5 Soft Skills Startups Need From Their Candidates

We’ve all heard the old adage a company’s greatest asset is its employees. It’s true for multinationals, but it’s even more so for small or mid-sized startups. However, not all employees bring the same amount of value to an organization. And as individuals with unique characteristics, some are better suited for larger, more established types of companies, while others are particularly well suited for startups.

5 Soft Skills Startups Need From Their Candidates

Soft skills refer to how an employee works, how they go about accomplishing their tasks, and how well they work with peers, superiors, and subordinates. AI-powered job search portals such as Lensa can help recruiters and HR managers find candidates with specific soft skills. But it is important to first identify which soft skills are important for your organization.

In this short article, we’ll take a look at soft skills (also known as transferable skills) that startups should pay particularly close attention to when deciding on which candidates to hire. This list is not in any hierarchal order but is simply 10 soft skills startups should look for in their employees.


Statistics show that most startups that fail do so because of a lack of funding. This is understandable as startups set out to accomplish a lot, yet they start with very little. Startups often work within a tight budget, and, at least in the beginning, they lack the resources of larger, more established companies.

A resourceful employee is one who thinks outside the box, is creative, and can find innovative ways to accomplish his or her tasks. Resourcefulness is not synonymous with cutting corners but is rather an expression of creative problem-solving.


Employees who are able to take the initiative do not need constant instruction and monitoring from their superiors or team leaders. This frees up their team leaders to do more important tasks, which has the cumulative effect of dramatically increasing productivity for the whole organization.

Furthermore, employees who are willing to take the initiative do so because they are imbued with confidence. Confidence in a team setting is often contagious.

The willingness and ability to take the initiative are especially important to startups as they often have yet to establish clear work processes and methods.


In the first year or two of a startup’s existence, it will undergo many significant changes. These changes will affect what the employees need to do and how they need to go about doing them. This is inevitable. Yet not all personality types are comfortable with this amount of change. For people who rely on a routine with clearly defined processes and expectations, the startup environment is probably not best suited for them.

Instead, startups should seek out employees who thrive in this sort of ‘chaos.’ Flexibility can refer to what an employee does, how he or she does it, and when he or she does it. The ideal startup employee is willing to be flexible with their schedule, tasks, and work processes. And this is not a personality trait shared by all.


The vision and mission of a startup can and should be cause for excitement. Dream big, and big things will happen. However, as the vast majority of startup founders will attest, it takes a lot of work and overcoming more than a few setbacks to realize this vision.

Especially in the early stages of a startup's existence, the organization is fueled by enthusiasm – from team leaders and employees alike. When enthusiasm is complimented with competence, it can have a very positive ripple effect. However, the inverse is also true. When pessimism or cynicism enters a workplace, it can easily and quickly snowball to become destructive to morale and, in consequence, productivity.

It is crucial, then, to staff your startup with people with positive energy. An enthusiastic team is a more productive team. And enthusiasm is an essential component in how to nurture the team in your startup. Furthermore, enthusiasm has the positive by-product of producing perseverance which is essential in overcoming those obstacles that always seem to surface, especially in the early stages of a startup's existence.

Intellectual Curiosity

Intellectual curiosity is the spark that fuels one’s willingness and ability to learn. And it is this willingness and ability to learn that is of vital importance to the success of an employee at a startup.

There is always a huge learning curve in any startup, regardless of what sector of activity it operates in. Success startups are staffed with people who excel at learning. this includes learning new skills and tools and new processes.

When interviewing candidates, the oft-cited question “what did you learn in your last job” takes on an even greater significance for startups. The ideal candidate for a startup should be able to express intellectual curiosity. He or she will have a wide range of interests. These interests may or may not be related to the work of your startup. But the mere fact that the candidate expresses intellectual curiosity (illustrated by the presence of a wide range of interests) is a good sign that the candidate has the willingness and ability to learn. 

The ideal candidate should have demonstrated in previous work experiences the willingness, ability, and even joy in learning new skills, tools, and processes, as this will inevitably play a major role in how successful they will be in your startup.

When it comes to starting a business, hiring the right employees is crucial, so pay particularly close attention to the above-mentioned soft skills. A company’s greatest asset is its employees. And more often than not, the quality of a company’s employees is largely responsible for its success or failure.