Hiring for startups: A guide to building your dream team

Startup hiring guide

You have finally brought your multi-dollar business idea to life and it’s paying off. Now all you need is a team that helps you make it the best product or service imaginable. So let’s get down to business and figure out how to hire for your startup. 

What are some challenges in startup hiring and how to overcome them?

There is no dearth of challenges when it comes to managing a startup and recruiting happens to be one of them. Here are some of the most common challenges faced while hiring for startups:

Common startup hiring challenges

1. Lack of time

If you are at the initial stage of your startup, you are probably swamped with a million tasks already. Funding, marketing, sales, and the list goes on. As counterintuitive as it may seem, this is exactly why you should set aside time for recruiting as it will help you free up time in your schedule for things that need more of your attention. 

2. Scarcity of resources

As a startup, it is likely that you are pressed for resources, such as money and workspace. While you may need full-time employees to get the job done, you simply can’t afford them. One starting point could be hiring interns. Initially, the focus is more on getting things done rather than perfection. Interns who are looking to build skills and getting experience could perfectly fit into this mould. However, make sure that you pay them a fair stipend for their work. Additionally, you could hire freelancers when you need a helping hand with certain tasks.

If both interns and freelancers are unable to meet your requirements, you can add unique perks and benefits into your compensation package for full-timers, such as stock ownership, flexible work schedule, paid time off, equity, remote work, etc. These benefits could differ from candidate to candidate. Furthermore, you can offer to revise the compensation package every year depending on the financial health of your startup.

3. Lack of trust in a new business

The uncertainty that comes with working in a startup could deter many from leaving or opting out of secure full-time jobs. This could especially be the case for early stage startups. Therefore, building trust should be at the top of your to-do list as a startup founder or recruiter. 

To begin with, discuss the current situation of your company and the plans that you have for moving it forward. Another way to build trust with prospective employees is by creating a culture of transparency with your organisation. Your employees will always be your brand ambassadors, so the relationship you have with them reflects what future employees can expect. You can also use any employee testimonials or stories on your careers page.

Other than this, you can work on improving your brand’s reputation as it will help the employees see the impact that your startup is creating. You should also work on strengthening your personal brand. For example, having a personal blog, writing thought leadership content, or speaking at industry-specific events.

4. Cost of a bad hire is high

While bigger companies may be able to deal with setbacks caused by recruiting a bad hire, this can be an expensive mistake for a startup as finding a replacement is a resource-intensive process and can be stressful for other employees as well.

 One of the ways in which you can reduce the chances of this happening to your business is by assessing for both skills and culture fit.

More often than not, startups are fast-paced environments that are constantly evolving. So, they need individuals who can get things done rather than focus on perfection and can adapt to changing situations. Hence, gauging these traits early on in the recruitment process can save you from problems down the line. 

For example, one of the leadership principles at Amazon is ‘bias for action’ which focuses on the ability to make decisions and act quickly, especially in the face of uncertainty. Evaluating this value is a key part of their interview process.

5. Lower salaries compared to large organisations

While there may be professionals who are excited to be a part of the dynamic environment of a startup, this may not be true for a lot of talent as larger organisations offer more compensation and come up with the benefit of working with an established brand. So, what can you offer that can help you in competing?

Your USPs can include your company culture and branding. For example, the bureaucracy at bigger companies can make employees feel insignificant and like a cog in the machine. However, startups can offer their employees a stake in making crucial business decisions.

While you may not be able to offer the industry standard for compensation initially, make sure that you do so once the business gains more stability. 

What are some recruitment strategies for startups?

While a startup hiring process is not set in stone, here are some ways to get started:

1. Identify and prioritise the jobs you want to hire for in your startup

While there can be many things you need a helping hand with, you may be able to afford only a few employees when starting out. Some roles that you could consider filling first include marketing, customer service, development, and sales. 

Once you know more about the role you are seeking to hire for, take time to understand the finer details such as whether you need a full-time employee, part-time employee, or freelancer. For example, if you have seasonal demand, it may be a good idea to hire freelancers during that duration rather than having a full-time employee.

2. Figure out the right time to hire for a role

The right time to hire someone is ideally right before a need arises. So, don’t hire someone long before there’s work just because you found a good candidate, and avoid hiring long after you need someone as this can delay projects and overburden existing employees.

3. Source the candidates

While sourcing candidates, diversify your recruitment techniques. For example, if you aren’t getting quality candidates from your career pages, try an employee referral program. Chances are that your employees already have a network in the industry they are working in. You can leverage this network to get the best individuals on-board who may otherwise be inaccessible for you.

Other recruitment techniques include social media, passive recruitment, etc.

4. Set up an evaluation process

Your evaluation process will vary across different roles. However, you can still have a basic structure in place. For example, in addition to resume screening, you can give the candidate an assignment that will assess basic skills before you bring them in for an interview. 

While evaluating candidates, strike a balance between their skills and potential. Although their current skill set may serve them in the present role, the same may not be true in the future if your company is constantly evolving. So, hiring for potential can help you recruit team members who will be able to grow into a more challenging role down the road.

5. Create an onboarding plan

Hiring does not end with the candidate signing your job offer letter and coming into the office. You need to come up with an onboarding plan that helps the employee settle into their new role. For example, a 90-day onboarding plan wherein the mentor, HR, and a workplace buddy regularly check in with the employees is considered effective by many companies.

Recruitment strategies for startups

Hiring tips for startups

Here a few tips to keep in mind while recruiting for startups:

1. Make recruitment a priority

According to a report by Forbes and Statista on ‘Why startups fail’, not hiring the right team is among the top five reasons. This goes on to show that each employee’s contribution is important for a startup. So, making hiring a priority should not be overlooked.

2. Do no rush the recruitment process

As recruitment is such an important part of a startup’s functioning, make sure that the hiring process is not hasty and you take the time to understand how the candidate’s goals align with your business. However, this does not mean that you have a lengthy recruitment process that tests an applicant’s patience. 

3. Build a company culture people want to be a part of 

Begin with defining your mission statement and important cultural values and then set certain practices in place to ensure that each team member imbibes the company culture. 

Once you have put in efforts to create a company culture, make sure that it is visible to candidates you want to attract. For example, if you want to hire millennials, showcasing company culture on social media should be a part of startup recruitment strategy.

Showcase startup benefits such as unique culture, lack of rigidness, flexibility in terms of working hours and places, chance to create something groundbreaking, and the valuable contribution of each employee.

4. Offer mentorship at the workplace

Mentorship is one of the most important deciding factors for entry-level and mid-level professionals. Therefore, you should invest time in creating a mentorship program. Even if you don’t have a mentor in an industry which is directly related to the new hire’s work, a mentor can guide them on how they can grow within the organisation.

5. Make your hiring process memorable

Right from your application process to your last interaction with the candidate, everything can leave an impression on the candidates who will be sharing their experience with their friends or family. So make sure that you pay attention to the candidate experience. Even if the candidate does not end up working with your company, you can ask for their opinion on the hiring process as it can help you in optimising your process.

6. Network even before you need to hire

Network with professionals who you believe can be a good fit for your organization. This can help you build a talent pipeline that you could tap into whenever the need arises. 

While hiring for startups is no easy feat, the benefits that you reap are definitely worth the efforts that you put in.

If you are in the process of building your dream team, then you can register and post a job on Internshala Fresher Jobs.

Image credits: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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