Harvest Guide to Recruitment for Startups & Tech Companies

Part 3: Building a recruitment toolkit

Harvest Builders Staff

Once you’ve shifted your mindset, it’s time to build your toolkit.

Once you’ve shifted your mindset, it’s time to
build your toolkit. 

When you’re a business-of-one trying to do the job of many, it’s tempting to take a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to recruitment. You ask your LinkedIn network for referrals. You attend a networking event here and there. You ask a friend to
fill in for a while. These short-term solutions can
hamper your startup’s long-term growth. Instead, it’s important to build out your recruitment toolkit, so
that you have a solid, repeatable strategy for your company’s long-term growth. 

Here’s what you’ll need. 

A recruitment strategy

A strategy is how you get from Point A to Point B, so a recruitment strategy is everything you need to do to get from 0 employees to the exact number of employees you need to move your business forward without breaking the bank. 

This is why it’s important to create workforce plan. A workforce plan gives you an understanding of not just who you need right now, but who you’ll need soon and later. You can develop a segmented recruitment strategy that caters to these different needs.

A recruitment strategy also helps you take advantage of different talent models. If you dive into meeting your talent needs without a strategy, you may wind up missing out on cost-effective methods. For example, in the early days of your business it may not make sense to hire full-time employees. If you have the technical
skills to build the first iterations of your product, it
might make more sense to hire independent
contractors to fill in the gaps of your product
development needs, write content for your product’s
FAQ page so beta users have support, or do a couple
of hours of business development each week.

A simple, high-level recruitment strategy could be: 

Partner with a local university so you can work with co-op students to develop your minimum viable product and develop and execute on a growth marketing strategy. Supplement your own contributions and those of your
co-op students using freelancers. 

Develop role-specific recruitment strategies

A role-specific recruitment strategy helps you be
more efficient, structured, and deliberate with your
recruitment efforts. 

For instance, you might decide that it’s useful to find a technical candidate from within specific university networks or to hire someone from a specific company because you need those qualifications or experiences to advance the product. Your role-specific recruitment strategies could be to: 

Use co-op students to support your ongoing growth marketing efforts

Work with freelancers to fill in the gaps in
your development

Tap into your network to eventually
bring in permanent employees in
management positions

Embracing different talent models also helps you use your early, scarce resources efficiently. In the early days of your business, managing payroll and withholding taxes takes significant time. On the other hand, freelancers are responsible for their own materials and tax obligations, so long as it remains a client-contractor relationship instead of turning into an employer-employee relationship.

Articulating your employer brand

A brand is an expectation of an experience. When people visit Starbucks, they expect a personalized coffee drinking experience where they can get work done, be creative, and meet with others. When people go to an Equinox, they expect a luxury gym experience and that luxury is present in everything from the classes to the changing rooms. 

A company can have different iterations of their brand for different purposes. For instance, Starbucks’ consumer brand that focuses on the customer experience is different from its employer brand which focuses on
the employee experience. A job at Starbucks is considered more than just a “coffee shop job in between other gigs.” Everything from the benefits to the training is meant to demonstrate to employees that they’re valued, that they’ll be taken care of, and that there are opportunities for progression within that company. For this reason, Starbucks is consistently ranked one of the best places to work. 

Similarly, your startup, even in its early stages, needs an employer brand. While you won’t be in a position to offer special programs like adoption reimbursement expenses or retirement savings matching programs that more established companies can,  you can make it clear what kind of experience potential employees will have. What will they be working on? How will what they’re doing make a meaningful contribution to their community
and the wider world? What can they expect to learn? When people consider working at a startup, especially when they have in-demand skills, it’s because they
want to work on something meaningful. Otherwise, they’d go work for a larger, more established company. So it’s up to you as a founder to sell the future of your company and the role a particular candidate could play in this startup’s story.

Writing clear — and realistic!
— job descriptions

What do you need your employees to do? Do you need them to know multiple coding languages, have over 5 years of experience, have a FAANG company on their resume, and also have experience building and leading teams? Do you also expect them to come into the office every single day with zero flexibility?

Believe it or not, many startup founders come in with high expectations. In and of itself, that isn’t a bad thing. Shooting for the stars is one of the reasons startup founders build cool new things and convince others to try them out. But it’s important to know when this kind of thinking is helpful (e.g. selling your vision to investors) and when this approach can slow you down (e.g. recruiting). In the early days, you want to be clear about your must-haves and your nice-to-haves and then progressively train your new hires to develop those nice-to-have capabilities. 

Above all, you want to hire for attitude and fit. Here’s the thing: scoring a former Google engineer is exciting until you find out they expect the same structure, the same processes, and they’re unwilling to budge. Getting a former Amazon employee is exciting until you find out you’ve hired someone who isn’t as excited about building a business as you are. On the other hand, if you can find someone who’s curious, motivated, and eager to see your business grow, you can train for the other capabilities.

Harvest Builders Staff
Part 4: Putting best practices in place
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