Finding people who want to work for your startup should be easy.
Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have transformed the general perception of joining a startup in recent years. What was once seen as a risky move is now seen as a promising opportunity by recent graduates and veteran workers alike.
As Daniel Gulati, co-author of Passion & Purpose recently told the Harvard Business Review: "Startups are no longer niche; they have gone mainstream."
With that said, finding the right person to work for your startup isn't always easy. Despite access to a large pool of enthusiastic candidates, founders often find themselves facing three dilemmas:
- Good applicants who aren't a culture fit for a fast-paced startup (where people don't just work from 9 to 5, Monday - Friday).
- A limited budget that makes you more risk-averse to hiring the wrong person.
- Inability to attract top talent who feel more comfortable working for established companies with proven tech.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, there will be more than 1 million unfilled programming jobs by 2020. Furthermore, in order to attract investors and scale fast, tech startups need a different level of commitment from team members than "normal" companies.
The ideal startup employee has an entrepreneurial mindset, enjoys managing several different projects at once, and thrives in an autonomous work environment. Finding this person is both a matter of casting a wider net in some very specific places, and going "above and beyond" to determine ideal fit during the interview process to avoid costly churn later.
In this article, we'll outline ways that startup founders can broaden the search for top tech talent to uncover the best of the best. Let's get started.
How to Find The Best Team Members For Your Tech Startup
1. Make Sure the Time Is Right
Knowing when to take on a new team member (or several) is perhaps one of the trickiest decisions a founder will ever have to make. That's because there is no specific formula for determining whether or not that person will add to your bottom line or take away from it.
Hire your new marketing director too soon, and you might have to turn around and fire them two months later due to lack of cash flow. Wait too long to hire, and you'll risk stagnating.
Over the years, we have seen many founders prematurely embark upon major hiring sprees. After constantly forecasting future growth during the fundraising process, founders are often more prone to view the proverbial glass half-full.
However, as every entrepreneur eventually learns, there is sometimes a huge chasm between projected growth and current reality. Avoid immediately filling your organizational chart too soon, and unnecessarily siphoning off cash. Instead, commit to hiring only when it becomes clear that one person can no longer do the job of several and you are reasonably confident this person will help increase profits.
2. Avoid Traditional Job Boards
Though there are always exceptions, you most likely won't find your tech-star on Monster or Indeed. Why?
Tech startup entrepreneurs and interested team members are more likely to hang out within industry specific communities (both offline and online) where they can learn, grow, and perfect their skills.
GitHub, Unicorn Hunt, and Angel List are great resources for discovering software developers, designers and startup veterans in locations around the world. At GitHub you will find tech-savvy developers, on Unicorn Hunt you will find a wide pool of startup talent (from developers to designers to customer success specialists) and on Angel List you will find C-level seasoned veterans.
3. Attend Industry-specific Events
Want to ensure your new hire is committed to ongoing professional development?
Broaden your talent acquisition search to industry conferences, workshops, and seminars. Not only do such events provide a large volume of qualified candidates in one place, they also offer the advantage of allowing you to connect with people in person. Considering just how small most startups are, personality-fit is paramount.
An added bonus: Since most tech events are geared toward specific niches, you can specifically target the positions you are looking to fill. For example, attend San Francisco's AI Summit and you can bank on the majority of attendees a). Being fluent in all things tech/software and b). Being interested in furthering their career within the industry.
If the major conference you've had your eye on has already passed for the year, peruse the event's calendars of accelerators, incubators and tech-centric coworking spaces. At RocketSpace, we regularly host round tables, guest speakers, and mixers to provide our members with a variety of networking opportunities.
4. Volunteer at Local Universities
Another often overlooked place to scout top tech talent? Universities.
Reach out to the schools of your choice and ask to speak with the person in charge of scheduling guest speaker events, demo days, or mentorship programs. Not only will such experiences prove personally rewarding, they will also grant you a unique opportunity to establish relationships with emerging talent who will a). be needing a job shortly and b). be up to date on the latest trends within the industry.
Interestingly, many of the upperclassman you are likely to meet will be arguably just as qualified as applicants with more extensive work experience. The mentorship format will also enable you to better get to know the individuals you are considering hiring, thus reducing your risk of burning runway off on someone who ultimately isn't a match.
5. Start With Interns
What happens if you meet a great candidate at your university speaking gig that you don't yet have the budget to hire full time? You bring them on part-time as an intern to learn more about who they are, how they work and what they bring to the table.
One of the primary benefits to securing new hires this way is the influence you have in shaping the person's work style, skill set, and familiarity with your culture and tech. The downside, of course, is you or someone within your organization will have to devote significant time to training them. With that said, there is no better way to guarantee a better organizational fit than hiring an intern you already know, like and trust.
Unlike working with local universities via demo days or mentoring, running an internship program allows your company to attract both national and international talent, as top university students often seek out opportunities from tech companies within their field.
6. Dig Deep Into Personal Networks
Perhaps, the easiest way to find top tech talent is to ask for recommendations from the people you already know. Fellow coworkers, mentors, and advisors can often provide the quickest route to talent acquisition. The only caveat?
Make sure your network knows exactly what you're looking for. Create a mission-centered job description that clearly articulates what you're all about and is easy for friends and family to share online. Beyond the typical skills, responsibilities and salary information, include language that paints an accurate picture of your company culture. When done correctly, this will help your startup both stand out from the crowd and better screen incoming applicants.
Finally, consider expanding your personal network by infiltrating a new one. The Bay Area boasts several incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces that attract top tech entrepreneur and startups.
Though many of the professionals you meet at these locations will already be working with startups themselves, they all most likely know others in the tech community who are looking for new opportunities.
At RocketSpace, we provide Seed to Series C funded startups with premium amenities, flexible work options, corporate partnerships, and a carefully curated community of like-minded tech startups. Our high-caliber networking events are a surefire way to gain valuable connections that lead to accelerated growth. If you have a position to fill, our founders can help you do it by tapping into their vast networks.
Get a free day pass, and decide if RocketSpace is right for you.