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When we asked earlier this month '[Is a job at a startup right for you?],' we alluded to the importance in having not just the right skills for the job, but the right personality as well. Of course, being a good fit as an employee is important regardless of the company's age or establishment. But it seems particularly key for startups, where it's expected everyone share some of the same drive, ferocity and confidence that the founders do - that so-called 'startup culture.'

There can be strong pressures to simply hire someone - anyone - particularly if your startup is experiencing a rapid growth spurt and desperately needs to bring on more staff. And this pressure can make you feel like the cultural fit isn't as much a concern as just filling the seat. According to Jonathan Kay, Grasshopper's 'Ambassador of Buzz,' the founders of the small-business support company say that ignoring the importance of culture while hiring was one of the early mistakes they made. 'When we hit our big boom,' says Kay, 'we were hiring people left and right and were worried primarily with bringing in the best technical fit for the job.'

To help address this, Grasshopper spells out key elements of its company culture and makes sure these values are stressed during the hiring process. Noting that this means much of an interview is devoted to assessing this cultural fit, Kay says that employees need to demonstrate they have these core values, not just the requisite skill set, in order to move forward in the interview process.

Arguably, that cultural fit can be seen in a variety of ways. You can ask questions during the interview process. You can, as Mark Suster suggests, schedule one meeting with job candidates take place over food. You can probably hazard a few guesses based on the absence of creativity in a resume (or, I suppose, the presence of Comic Sans). You can look at your potential hires' past experience with startups, their side projects, and their social media presence in order to gauge whether or not they fit with your culture.

Of course, all this assumes you know what your company culture is - not merely the grandiose wording of a mission statement, but the ways in which your team actually works together.

Audrey Watters July 19, 2010

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