As a founder or leader in an early stage startup one of the hardest challenges you’ll face is recruitment.
Your company is just finding its feet, you have a new product or service to create and a lot of blank canvas to fill around quality, best practices and culture. Add to this the need to move quickly and the fact you are a relative unknown quantity to the outside world, it’s easy to see why this is so.
So, how do you overcome these challenges when hiring for a startup?
At Talent Point, I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with founders to tackle these challenges head on. Whilst there are many factors that influence a startups ability to hire and retain the best talent in my experience, there are a few that consistently stand out.
Here are my top 3 tips for effective startup hiring.
Be clear on what you’re trying to build and how to communicate this to new hires.
When interviewing for an early stage start-up, applicants are typically reliant on the story they are told and their experience at interview when assessing if an opportunity is right for them.
Therefore, much like you would prepare for a pitching to secure funding from the best VCs, if you want to hire the best talent you should prepare how your vision is pitched to potential new hires.
Where did your idea come from, what is the real-world problem it’s solving, how is technology allowing you to solve it, what is the size of the addressable market, what is your go-to-market strategy and how do the roles you’re hiring fit into achieving all that?
Providing this level of detail and communicating it to applicants with context is key.
This higher level of transparency shows confidence in your idea, competence in your execution of that idea and builds trust with potential new hires much earlier in your hiring process. This is particularly important when hiring for an early stage start-up with a limited track record.
It also saves people having to read between the lines to gain a good understanding of the scope of the opportunity you’re putting in front of them. This results in much more productive and insightful interviews on both sides throughout every stage of the hiring process.
Focus on core skills, culture and motivation. Build in learning.
It doesn’t matter how great an idea is or how much traction it has, if the position you’re hiring for doesn’t match the market for available talent then you’ll likely to struggle to hire and retain good people.
This is not about paying whatever you need to pay to hire the skills you need to hire.
It’s about understanding the core skills required to realise the required business value from a hire and balancing this with what the ‘market’ can provide, and what motivates people.
Oftentimes, a desirable skill that is put down as required one can drive the salary up 20, 30 or even 40%, if it’s even really possible to find at all. If you manage to find someone with a very new or niche piece of knowledge, what do they really gain from taking the role beyond compensation?
Potentially not a lot and this can lead to low retention.
By focusing on the core skills needed to produce value – rather than say the specific technology being used to implement something – not only can you often reduce the salary cost-of-hire, you’re able to increase the pool of available talent and build in exciting learning opportunities.
This larger pool of applicants and built in career progression allows you to attract a better overall calibre of applicant and place more focus on the cultural and motivational qualities best suited to your business which together should improve your hiring ratios and retention.
In an early stage business where your initial hires will be heavily involved in making your idea a reality and shaping your culture, it’s worth investing early to make sure you get this right.
Ensure your interview process is optimised for success.
The first two points discussed should go a long way to ensuring you’re attracting the right people.
Your interview process therefore should be focused on identifying, engaging and securing the best talent, whilst providing a positive experience for everyone.
First make sure to remove as many blockers to making a hire as possible.
Elongated interview processes with many stages and abstract tests will put people off. Where possible, remove or combine interview stages, make sure tests are assessing the skills someone needs to perform in the role and ideally conduct these with them as part of the interview.
We’ve found that solving problems with applicants during an interview tends to be a much more effective way of assessing both their ability and, importantly, how you’d work together day-to-day.
Next it’s about empowering your team to say yes.
Ensure everyone who is involved in an interview understands the core criteria (tip 2), agree as a team how applicants demonstrate a pass answer as well as what questions you’re going to ask to produce such answers and document them for reference during every interview.
Doing this well gives your team confidence when interviewing and, rather than defaulting to a no because of uncertainty, you empower them to seek out the right skills and say yes.
Lastly, provide prompt and detailed feedback.
For those you’re progressing through the process it keeps them informed and therefore engaged, plus it’s an opportunity to highlight any areas they maybe didn’t do so well that they may need to focus on in a later stage.
For anyone you’ve chosen not to progress, it helps them understand where they could have done better and shows you took care with their application. Not only is this the right and just thing to do, in a very connected and relative small community it goes a long way to creating a positive employer brand.
You have an employer brand whether you like it or not. The more you take control of this early on by ensuring a positive experience, the more the benefits will compound over time to enable faster, cheaper and more sustainable hiring.
How we use these points at Talent Point to ensure fast and effective startup hiring.
When supporting our partners we look at everything that influences their ability to hire and retain the best talent. That means embedding ourselves into your team to truly understand your business and culture, taking a data-driven approach planning new hires and refining the talent and people operations processes that enable fast and sustainable growth.
If you’re interested in finding out more please book a call with our team today.