5 Pro Startup Recruiting Tips to Attract Talent

Six months ago I walked into the most unusual startup recruiting event of my life. A startup decidedly held their preliminary interviews at an Escape Room in Barcelona. Yep, you heard right.

Not only did Tradler receive loads of press for the event, but they also met me, and here I am, six months later still working with them.

In short, in a move that cost them €10 in metro passes, they grew their brand and also their team. Not to mention, they did it in a way that stayed true to their mission by proving the power of proactively engaging potential employees, a publicity gold mine.

To spark more ideas regarding how you too can attract talent for your startup, I sat down with Estelle Roux, owner of HR consultancy, Stellar People, and mentor at Startupbootcamp Smart City and IoT Amsterdam.

5 Startup Recruiting Tips

Estelle specializes in helping startups properly scale. She ensures their startup recruiting strategy is congruent with their business strategy. We hope the startup recruiting tips below help you hire smart, so your startup can scale right.

1. Be Proactive in Implementing a Scalable Startup Recruitment Plan

One of the biggest problems with the recruitment process within startups from Estelle’s experience is that for far too many, there is no recruitment plan. One of the most important startup recruiting tips is to draft a plan.

Startup Recruiting Tips

Startups spend months getting the sales process just right and developing a marketing plan. However, rarely do they take the time to develop a clear plan for how they are going to attract the right people to help make their vision a reality.

“If you do not have a plan to attract talent, you will never attract the right talent,” says Estelle.

Your recruitment plan is essentially where you build your company’s DNA. It should demonstrate your values and mission. It should also provide a crystal clear profile on the type of people you want on the bus with you.

How to Build Your Startup Recruiting Strategy

According to Estelle, your startup recruiting plan should consist of four parts:

  1. Clearly defined roadmap – why, when, where and how to move forward with recruitment.
  2. A mission statement for each role – to help attract candidates who are truly aligned to your business vision.
  3. Detailed job description – including KPIs and a clear understanding of what is required of the role and how it contributes to the business.
  4. Realistic and clear interview process – candidate should be aware of what to expect through the entire experience.

Combine these four steps and there will be no surprises for both you and the candidates.

2. Hire for Attitude Then Experience

The much sought after unicorn candidate all startups are looking for is hard to come by. Experienced candidates may get enticed with the growth opportunities that come with working with the “new kid on the block.” However, with experience comes expectations, and more often than not, these expectations are financial.

In order to combat this, Estelle recommends hiring for attitude, then experience. This is hard to do with only a resumé so this is where the importance of having a recruitment plan is vital.

“Hard skills are of course important and should be confirmed and tested,” says Estelle. Going on to add, “However, during the interview, you should also consistently measure the candidate’s attitude and motivations towards the role and the company.”

3. Test for Attitude

In 2018 candidates should be well versed in answering questions like, “What is your greatest strength and why?”, “What motivates you?” and “What about this role interests you most, and why?” So what Estelle recommends is digging deeper to see how adaptable candidates are to thinking on their feet. Ask recruiting questions like:

“If you were made the manager in your last position, what would you have changed?”

“Can you demonstrate a time you used skills that fell outside of your job description to complete a project?

“Three years from today, what has to happen for you to feel fulfilled both personally and professionally?”

From Estelle’s experience, these types of questions will give you an idea of how innovative candidates are, while also sharing with you their values. Both of these are important for startups as a cultural fit and the ability to wear different hats is key.

4. Define a Great Candidates Experience

Having a clear recruitment plan and asking questions to identify attitude is a good start. However, Estelle also encourages teams to not stop there. Startups must also be proactive during the entire recruitment process to keep candidates engaged. She divulges:

“We are currently in a candidate driven market and candidates are spoiled for choice. The companies that are keeping up with their growth plans are the ones who keep this in mind and build their hiring and recruitment process around this fact.”

5. Keep Quality Candidates Engaged

According to Estelle, when it comes to engagement, don’t reinvent the wheel, instead, stay in the driver’s seat. Estelle explains this is one of the most commonly overlooked startup recruiting tips:

“Candidates do not want to be surprised during the process. No one likes to be continually asked to meet with just one more person or complete just one more test. However, what candidates do appreciate is being given clear expectations and to feel fairly considered.”

In addition to providing candidates with a detailed description of what they can expect during the interview process, and sticking to it, Estelle also suggests engaging candidates by building “Get to know the team days” into the recruitment process.

Getting to know the team can consist of simply inviting candidates for an informal lunch with the people they will be working with so they can learn first hand the company culture and team dynamic. Or by offering “Shadow Days,” so candidates can experience what the average day feels like at your startup.

Keep Your Startup Recruiting Proactive

One of the most important startup recruiting tips Estelle emphasizes is to be “proactive.” This does not mean you have to go so far as Tradler did to attract candidates.

However, it does mean you have to get proactive with getting a plan down, learning how to interview for attitude, and engaging the candidates from the moment they come onto your radar to make them feel valued.

Michael Thompson is the communication lead at Tradler, a software solution that increases employee engagement, and a freelance writer specializing in helping “Startups” become “Stayups.” He currently resides in small town Catalunya and his work has been shared by Fast Company, INC and Thrive Global.

  • Originally published October 16, 2018, updated April 26, 2023