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14 startup hiring tips for fast-growing startups

Hiring, in general, has proven to be quite challenging. Startup hiring, however, is even harder. That’s why we took to our dedicated users to get you the most innovative startup hiring tips!

Ask any startup founder “What is the biggest challenge in growing your business?”, and they’ll say “hiring”. Sure, they are getting customers, developing features, and forecasting growth, but this all needs to be executed by somebody. And that just can’t be anybody. They have to be the right cultural fit, A-players, purple squirrels, unicorns – you get it.

How do you know which one you need? And more importantly, what should you do to get them?

We asked our users – founders at super fast-growing startups – for their advice on giving startup hiring tips. What would they tell themselves when starting out, if they could go back in time?

They all approach hiring strategically to make sure that their business runs like a finely oiled machine. With these four tips, you, too, can excel at recruiting and get the best talent to grow your business.

Following our list of top tips from four of our experienced startup superstars, we’ve added a further list of startup hiring tips put together by our hiring experts here at Recruitee. With this all-encompassing list of options to use as your all-in checklist, you shouldn’t miss a trick.

5 startup hiring tips from Recruitee users

1. Scout all year round

“Start recruiting even if you don’t have open spots!” Bas Kohnke, co-founder and pro at hiring at Impraise, says. “It can take a great deal of time to find the right candidates once you need them, so make sure you start looking for new talent way ahead. Developers especially can be hard to find, so ideally keep a watch list of talent that you can approach later. Building a talent pool is key in startup hiring.

We save them in Recruitee and use that as the back-end of our growth. We try to keep in touch with the ones that do not fit at this time but who may want to join the team at a later stage. Send them an email, invite them to a party. Just keep them in the loop.”

2. Introduce the company culture early

Mark Studholme, co-founder and master of hiring at CROWDYHOUSE, echoed Kohnke’s experience in his observation:

“It can be overwhelming when your company takes off and there is a continuous need for new team members. As a founder, your role changes from keeping track of daily operations to managing team members and recruiting new people. We couldn’t have scaled up this fast without a system like Recruitee. I would advise startups to hire throughout the year (not just when you need new people) and keep all your candidates in an online tool. Give all team members the power to scout new talent, as it’s the future growth of your company.

In addition, we aim to create a pleasant work environment. Things like free lunches, Friday afternoon drinks, and parties from time to time really help build up a team spirit. Luckily, your efforts will pay off and you’ll have more people find your site and less need for expensive job promotions.”

3. Optimize the hiring process constantly

Use surveys

Getting candidates is only the first step in startup hiring (and hiring, in general). The main battle boils down to how you handle and process them efficiently, as demonstrated by David Darmanin, CEO and founder, when talking about hiring at Hotjar:

“We always start with a survey. We like doing really long surveys: 10-12 detailed questions. The reason for that is: ‘If you don’t really believe in joining us, that’s the perfect kind of filter upfront.’ Then we have all the email [response] automated from Recruitee.”

Use video interviews

“Then we would request videos. We decided to do this because we’re doing tons of interviews. When we calculated the time on that, it was a huge waste. Because we’re constantly reviewing and optimizing how we use our time, we said ‘OK, what if instead of us 13 doing 30 interviews, we do 30 videos, and out of them we choose five?’ So we created the questions and the flow for that. We have again, very intentionally, five standard questions and these cannot be changed by a role. They are standard because the video stage is purely to see ‘Will they match culturally?’”

Implement a paid task stage

“From the videos, we then invite them to do an interview. If the person makes it through that stage, we go to what’s called the task stage. Everything is done purely via [online] chat. Because our work is remote, we want to evaluate how good they behave in that environment. They’re given a task in a Word doc. There is no video, no audio so that we can see how they ask questions, how quickly they understand things, and if they can communicate with us. They’re given two to three days which is a paid period. If we believe in what they’ve done, that’s the stage where we then negotiate.

What’s great is by doing this – as we call it – ‘performance recruitment’, at the stage when the person decides to join, we literally just change their email and HipChat, and they’re ready to start working with us.”

4. Centralize your hiring in one platform

The next person you bring in will continuously define your culture and business. Be strategic about who you need, starting from who you are. Plan way ahead, and constantly refine your practices as you go. Feeling overwhelmed? Use a platform to support your growth ambition. From employer brand, job board posting, and talent sourcing to applicant tracking, we can help you streamline your startup hiring efforts.

startup hiring tips Recruitee featuresRecruitee’s dashboard

Recruitee’s all-in list of startup hiring tips

1. Define a scalable strategy and draw up a complete delivery plan

Plan, plan, plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Okay, it’s one of the cheesiest of motivational phrases, but it holds true all the same. If you don’t plan for all goals and outcomes, you’re likely to miss the most obvious things; you’ll fail to include some of the components you really need and end up concentrating on a lot of the things you don’t.

  • Define your goals
  • Create a roadmap
  • Deliver mission statements to attract talent
  • Provide detailed and irresistible job descriptions
  • Create a realistic but deep-diving interview process
  • Keep your candidates informed at every point of the process

2. Communication is key

As a startup, there’s a good chance you won’t have too much hiring experience, so the number one rule is to keep everyone informed and engaged. You’re bound to make mistakes, and you’ll be forgiven for doing so if everyone knows where they stand.

Good communication gives your candidates and colleagues a chance to spot the things you miss and possibly help put you back on track with some well-timed and considered comments and questions.

3. If you’re looking for unicorns, consider attitude over experience

Experience is a fantastic quality in your hires, but if you’re a startup looking for fast growth and new ways of working, it’s unlikely your unicorns are going to come from established positions.

While interviewing, look for those with attitude, those bubbling with ideas and excitement, and ask leading questions to draw them out.

  • Can they carry numerous tasks without becoming overwhelmed?
  • Are they flexible?
  • Do they appear thirsty to learn and grow within the role and the business?
  • Are they the big thinkers, the out of the box operators, and even the risk-takers? As they’ll be the staff to drive your startup’s entrepreneurialism.
  • Where do they want to be in 5-years time?
  • What do they think they can bring to your operations?
  • How would they do the job differently from a previous manager or team leader?

4. Start building a candidate list straight away—before you need them—and don’t stop

Building a big healthy, ever-expanding candidate pool is a must. And don’t be afraid to consider part-time, freelance, or short-term hires as part of your growth plan. They can help you decide which roles are truly important in your business over those that you think are.

As a startup, there’s so much to learn; taking on the wrong team members can become problematic long-term and a vast drain on your limited resources.

5. Keep candidates connected and engaged throughout the hiring process

This isn’t just with startups, but too many great candidates are lost because they feel left out of the loop or believe they’ve been forgotten. Your process should deliver regular updates, so they know there’s steady movement at all times.

Relevant: How to improve, measure and boost candidate engagement

To keep them involved as they flow through the funnel, set tasks to understand how your candidates think and operate, but nothing overly time-consuming or complicated—or you could lose them. They’re interested in working for you, but they’ll probably already have a job, perhaps a family, and an existing list of commitments—so don’t overload them and lose them as opportunities.

Relevant: Tips on how to improve your candidate experience

6. Make your roles irresistible—despite not being able to offer the traditional big paycheck benefits

Most startups begin life low on resources. They won’t have the same financial backup of established organizations, or the staff, or indeed, the typical traditional benefits on hand to lure in the best hires.

Is your startup in a position to offer stock options or the flexible work plans modern workers love, where waving a big salary under their noses isn’t possible?

Make sure to present the best in company culture to make your roles the most attractive, and be sure to write amazing job ads and descriptions that stand out from the competition.

7. If you want your candidates to feel excited about your roles, show excitement in them

Excitement is contagious. If your candidates feel that you’re excited in what they have to offer, then they’ll feel as though they’re climbing to the top of the pile.

The more hopeful they are in landing the role, the more engaged they’ll stay. Show you’re excited about what they have to offer, and you’ll get better responses and commitment to your hiring process from them.

8. Use niche job boards for fresh talent

There are so many places to advertise your open roles and positions, and deciding which to use can be a draining consideration.

However, there are plenty of job boards that specialize in startup hiring. These sites are already being visited by just the type of candidates you’re looking for, so it pays to trial some of these alongside the more traditional job pages.

9. Track down new hires at industry events

If you can attend, or even better, speak at industry events, you can create excitement and interest directly to those already committed to your area of operation. It’s where the most invested and enthusiastic players are likely to hang out, after all. Talk to those creating a stir or those with big ideas. They could turn out to be your most valuable assets.

Never underestimate the power of networking among your peers.

10. Don’t write off the advantages of existing traditional programs before diving into ‘the latest thing’

One of the most traditional yet effective routes is using existing staff to garner referrals. The three-step plan of referrals, onboarding, and feedback will continue to feed the types of candidates you need into your system by those who know your business the best. It’s a time-proven practice that’s quicker, cheaper, and more effective than most other means.

11. Track all candidate communication thoroughly, so nobody slips through the cracks

Losing an ideal candidate because you somehow lost track of them or that they lost interest in you is unforgivable. We can’t stress enough how important communication is, so having a tool to monitor all interactions, your interviewing funnel, candidate pool, and more is an absolute must for any startup new to the experience.

12. Track your goals and how you’re doing—don’t lose sight of your end goals amidst the heavy lifting of the process

Again, in the same way that you’d use a point-scoring system during your interview process, you should track how you’re doing, too, in view of the goals you set in your original plan and strategy. Only by continuous monitoring will you see where you’re dropping opportunities.

13. Determine where your system slows, falls short, or fails—and fix it.

Following on from the goal-tracking point, whether down to your software system, your team, or glaring errors brought up by your candidates themselves, you need to seal those newly-spotted holes before they’re allowed to leak your best opportunities.

Self-awareness and accepting our mistakes, then learning from them, is a big part of business building—something the best managers and developers use to thrive. Don’t get caught up in your pride; try to use every situation to your advantage.

14. Speed up your process with the most efficient available system

We consistently talk about using systems to manage your processes—because that’s precisely what we do here at Recruitee.

Human error plays such a large part in where we fall down—whatever we’re trying to achieve. Being able to put safety nets in place to lessen those odds is paramount. With so much to remember, to track, to say, and to streamline, using the best system for the job is only going to make your life easier, your organization stronger, and allow you to get on with more of what you really need to be doing—developing your startup to be the entity you want it to be.

Do you want to optimize your startup hiring?

If you seek help in structuring and optimizing your hiring process, sign up for Recruitee today! Once you are in the free trial, you can let our team know about your needs in the live chat. During the 18 days of your trial, we will help you get your hiring up and running in no time!


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