Startup Recruiting Part 1: The Essentials

July 27, 2020

Welcome to the first in a series of posts related to talent acquisition for startup companies. Why this particular focus? Because it’s an issue we continually hear about at Upsider when talking to startup and venture-backed, high-growth organizations – “We’ve established our company, we’ve started an upswing in growth, time to hire, but it’s hard to find, sign, and onboard talent”.  This is a critical issue for any small company beginning to expand staff.  And can absolutely be the difference between success and failure.

Making matters worse is the state of the hiring market – fantastic if you’re looking for a job, tough if you’re hiring. According to Alexander Acosta, US Secretary of Labor, “Never before have we had an economy where the number of jobs exceeds the number of job seekers(1)”. As a growing startup, you need to be prepared to battle companies big and small for talent. In fact, according to Dr. John Sullivan, HR thought-leader, “the competition for talent is so high these days, that if you don’t hire extremely fast, quality candidates who apply at your firm will be gone within days because they have accepted another offer from a firm that acted faster”(2).

“…(there is) a hiring crisis so severe that it is crippling startups’ abilities to get products built on time, and starving them of the talent they need to market and sell those products.”

David Skok

Recruiting – an Evolving Discipline

What’s the answer then?  To prepare for that hiring battle, you need solid execution on all phases of recruiting to find and keep great employees. And to do that, you need to embrace industry best practices and technologies across all recruiting disciplines to ensure success.  

Hiring and retention isn’t a simple process.  Here is a list of recruiting specialties that a startup organization needs to become proficient at:

  • Sourcing – where do you quickly find candidates that meet the job requirements
  • Messaging – how do you get qualified candidates interested in your job opening
  • Nurturing – smart ways to get qualified candidates to apply
  • Interviewing – does the candidate have the right skills, and do they “fit” with the team
  • Skills Assessment – can they do what they say they can
  • Background Checks – are they who they say they are
  • Compensation/Closing – is your offer competitive enough to close the deal
  • Employee Engagement – what is your plan for onboarding successfully
  • Retention – how can you prevent turnover in this competitive job market

Within each discipline exists proven techniques and emerging tools that you can leverage to improve your hiring performance. As an example, look at interviewing. According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, five techniques have come on the scene to improve the classic interviewing model:

  • Online soft skills assessments measure traits like teamwork and curiosity and give a more holistic picture of candidates earlier in the process.
  • Job auditions, where companies pay candidates to do real work so that they can observe skills in action.
  • Casual interviews that typically take place over a meal and can offer a unique look into candidate character.
  • Virtual reality, in which companies immerse candidates in simulated 3-D environments to test their skills in a standardized way.
  • Video interviews that can be recorded or live and help by tapping a broader talent pool in far less time.(4)

Are these relevant or even possible in your startup environment? Maybe not all, but some should at least be considered. Instead of just doing phone screens, for example, perhaps you could do a skills assessment or job tryout. There’s hiring fast, and there is hiring the right person. It’s a balance, and the more you can do to drive both sides of the equation, the more successful your company will be.

Artificial Intelligence and Recruiting

Interestingly, in the LinkedIn report, one of the key recruiting trends is related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on recruiting. When asked where AI is most helpful in recruiting, the highest response was in “sourcing candidates” at 58%.4   Upsider’s Intelligent Sourcing System (ISS)enables recruiters to find and engage a comprehensive pool of high-value candidates quickly and efficiently by applying AI techniques to the traditionally manual process. For more on this, we’ll do a deep dive on the impact of AI when we get to the sourcing for startups blog post, but in the meantime, if you would like to find out more information on how Upsider’s ISS is disrupting and revolutionizing recruiting, here are two links:

Bottom Line

Now means now. In a startup’s growth, talent acquisition can be the critical driving factor for success. But it’s not business as usual on recruiting. It is vital for a startup to embrace the latest in tools and technologies to drive their recruiting processes. There has never been a tighter job market for employers, and time is of the essence. Startups must prepare for a maximum effort to meet their hiring goals. Upsider will continue to provide information in our upcoming posts that focus on this critical aspect of a startup’s life.

In future posts, we will dive deeper into each of the recruiting disciplines and provide some insights from our Upsider experience, highlight key industry learnings and best practices, identify innovative new technologies coming to bear on recruiting, and point to online resources that will help startups meet today’s hiring challenges.

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  1. Note: From “More Jobs Than Seekers in US: Labor Department”, posted by Staffing Industry Analysts | June 6, 2018
  2. Note. From “These Speed-of-Hire Metrics Will Convince Your Managers to Hire Faster,” posted by ERE | October 22, 2018
  3. Note. From “Global Workforce Trends,” published by Allegis Group | September 20, 2018
  4. Note. From “Global Recruiting Trends 2018,” published by LinkedIn | Q1, 2018

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Thoughts on recruiting strategy, data, automation, Artificial Intelligence, and best practices.

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