5 Tips to Inspire Candidates with your Startup Mission

“We are a passionate team.”

As a startup tech recruiter, I hear this alot. My response is always, “Ok. That’s cool. What are you passionate about?”

When your company is small and you need to hire, your mission will take you further than a fancy funding round or a cool tech stack. PwC, Gallop, and numerous studies have shown that the largest workforce, Millennials, prioritize a sense of purpose in their careers. Of course, Millennials aren’t the only group that want their work to matter. According to LinkedIn’s 2015 Why and How People Change Jobs, 25% of people who left jobs did so because they did not share their employer’s values. 42% joined their new company because of the promise to make an impact.

In order to grow your startup team, your mission needs to resonate with your future employees. Here are 5 simple steps to project passion and inspire confidence in your company mission:

  1. Know it inside and out.

This seems simple, and yet many startups get this one wrong from the start. Founders tend to do it best. They’ve developed and iterated and refined their pitch until it pulled at the heartstrings of anyone who will listen. You have to use that same care and precision with your messaging for potential employees.

Anyone who interacts with your talent pool needs to know the company’s mission inside and out. Have a long sit-down with the Founders, the hiring managers, anyone charged with creating culture. Hash out your mission statement in a concise 1–2 sentence “elevator pitch.” Then go deeper. Decide how you’ll collectively define the mission with at least 3 bullet points on how your product/team/initiatives/benefits support that mission.

2. Tell stories.

Humans love stories. Detailed, character-driven stories create a chemical response in the brain that causes empathy. Stories change our beliefs more than cold hard facts do. It’s science. So have a few stories at the ready. Your stories should be examples of why your mission is important. They should also depict how your product has impacted your customers for the better. Practice telling them, including imagery and details to engage your audience. Get that oxytocin flowing.

3. Relate the position for which you’re hiring directly to the mission.

Not only do candidates want to work for a company with a resonant mission, they want to directly contribute to that mission. So define every role as it relates to the company mission. Do this in the job description, in the intro pitch, and throughout the hiring process. Make the message clear: You will make an impact.

4. Make sure everyone on your team knows their “Why”.

Every interaction with your company will shape that candidate’s view of the company. So make sure everyone in the company can speak to their own reasons why the mission resonates with them. Have an all-hands meeting and ask your employees:

Why did they join?

Why do they stay?

How do they describe the company’s mission to their family and friends?

Not only will you help your employees solidify their “Why?” but you’ll probably discover some wonderful stories and perhaps shed a new light on your own.

5. Live your mission.

I once had a client whose motto was “People first.” It was on all their letterhead and in all their email signatures. It’s a great motto, and one I think many potential employees would would appreciate. And yet their turnover rate was astronomical and their Glassdoor reviews were abysmal. When I was brought on board, I asked to interview a few of their current employees to glean some insight. From one of the mid-level managers, I learned the C-Suite was ignoring the recommendations of their direct reports. A product rep told me they had a cut-throat sales environment. Everyone echoed that there was no collaboration between teams. One glance past their letterhead revealed that this was indeed not a “People first” organization.

Don’t do that. Live your mission.

The following company pages offer solid examples:

  • Airbnb — A clearly stated mission and their defining principles to back it up
  • Kickstarter — Wonderful stories of their users’ success
  • Clever — Does an excellent job of relating each position back to the company’s overarching EdTech goals
  • Grand Rounds — Puts their employees and their “Why”s front and center
  • Netflix — They live and die by their culture deck

This is my first Medium post. If you like it, please recommend!