July 15, 2021
5 minute

What It Takes to Build Your Startup’s First Talent Attraction Strategy

Growth & Scaling

As a founder, you’ve probably heard the textbook advice that you need to hire the right people for your startup more times than you care to count. But when attracting top talent into your recruitment funnel is more complex than ever, what’s your first move?

Let’s be honest. Building a startup means there are a lot of things working against you. Money is tight, and you have less room for hiring mistakes than the average established company. You can’t afford to pay top dollar for talent, and your reputation hasn’t been established just yet, so you need to figure out a two-fold strategy that convinces people to join your team and a way to hold onto them to ensure your company gets to market and makes a splash.

The good news is that even though the talent pool is naturally smaller in the startup world, it’s still possible to form your A-team when you have a business strategy in place that attracts talent beyond relying on a paycheque alone.

Here are our top tips on how to attract the right talent for your startup.

Develop your EVP

What’s an EVP? Your employee value proposition. This is the heart and soul of why anyone would want to join your company and stick with you for the long haul. For startups, an EVP is the unique opportunity to make a lasting impact in your given industry. You draw in talent with the promise of building a team, growing your career, and the experience of scaling a business.

An EVP helps people envision what their day-to-day might look like working at your company, which is arguably one of the biggest challenges candidates face in their job search. If they can’t picture themselves belonging to your team, the kind of projects they’ll work on, and any clues about their future with you, then there’s little point in taking the risk and moving forward.

EVPs can range from career opportunities and mentorship to company culture. Just about anything you can think of that enhances the lives of your people can be positioned as your distinctive value offering. The idea is to establish your company as an undeniably great place to make an impact and add value. 

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, this all depends on what experiences you can provide. Suppose you’re on the hunt to fill junior positions. In this case, it may be worth your while to emphasize the opportunity to make a meaningful impact whereas with more senior individuals you may want to highlight the ability for them to build from scratch while taking the knowledge they’ve gathered from past experiences.

At any rate, you’ll want to tailor your EVP to your ideal candidate rather than just sound off all the perks willy nilly. Connecting candidates with aspects of your EVP that speak to them the most can help you seal the deal.

Define your company culture and never stop nurturing it

Next is getting your grip on the slippery slope of company culture. Whether you know it or not, your company has a culture, and it’s your job as a founder to nurture it as your business evolves. Most early-stage startups operate with small teams and are focused on building out their product or concentrating on customer acquisition, so of course, it’s easy for culture to get sidelined or become an afterthought.

But that’s precisely why you should pay more attention to cultivating your culture in the early days. Culture is a combination of your shared vision and values and how your team carries out its responsibilities. The moment you take on your first employee or recruit your fellow co-founder(s), culture kicks in. How you define your company culture is centred around your higher purpose – think beyond just your desire to make a great product or the profit that may come with it, and dig deep to answer the question, “so what?”

“The key is getting people excited about the purpose of your company and ownership they will have at the beginning stages of your growth,” says Kate Rosen, Talent Acquisition Lead at Harvest. “People get to build and grow something brand new instead of maintaining something that was built by someone else.”

As you begin making your first hires, consider the importance of cultural impact or value fit. 

While some founders forget that culture is a living concept, they have the greatest influence over the direction of their company, and naturally, how it behaves over time. So to boost your business growth, you should be fielding candidates who add the most value to your company, are adaptable to change, and are culturally aligned with your mission. 

Think twice about where you advertise for the job

Strength in numbers isn’t always the most effective approach to startup hiring. Rather than going on a hiring blitz and posting on virtually all job boards and channels that exist, consider where your ideal candidates are most likely spending their time.

For instance, developers are a hot commodity in the tech sector, so companies are eager to snatch them up before the competition gets a chance to. GitHub and Reddit, although unconventional, can sometimes be more effective than traditional job boards like Glassdoor or Indeed because they are places that devs and engineers frequent.

Similarly, you can use social media to your advantage. When you build an employer brand and leverage it on your social media channels, it makes it easier for prospective candidates to find you, connect with your mission, and get a good first impression of your company.

Invest in onboarding practices

People always remember their first day. Setting up your new employees’ workspaces, taking them out to lunch, or providing them with supportive resources all have a hand in their future success at your company. 

You want to ensure new hires start off on the right foot because it sets the tone for the duration of their time at your company. In fact, the quality of your onboarding could make or break your startup, as 31 percent of employees leave their job within the first six months and 68 percent of those within the first three months. Losing star players in such a short timeframe can have tremendous impacts on your startup, including costing your company thousands of dollars in replacement, hurting team morale, and raising questions and concerns among customers and partners.

Even if you’re pressed for time or don’t quite have the dedicated people operations team in place, don’t expect your employees to figure things out on their own. Preparing for the first, 30, 60, and 90 days for new recruits can make all the difference for smooth integration into the company. Effective onboarding not only aligns employee expectations and gets people up to speed on projects, but it also gives them the confidence and motivation to do great at their jobs. To ensure you get it right from day one, check out our Harvest onboarding checklist.

Empower and engage employees

Most people are driven to make an impact, and a symptom of one’s contribution is having adequate learning opportunities. Your team should feel connected to your cause and vision, and when they do, it’s your job to facilitate ongoing growth opportunities to keep up their appetite because top talent can be a double-edged sword. It can accelerate your company’s growth, but after the initial excitement wears off and engagement gives way, your company could be in danger of losing its best players.

So while learning happens with time on the job, you can re-engage team members with more structured programs or organize training to help employees develop new skills and mentorship.

To keep a pulse on employee satisfaction, take into consideration what the data shows. Have open conversations, find out what challenges your employees struggle with, and how you can best support them. Startups that strategize their retention plans as soon as they begin the hiring process have better chances of holding onto their talent in the long term.

Choose your crew wisely

Recruiting talent for your startup is no small feat, but when you choose the right crew, it will entirely shape your company’s future, the kinds of values it will adopt, and foster endless growth opportunities. To position your startup for continued recruitment success, your talent acquisition strategy should align with the function of your company and business strategy. As founders, it’s not easy to go all-in, but if you’re strategic about your hiring and retention, then you could be one of the companies that take flight.

Learn more about Harvest’s talent management and recruitment services.

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