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4 Ways to Find Better Startup Talent

FindBetterStartupTalent

If I see one more startup job ad for a rockstar programmer or ninja developer, I’ll scream.

We’re all searching for the same talent in what feels like the same pool. Then we bring in candidates to interview and they’re not what we expected. Or we find someone great and they decline our offer for a bigger paycheck or a popular startup brand. It’s not a lost cause. For better recruiting, try these five strategies on for size.

1. Share what sucks about your company

When we’re trying to hire the best talent, we often focus solely on what’s so amazing about the company. Stop selling jobs like first dates. Instead, be open and honest about what’s fantastic and what’s terrible. You want great talent to see the strengths and the warts. It filters out those who just want to be associated with your brand or with a founder. And it’s much better for long-term retention.

2. Define a balance of skills and behaviors

It’s important you don’t simply hire the best Ruby developer you’ve ever seen. You also have to balance skills and behaviors. When writing a job description, work with your team to define what perfect balance looks like. What do they have to be able to do really well (the actual, physical skills) and how do they have to do it? Think about how you’d want that developer to behave in a meeting, under pressure, or in a crisis.

3. Chronicle a day in the life of the job

It’s hard to make typical startup jobs stand out. From programmers to sales, so many startup jobs sound the same. But they’re not. Try crafting a timeline or sharing an inside look (without revealing confidential info of course) into a day in the life of that job. Include meetings and events specific to your culture. Share snippets of email communication, Yammer posts, and team meetings. Show everything from where the employee will sit to what the office looks like at 9 am and 10 pm on a typical day. This brings both the culture and the job to life.

4. Create an actual sourcing strategy

Save your money on staffing agencies and outside recruiters. You can learn to source talent on your own. Once you know the balance of skills and behaviors, determine the sources you’ll focus on. Go for depth instead of breadth and get creative – you can use tools like RemarkableHire to proactively source talent or create a contest, puzzle, or promotional strategy in line with your culture. (Hint: use journalist George Anders’s book The Rare Find for major inspiration.) Require employees to help source their colleagues – giving each team member a goal for bringing in a specific number of candidates.

It’s easy to think of recruiting as just a process – most startups do. There’s a big gap between those who say they value talent and those who actually spend business time creating a strategy to make that value come alive. Get in that latter camp now to avoid the painful effects later.

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About the Author

Susan Strayer LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo. She helps startup and high-growth companies develop cultures, build employer brands, and create talent strategies to help scale and grow businesses. Follow her @SusanLaMotte.

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