Ideas are commodity, execution of them is not. And exceptional execution relies on an exceptional team.
Your number one job as a start-up founder is to build that team.
Yes, you need to hit the revenue number. Yes, you need to keep customers happy and reduce churn. Yes, you need to make sure you’ve got the runway to make it to the next round or profitability.
You know how you can make all those things easier?
Invest in building a great team.
But that’s easier said than done in an age of near 100% employment where 77% of recruitment teams see attracting enough quality applicants as one of their biggest challenges.
So as a start-up, what you can do to beat your competition to the best people?
1. Start recruiting from day one
Your founding team has an unending list of problems to solve and tasks to complete.
You don’t have a product, you have zero customers, you probably have close to zero runway, and making your first hire seems a lifetime away.
With so much to do, it’s easy to put off thinking about recruitment until you need to make your first hire.
But when the time comes, you’ll inevitably need to hire fast.
Perhaps you’ve just raised a round and need to scale fast to hit the numbers you just promised your new investors. Perhaps you’ve found product-market fit earlier than you thought and need to scale your sales organisation and grow your customer success team.
Whatever the trigger for a recruitment process, it usually means you need to hire someone as fast as possible.
Here are four things you could do to start recruiting before you’re ready to even think about making your first hire:
Build your employer brand
When you start trying to hire, it’ll be much easier to attract the right applicants if they’ve been following you for a while and understand what you care about, how you work, and whether they’d be a good fit for your culture.
As a start-up there are some great (and cheap) ways to do this.
- Share photos of your team, workspace, and events on social media (and get your whole team to like/share them)
- Engage with your wider community / the start-up ecosystem through social media, attending events/meetups, or giving talks.
- Build in public – there are obvious commercial considerations but that aside, sharing some or all of what you’re doing in public is a great way to build trust with your audience (including potential future hires). Here are some of the start-ups taking that to a whole new level by sharing all of their metrics openly: https://baremetrics.com/open-startups
- Encourage your team to build their personal brands and become respected leaders in their field that other people want to work for and learn from.
- Develop a careers page on your website where you bring all of these things together in one place. We’ve written a whole article on creating a great careers page here.
And there are side benefits to building your employer brand. Clients that use Pinpoint to run their recruitment marketing campaigns say that the increased awareness of their brand in the market, and the perception of growth, is impacting the amount of new business they’re winning.
Build a talent pipeline
“Always be hiring” is a phrase we often talk about with clients and, internally, we expect everyone in our team to know who the next three people they’re going to hire will be (even if the next hire into that team is 12 months away). This is what we mean by “building a talent pipeline” and it allows us to hire people we really want – not settle for second best just to fill a seat because we’re desperate.
Here are three ways to start building your talent pipeline:
- Encourage your team to attend events relevant to their area of specialism. Not only will they learn useful things, they’ll likely meet other great people who could be your future hires.
- Engage in relevant online discussions.
- Put the job descriptions of roles you’re planning to hire for in the future on your careers site and let people apply. Meet the best of them (being careful to let them know you’re not quite ready to hire the role yet) so that when the time comes to make the hire you have the luxury of choice.
Have a hiring plan
What will have to happen in your business to make a specific hire?
How long will it take to make that hire from when you start advertising?
Therefore, when do you need to start advertising for that role?
It seems obvious but we see so many start-ups waiting until they’re ready to make a hire before advertising the role, then rushing to secure the first “OK” candidate they meet. Plan ahead, attract a wider range of candidates, and hold out for your ideal candidate. You shouldn’t have to settle for just “OK”.
We’ve been there and done it. It can seem like a massive waste of time or running before you can walk. But documenting your processes is one of the biggest time savers as soon as you start hiring. And the sooner you start, the easier it is.
Anything from “how the office works” to “what software is needed on a computer for a new marketing hire”, “how to pass a lead from marketing to sales”, or “the 10 best restaurants near our office location” can be documented and added to some kind of repository. Here at Pinpoint we use Notion for this.
If there’s something you do that you’re going to be asking someone else to do, or there’s a question you’re asked that you’re going to be asked again in the future, invest the time in writing it down and sharing the information with the team.
This does three things:
- It means you don’t have to invest energy in thinking of the answer to the same question again and again.
- It makes getting new hires up to speed easier as they can consume the information in their own time (often before their first official day).
- Writing things down helps you identify gaps in your processes that you can solve before you start scaling your team.
2. Treat job opportunities like you treat your product
Hopefully you’ll have started to build a talent pipeline organically by the time you need to start recruiting at scale. But it’s inevitable that you’re going to need to run some recruitment advertising campaigns at some point.
And this is where we see business of all sizes getting it wrong. They default to things like distributing job descriptions written by an outsourced HR team (and primarily designed to cover every possible legal eventuality) through the default “recruitment” or “professional” channels like:
- Job Boards
- Recruitment Agencies
The reason? “because that’s how you do recruitment” … right?
Identify your ideal candidate
But we see it differently. Just like you identify your ideal customer profile and personas before you run a demand generation campaign, you need to identify your ideal target candidate to run an effective recruitment campaign:
- What skills do they have?
- What experience do they have?
- What types of companies are they likely to have worked at before?
- What job title are they likely to have right now?
- What do they care about?
- What do they value in an employer and how does that align with what you can offer?
- What do they value in a job and how does that align with what you can offer?
- Where do they spend their time (online or otherwise)?
We recommend creating a candidate persona (a documented, fictional representation of your ideal candidate) to help clarify your thinking. You can download a free template to help you with this here.
A job description should be an advert, not a list of requirements
Once you have a clear idea of who you’re looking to hire, you can rewrite your job description so that it’s an advert that will attract the type of person you’re looking to hire rather than just a list of requirements you have.
If you’d like us to have a look over your job description, you can get a free assessment here.
Deciding where to promote the role
Then you need to decide where to promote the role. It’s time to stop assuming that “LinkedIn is the professional social media network and therefore the right one for recruitment.”
Again, take this back to marketing principles and promote your jobs in the places where your ideal candidates spend their time. Why would you default to advertising on LinkedIn unless that’s where your ideal candidate spends most of their day?
- If you want to hire a developer, you’d be better advertising on Reddit or Stack Overflow.
- If you need to hire a designer then Dribble, Pinterest, or Instagram would be better channels.
- And yes, if you need to hire someone into your sales or recruitment team then LinkedIn might well be the right channel.
You’ll also want to think about your geographical targeting. Just because your business is based in one specific location, you don’t have to limit your targeting to that location.
Think about where your ideal candidate is likely to be based and run ads in those locations too. This is obvious if you offer remote working but, even if you don’t, think about targeting locations that candidates might be willing to make the move from.
If you want a review of your current talent attraction efforts, you can take our free recruitment assessment and one of our team will reach out to you with some personalized feedback.
3. Invest in Onboarding
Increasingly, businesses are understanding the importance of providing a great candidate experience during the recruitment process. But the onboarding process is just as important.
If the recruitment process is all about attracting and hiring the best candidates then the onboarding process is all about retention – making sure that great new team member you invested time and money in hiring is set up to win and wants to stick around.
We talk about “time to value” in the context of our customers – how long does it take them to get value from our product. But this applies to our new hires too. Great people want to make a positive contribution. Our job is to help them deliver value as quickly as possible.
For this reason, we’ve invested a huge amount of time and energy into our onboarding process at Pinpoint. Here are a few of the things we think you should be considering when designing your onboarding process:
- How can you minimise the amount of manual paperwork required between agreeing to hire someone and them arriving for their first day?
- What questions will they have that you can answer before they even think of them? What information should they have before they arrive for their first day that will help them feel comfortable?
- Are there books / podcasts / videos that they should have read / listened to before joining that will help them understand your perspective on their role and what you’re asking them to do?
- How can you make their first day as welcoming as possible? Have you ensured they’re going to arrive at their desk and find everything set up and ready to go? Have you planned for them to spend time with key members of the team?
- How will they know what success looks like? Have you agreed a plan for the first day / week / month / quarter?
- How will they be introduced to the team? In person, on Slack? Who should they have a catch up with during their first week, so they know what everyone in the organisation does?
- What training and support are you going to offer? For context, new Sales hires at Pinpoint get a full two-week structured onboarding plan, and daily catch ups with a senior member of the team who will support them with anything they need until they’re consistently hitting their quota.
Need some help?
Are you struggling to attract enough great applicants? Are you resorting to recruitment agencies to fill vacancies fast? We’re more than happy to help, even if it’s a just a quick bit of helpful advice – you can get in touch here.
Sam Gloor, Account Manager at Pinpoint
She currently spends her days helping in-house recruitment teams work out whether they’d benefit from Pinpoint’s software that’s designed to make attracting, hiring, and retaining the best talent easier.