16 Sep 2021


Hiring top talent as a budding startup can be difficult. Recruiting the best and brightest to work at your growing company is highly competitive. Whether you plan to make a team out of nothing or scale up your team of 10, building a high-growth team is one of the best predictors for the success of your startup.


If you hire the best talent, everything else becomes easier. And when it comes to talent, your first couple dozen employees make all the difference. How do you build the right team? Here are five recruitment tips for your startup.


1. Have a Clear, Scalable Recruitment Plan


Before you start hiring, make sure you have a clear and scalable recruitment plan. Many startups will start hiring just to fill empty seats with no scalable plan. Meanwhile, these same startups will spend months formulating the right sales methodology or marketing plan.


Your recruitment plan will outline the clear plan for how your startup plans to attract the right people, whether they’re remote or in-person. It’s the roadmap to growing and scaling your company, and it should provide a clear profile of the types of people your company wants working for them. Consider these tips for a recruitment strategy:


  • Define the when, where, why, and how of recruitment.
  • For each role, write a mission statement. This helps draw candidates attracted to your startup’s vision, not just the salary or title. 
  • For each role, write a detailed job description. That includes KPIs and what will be required in the role.
  • Provide a clear interview process. The candidate should know what to expect the whole way through.


It’s not just about recruitment—make sure to follow up with an onboarding process to ensure your employees have a positive experience. Set aside time for workplace safety trainings, like online sexual harassment training and code of conduct training, to help your new team understand how the company functions and what behaviors are expected of them in the workplace.


Negative behaviors can contribute to a toxic work environment, and sometimes employees are reluctant to report issues before they become major problems. A whistleblowing system gives your employees a secure channel to report misconduct and other issues without fear of reprisal. And from there you can take action and have important conversations with your team to address any issues.


2. Develop a Clear Brand and Onboarding Process


Startup companies often operate in highly competitive talent markets. That means the talent you want will likely have other job offers on the table. But there are actions you can take to improve your chances of landing top talent, even if they might make more money elsewhere.


Hiring comes down to marketing, and developing a clear brand voice can make a big difference in your talent search. Your digital platforms should showcase your office and your company culture; you’re always marketing to potential new hires. Everything you do on digital platforms will help build your brand.


3. Recognize Quality Candidates—and Keep Them Interested


When your startup is recruiting, you’ll come across a hard reality: many of your top picks will also be top picks for other companies. That’s why it is so important to engage top talent once you recognize them.


How do you engage them? Dive back into your recruitment process. Top talent want clear expectations and a fair process.


Try new techniques to get candidates to understand your company—and what it might be like when they join the team. For example, your startup could offer shadowing days for top talent, or informal lunches with different team members. Giving candidates a chance to experience life at your company will help both parties make a better decision on the fit.


4. Test for Aptitude and Attitude


Startups are always looking for that unicorn candidate, but the perfect candidate doesn’t always exist.


You can’t afford to spend too much time looking for that needle in the haystack, especially as a startup. According to this study, the average American company will spend over $4,000 and an average of 42 days to hire a new employee. That’s a lot of money and time for your startup!


For many startups, experienced candidates may be looking for the growth opportunities of a new company. With experience comes expectations—and many of these top candidates will be expecting top pay and benefits packages to compensate them.


How do you overcome this challenge and attract top talent? Prioritize the candidate’s attitude, and then their experience.


It can be hard to learn much about a candidate’s personality just by reading their resume, so consider asking the following questions to better gauge the cultural fit of a candidate:


  • What would you have done differently at your past position if you had been made manager?
  • Have you ever managed a project that fell outside your skill sets? 
  • What do you envision for yourself, personally and professionally, in the next five years?


If your new hires aren’t a good cultural fit, they not only can steer your startup away from its goals, but it can also be difficult for them to engage with the work. This alone can be damaging to your bottom line—in fact, U.S. companies experience up to $550 billion in losses each year due to disengaged employees.


5. Hire Deliberately 


Remember that you’re hiring to build your company, not just fill the role. Your first 200 to 300 hires at your startup need to be made with your company’s future in mind. How will your new hires fit into the vision? Don’t just hire someone because they can technically do the job and they’re available.

These types of hires will sink your company over time, because these employees don’t play a role in carrying out your company’s vision. They set a bad tone for other workers joining the company. Plus, that’s money and time you cannot afford to waste as a startup.


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