Whether you're an early-stage, bootstrapped founder or a startup with a small talent team, you need to know how to recruit top talent efficiently and effectively. As the Head of Talent at RocketSpace, I've seen many founders flounder when it comes to building their teams—and I've helped many of those same founders develop strategies for scoring their next great hire. In my experience, here are two lost-cost, high-reward strategies that cash-strapped founders simply cannot afford to skip when seeking top talent.
1. Perfect Your Pitch
If you want to appeal to the best of the best, you need to have an efficient and eloquent way of pitching not only your organization but also—and more importantly—the role you are seeking to fill. How will this role play a huge part in the company and the story it is writing? It's great that you have some amazing, earth-shattering new technology that's disrupting the space-time continuum, but prospective hires want to know what it will mean for them.
Developing your employee value proposition (EVP) is critical to reaching top talent. Here's why: The best talent out there are those passive candidates who have their heads down crushing a project or a deadline at another organization. They're too busy or valued within their company to be actively thinking about other opportunities, let alone applying for them. But those are exactly the people you need to be tapping on the shoulder. If you lack a solid EVP, it's highly unlikely they'll even want to start a conversation with you.
When it comes to developing a pitch for your job, the best way to do this is to use the job description as a starting point. If you have not written the job description yet, you simply must do that first. If you're a hiring manager or a founder who is working at a lean, fast-moving startup, you're probably thinking, "We're a startup, we don't have time to write a job description, we're moving too fast!"
That thinking is short-sighted. This relatively small effort can save you lots of time and headaches later on. That's because a well-thought-out job description will allow you to:
- Attract and hire the right person for the position and your organizational culture
- Hold your new hire accountable for the "job" they were hired for
- Create and develop their objectives and key results (OKRs) or key performance indicators ( KPIs)
- Have your existing team understand the new hire's purpose and how it ties into what they're doing.
- Develop an amazing EVP to use when pitching potential candidates.
The job description should be the starting point in any conversation about adding on new talent. It is a great way to truly understand the ROI of a new role and how it ties into your organization's overall strategy and the milestones you're trying to hit. Once you understand all this, the EVP for this role becomes crystal clear. Your story should be so compelling now that the right person for the job would have a hard time saying "no."
2. Leverage Your Referral Network
Once you have a compelling EVP and a strong company pitch, your next task is to find the right audience. And the best way to do this is by leveraging your referral network.
This one is obvious, I know, but hear me out. Many founders are already doing this to some extent, and some are doing an amazing job of it. But many are not. The biggest reason they give for not going all-in on leveraging their referral network: They don't have the time to be a full-time recruiter because they're trying to build their organization and need to concentrate on more important aspects of the business just to keep the lights on.
But this is such a critical part of a growing your business that you can't afford not to concentrate it.
My opinion on this may be a bit biased because of what I do for a living, so I offer up the following data—the stats don't lie:
- New hires sourced via referral programs produce 25 percent more profit for their companies than new hires sourced via other means
- Companies who use employee referral programs have average retention rates of 46 percent, compared to the 33 percent retention rates of organizations that only use career sites
- Referral programs can save organizations $3,000 or more per hire
Think of this as an investment in your business as opposed to a time suck. Set up a schedule and strategy for when and how you will invest the time into pursuing your referral network—and then hold yourself to it. It will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
When leveraging your referral network, it helps to think multiple degrees out, Kevin Bacon-style. Don't just think of the people you've worked with in the past—think also about who they've worked with, who they know, and who those people know.
While this may seem obvious, the best strategies for doing this may not be. Instead of simply posting on LinkedIn and other social networks, identify the people in those social networks who you might want to talk to. Sourcing directly is a great strategy, and LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all excellent ways to identify and connect with those people who may be several degrees removed from you—and who may not have even seen your post in the first place. Once you have identified some people you would like to talk with, ask for an introduction through your network.
If this sounds like too much work and you're willing and able to spend some money on a platform, there are some great tools out there that will help you leverage many different existing networks simultaneously in a more streamlined manner. One tool that I have been using for this is Teamable, which leverages not only your network but also your employees' networks in every social platform—and then delivers them all to you in one place. Teamable doesn't just compile a list of existing contacts—it also helps identify potential referrals. Pretty slick.
When we implemented this at RocketSpace, I instantly got access to more than 72,000 potential candidates by having all of my employees link their connections to the platform.
If you already have a team of people and want to leverage their contacts without constantly asking them for referrals, Teamable is a great tool to use to cast a much wider and more referenced “net" into the sea of potential candidates.
While Teamable has worked well for me, there may be other tools that are a better fit for your company. Whatever the tool, look for one that will help you save time and money by curating your contacts and social platforms into one simple view so you can easily identify the right talent from a huge existing pool.
Recruiting top talent is critical to the success of any company—especially a small startup. Fortunately, you don't need a big budget to reach the best people. When building your outreach strategy, investing some time and thought upfront can have a huge payoff in the long-term. So bite the bullet and do the work.