Remove the “I” From Startup Recruiting

November 13, 2013

5:00 pm

There’s that moment you look up from the keyboard and say, “I could really use some help with this.”  Whether you realize it or not, early-stage recruiting has begun. And it’s all about what you need. From job descriptions to interviews to first days, it’s: “I need this from you.” But the “I” makes recruiting hard and retention and engagement even harder.

Look at the average job description on a startup’s website. It focuses on the skills needed, the passion needed–what the company needs from the job seeker. There’s likely a mention of benefits and perks, but where’s the value proposition? If I’m good, and I mean a really, really good developer, you are going to have to do your part to sell me, the job seeker. Especially if I am taking a risk to join your fledgling company.

As more platforms, job boards, and talent tools get into the startup recruiting market, they’re starting to see the beauty and purpose in a two-way street. AngelList’s company profiles in their talent tool offer a “Why Us” paragraph to startups who want to offer a value proposition. But the challenge still remains.

Even when offering up the hard sell, most startups still defer to what they need and perks and benefits to keep you there.

Take this “why us” pulled directly from a startup recruiting on AngelList right now:

“At [company name] we believe that every employee is vital to our mission in revolutionizing [industry] and provide an environment to do so. We provide fully stocked micro kitchens, extensive health insurance options, learning and development opportunities, and a competitive equity package as well as flexible vacation policies.”

Sure, this company is on a mission, but it basically reads, “We need loyalty and commitment, and we’ll give you healthcare and food in return.”

No one takes a job for the free food.

And if they do, you don’t want them anyway. You want a hire who will find value in the work, who sees a path–a way to make an impact on your growing company. From sales to programmers, most employees are motivated more by the vision, the people, and the work, than by beer, equity and vacation. Employment is a relationship. And for that relationship to be successful–and long-term enough for both parties to get real value out if it, there has to be a 50/50 in ‘what’s in it for me?’

Next time you go to post a job, interview a candidate, or make an offer, take the “I” out of recruiting. Instead, think about that perfect candidate and what s/he might need to really deliver on the relationship. Focus on the type of work they’ll be doing, the outcomes, and the value they’ll personally take away every day from committing to your company.

Your startup is so much more than a cool place to work. Prove it.

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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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