Recruiting for a Start-Up

Hiring Top Talent For a Start-Up

I’m not going to shock you by suggesting that finding, recruiting and retaining great talent is the bedrock from which awesome companies grow.  It is one of those statements along with “people are our greatest asset” that no one is going to question.


For a start-up, bringing in new blood can be a real game changer.  It typically comes about because the business has reached a certain level of success and as such you need to start bringing in the semblance of a team to capitalise on that success and keep the journey moving.  When you source the correct talent, they bring energy, ideas and lift everything in a positive sense.


The only catch for a start-up is you need an offering which is going to appeal to and retain talent.  This can be tricky in the face of bigger companies capable of luring talent with seemingly larger salaries and career development opportunities that on the face of it are superb.


In fact (and I don’t mean to depress you), if your start-up tries to compete head-on in a recruitment battle with an industry Goliath you will probably see just one winner.  They probably have an established brand, they can offer the salary, the pension, the medical care, the job stability, the gym membership, a carriage clock for your ten-year anniversary and a visible career progression plan.  They will have a whole department of human resource professionals who day-to-day find new and exciting ways to keep employers engaged, rewarded and progressing.  It can all feel a little daunting if you think about it too long!


First of all, allow me to give that image a little bit of a makeover.  In today’s world I do not believe job security is guaranteed just because an organisation is large.  I look at the carnage of retailers that have been liquidated this year.  Then I throw in manufacturers, travel and construction firms and the finance sector and job security becomes an utter nonsense.  Many of those employers never see it coming, they just get the tap on the shoulder one morning and a P45 handed to them.  Too often the business has overstretched, made poor strategic decisions…in short, they made mistakes and their staff pay the price.


In addition, the larger an organisation then typically the less flexibility they actually have when it comes to salaries.  Role ‘X’ will be determined by HR to be valued at ‘Y’.  A start-up can be flexible on both fronts.  So, already I hope you are sensing that recruiting and retaining talent for a start-up is not a thankless task…in fact far from it.


What is Your Recruitment Story?

Ask any recruitment agency or recruitment consultant about what they need to be able to educate and enthuse a candidate regarding a role and they will tell you they need knowledge about that company and position.  They want to tell “the story” behind an organisation, why they are recruiting and what the role involves.


Nothing is quite as refreshing for a recruiter as being able to tell a candidate you are working with an exciting new start-up that is looking to start their first employee.  Or how about being able to explain what the company’s product or services do and how it hopes to disrupt the market.  As a recruiter I want to be a believer in my client’s company and services, because if I believe then so will the candidate.


When you are a start-up you need to think carefully about what you want and expect from your team.  I think you can sum it up in one word “mindset”, you want to hire talent with the right mindset.


The Right Candidate For You

A candidate can have all the experience, all the qualification and a CV which makes you froth at the mouth at the prospect of them joining your organisation, but it does not mean they are right for you.  A start-up is a different animal to an established business.


It helps if the candidate loves the product or service you offer.  You want someone who truly sees the value in it.  In fact, you want them to become a fanatic that will bleed your corporate colours if required.  For them, work is almost a hobby they might be prepared to do without pay if life allowed them to.


You want a “doer”.  You want someone who can deliver the solution regardless of the situation.  They will work late and come in at the weekend if that is what it takes.  A real corporate animal will just do their bit and hand it on.  That won’t work for you though.  You want someone who takes ownership for a problem from start to finish.


You want someone who can lift everyone around them.  They are in the job because they have a desire to build something bigger than themselves.  They will work with an ambiguous brief and are not phased by a lack of process or structure.



What Are You Really Offering?

So, you have grasped that recruiting for a start-up can be a different prospect to an established business.  Maybe you are sat in an office on your own right now, surrounded by a couple of second hand desks and chairs and a carpet so stained you feel it could be a bio-hazard.  That’s okay, every business starts somewhere and it may not be glamourous.  But what are you actually offering an employee?


In short you offer a different kind of experience.


You provide an experience without bureaucracy, where ideas can be voiced by the most junior members of staff and they are heard by the most senior.  You are providing “a real challenge” because the demands are going to be unpredictable and unstructured.  A lack of hierarchy in a start-up actually gives more opportunities for employees to really shine.


This kind of environment and experience may feel chaotic to many employees who have worked within a rigid corporate structure…that’s fine, but does it excite them?  Afterall, you are asking them to create the processes and the culture and not to adhere to it.


Final Thoughts

I feel this blog could has come across as a motivational speech rather than be an educational piece as originally intended.  The crux is an established business and a start-up offer different experiences for employees.  The right employees (for either organisation) need to have the right mindset and be prepared for the challenge.  If they are then an exciting chapter of their career awaits.  They will see their development fast-tracked and they will learn new skills for life.


About the Author

Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency based in Aldershot that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond).  Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade.  He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management.  If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.