Hiring is often a struggle for startups.
This is especially true if you’re hiring remotely (and many of us are these days).
Because even with an endless pool of talent to pick from, zeroing in on the right candidate can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack when you’re flooded with applications.
The challenge of hiring is even greater for startups strapped for resources. With a tight schedule and nobody to outsource recruiting to, where do you even start?
If you’re struggling with the hiring process, don’t panic.
Below we’ve broken down a whole slew of startup hiring tips that can not only help you find top-tier talent now, but create a simple, repeatable process for hiring in the future:
- 3 must-dos before hiring as a startup
- Where are the best places for startups to look for talent?
- What are the most important qualities of startup employees?
- Tips for assessing your startup talent during the hiring process
🤝 Is your tech startup’s team collaborating as effectively as it could be? What should you look out for before you start scaling in earnest?
Before you worry about scouting talent, you need to figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a new hire.
Doing so will not only help you identify the right candidate for any given role but also thin out of the field and discourage unqualified candidates from applying to your open positions.
1. Determine your non-negotiables for new hires
For starters, you need to decide upon your non-negotiable qualifications for any given role.
Startups often hire talent with highly specialized skill sets. “Setting the bar” for your candidates lets you instantly weed out applicants while helping to identify relevant resumes.
Some examples of non-negotiables include:
- Past experience working in a startup environment
- Mastery or experience with specialized software tools (Salesforce, business intelligence, etc.)
- Specific qualifications (think: X years of experience, post-secondary degree, certifications)
- Proof of their track record of accomplishments in a startup environment (such as past projects or a portfolio)
2. Brainstorm the incentives you can offer candidates
It’s no secret that the startup space is competitive and turnover is high.
Attracting the best talent means offering incentives that not only outshine other startups but also bigger corporations that might be able to be more generous in terms of salary or benefits.
From flexible hours and creative freedom, to a stress-free work environment and beyond, make a point to define the selling points of working for your company.
3. Craft a concise (but compelling!) job description
Here’s where all of your brainstorming pays off!
Job descriptions can be make-or-break for startups. This is your space to highlight what you’re looking for in candidates while also hyping up what makes your company stand out from the crowd.
Writing a job description from scratch is daunting. That’s why we recommend breaking it into distinct sections, including:
- “Who we are”
- “What you’ll be doing”
- “What we’re looking for”
- “Why you should apply”
Another key recommendation to simplify the writing process is to make sure your job description isn’t too wordy. A few hundred words are fine but there’s no need to write a novel. Droning job descriptions are intimidating to candidates and risk your company’s most important details getting lost in a wall of text.
Here are a few more quick tips for writing a job description as a startup:
- Make sure to let your company’s human side shine through: feel free to use industry jargon but don’t be afraid to write conversationally.
- Put your non-negotiables and incentives front and center.
- Again, format your job description so that it’s scannable (hint: break up the text into sections) and features frequent bullet points:
What are the 4 key components of a successful startup?
Although there are plenty of workers out there looking for opportunities, they aren’t going to come running to you by default. Now, let’s look at some places to begin your talent search.
Start by asking your own network
Perhaps the biggest benefit of looking for talent within your own network is that you can eliminate many of the “unknowns” associated with hiring.
Having a colleague or former coworker recommend talent serves as a sort of background check in terms of someone’s reliability and experience.
Something as simple as an email or social post can get the ball rolling:
Post your openings on startup-specific job boards
There’s no shortage of job boards out there.
That said, they’re not all equal in terms of the type of talent they attract. Rather than opt for the likes of Indeed or Monster, consider that there are networks dedicated specifically tailored toward startups. Some of these sites include:
These boards are more likely to result in applications from former startup employees and folks with relevant experience:
When in doubt, scout talent on LinkedIn
If you don’t want to go the job board route, consider playing the role of recruiter yourself on LinkedIn.
Given that users’ profiles are basically resumes and you can seek people out based on their job titles, finding potential hires is just a matter of conducting a search. LinkedIn’s recent #OpentoWork” feature makes it easier than ever to spot people open to new opportunities, too:
Try Artificial Intelligence
Automated software, platforms, and AI sourcing tools can help startups find suitable candidates much more rapidly than traditional recruiting agencies, or a simple search on LinkedIn.
Celential.ai’s Artificial Intelligence is perfect for companies that need a high number of tech hires but can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill their pipeline. They tap into a talent graph of 10 million+ profiles in North and South America and find the best match to your open role. Their AI then crafts personalized outreach to engage the candidates and sends them to your inbox or ATS so you can choose the ones you want to interview.
Let’s say the applications are rolling in or you’re hiring for the first time and don’t know exactly what to look for in a candidate. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most important qualities of startup workers.
Quick decision-making skills
By nature, startups have to move quickly. That means employees need to have confidence in making decisions and communicating effectively to make sure those decisions go through the proper channels.
A sense of tech-savviness
An eagerness to learn
Startups are dynamic. Employees often end up wearing multiple hats and embrace a variety of responsibilities beyond their given roles. Candidates should be willing to step out of their comfort zones for the sake of leveling up their own skills.
Diligence and determination (without being a workaholic)
This is important given how workplace burnout is such a problem these days. Startup employees should obviously give 100%, but be wary of anyone who expects to spend all their waking hours at work.
A willingness to collaborate
Failure to embrace collaboration is one of the biggest startup pitfalls for a reason. New hires should feel comfortable working as part of a team and shouldn’t be shy about going back and forth with other employees.
An appreciation of diversity and inclusion
We’ve talked about how the future of work is both diverse and inclusive. Candidates that acknowledge this are likely to positively contribute to your company culture and likewise work well among a diverse team.
If you’ve identified candidates and you’re ready to move onto interviews, great! To wrap things up, here are some final tips to consider once you start actually talking to potential hires.
Make sure you have a solid communications process in place
This is crucial.
From the moment you reach out or reply to a candidate, it’s important that you communicate clearly and consistently. This rings true whether we’re talking about setting up an interview or actually conducting a video interview yourself.
This is where a versatile platform like RingCentral really comes in handy. For example, you can instantly sync RingCentral with your calendar in either Outlook or Google Calendar to set up meetings based on your schedule:
The fact that you can schedule meetings directly in your Outlook and Google calendars with automatically generated call-in links is an added bonus—no more unnecessary email tag!
Beyond that, RingCentral’s platform is ideal for conducting video interviews with remote candidates. Not only is the quality of our meetings crystal clear, but you can also use the platform in other ways as well.
Want to bring in multiple team members to ask questions? Need to pull up a resume or share a document on screen? RingCentral allows you to do both instantly. This makes your interview much more meaningful than a phone call or endless email chain:
Essentially, you need some kind of communications suite to stay in touch with their job candidates and current teammates alike. And RingCentral’s app is exactly the type of tool that new millennial workers expect so that they can be mobile first and be more productive each day.
Ask the right interview questions
Although candidates are often the ones sweating the interview process, there’s definitely pressure on employers to ask the right questions and make the most of their meetings.
There is no “right” amount or type of questions to ask. We recommend a combination of questions that require candidates to take a firm stance, dig into their experience, and provide concrete proof of their problem-solving skills. Some sample questions include:
- “Describe your biggest victories and challenges at your previous position.”
- “What separates you from other candidates that applied for this role?”
- “Would you say you work best as part of a team or independently?”
- “Let’s say you were faced with [challenge]. What steps would you take to tackle it?”
- “Why would you want to work here?”
Consider some sort of skill-based assessment or “homework”
This is an optional step of your hiring process that’s worth mentioning.
There are some scenarios (either for technical or creative positions) where you may be interested in giving candidates a test project or assessment.
Whether you actually should is up for debate. The obvious upside of assessments is that you can get a better sense of someone’s real-world skills versus what they present on paper.
However, the downside of assessments is that they’re often time-consuming. Likewise, they represent a form of unpaid work for candidates who aren’t necessarily guaranteed the job in question.
Chances are you can get a good sense of what candidates are capable of via their resumes and portfolios. If you do provide an assessment, make sure it’s something short and sweet that can be done in a matter of minutes.
What does your startup’s hiring process look like?
We get it: hiring for startups can be tough!
By knowing what to look for in a candidate and how to assess them more efficiently, the process becomes much less daunting.
With these tips and tools like RingCentral, you can speed up and streamline the process of bringing on new tech-savvy talent as your startup grows.
Originally published Jan 19, 2021, updated Feb 12, 2023