Recruitment tips for startups

I am looking now for a job and taking the opportunity to learn how each company tries to get candidates. I will share what I have learnt so far just in case you are in the process of growing your team.

Show some passion

Founders usually create startups because they want to solve problems that passionate them. Try to show some passion about what you do or how you want to help your customers, or candidates will see the company as another that just wants to make money.

Show how you work

Some companies don’t make exciting products but the team and culture are so good that make people enjoy a lot working for them. Do you have a relaxed or dynamic environment, serious or fun, offer stability or constant changes, do team activities regularly or each one is very independent…? Each candidate may feel attracted by something different. Ask yourself these questions and try to show it in blog posts or videos. And please don’t try to oversell, people will notice it.

Always the truth

I have heard many developers complaining because they joined a company and left after a few months because the technologies and culture were different to what was described in the job spec or during the interview. Recruiting and onboarding are investments that require time, effort and money and there is no point on doing them if people are going to leave.

Focus on what you really want

Some specs include so many things or are so messy that after a few minutes we still don’t even know what the company does. And others are overwhelming with dozens of requirements and technologies that are not relevant for the day to day work. It is better to focus on what the company really needs, set some realistic expectations and differentiate what the employees do on a daily basis and what they can learn while working there.

Don’t change the company strategy just to attract talent

Some companies start using new languages or technologies just because they are trendy. Yes, they may attract more candidates, but maybe not the ones they really need. Those who are just interested in a trend may leave the company as soon as they see other company that has a more shiny tool, and may leave behind a mess that other people will struggle to maintain. And these companies may probably miss other more stable professionals that are happy with the technologies they are specialised in and don’t want to have to learn something new every few months just because a big company uses it.

Focus on the attitude

Skills can be learned, attitude no. Good leaders can show their vision and try to motivate, but employees should have the willingness to work towards it. Unmotivated professionals will not only have a low performance but may also affect those who surround them. You could ask in the interviews what motivates them, what they liked most or least of the previous role, what they want to do in the future… And try to dig in it to see if it is real or just an answer they prepared in advance.

Think on the career path

Some employees stay many years in a company without improving much their skills because they have been doing all the time the same. Think how can you discover their potential and help them to gain new skills and get a better position in the company. This way they will influence others with what they have learnt.

Treat the employees and users well

Last but not least important. Some companies are so focused on the revenue that they forget that they are working with persons. They try to optimise costs externalising services or pushing people to work harder and don’t realise how this affects the quality of the service or the work environment. At the beginning it may work but it eventually backfires when the reviews on the Internet makes them look unappealing for both candidates and prospects. Thinking in the long term usually pays off.

I hope these tips help in the search for talent in cities as competitive as London. If you have questions or ideas please share them in the comments and I will try to reply soon.

Rafael Borrego

Software engineer specialised in working for startups and helping them grow.

Disclaimer: the posts are based on my own experience and may not reflect the views of my current or any previous employer

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