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Another important point is that most startups aren't a good place to stay long term, simply because (duh!) most of them do not succeed.

Startups have some dreadful lows, so I can understand not wanting to hire people who will leave at the first painful moment, especially because one departure can trigger a fatal exodus. There are also people who just collapse during painful periods and a startup can't afford to have them... but the ones who collapse tend to have a certain passivity about them that makes them incapable of being voluntary job hoppers.

However, we're talking about entirely different sets of motivations when we compare the "stay-or-go" decision at a big company vs. at a startup. Someone who leaves a mediocre corporate job after 6 months because he isn't learning anything and because it's obvious that no one with any power cares about him is, in my opinion, savvy and ambitious. This sort of person could easily be a great startup employee-- knows what he wants (and is therefore less likely to job-hop out of ignorance and confusion) and seasoned enough to cut through bullshit and avoid the wasting of time.

The few successful startups I've known actually didn't have many "lows", and certainly not "dreadful" ones. They had a lot of stress, insane work hours, no life/work balance at all (since "life" was removed from the equation), but not too many of the kind of "omg we're actually failing" type of lows.

The cruel truth is that this business is so competitive, that if you make too many mistakes you're going to lose to those 1 or 2 among your hundreds of competitors that were lucky and competent enough never to have these kinds of failures.

In any case, I agree about the failure to distinguish fundamental (and very different) motivations here. Certainly you don't want someone crumbling under stress, but these kinds of people are easy to identify. Did that person had a very long vacation after leaving (for whatever reason) a startup? Does he seem to shy away from risk, stress, and high pressure positions?

If so, and you're hiring for such a position, it probably shows obliviousness and lack of self recognition and maturity for him to even apply.

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