Your guide to hiring in a startup

Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill

Why? Well for a number of reasons. One being the lack of development in the field of startup recruiting and another being that few startup founders have a HR background. To help the many startups out there, we have compiled this short guide of tips on hiring.

Always be on the lookout for talent

Often, startups will only look for talent when a specific job becomes available. This is rookie mistake number one. For some startups it can take weeks, even months before finding the right candidate. The trick is to always be on the lookout for great talent.

This process may involve inviting people to send their CV through a contact form on your website, attending recruitment events or connecting with potential candidates via LinkedIn. One HireHive user, Cheryl McCallum from Canada Cartage explains how she actively seeks out candidates on LinkedIn.

I don’t necessarily wait for candidates to apply. I contact candidates mainly through LinkedIn. Generally when you’re reaching out to candidates, the average response rate is 20%. I have a really high acceptance rate. So typically 47% of the candidates that I contact, actually get back to me.

Cultivating your own talent pipeline is a good tip for any company and using an Applicant Tracking System, like HireHive, can help you to keep track of potential candidates easily.

Stand out from the crowd

When hiring your first non-founding employees, it is unlikely that you will be offering large corporate perks. This is why you need to evaluate what makes your startup different and how to sell this vision to candidates. Is it the fast-paced environment? The friendly company culture? Or maybe it’s a quirky office space that sets you apart.

To give an example, D4H Technologies recently moved their office to the Baily Lighthouse in Howth, Co.Dublin. No doubt, this unusual location provides employees with a scenic commute and an interesting view at work!

In addition to being different, startups still need to provide real benefits to retain employees. These may include offering food, travel, technology or health plan benefits. By standing out from the crowd while also providing decent benefits, your startup stands a better chance of attracting great talent. 

Lighthouse startups office
Credit: Giuseppe Milo

Follow your dream candidates

As a startup, you probably have a million things on your mind. Due to time and other constraints, hiring is often placed on the back burner and the whole process ends up being rushed. This can lead to ineffective employment decisions that damage the startup long-term.

While you may be eager to get people in the door, don’t hire people simply because they’re available. Follow up with your dream candidates by sending thoughtful, non-generic emails. While tenacity mightn’t get you the dream candidate, it may get you a promising referral.

Remember that hiring is a lot like sales and acquiring those dream candidates requires long-term patience and persistence.

Perfect your interviewing process

Now you have your dream candidates, let’s perfect the interviewing process. Before beginning interviews, nail down specific criteria you want met. It can be easy to get bogged down in generic questions and credentials. To avoid this, make sure to ask thoughtful questions and get candidates to complete real-life tasks.

Asking candidates to do real-life tasks may seem like a lot effort, but it helps weed out the time wasters. Anyone can prepare for a generic, run-of-the-mill interview, which is why you should look for qualities that people can’t prepare for, e.g. manners, ethics and enthusiasm. Business Insider UK recommends asking candidates to do something they will do in the role.

Once the interview process is over, take time to evaluate your notes on each candidate. It is important to remember that interviewing is a two way street and that all candidates deserve timely feedback. Whether the outcome is successful or not, candidates appreciate knowing.

Be swift and don’t stop

Once you have chosen your ideal candidate, go for it. Don’t overthink it. However, hiring doesn’t stop there. Building a great team is something that happens over a long period time. By remembering the things that helped you recruit your best employees, you will continue to hire great staff in the future.

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