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5 Recruiting Tips for Startups: how to attract top candidates

Aug 04, 2020 - 7 min read

If you are working in a startup and trying to build your company, you know that one of the biggest struggles is hiring the right people. Even if your startup is well-funded, recruiting can be a hurdle. The best benefit to your company is people: talented individuals who will move your company forward. So, how can your startup stand out, cut through the noise, and bring the best talent on board?

Today, Educative wants to offer its experience and advice for startups looking to hire new talent. Educative is a startup of its own that has grown significantly over the last year, scaling business practices to all-time highs. We’ve learned that there is no golden ticket to recruiting, but there are creative approaches that will help you build. Let’s jump into our top 5 recruiting tips for startups.

We will discuss:

#1 Personalize your recruitment strategy

Traditional recruitment practices often lean on cold professionalism to attract candidates, but this isn’t the best approach. It can deter potential candidates from trusting your outreach or feeling welcomed. Hiring is all about people, so personalizing your recruitment strategy attunes to the needs of people.

We recommend personally reaching out to prospective candidates, as we have found that prospects are more likely to respond to a LinkedIn message if a company executive is reaching out directly rather than a recruiter. It feels more personal, more important, and encourages the candidate to feel valued as a potential.

Thoughtful job descriptions are useful for personalizing recruitment. A job description that stands out uses creative approaches, such as photos, videos, successes of other employees, and more. Consider using wording that doesn’t feel inaccessible for a day-to-day reader, as it will deter candidates with less professional experience.

You can also loosen the reigns on necessary experience required for the role. You should still list preferred experience levels, but keep in mind that recent graduates, homemakers, or folks who served in military did not have the same ability to accrue professional experience. Homemakers, for example, gain tons of valuable skills that cannot be easily defended on a resume. So, using wording with some leeway on requirements can encourage non-traditional candidates to reach out.

#2 Recruit from diverse sources

When you think of places to recruit potential employees from, the traditional sources, i.e. recruitment agencies, are not the only option. There are talented candidates that you can find through other sites, programs, and means. If you only recruit from one source, you will only get exposure to the candidates who happen to be on that site. Think broadly about the places where you can recruit, such as social media, professional connections, etc.

For example, Educative has had great success recruiting from our own customers. In the past year, we have reached out to customers who expressed interest in writing, editing, or developing courses and have found valuable additions to our team in a contract-based capacity. If you recruit from your own customer base, you are also likely to find candidates already invested in your company’s growth.

Another excellent recruiting source is universities and high schools. Educative has turned to university recruiting for campus hires and interns for various functions, such as accounting, marketing and customer support. These individuals are eager to work, have fresh ideas, and are willing to tackle challenges. Consider leveraging relationship with former professors or leaders of university tutoring services to recommend students for your startup.

#3 Offer flexibility and adaptability

As a startup, you have to compete with the infrastructure of large companies. But as a startup, you have a lot more control over the flexibility of your roles and benefits. Offering creative benefits, flexibility with the role, and adaptive job descriptions will make your startup stand out. This could like flexible work from home policies, company funds for building an at-home office, dedicated resources for ongoing learning, etc.

At Educative, we’ve had a lot of success by making our roles flexible for individual candidates. You could even encourage candidates to lightly modify a job description to their interests, or leave a job description open to evolution as the candidate sees fit.

At Educative, we have sometimes have hired someone for one role, but as we learned more about their interests or skillset, we learned that they were a better fit for a different role, and we altered the job description to match them. This flexibility has served us well. We met a company need and gave a talented individual an opportunity to explore their passions.

This ultimately comes down to treating potential employees like customers. You are selling them the job, so telling applicants what your company is about and the creative benefits you offer will help you stand out from big, rigid organizations.

#4 Attend and organize events

Networking events and learning events are a great place to find candidates and spread the word about your company. You can invite candidates to an event that you organize at your office for workshops, lectures, or networking parties. These can even be hosted virtually. Word of mouth networking humanizes your company and allows you to speak directly with candidates about their needs and expectations.

Consider university students and alumni as a great audience for events like these. You could partner with universities to meet with certain classes and majors, or place an announcement on a university’s career site.

At Educative, for example, we’ve recruited people from alumni events where current employees spoke about their career experiences and networking with interested attendees.

Events and workshops are also an opportunity to speak with local experts and gain new insights into recruitment strategies. Don’t underestimate the power of 1:1 conversations!

#5 Hire for attitude and outlook over experience

Many startups fail in recruiting by setting unrealistic standards. The truth is that you likely won’t find the “unicorn” that you’re looking for, and if you do, their extensive experience likely won’t match your salary offerings. We recommend hiring for attitude and outlook over experience. A candidate with the right attitude towards business can be a perfect fit for a startup.

Of course, you have to assess hard skills, but during the interview and recruitment process, you should also measure a candidate’s motivations, outlook on the role, and vision for the company. You can even bake this intro your job description by favoring attitude in the way you describe your outcomes as a company.

Educative’s job descriptions, for example, outline the soft skills and values that they look for in employees. You can do this by asking rhetorical questions or explicitly stating that your company looks for attitude and motivation.

Consider asking questions like these to dig deeper into the way your candidate thinks:

  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What motivates you?
  • If you were to start tomorrow, what would you do on the first day?
  • If you were a manager of your last role, what would you have done differently?
  • What fulfills you from a role or work environment?

Wrapping up and further readings

We hope these tips and experiences have helped form your recruitment strategy and values for your startup. Educative has found a lot of value in thinking creatively, personally, and humanely about employee recruitment. Building your startup begins with people, so making people the heart of recruitment will propel your business goals.

Read more about recruitment and hiring


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