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7 ways startups can hack hiring

By November 7, 2016Article

If you’re building a startup right now, there’s a painful reality you may be waking up to. Hiring is really hard. Especially right now. The U.S. has the most unfilled jobs in its history, and jobs in the tech startup space tend to be especially difficult to fill. 

If your startup can’t hire the right people, it’ll never get off the ground. If it hires the best, you’ll really blast off. 

So what can you do to get the best people in this tough hiring climate? Here are seven tips that’ll make it much easier. 

1. Create killer job ads 

Spend a few minutes on any job board reading the job postings companies write. It’s a great way to put yourself to sleep at night. Even for the jobs that are most in demand, like data scientists, you’ll see posting after posting titled “data scientist” with 20 bullet points of demands from the employer. 

Top-notch candidates aren’t looking to see if they can meet your demands. They want to see if you’re the kind of company that can take them even further. 

The next time you write a job posting, throw out the job description and the list of qualifications. Instead, write it so that every word is focused on why your ideal candidate should want to work at your company. Tell them about interesting projects, clients, the great people they’ll be working with, advancement opportunities, how cool your office is, etc. 

Of course, you’ll want to put in a few requirements so you don’t get a pile of unqualified people. Keep these to a minimum – the things that are absolutely required. 

You’ll be surprised at the results you’ll get from just doing this one thing. 

2. Post to niche job boards 

Niche job boards have really proliferated. Do a Google search for “zookeeper job board” and you’ll see what I mean. 

There are job boards for remote workers, specific types of software developers, copywriters, you name it. Try posting your jobs to these to reach the right audience. 

3. Hire a remote freelancer 

Can’t afford one of the positions you need? Not sure if you’re ready to make a full time hire commitment? Try hiring freelancers. Websites like Upwork make it exceedingly easy. With freelancers, you can try people out; and if the person works and it turns out you can afford the position, you can eventually bring them on full time. 

You can also easily ramp work up and down as needed and try out multiple people for the job before settling. You’ll find that sites such as Upwork have an amazing array of talent for hire too. 

It’s now estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancers. So this isn’t just a novel idea, it’s a wave your company should be riding. 

4. Study your hiring competition 

This doesn’t necessarily mean companies that are competing with your product or service. It’s anyone who’s hiring for the same positions that you are. 

One way to study them is by going to Glassdoor and searching for the position with no location set. You’ll see all the companies hiring for this role, and you can also read what their employees like and don’t like about them. Knowing this can help you decide what kinds of benefits you should offer and how you can differentiate your company. 

You can also search for the company name and position in Google to see what job boards competitors are hiring on, and what they’re including in their job descriptions. 

5. Get involved in the community 

Make a name for yourself among the type of people you’ll be hiring. 

Go to meetups, write blogs about how your team solved specific problems, and answer questions on sites like Quora. 

You can also find niche job boards that pertain to the positions. Go to Google and try this search: intitle:forum [position name]. So, if you need to hire a data scientist, your search will look like this “intitle:forum data scientist.” This will give you forums where people who work as data scientists, or are interested in the job, typically go. Get involved in the community; better yet, if you employ people in that position, encourage them to get involved. 

Ideally, you’ll develop relationships with the people you need before you hire them and make a name for your company in the community. 

6. Get creative with your job offers 

If you’re a startup, and especially if you’re bootstrapping, there’s no way you can compete with the Googles and Apples of the world in terms of salary. 

But there may be other things you can offer that they can’t or won’t. 

The opportunity to work remotely, to have flexible hours, a shorter work week … there are plenty of people who would trade in money to have a better lifestyle. 

Knowing what the trends are from doing steps 4 and 5 will give you a much better idea of what you can offer. For instance, if everyone is complaining about lack of paid time off, maybe you can throw a little more time off into your offer. 

7. Be faster on the draw 

Although the hiring process drags on for most companies, the best employees come off the market quickly. If you can get to them faster, you might have a chance to beat the competition. 

Set up a special email for the position and an auto-responder that sends them some quick screening questions within a few minutes of their signup. 

If you see a promising candidate, try to get to the candidate on the phone as quickly as possible for a short screening interview. Use a service like Calendly to help scheduling go quick, without having to play phone tag. 

If you find a particularly great candidate, set up an interview with the highest-ranking person at your company as quickly as possible. If you can get the candidate in an interview with the CEO or a co-founder within a few days of applying, it should make a great impression and help get the candidate off the market before the competition has even noticed the person. 

I know, if you’re running a startup you have a lot on your plate. But hiring is most definitely not the place to skimp. Your team, above all else, is what will determine the success of your startup. Get the right people, and you’ll have the rocket fuel that’ll propel you forward. 

Adam Seabrook is co-founder of Betterteam. Before Betterteam, Adam spent 10 years recruiting for companies such as Google, Atlassian, Dell, Symantec, Coca-Cola, BigCommerce, and Oracle. He lives in Sydney, Australia. Follow him on Twitter. 








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