Sourcing startup talent


Recruiting employees for your startup can take a lot of time and effort. But if you can get it right, it pays off with a great team of A players who are in it with you to win it.
Recruiting employees for your startup can take a lot of time and effort. But if you can get it right, it pays off with a great team of A players who are in it with you to win it. As team-building expert Jim Collins says, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” So let’s go over your startup recruiting game plan.

Your startup recruiting game plan: preparing your job posting

1. Define and communicate your employer brand

Your employer brand is the foundation of a successful recruiting strategy. A successful one saves time and money, and makes your startup, probably a relatively unknown company, much more attractive to employees. Learn more about how to develop an employer brand in our article here .

2. Determine the channels where your ideal candidates are

Where are your ideal candidates likely hanging out? They could be actively looking for a job, or maybe not. Make a shortlist of where they are so you know where to reach them. Our next section goes over some ideas.

3. Define the job requirements

Analyze your company needs to determine the ideal outcomes of the role you’re hiring for. Include specific responsibilities and tasks that need to get done but aim to flesh out the role based on strategic direction and desired business outcomes. (The tasks you think people will be working on may quickly evolve, and you want to send a signal that you’re looking for someone who is startup-ready—a.k.a. in it to help the company grow and build.)

4. Write your job posting 

Once you’re clear on what you’re looking for, write your job posting. There are many ways to format a job posting, but generally, you should include: 
  • Company: A description of your company that identifies what your company does, how you do it differently, and why you do it (depending on how well-acquainted or not candidates are, this may be your “first handshake” and the very first impression candidates will have of your employer brand )
  • Role: Information about the role (include key tasks but focus on overall strategic responsibilities and outcomes)
  • Benefits: Information on benefits, company culture, and compensation
  • Process: A brief outline of the hiring process including timelines

5. Get feedback on your job posting

Get feedback on the role ideally from people who are doing something similar, especially if you’re not a subject matter expert for what you’re hiring for, as well as from other business partners and team members. Double-check your job posting to ensure that it’s accessible and inclusive so that you start the recruiting process with a diverse pipeline of candidates. (Tips on how to be inclusive with your job postings here.)

Startup recruiting: Where to source talent

Your own customers 

Your own customers could be superfans, which is great because it means they’re already engaged with what you’re doing. And studies show that engaged employees are not only more productive, but happier as well. So create a Careers/Jobs page on your website, even if you’re not actively hiring. It can be very short and simple but offers a signal to potential job seekers and you never know who may be the perfect fit. Many companies, especially startups, now include a “Don’t see the perfect role for you? Reach out anyway!” note for this reason. If you’re actively recruiting, you can also announce that you’re hiring to your email newsletter, via a header banner, as a footnote to automated customer emails—just a few ideas.

Your own social media channels

If you already have an active social media presence, this can be a great way to source candidates who are already interested in your company, either because they already follow you or because they’re referred by someone who does. LinkedIn shouldn’t be overlooked as the primary platform for professional opportunities, but you may also find success through more general social channels like Twitter and Instagram.

Employee referrals or former coworkers

Sourcing candidates preemptively can be a great way to get a head start on your candidate pool and the best people may come from people who already have a sense of what it might take to thrive at your startup, either because they already work with you or because they know you.  Just be mindful that you are maintaining a fair hiring process throughout: if you have someone in mind who you think would be a great fit, try to assess them before the job posting goes public to avoid wasting other applicants’ time. 

Your investor network

If you’re a venture capital funded company, look to your VC firm. Many of them have job boards for their portfolio companies. Here’s a look at Wing’s own. If not, they may have other methods for helping you source candidates that benefit from their expertise and wide network—after all, it’s in their best interest to help you find talent that will help your startup grow.

Job boards 

Here are some job boards specific for startup roles:

Many niche communities also have job boards for their members. Examples include:

Tip: Many online communities also have informal channels for promoting job opportunities, via Slack or email newsletters. Take a look through any that you (and your customers!) are a part of.

External recruiter/agency

If the role you’re hiring for requires a senior level of experience, and especially if you lack recruiting experience, you may find it helpful to work with an external agency to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to candidate sourcing. Recruiting agencies include companies like TalentRobot, Bolster, and Hunt Club

Put yourself out there 

Putting yourself out there can include local networking events and meetups, or even appearing as a guest on a podcast. Going full circle back to the idea of having a strong employer brand , everything is connected and you never know who is listening and how your story might connect with them. This worked for someone whose mother was inspired to apply for a position at a company tech reporter Mary Ann Azevedo wrote about for TechCrunch, as she later tweeted about.
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