Startup hiring isn’t as insane as you think. Things to know (and do!)

Forum Sheth
July 25, 2022

“I’m at my wit’s end!” exclaimed a founder pal who’s managed to make enough noise in the market with her startup’s product launch, funding updates, and several other company announcements. Her startup has also garnered enough website traffic and demand for the products. BUT despite all these achievements, she feels clueless and frustrated. 

The reason? 

It's the same situation that most startup founders and recruiters find themselves in - “Recruiting top players to grow the startup”.

What do startup founders and recruiters forget?

The reason why founders, like my friend, end up worrying about hiring top players is because you understand that your team is vital to scaling your startup. But what most founders and recruiters forget is laying a strong foundation for recruiting, much before you begin hiring. 

Having a strong foundation for recruiting ensures a seamless recruiting process and candidate experience.

After all, startup recruiting isn’t as insane as you think, it only gets better and easier.

How to build a strong foundation to hire the best players for your startup? 

A good way to begin is to divide your startup recruiting process into three stages - pre, during, and post. 

Pre: The stage before you begin to look out for candidates

During: When you look out for candidates and interview them

Post: The final stage where you make a decision on hiring the interviewed candidates 

Things to do before you start hiring for your startup  

While it’s an obvious indication to start hiring when founders can’t continue to be the HR, the CTO, the finance person and (sometimes) the receptionist themselves,  things can get out of hand quickly if you end up recruiting without a plan. 

  1. Ask the 3 Ws to yourself before you begin to hire

Start off with the 3Ws

  • What are you hiring for? Figure out the roles that you really need at a particular point in time and in the future. Write it down for clarity. 
  • When would you need someone to fill up the said role(s)? You can hire ahead of time or when the need arises. Align your recruiting roadmap with long as well as short-term goals. Be clear with the timelines, so you don’t have to run around at the eleventh hour. 
  • Who you’re looking for: Be very clear about what you’re looking for in a candidate. This could be their personality, their personal and professional goals, interests, and their aspirations to work with startups. Write down what an ideal team player would look like. 
  1. Document your brand story

Once you’re pretty clear with your hiring requirements, start putting the pieces of your brand story together. While doing that, do remember that candidates may or may not know about your brand. So tell your story like it is.

  • About your brand 
  • Your mission statement 
  • Your plans for the next few quarters/years 
  1. Prepare your recruiting arsenal aka the resources 
  • Build a Careers page that strikes a chord 

Flooding career pages with stuff like “get a mac on joining” or “we believe in culture” doesn’t help. Create a careers section on your website by showcasing what employees mean to you, plug in real stories from existing team members and investors, and tell them what it is like to be a part of YOUR startup and how they can really make a difference. 

Examples: CRED, Gong, Insider, Drift, AirBnB’s Internship Page
  • Nail your Job Descriptions (JDs)

A “perfect” JD for startup roles is a myth. You don’t need one either. What you do need is a job description that isn’t cryptic and lets a potential candidate know what exactly they’ll be expected to do as well as what you’re looking for in your ideal candidates. Don’t hesitate to mention responsibilities you’d need them to take up beyond what a role looks like as per the status quo. 

Example: an honest and well-defined Content Marketing JD
  • Tell people stories on your blog

People always believe in people. If you’ve just come out of stealth, talk about how you did it, and share candid stories by founders. If you're a slightly bigger team with say Series A to D funding, add more stories of the team, and talk about how you’ve been hiring so far. Leveraging people's stories helps make the hiring process easier for both ends - you and the candidates. 

Recommendation: Y Combinator’s Employee #1 - conversations with first full-time employees hired at startups including Coinbase, Warby Parker, and ReadMe among others. 
  1. Do enough research

The candidate market keeps evolving by the day. So before you even begin to lay out the JDs and look for candidates, find out what is the market up to in terms of roles, compensation, trends, etc. A well-researched interviewer hires 5X better than those who aren’t. 

  1. Seek advice

Think of this - you might be running a D2C startup or a fintech startup, but you’re looking for marketers, developers and a few other roles that you don’t necessarily have an experience in. Go ahead and seek help from those who’ve done it before - they could be your investors, mentors, or consultants.

Things to do when you searching for candidates and interview them for your startup

Once you have your pre-hiring ammo ready, you’d want t make sure your sourcing and interviewing happen smoothly. 

  1. Know where to look

Use the answers you figured out during the pre-hiring process as your guide to finding out your potential candidates. While you majorly have two ways to approach your sourcing i.e. inbound and outbound, choose what works best for you depending on your requirements. 

Inbound recruiting is when you sit back and await candidates to find out about your opening and apply - maybe by filling out application forms, writing to you, etc. 

Outbound on the other hand requires you to adopt a proactive approach. BUT also ensures 2X faster hires. This includes reaching out to referrals, candidates that you found within a community or even within your own network. The best part about hiring through referrals or recommendations is that you majorly end up hiring reliable and trustworthy people. 

  1. Put your candidate engagement on autopilot

Startup owners can spend around 40% of their working hours on tasks that do not generate income such as hiring, HR tasks, and payroll.* Instead of manually sending out emails and messages to potential candidates every few days, automate your outreach and use that time for other important things that you need to tick off. 

Can Kula help? You bet! 

Outreach - a feature on the Kula dashboard that helps you automate your entire outreach sequences right from your first cold message to follow-ups to sharing your recruiting resources. To top it up, you can set up messages across channels viz. Emails, LinkedIn Inmails, SMS, and so on. 

  1. Have clear conversations with candidates

Defining your requirements (as mentioned earlier) should guide your conversations with potential candidates. This will help you stay focused and save your time by instantly gauging who’s a good fit for the role and who isn’t. Set clear expectations around KPIs and expectations when you interview the candidates. 

Recommendation: Things to look for in your first 10 employees 
  1. Keep the bias aside 

Don’t get carried away by your own biases while taking a decision. Sometimes founders end up hiring just because someone needed the job badly or because they were a relative. Instead, have certain realistic judging parameters in place to gauge the fitment of a candidate. This will only help you hire the right candidates and save time going forward/ 

  1. Focus on candidate experience 

You may or may not hire everyone you interview. Similarly, your favorite candidates may or may not accept your offer. Regardless of the outcome, ensure that you give a memorable and well-stitched experience to your candidates at all the stages of the interview. 

  1. Prepare for the worst

Always have a plan B in place. For when a candidate doesn’t show up or if you have to suddenly retract an opening. First, be aware that things may or may not always go as planned. Second, take a step back and start thinking of alternatives. Take your steps wisely. 

Example: Having a Designer on the team was crucial for a startup that was ramping up its marketing efforts. But several attempts (lasting for weeks) to find the best-fit designer went in vain. The startup then decided to rather onboard someone on contract in the meantime and move things that need to be done. 

One thing to remember throughout the process. Majorly because you’re running a startup. Practice, Practice, Practice - nothing makes one a better recruiter than reflecting on the good and bad that happens during the recruiting process, implementing improvements soon, and finally, repeating the process. It just gets better from thereon. 

In closing 

It is important to know that your team plays a role in shaping your startup’s growth. It’s all the more important to know how to hire the right team members. What sets you apart is your brand story, the experience you give to your potential candidates, and the time as well as the cost you save by automating as much as possible.

Now, go out there, and build your ambitious startup team. 

To easy recruiting!  

Forum Sheth
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