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How to recruit top talents when you are an early stage startup?

I’ve worked for many small companies, some with under 50 employees while some with several hundred. One thing they have in common - there are not enough applicants for their jobs (not talking about quality candidates here, I’m mainly talking about the volume of applicants). What happens when you don’t have enough applicants? As a recruiter, you spend a lot of time sourcing candidates. You can spend hours and hours sourcing candidates, but if there isn’t a brand recognition, you will end up getting a lot of “thanks but no thanks” Inmail responses.

One of the companies I worked for had just about 65 employees when I started and I was the only recruiter/consultant there. I watched the company grow from a 65 person company to one that’s over 300 people. How did they achieve that? As much as I wanted to take all the credits, but I really need to give a great shout-out to the phenomenal marketing team.

Power of Marketing

For such a small company, they had a demand generation team focusing on integrated marketing programs, including events, customer marketing and partner marketing. Each of those marketing functions focused on evangelizing the brand in their field and amplified its position in the market place. With us not having any Application Tracking System, LinkedIn was the only way I had to market our openings, yet we had a fairly robust pipeline of applicants. And when I told the candidates the size of our company, they were shocked that we were only 65-person strong.

Another creative way to market your company’s awesome culture is to give a shoutout to your employee of the month. If the employee is open to being on camera, create a short video interviewing the employee of the month and put it on your company’s Youtube channel; your marketing team can also repurpose the video into a blog as well. I’m also seeing more and more hiring managers creating a short video explaining what their team does and the culture they’re trying to build as a recruitment tactic.


Now, an entirely different scenario - Most people view recruiting as an important business function, but there isn’t always a strong cohesion between recruiting and the business. Most of us know that engineering works closely with the product team, and the product team works somewhat closely with product marketing; sales works closely with the marketing team, and the marketing team works closely with product marketing. Somehow that kind of loop doesn’t usually extend to recruiting. Recruiting is often viewed as “HR,” sitting somewhere in the corner of the company, along with Finance or other operations teams.

That should never be the case. If you want to hire a game-changer, you need to work closely with your recruiter, inviting your recruiter to all social functions. Does your team have Happy Hours? If so, invite your recruiter and encourage him/her to use it as a recruitment tool. Are there any -athons on your team? Well, invite your recruiter and have them use it as a selling point when they reach out to candidates. Does your recruiter know intimately the culture you’re trying to create on the team? Candidates often ask a recruiter about the company culture. So, help create a great experience for your recruiter, so your recruiter can evangelize for your team.

Recruiting top talents is difficult for many companies, not just early-stage startups. At the same time, some of the biggest advantages of recruiting for a startup are - more flexibility around out-of-the-box recruitment campaigns and “do it first and apologize later” type mentality. As long as you are working closely with your recruitment team, willing to experiment and be patient around results, you will build momentum and hire your next game-changer.

#talentacquisition #hiring #recruitment #startup

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