Most businesses have one challenge in common: the difficulty of hiring talented people. For a startup, the problem can be especially vexing. By definition, you can't offer the job security of an established organization. Steady hours and predictable duties are also, in all likelihood, out of the question.  

On top of all that, there's one more hurdle that startups need to overcome: their inexperience in hiring anyone, period. It's hard to overstate the importance of talent acquisition. But getting talent through the door is not as simple as finding brilliant candidates, and enticing them with offers they can't refuse.

The Necessary Legalities of the Hiring Process

The hiring process is fraught with legal red tape. In a recent article on, Susan LaMotte, founder of the workforce consultancy exaqueo, cites several of them. Here are two: 

1. Know the legal basics. There are some questions you simply can't ask--even if you think they're helping you evaluate a candidate. LaMotte's list of off-limits topics includes: arrest records, garnishment records, marital status, child-care provisions, pregnancy or plans for future childbearing, physical or mental disabilities, age, nationality, race or ancestry.

That's a helpful general list, but remember there are state-specific laws you'll need to be aware of too. Furthermore, some federal laws only pertain to companies based on their size or whether they have federal contracts. The upshot? "A basic legal immersion for you and your leadership team can help to minimize risk," she writes. 

2. Create a defined hiring process. As seat-of-the-pants as startup life can be, hiring is one aspect that needs to have defined stages and goals. "Don't let interviewers ask whatever they want," warns LaMotte.  "Have a set of questions that clearly gets at the job itself--both skills (Do candidates have the level of programming proficiency they claim?) and behaviors (When a crisis happens the day before a major launch, how would they handle it?)."

By scripting some questions--and asking them to each candidate--you also reduce your risk of accidentally wading into the waters of the off-limits topics. In addition, asking similar questions to every candidate makes it easier to compare candidates to each other. You can even begin to codify parts of your hiring process. As your company grows (and some hires thrive while others struggle), you'll learn to identify positive patterns in the interview process. For example, you'll learn which questions are best for screening candidates.

Over time, you'll be able to refine and revise your questions.