Duke University Research: Startup Hiring Strategy

August 31, 2020

We recently spoke with Professor Sharique Hasan and Professor Ines Black from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, who both focus their research on corporate strategy, and are co-authors of recently published research titled Hunting for Talent: Firm-Driven Labor Market Search in America. This report analyzes the changing dynamics of how companies and potential employees find and engage with each other. In the Q&A, we unpacked the learnings and best practices from the research. 

During our chat, we asked Ines how a CEO of an early stage, high growth startup with limited resources should approach the situation based on her research.

Here’s what she had to say:

“There are two important things here: rapid growth and time. Rapid growth, which is itself a challenge to manage, and time, which is behind all of the decisions between inbound and outbound recruiting. Because of this, proactive hunting for talent is a better option, precisely because they can’t wait for the right candidate to apply. This is incredibly important since you’re growing from 25 to 100 employees, which is a huge growth rate. Due to time, high growth momentum and the fact that their company doesn’t have an employment brand, it would be hard to hire without hunting and being proactive.” 

“The energy should be focused on existing employee networks, but also outsourcing some recruiter work since they won’t have enough resources to cover internally. In order to make a leap, you’re going to have to hunt for talent. One of the things that piles onto the potential lack of diversity or lack of risk taking is the time crunch. I don’t want to wait a long time for a new hire, so I put that pressure on my recruiter, so my recruiter is going to go for the obvious choice for this or that college or this or that location.”

“There is a lot to be said for being more tolerant on how long it takes to get to the right person, it will save you money and time in the future. There’s some evidence that companies that grow this fast, they have an issue with mid-level management positions. They tend to rotate too much and some of them end up having a huge gap between people who are executing the operations and people who are doing strategy. Make sure to be mindful about growing quickly, but not so quickly that it will compromise your growth in the future.”

The moral of the story based on Professor Black's research is startups need to be proactive in their approach to talent. Developing a strong recruiting strategy from day one will create a powerful channel of growth as a business scales. 

To learn more, download the research at Hunting for Talent: Firm-Driven Labor Market Search in America.

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