Start-ups: Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent

Most people in the digital industry struggle to co-relate recruitment services with start-ups: tight cash flow, founders who view their start-up akin to a newborn baby, and an ever changing list of staffing needs.

For most start-ups, the recruitment and retention piece is a nightmare. Speaking to start-up founders, I often hear that finding the right talent, retaining them from poachers, and motivating and managing their unique personality to thrive within a start-up is a delicate balance and one of the greatest concerns in scaling businesses. Many note that if that piece could be taken off their hands and managed by a pro, they could get on with their true passion and get back to the why behind the business.

What many start-up founders don’t realise is that recruiters who are passionate about the industry also want to buy into that journey. They are flexible on fees, services and are happy to provide support and advice if they know they will be a valued recruitment partner in the future when the business has grown and paying recruitment fees becomes a price worth paying for the very best, hard to find talent.

Most start-ups are looking for a different perspective, and only need a few pointers on how they can recruit the right talent at the right time. My top five tips to help start-ups access the best digital talent are as follows:

  1. Build your employer brand. Why would a digital professional earning a lucrative salary in a stable company risk a start-up? Convey the vision, the values and culture of your start-up to lure the best talent. Money isn’t everything if you can provide an unforgettable career experience. Most start-up founders are busy building their start-up and forget about branding. It might seem trivial at the time to share photos of your team behind the scenes but if it means you can attract like minded and talented professionals to your company, then it could be a worthy investment of your time.
  2. Talk about your current and future skill needs where possible. By throwing the feelers out for your future skill needs, you are more likely to benefit from partner referrals, and start a timely conversation with the right candidate.
  3. Consider using ethical outsourcing options. One of our partners, Women in Digital Bangladesh has an offshore agency of female testers and developers in Bangladesh that have been recruited from high school and university, and given the opportunity to up-skill and build a career in the digital field. It will not only be cheaper to meet your technical talent needs, you will also be providing support to a social enterprise that is changing lives.
  4. Show clear opportunities for progression with the company. The idea of joining a high potential start-up is exciting. What’s less exciting and more demoralising is joining a company where you feel overworked or over stretched. As frequently as I hear entrepreneurs and start-up founders talk about the great opportunities they provide their junior or mid-weight staff for growth and autonomy, I simultaneously hear complaints of being overworked, over stretched and feeling out their depth. Going to work and lacking confidence in your abilities is extremely stressful. This is the inevitable result of putting someone in over their head and expecting them to figure it out. If you’ve got a strong professional network, don’t be afraid to facilitate mentoring relationships so that your junior and mid-level staff can stretch themselves with the support and guidance they need to maintain confidence and keep kicking goals. If you don’t have a strong network, consider internal staff, or reach out to an organisation like Hunt & Co. that can facilitate this pairing.
  5. Hire for attitude, not ability. Tenacity, loyalty and passion will go much further than an immaculate resume and blue chip experience. There are many untapped student associations, or individuals who want to take their transferrable skills and apply it to your start-up if only they had the chance.
  6. And finally don’t forget to provide as much structure, guidance and clarity around the daily, weekly and annual goals which are set to change in a start-up. Having worked in one myself, I know how demoralising it can be to have your last three weeks of work considered collateral damage in a change of approach. We all want to know our work is contributing, and if it’s not, why not. For start-up founders who are generally 100 steps ahead of everyone else in the team, it takes practice and conscientiousness to communicate where your heads at, but in my experience it is critical to ensure you keep your staff engaged and motivated.

If you need any more tips or advice on how to take your start-up to a scale-up, or how to engage and motivate your staff, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Hunt & Co. We’d love to be a part of your start-up journey and be a recruitment partner from the start. Just like candidates who join your start-up, sometimes it’s about more than the money.


Recruitment Strategies