So You Want to Recruit for Startup? Here are Five Things You Need to Know

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Aug 25, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Many recruiters are excited to have startups as clients. It is the adventure and attraction to candidates that seems to lure recruiters. It’s the “wow” factor of, I use this product every day, or I could see myself using this product, that is very appealing. This is an uncharted territory for a lot of staffing agencies and independent recruiters who have only worked with large clients. There is a lot of risk in helping a startup but there are also a lot of rewards. Here are the five things you need to know:

  1. Expect the unconventional. Startups behave differently than mature organizations because they are very new. They may not have many processes in place or even a designated recruiter on staff. The founders may be doing the recruiting themselves. They may not have an ATS or VMS system. You may work in an environment where you are using Google Apps, like Google Docs and Google Sheets, to manage the candidates you send over to them. Be prepared for unique requests in job descriptions such as two skills that are not commonly found in one person. If you are not open to working in bare bone conditions than recruiting for a startup may not be for you.
  2. Expect a long hiring process. Unlike larger organizations, most startups don’t have a large budget and a bad hire can do a tremendous harm to their business. They don’t have the budget or the time for hiring mistakes. Testing is very common in technology startups. Often, a startup will require a candidate to take a technical test before they even have a round one interview over the phone. In most cases, expect at least three rounds of interview. It would be a good idea to nail down the process with the company you are working with in order to prepare your candidates. Candidate preparation is extremely important and candidates may get anxious with the process. It is best to hand hold them through the entire hiring process.
  3. Know the startup stages and what is means for the hiring process: A great book to read is “The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company” by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. While you are not a founder, you do serve as an advisor in some capacity. Get close to the people you are working with and understand their challenges. It is only then you are able to serve them better. Once you are able to empathize with them, they will respect you more. Provide them great advice that is in their best interest and help them hire the right candidates.
  4. Know the company and its products and projects. It will be easier for you to recruit candidates if you know everything there is to know about the company you are recruiting for. Ask a lot of questions and go into details about the project. Don’t assume you know what they are looking for the moment you get the job description. Ask questions like “Is there anything outside of the job description I should know?” For example, a hiring manager may want to source from a competitor or similar organization or they may want to avoid certain types of skills or domain knowledge. Also ask, “for what project is the position for and the technical details?” You will impress your candidates with these details. You will be able to answer most of their questions. Get excited about what the company is doing and be able to speak out it when you are recruiting.
  5. Culture is important. This is clichéd often in many discussions. When you are sourcing candidates, make sure they are genuine about their enthusiasm. Startups can be like roller coasters and passion is a requirement. Flexibility is extremely important. Candidates should be willing to take on multiple roles and projects. If you get the sense that the candidate is not a team player, then don’t present them. If you want to understand the company culture, know the founders of the company and their core beliefs. Understand parts of the culture that are not found in other companies. Understand the selling points and the personalities that work in the environment.
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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