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Hiring for Startups
Hiring for Startups: The Complete Guide to Hire the Best Talents for Success

Your dream startup is just assembling away, with high aspirations. Many factors determine the immediate future of your business, like the business model, strategies, cash flow management, revenue generation, etc. But, what is the biggest challenge, vital to the very core of your startup, which is also an important asset? Yes, you are right indeed! It is the employees that you hire, to kick-start the operations of your dream project.

It is easier said than done. It definitely takes more time, as anything that goes wrong at this step, may negatively affect your startup. Hiring the right person and creating a strong team is pivotal, especially for startups. When you are just starting out with a limited budget and are looking to manage costs, having the right employees on board can make the difference between successful survival and shutdown. According to statistics, 90 % of startups do not take off with success, because of not having the right team.

Hiring for a new business is more than just hiring a qualified and role-specific employee. It is - to find an employee that will lead by example, weave a strong cultural fabric around, have the right mindset, the capacities to face new start-up challenges, and leverage them to the benefit of the company.

Being creative with hiring strategy, and making smart and strategic choices, is the best solution to win the best talent pool for your business.

The challenges –

Hiring new employees sounds like an exciting process. However, is definitely not easy.

  • Hiring new employees is like defining the DNA of your startup. The people you hire are going to affect every single aspect of your business, like product development, work culture, atmosphere, team spirit, quality of work, and more.
  • In a small-scale startup, the stakes are high. And in a fast-paced environment, hiring an employee who, even in the smallest way is not compatible with your startup's culture, process and value, can create a mismatch, that is highly magnified.  The negative impact will affect the whole team’s productivity, value, and morale.

Hiring for startups is different

Unlike established companies who have strong established brand value, startups may be a risky move for most employees, to leave their current establishment and join a startup with no solid background, experience, and success records.

  • As a new and emerging business, nobody knows who you are. This can be a major challenge when attracting high-quality talent.  In such circumstances, you will have to work twice as hard first to attract A-list candidates, and build a plan to sell your idea, vision, and mission of the startup.  Hiring is usually a two-way process, just like the employee's resume needs to be impressive, similarly, the company also needs to impress the candidate.
  • This is the very first step to hiring the best team for your business.  You need to start attracting talent, by creating a profile that intrigues them, and gets them excited about your new venture.

Let's take a look at the processes that can get you started with hiring strategies for startups

1. Making an impression

Build up a brand for the potential employee to look up to. Something that they can rely on when making a big decision.

  • When you aim for the best talent in the pool, know that they will be in competitive markets, perhaps looking for or working for more established companies with attractive brand value. It is fair to assume that they will have many offers to choose from. So, when it comes to making a mark for your startup, begin with conventional ways. When you see hiring through the marketing lens, you will know that social media platforms are the best tool that can be leveraged to create a strong value, while also reaching a larger talent pool.
  • Letting your employees know about your vision, your future goals, and the idea of what working in your company would be like, will give you a strong start. Digital platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, can be leveraged to showcase your startup profile. They are a cost-effective and efficient way to reach a large pool.  You can strategically shape and build your brand with everything that you put up on social media.

2. Marketing your startup for the dual audience – talent and customers

Marketing your product, effectively managing any crisis, your ideas and approach, all reflect the type of establishment and its environment that you are working hard to build.

  • To attract an audience that is talented, smart, and ambitious, you need to be up on the platform, sharing, and doing new and creative things.  Once they notice you, they will be attracted to your uniqueness, creativity, and strategy.
  •  They want to be associated with a smart business, with new and challenging work, that intrigues their knowledge and capacities and helps them grow and learn. Offering them a sense of purpose will help build a connection.
  • By using different social media and blogging and public conversation platforms, you can establish a connection with potential hires for the future.  Every single word, contribution, and participation in communities build up your brand story. With these focused and timely strategies, you can publish your effort and participation in events, which will create a window for impressive identity, which conveys your very ideals, value, and vision to people.
  • Marketing to make your presence on social media will also build a strong foundation for employees to rely on, while they re-think and assess the risks of joining a new and emerging company.  Connecting with prospects with a personal blog or website can give your potential employees an insight into your brand, values, and what to expect when working with your start-up.

3. Build your presence everywhere, online and offline too

Online and digital are the best ways to communicate and connect talent pools. They sure have become the new normal. However, human presence and connection is just important as much.  Actively participating in offline events, communities, is a great way to give a real world touch to your brand. Even a casual event or a sponsorship can create enough exposure for your start up to start gaining value and appreciation.

4. Develop a strong hiring plan

Plan your hiring process, to make it less challenging. As we know startup hiring is very different from hiring for an established company.  There is a lot at stake and the people you hire to pilot your processes will set a long-term tone for your company.  Having a plan is a good way to get an idea of things beforehand. Your major stakeholders and investors may want to know that you get this right too. 

  • A hiring plan will be your road map to ensure a smooth ride on the other side of your startup and make sure you are prepared for any diversions or bumps on the way. Include clear ideas on the important points like salary, headcount, departments, the timeline for payroll, etc.
  • Check which technology and tools you will assist you with. Recruiting software can be leveraged for the hiring process. Tools like applicant tracking systems and candidate relationship management tools will help you save time and costs.

5. Know the right time to hire

Well, as a founder of a startup, it is advised that you should be connecting with potential candidates throughout, for at least, until a complete employee structure is in place.

  • Keep connecting to your talent pool, even when you do not have an immediate job role or vacancy. This will help you nurture relationships, and ease the talent lookout when an opportunity and vacancy has opened. So reach out to your candidates and keep.
  • So, coming to the best time to hire; most startups struggle with resources, which makes hiring the right employee an even more crucial task.  New hiring experiences can be unnerving, with the many doubts racing through your mind and weighing risks at every step.  If your start hiring at very early stages, issues like cash flow, management, and dead investments may arise. Hiring too late can add to work pressure and missed goals for your startup.
  • Do not start the hiring process until you have a specified productive role in place.  Study and research the roles that may need immediate hiring, and go according to plan that weights all pros and cons, of immediate hiring.
  • Work out options like outsourcing certain tasks that may not need a full-time employee investment.  Work with options like contractual hires and remote hires that will keep you away from overheads, and help you focus on your core business goals.
  • Create a strong and precise job description. Mention skillsets, must-haves, and responsibilities that will rope in the right candidates. Remember, your description can be attractive and engaging that can engage potential candidates. It is also the first impression of your company, so,  avoid descriptions that are gray and imitate the flow of countless other job offers.
  • Be unique, useful content that can inculcate your business values and motto, through the job descriptions. Choose content that can relate to the candidate on a personal level. Tell a story that will intrigue them, and remind them of their dream job.
  • Make the job title clear right at the start. Almost all candidates search for jobs with key job words. Present the description filled with value and what the job offers for the candidate, with a casual or friendly tone.
  • When mentioning the requirements part, be clear to mention the absolutely must have parameters and the skills or talent that can be an added advantage. By giving a clear and precise primary and secondary skills list, talented candidates won’t lose out on an opportunity just because they are not familiar with a certain secondary process or skill.

6. Know who to hire

When hiring for startups it is always good to get smart people who already have a strong network.

  • People with their personal brand are great investments, especially for any hiring in the future. Rope in people with high potential, even if they have limited experience. Smart people will grow with your company and value. Find people who will help you build your dreams, as they work towards achieving theirs.
  • Do not go by the standard rule book. Hire employees who may not be the best investment right away, but have full potential to grow and add irreplaceable value to your company. Successful startups will quickly evolve and the work process and requirement will have to be upgraded too. Keep in mind that a smart and potential employee can be easily up skilled and upgraded, to suit the demands, which is also cost-saving in a great way.
  • Look for people who are at the best stage of delivering quality. Seasoned and highly experienced employees make a good investment.  Although, there are examples of startups that have hired employees fresh out of universities. Talent can come fresh, and with experience as well. Make the smart choice.
  • It is wise for a startup to have holistic growth and employees who add to the cultural and social value to your business are good investments. Know which employees will fit or modify and fit with time, within the primary environment and culture of your startup.
  • The mentality and attitude of the candidate matter too. Getting the work environment, a nurturing and positive vibe is the key to productivity and fast growth. The values and principles of the candidate need to be somewhere within the acceptable brackets of the values of your company.
  • Hiring is a very professional area, but here too, considering the social skills and non-academic capacities of the candidate can add value to the business at many levels. Identify the skills that cannot be developed or trained for, as there can always be an option to train an employee for a new process or software, but qualities like honesty, integrity, quick thinking, team spirit, cannot be taught.
  • Managing the cash flow in new startups is a crucial and delicate task, in order to keep things running smooth, especially during the early stages. Choose between contractual and full-time hires, once the finance of your startup is structured.
  • Think which job roles can work with contractual hiring. Check if remote hiring can save you costs and also the quality of candidates that you can get for your budget.  If increased workload and pressure are only seasonal, getting a contractual employee is your right option.
  • Responsibilities with non-core activities, like for eg. - book-keeping, can also be opted with contractual hiring.  Choose contractors who understand your startup, know the quality of work outputs and timelines that you expect from the employee. Make sure your requirements and their options match at every level, to avoid work and management pressure.

7. Where to look

  • Once again social media is the best tool to look up potential candidates.  Many job sites and digital platforms are good at giving you exactly what you are looking for.
  • Offline networking is another great way to get the best talent.  Socializing at events and seminars is a good way to meet new people, who even if not looking for a job or change, may know people who might just be the right employee for you. Attending these events can get your word out there in the business world.
  • Move ahead of the traditional bubble of networking within your group. Spread the word out in networks, not on your list. Introduce your business to new people, which will also help in reaching out to your brand, and making new talent a potential employee.
  • Referrals are another tried and tested way to get new talent rolling in. Asking the current team force to refer people in their network can also get you the right candidate profiles. Since word of mouth is trusted more, it is likely that more people would like to work with your startup since they already have an idea through the referee, of the kind of organization and work environment they will be working in. Setting up an employee referral program can be an attractive way to boost networking by employees. Including incentives can go a long way, in getting your startup a good talent team.
  • Outsource your hiring to a recruiting agency. This is a good option, if all your networking sources have dried up, or you still have not found the perfect team for your start-up. Good option if your budget permits you for the same.
  • Pay attention to a couple of things before hiring through an agency. It might seem like a stress-free option, but it does have some downfalls too.
  • Choose recruiters with good knowledge and a record of being the best talent hunters.  Make sure the recruiter and you are on similar lines when framing the outline for the job role. If your expectations and perspective match greatly, more often, you will get a quality candidate, who is just what you were looking for!

8. Hiring process

The most important part is the process of hiring. Conventional hiring processes with long interviews only, may not get you the best of candidates, savings, and time treasures.  Hiring is a team effort, with the right tools and procedure. All startups, big and small need a hiring process, in place despite the quality of roles or number of vacancies.

  • Prepare your questions in advance. Quick important questions will help you filter out the right candidate at the beginning of the process. You can also start with a pre-interview assignment, or task, that can give you substantial weighing parameters for the candidate, and help ease out your hiring decision. It will also help you assess their tools knowledge and skills for the specified role. Resumes, past records, and recommendations and reviews are also a great way to filter candidates sooner in the interview process
  • Keep the primary interview planned and with an unconventional flow. Nobody likes questions that sound like they are being read from a script.  Keep the primary and standard questions minimal, focus more on encouraging a discussion, communicating with the candidate following up with his responses, and blending them into the information-based conversation.
  • The interview should leave the candidate with a clear understanding of the job requirements and roles; similarly, you should have a good perspective of their potential and sustainability. Selling your job to candidates will be worth it if the screening process is thorough and planned, which gives you a high-quality talent pool to choose from for your start-up.
  • Keep the interview process challenging, which is also a reflection of your ambition and rigor.  It gives the candidate the impression of the quality and work values of your startup. Design a thoughtful, crisp, and adequately sized interview that gives you enough opportunity to gain a detailed insight into the candidates and their potentials, and keeps them engaged in thoughtful conversation.
  • References are a great tool of assessment, however, more often than not, employers will give positive and good feedback to the former employee. References will never openly tell about the employee's negative experiences.  Choose to get more and the right references, some even from people not suggested by the candidate.

9. Mention the benefits and compensation

A team that is well-paid plays well! Simple. People, who are rewarded well for efforts, also are the ones who will go the extra mile and work harder. A big-budget office or a shiny work desk may not impress employees as much as the value and recognition that they receive from their employers.

10. Use technology that helps

Applicant tracking systems are one of the best ways to hire for your startup. There are many sources and platforms where you can look up potential talent.

  1. TalentBin
  2. Sourcing.io
  3. Gild
  4. 3Sourcing

You can also search for professionals on digital platforms like Dribble, LinkedIn, GitHub, AngelList, Zao, RolePoint.

  • Tools that will weigh in the skills of your potential employees may also come in handy when making a close call. Assessment tools like Smarterer, Codility, Weirdly, SHL are great testing tools and tests, to find quality candidates, that are good at what they do!
  • There are also many tools for managing employees, once they are recruited. Onboarding and management are much easier with these options, which help in payroll, induction, and remote onboarding, etc.

11. Where to post

You have the perfect strategy, set goals, and the perfect job description in place. However, you want to post these where the right candidate can find them. Many digital platforms have great options to post your job. Especially for startups, there is AngelList, Startup, The Muse, StartUpHire, which are the best investments to hire employees in a startup.

  • Many apps and websites can simplify your hiring tasks, with great tools, outreach, and exposure. A few examples for the same are listed below. They each have their own niche and can be leveraged according to your requirement.
  • Conventional job search options -  Craigslist, LinkedIn, Indeed, Careerbuilder, Monster, Beyond, Stepstone.
  • Creative – Authentic Jobs, Behance, Dribbble.
  • Remote working – Flexjobs, We Work, Remotely, Upwork.

With unique, advanced solutions, strategic approaches, and innovative solutions, hiring will be an easy process. Be creative with your approach. Your authenticity and unique perspective will attract your dream team soon!

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