they consider to be their expertise right away.

This is something you need to be very honest about. (Along with most other things, we’d argue.)

This also implies being very straight-up with yourself regarding whether this candidate will in fact be able to thrive on what you have to offer right now. From a recruitment point of view, having T-shaped skills – being both a generalist and having a specific area of expertise – makes it easier to be creative with bridging the gap until they can live up to their full potential.

The ideal opportunity hire needs to be motivated by the chance to have great impact and building stuff (especially in a startup). You’re giving them the chance to shape things by inviting them into a role and trajectory not defined by you but co-defined with them.

Ideally, this is what motivates them and will keep them motivated.  


  • Be flexible with your recruitment plan and open to the directions that the right opportunity hire will be able to take you in.
  • Focus on reaching out and having conversations when the timing is right for the candidate, not necessarily for you.
  • Be honest with the candidate about what to expect: You both need to be creative when bridging between the present reality and the future.  

We will be sharing more advice on recruitment tactics such as the pros and cons of hiring through your personal network, using traditional sourcing, etc. in this series of posts on recruitment tips. Stay tuned! And check out the other posts in the series:

Our basic principles for recruiting.

How to attract talent when you’re a startup with nothing to offer

Written by
Nico Blier-Silvestri
People and Culture Specialist

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