Hiring for Startups – 10 Top Tips

Hiring for Startups

Finding and hiring top talent is one of the biggest challenges to growing a successful business and an area we are regularly asked for support and advice on from clients.

Hiring for an early stage tech business or start-up can be particularly challenging: you need to move quickly to compete for top quality talent in a crowded market, and usually on a restricted budget.

Here are 10 practical and actionable suggestions to consider and try yourself within your business to enhance your recruitment process and to improve your success in hiring top talent:

1. Work out your employer ‘pitch’ to candidates.

Don’t forget that recruitment is a two-way process. Why would prospective candidates want to work for your business? What makes you different and a more attractive proposition than other businesses hiring from the same technical skillsets? Are all your team members joined up on this message? Like any pitch this needs to set a value proposition, to differentiate you and to set out the business and role opportunity potential.

2. Review and articulate your Benefits Package and offering.

Take some time to benchmark what you offer against your competitors. Consider salary budget, holiday allowances, pension and other benefits but also don’t forget or undervalue intangibles too – such as flexibility, team culture etc. Make sure to position and articulate these to your potential candidates!

3. Ensure a fantastic candidate experience.

Make it slick and easy to apply (avoid complicated application forms where candidates have to copy/paste information that’s already in their CV!). Also try to respond to every application. Even if a candidate might not be right for this current requirement, within your sector you are likely to come into contact again in the future and so always leave a positive impression with every contact.

4. Move quickly.

When you have a live vacancy, don’t keep candidates waiting too long. If they’re on the market for a new role, most likely you are not the only prospective employer they are talking to, and it can be massively frustrating and a waste of time (on both sides) to get back to a candidate to offer an interview and find out they’re already off the market with another offer. Obviously don’t rush your decision making, but do try to set time aside regularly to review and shortlist CVs as they come in so you can follow up promising applications quickly.

5. Build a talent ‘pool’.

It’s a good idea to be constantly networking and thinking about potential future recruitment needs well before the point you need to advertise and recruit. Encourage your team to do this too, through networking and coffee meetings – seek out every opportunity to engage and connect with potential talent for your future needs. This can help you build a shortlist of ideal candidates for your upcoming or potential future roles. Then like any sales target, nurture them: coffee catch-ups, sharing interesting or relevant content, or perhaps with invitations to company events.

6. Ask your community for referrals.

Employee referral schemes can be a great source of candidates – you can offer a small bonus or reward, not necessarily financial and this can give you access to candidates not necessarily actively looking for work. Employees are also unlikely to refer anyone they wouldn’t want to work alongside as it reflects on them! Your existing customers, followers and ambassadors are also worth targeting. Try linking to your vacancies in a regular newsletter, or on Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook, or add a note to your email signature, with the roles you’re hiring.

7. Add a ‘Careers’ page to your website and reflect your business culture and make it customised.

Include profiles and testimonials from members of your team, to give a flavour of what it’s like to work at your company. Videos with employee interviews give a great insight into your culture and showcasing examples of employees who have progressed their careers within the business are a great hook. Even when you are not recruiting, you can continue to build your candidate ‘pool’ by including a mechanism for speculative candidates to get in touch and register their interest.

8. Involve your team in the recruitment process.

Adding new people impacts the entire team, and they need to be involved appropriately. Map a process that will work for you, including who will conduct each round of interviews, who gives the office tour, and at what stage any full team engagement will take place. If possible (depending on your business size!), introduce them to the entire team – as every new hire impacts your culture, so it’s good to seek their feedback in the process. How candidates interact with colleagues at all levels in the business can be really insightful for culture fit too, so don’t forget to ask the receptionist or recruitment admin team (if you have one!) for their insights and assessment.

9. Set candidates a task or assessment during interviews.

This can tell you so much more about how candidates think and apply their skills in practice than just relying on standard Q&A approach. Work through a case study together where candidates talk you through how they would tackle or approach a 15-30 minute problem – the insight gained is often less about the right answer to the problem than the thought process candidates use to get there. Have a whiteboard in any interview room and encourage candidates to sketch out solutions – you’ll see more of their ability to structure and communicate an answer.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly……

10. Hire for cultural fit over competence.

Sometimes potential employees have a skillset and expertise that ticks every box technically but the ‘person fit’ is lacking – they may fail to share core values of your business or to engage and build rapport with the interviewers and team. It can be tempting to overlook this or try to work round it but this can cause bigger challenges in the long term. If you have certain core values and behaviours that you look for across your team, such as customer focus or a ‘can do’ solution-focussed approach, this is one area never to compromise on in hiring decisions.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you design and build the right team, and set up effective and practical people and management tools to support the successful growth of your business.