How to Recruit Talent for Your Startup (Rockstart Q&A)

(this post originally appeared on the Rockstart Blog as a transcript of a Q&A session I did in their Founders channel on Slack)

One of the top goals for a company is to attract the best talent they can find. But let’s be honest – that’s not the easiest thing to do, especially if you don’t have endless pockets of world famous brand names such as Google, Apple, etc. Then the real “out of the box” thinking comes into the picture. Good strategy and creative approach can compensate for the being smaller.

We talk to startups every day and know how challenging this can be. That’s why we invited Aik Deveneijns to share his knowledge in our #Ask4Answ online community. Aik Deveneijns is a builder of teams for funded startups and scale-ups at LevelUp Ventures. As an executive, investor and headhunter, he has hired over 200 professionals and conducted over a thousand job interviews, mostly in management and customer-facing positions for startups.

In the beginning of the session, Ion Ciobanu stepped forward and asked the first question:

How do you pick the most motivated people? And how not to set the expectations too high?

Aik gave very hands-on examples that could be applied right away during an interview. There is a great way to reveal someone’s ambitions in the long term by asking

“What do you want to learn & create in the coming 5 years?”

instead of

“where do you wanna be in 5 years”.

This approach uncovers general life and business goals. What about internal drivers?

“I have days when I come home tired and I have days when I worked 12 hours and come home jumping up and down with energy. What has happened or what have you achieved in your day to come home in the second state?”

Also, pay attention to the candidates energy levels and its authenticity.

When it comes to expectations, you should be selling the opportunity. You should be able to do that if you’re a good founder. But after you see/feel he/she has bought in, it’s time to be ruthlessly honest about your goals and expectations of the candidate and the company.

1) check if he/she’s good -> 2) sell -> 3) brutally honest expectations

PR/marketing is a great catalyst for getting more quality applicants in and/or better conversion on your sourcing reachouts. What does sourcing mean? Reaching out to proper candidates with your job opportunity instead of them applying for it. The founder is the one finding the match and reaching out to them with a hope on a positive conversation.

“How to position my startup (compared to a bigger company) in the mind of the candidate?”

This question came from our social media #Ask4Answ and it is very relevant nowadays. The first thing you want to make sure of is that your startup doesn’t have any “corporate attitude” across the table. Then take this into consideration:

  • If the guy across the table wants 36 hours, pension, high salary, car, asks for complex CAO (union) rights, etc – he’s not your guy.
  • Be honest.“If you want to have a true impact in the company, build & use great technology, work with awesome driven people and have some fun. (Plus your own vision/tech/employer branding) Come work here.