Harvest Guide to Recruitment for Startups & Tech Companies

Part 1: Shifting from a reactive to a proactive recruitment approach

Shifting your recruitment approach

Harvest Builders Staff

If you’re a new founder, you may be surprised to learn where most of your time goes. It’s not spent on fundraising or marketing or product development. It’s spent on recruitment.

We’re living in a candidate’s world. 

Tech companies are struggling to attract the talent they need, especially after the pandemic amped up demand for tech-enabled solutions, amping up demand for tech professionals in response. Consider the case of B.C.-based legal tech company Clio. They want to have 1,000 employees by the end of 2022. Even hiring people directly out of university is not allowing these companies to keep pace with their recruitment needs. 

For startups, the challenge is even greater. They face competition from all sides. Not only do they have to compete with other startups, they also have to compete with companies creeping north from the United States. Tech giants like Microsoft, Netflix, and Google have all announced plans to ramp up their hiring in Canada.  

Does this mean founders should throw in the towel early? Not at all. Instead, they need to think ahead. Perhaps the biggest myth of recruitment is that you need to wait until you have a hiring need to start thinking about recruitment. False. Instead, forward-thinking founders map out their product or service’s desired timeline, identify key milestones, and create a workforce plan or talent strategy that aligns to this business timeline. Here are a few ways to shift from a reactive to a proactive recruitment strategy. 

Develop a workforce plan

Let’s assume you already have a minimum viable product for a couponing app. At this point, your business timeline might look something like this: 

Month 1: Market your MVP to beta users with a limited number of partner businesses

Month 3: Collect feedback from beta users & incorporate feedback

Month 4: Onboard more partners only in Calgary

Month 6: Release version 1 with feedback incorporated

Month 7: Develop marketing strategy to increase user base in Calgary

Month 9: Expand to Edmonton

Month 12: Expand to Regina

In reality, this timeline may take 2 or 3 years instead of one. In any case, you want a high-level idea of when your business needs will grow. When it comes time to incorporate feedback from your beta users, you don’t want to just start looking for developers — you want to already have developers in your pipeline. If you get funding to expand your business into a new city, you want to already have a network of business development and marketing professionals you can get onboard, instead of cold messaging developers on LinkedIn. 

This breakdown of who you need to hire when is your workforce plan. Your workforce plan is kind of like an app that sends you a notification saying, “You’re getting pretty close to reaching a growth milestone. Here’s what you’ll need if you don’t want to get stuck.” Without a workforce plan, startups find themselves spinning their wheels and struggling to grow even when they have funding and a customer base. If they spin their wheels for too long, they risk losing their customers or burning their money quickly hiring people who are the wrong fit.

Network within the tech community

Schedule time to make the rounds in your local tech community. In the early days of your startup, you’ll need tech talent to help you build your product and in this market, great tech talent is hard to come by. Even developers and engineers fresh out of school are being courted before they’ve graduated. So it’s helpful to start building connections and putting in facetime at local tech events.

Will you meet the engineer that rockets your business to a Series A at your first networking event? Probably not. But like anything worth doing, building a network and an employer brand takes time. We’ll talk a little bit more about what an employer brand is in Chapter 3. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that in the early days of your business, you are your employer
brand, so it’s important to start meeting people. This helps you fill your talent pipeline with suitable candidates in anticipation of meeting important business milestones. It’s helpful to know who’s working where and what their talents are before you need to actually hire them. Moreover, spending time at tech networking events and talent fairs helps you build connections not only with tech professionals but with other companies, startup founders, and business leaders who may have referrals to offer. 

Shifting from a reactive to a proactive talent strategy is an essential part of hiring as a startup founder. When you’re a startup, you don’t have the advantage of a recognizable employer brand, like Amazon or Facebook. Candidates are not banging down your door. It’s up to you to put yourself and your business out there. It’s also up to you to clarify your vision and share it with others. This clearly articulated vision will be the heart of your employer brand, which we’ll discuss more in Chapter 3. 

Harvest Builders Staff
Part 2: Which roles should startups fill first?
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