Startups’ Top Sources for Hiring Talent

By | May 26, 2015

Hiring the right team for a startup is no easy task. Caution and care has to be taken to recruit people into the new company. For big companies like Amazon or Google, the resumes that pour in are endless for the attractive pay and the reputation of the companies. But it is not so for startups. At the early stages the resources are tight. Startup would not be able to provide fancy privileges that the big companies offer. Also there would be no set of jobs, where the employees would have to do a bit of everything. So attracting the right candidates itself would be difficult. However, the company would demand exceptional candidates, who would work for the betterment of the new business.

There are talented people who are willing to work for startups as the smaller businesses are less bureaucratic and employees have more scope and range in their jobs. Also, in startups the hierarchy would be smaller and the leaders would tend to have closer relationships with employees. But the task is to find the right place to be tapped into to find the right individuals. Since most of the startups do not have specific recruitment strategy, it can adopt its own style to recruit individuals. There are some common sources where the startups look into for hiring their team. Let’s look at the top common sources of recruitment for startup discussed below:


One of the best bet for finding the right individuals is through networking. An entrepreneur can request for referrals from his/her friends, industry colleagues and advisers like accountant, attorney, board members and organization members. When somebody refers a person, it just means they have done part of the employee screening task already. An entrepreneur attending association events would allow him to network with potential candidates and can lead to valuable introduction of may worthy individuals. With social networking sites in our hands, networking is much more simple than one could think of. This is a common source of recruitment and most of the first 10 to 15 employees are hired in this way.

social network - people and speech bubbles

social network – people and speech bubbles

2.Recruitment Agency and Headhunters:
There are various good recruitment firms who provide the valuable service of searching for the right candidates on the behalf of the startup. The recruitment firms can make use of their connections and expertise and source out the right individuals. It not only save the time of the entrepreneur but also get access to the strong pool of candidates. However, this service does come with a price, so it is important to choose the right firm that have strong track records and references. There are some startups that prefer to work with more holistic human resource service to guide recruitment as well as other aspects of HR. These firms usually charge a fee for the service done, based on the time and effort involved.

3.Hacker News:
Hacker News is a website of Y Combinator that works as a big community of individuals who share the common interest on technology and startups. Apart from the discussion forums that deals with the events in the industry and the trends, there are forums and threads that targets on hiring and people looking for jobs. As on 2013, the Hacker News got around 200,000 unique visitors on any given weekday and the number is expected to be doubled by now. This website not only allows the Y Combinator funded companies but also the non-Y Combinator can post jobs in the thread for no charge. The social news site for the programmers and entrepreneurs open the pathway to the other companies on the first of every month. Startups can quickly spot active candidates by visiting Hacker News thread – Ask HN: Who wants to Be Hired?. The candidates can post their skill set, the type of position there are looking for, location along with their contact details. Startups can look into the thread and pick out the candidates that fit their requirements.

4.Technical Contests:
Many startups use external contests to rope in individuals who are not in the job market. This works out in most cases because the individuals who enjoy challenges would be ready to demonstrate their skills in the internet contests. But it is in the hands of the company to create a compelling technical contest that would attract the right set of target audience. Through such contests, the startup would not only get solution to the contest problem but may get many valuable and quality individuals among the individuals and the winners. This strategy is common among the startups of the Silicon Valley as they compete against the likes of big tech companies to attract and hire coveted and talented individuals. SeakGeek, a startup in the Silicon Valley, has been using this technique to hire, engineers and non-engineers like communications director, sales director etc. One of its challenge for prospective engineers was to hack its site to submit their resume in the shortest time possible. The company says the contest worked so well and they received more than 100 high-qualified applicants.

It is a well-known fact that AngelList is a fundraising platform. But it is also a hiring platform. Any startup can browse candidates and select the people they would like to communicate with. If the individuals show interest in the startup they would be connected via email. AngelList talent portal is a one-stop shop where startups can hunt for qualified tech talent and where the qualified individuals look out for new companies. The main goal of the portal is to eliminate recruiters out of the hiring process and directly connect startups, who are open about the benefits of the job opening and the potential candidates in the market. The startups are even open about their offerings. It has become a quality platform to seek for worthy and talented human resource. This portal or hiring services was launched in 2012 and it has been hot spot for recruitment since then.

6.Corporate Websites:
The website of the startup is a good source to attract for potential candidates. The website itself can act as a notice board to display the openings in the company. The clients of the company who may visit the site often can notice the openings and refer others or the potential talents who are interested in the working of the company can directly apply to the openings of the company through the website. This is a very cost-effective methods in comparison to the other methods and does not involve any middlemen in the process. However, this method has its own drawbacks. If the startup is not very popular one or its brand is not know, the reach of the website or the job openings would be very limited. This method is somewhat passive when compared with the other recruitment tools.

7.Employees’ Referral:
The current employees are not the end of the pipe themselves, rather there are high chances they can be a great network one can leverage. They would have a good network through the people they worked with in the previous companies. They can put the entrepreneurs to the people who are currently job hunting. Encouraging referrals permit one to leverage employees network of people in relevant jobs in the relevant industries. Employee refers only those they may consider to be an asset for the company as their own-reputation is on line when they refer someone. Companies also give referral bonus when someone they referred is hired in the company. This makes employee referrals a rich source of potential candidates.

8.Campus recruitment:
Though not many startups would have sufficient resources to recruit at college career centers, speaking to student groups and technical classes may end up productive. Getting grad assistants to help in identifying the potential candidates can be powerful. Through the campus recruitment the startups can lookout for talent on a small budget and college students who are eager to gain some experience and make some money are connected together. The recent increase in the entrepreneurship has given way to more and more colleges and curriculum to make the students entrepreneurially-ready. The top academic powerhouses like Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon University and many more host such courses for the students. Getting in touch with the universities career office would put the startup through the specialized academic department.


9.Other Startups:
Asking to other startup can be one of the good way to identify the talent, unless they are not competing in the same market. Apart from identifying the talent, it can also give way to strategic partnerships and other potential collaborations. The startups could be aware of some talent human resource in the market or could give suggestions and recommendations where to look out for them. Targeting a sinking startup might also help, especially on the day when the bad news has been announced. There are various groups like Pittsburg Technology Council who mainly target to help and provide assistance for the success of the local tech companies. Such organizations and startups can be of great help to connect with other sources and entrepreneurs at the time of need. Though it is similar to networking, the search is more of limited or specific to one point.

If the startup has grown to a point where it has customers, they can be targeted for the recruits or as referrals sources. Customers come to a company for the interest in the product the company markets, so there are high chances of having customers who are most likely to share common interest and passion for what the startup is dealing with. This might make them a best source to hire. If the startup has a beta product, it is wise to ask the main customer to become the beta testers, not only for the knowledge and feedback but would also help in building good potential recruitment relationship with the customers.

Recruiting for a startup is like selecting players for a sports team. Recruiting the top talent is the key to winning. A startup cannot develop or grow with fruitful rewards without recruiting. Recruiting the right team would help in reducing the time and money spent in coaching or training them and would contribute much more than expectation to the company. If the right team get the right tools, becoming like big companies like Microsoft or Facebook would not be a long way.