19 Recruiting Strategies to Make Hiring Your Top Growth Hack. Part 1

At startups, we’re obsessed with growth hacks.

We fantasize about becoming the next Airbnb by hacking Craigslist, or the next Dropbox by nailing referrals.

But one growth hack I’ll challenge you on is recruiting. After product market fit, nothing is more important to growth than hiring the right people.

The right people grow your startup exponentially — the wrong ones stunt growth.

To get that exponential growth, you need a recruiting strategy that provides a steady pipeline of people ready to jump aboard when you post your jobs

I’ve put together 19 tips to help you build a strategy that attracts the best talent and keeps your company top of mind for star recruits.

To make this even more useful, I also got advice from recruiting experts and seasoned business professionals, who answered this question:

“What is the single biggest hiring mistake startups make when recruiting?”

We’ve got answers from Mitchell Harper, an entrepreneur whose companies have made more than $200 million in online sales, #1 startup interviewer Andrew Warner, Infusionsoft’s Manager of Talent Acquisition, and lots more.

1. Great Applicants are Like Great Customers — Treat them Well

Treat your recruiting strategy like you do your marketing and sales funnel.

If you receive a high quality lead, would you wait 3 days to call that lead?

Then don’t do that to a high quality candidate. A high quality candidate is in highdemand.

You should move heaven and earth to accommodate that candidate, impress them and treat them to a great hiring experience.

Kate McMillen
Manager of Talent Acquisition & Programs @ Infusionsoft
“Infusionsoft’s strategy for recruiting is similar to its customer strategy. We make our candidate experience similar to our customer experience. Our candidate formula is Engage, Inform, and Transform, much like our customer formula: Attract, Sell and Wow.”

Does this sound counter-intuitive to you?

Do you feel like you’re supposed to be tough on potential applicants, or that you don’t have the time to call them right away?

I can’t stress this enough. Recruiting is really one of the most important things to achieving growth, and one of three things a CEO should do.

Every new person you add to your team can move it forward dramatically, slow it down, or take it a step back. That’s why companies like Google, Facebook, Uber, and SnapChat offer high option packages, so they can attract the best talent in the world.

They know, as you should, that building the right team is 90% of your job as a founder or CEO.

Your employer brand is as important to attracting #talent as your customer brand is to attracting customers -

Once you prioritize recruiting and build your strategy, you’ll start naturally start to create your own employer brand

As this happens, remember that it is as important to bringing on top talent as your customer brand is to acquiring customers.

Treat it as such. You can start by sending new employees a personal welcome letter. Little things go a long way.

2. Understand the Cost/Benefit of a New Employee Before You Hire

Should you hire a new employee?

There are a lot of ways to try to answer this question, but one of the best is using cold, hard math. Before you hire, you need to know what the potential costs and benefits are.

When figuring out the potential cost, be thorough.

Costs you’ll want to be sure to include:

  • Recruiting costs. Be sure to include advertising, time spent reviewing and interviewing, travel expenses, etc.
  • Salary. Look at salary ranges for the job, and know what the average is.
  • Taxes. Include worker’s compensation, social security, unemployment and medicare.
  • Benefits. Add up the costs of all the benefits you plan on offering for the position.
  • Equipment. Cost of the equipment you’ll need to buy the employee.
  • Space. Price per square foot of the space need, plus furnishings.
  • Training. Personnel and additional admin costs of bringing the employee on.
  • Onboarding. How long you’ll be paying the employee before they’re productive.

Benefits to include:

  • Sales. Will a new employee bring in revenue?
  • Expansion. Will a new employee allow an expansion or handling of more customers?
  • Relief. Will a new employee allow other staff to focus on revenue generation?
  • Development. Will a new employee allow you to develop new streams of revenue?

You’ll also want to calculate the potential return on investment, or ROI, of an employee. If you need some help with that, here’s a great, free calculator.

To get the maximum ROI, you need to hire the best.

Typically, ROI for employees in the top third of their performance is 15 percent more than average. But getting top employees may require higher salaries, more money spent on recruiting, and having a great hiring process in place.

As J.T. O’Donnell notes, it’s worth the cost.

J.T. O’Donnell
CEO of CAREEREALISM
“The biggest mistakes I see start-ups making is hiring people without a clear sense of how their work will justify the cost of hiring them. If you are hiring based on anticipated growth, you should be able to calculate the ROI on the person you are hiring. If you can’t quantify how this person will definitely increase the earnings so their salary and benefits are covered, then you are just putting yourself in a negative cash flow situation. Yes, employees need to be trained and require a ramp up period. But, if within that time you aren’t able to then confirm the ROI is there, you shouldn’t keep them on. I have personally made this mistake in the past and it reinforced for me how important it is to A) only hire top performers, and B) only hire when you know the ROI is greater than the hiring cost.”

A lot of the experts stress taking your time when you hire, which is hard for startups to do — they’re used to moving fast. But we need to take time to be sure the value is there.


3. Not Ready to Hire? It Might be Time for a Freelance

Sometimes math just isn’t on your side, but you still have a job that needs to be done.

That’s a good time to consider hiring freelancers.

In fact, you may want to consider freelancers even if you can afford a regular employee. Many freelancers will jump at the opportunity to join a fast growing startup in the early days, and you get the chance to see how they work, and how well you work together.

If you hire a freelancer and they nail major goals, then you may want to approach them for a full-time role.

Too many startups decide to hire when their need could be met with a contractor.

If the work you need done can be accomplished on a computer from anywhere in the world, check out CloudPeeps. They’ve made it really easy to search a large number of potential freelancers, see their ratings, hire them, and monitor their work.

Diane Helbig has some additional thoughts on freelance work.

Diane Helbig
Growth Accelerator & Change Agent
“Lack of clarity. Startups need to be sure they have real clarity around exactly what function(s) they need to fill. Then they need to decide if it’s something that requires an employee or an outsourced solution. Too many startups decide to hire when their need could be met with a contractor.”

4. Hire Employees that Thrive at Each Stage of a Startup

Startups are a special situation when it comes to recruiting.

You’ll need the kind of people that can navigate a fast changing landscape with little oversight and guidance, and quickly learn new tasks as they become necessary.

That’s why it’s a good idea to look for adaptable people who have previously worked in fast moving environments. Hiring someone who’s been in a corporate environment doing the same task for years and moving them into a 5 person team can be challenging, to say the least.

Not sure if an employee can “hack” the startup environment? Try freelancing first, as we mentioned earlier, or do what companies like Automattic do — figure it out by having potential employees do real (paid) tasks with the team before making it official.

Kate Kendall
Founder and CEO at @cloudpeeps
“Startups can often hire a good person but at the wrong stage of the company’s life. In the early days, you need to optimize for those comfortable with uncertainty, change, less structure and a flat hierarchy. A star hire from a brand-name company might not be turn out as expected. Make sure you also a good mix of tech to non-tech talent.”

When you’re just getting started, you’ll want a team that wears many hats, like a search marketer that can test Facebook and radio campaigns, or an engineer than can double up as your ops manager.

Dean Da Costa has a great bit of advice on getting multi-talented hiring right.

Dean Da Costa
Staffing, Recruiter and Sourcing expert.
“The single biggest mistake is not building their team correctly. They tend to do 1 of 2 things. Either they think too mono-talented, meaning finding that expert Java guy but that is all they can do. Or they think too cross-job-talented, meaning they want a Java expert who is also a networking expert, and a Tech writer, those are 3 different jobs and skill sets. What they should be thinking is cross-talented. Meaning you need a Java developer, get a good java developer that can also develop in other languages as well. Startups get caught between the expert developer and the robot who can do many things besides develop, when what they want is a “swiss army knife” who can develop cross platform in many languages.”

As your company grows, you’ll want to start thinking about specialists that know a particular area inside and out.

For example, you may find that Google Adwords is key to your growth strategy, and your budget justifies hiring a full-time PPC manager. Finding a true expert who’s been doing this for years can have a enormous impact on your growth.

As our startups continue evolving, Tony Restell reminds us we need employees who can evolve with it.

Tony Restell
Founder of Social Media Agency, Social-Hire
“Firstly I have seen business owners reluctant to delegate key tasks to staff — and so have constrained the growth of the business by not hiring soon enough. You can’t be driving every project and be responsible for every decision in the business or your startup will simply lose momentum.”

So hire early.

A second mistake I’ve seen is for owners to get hung up on the exact qualifications and experience that you want your first hires to have. Ask most seasoned business owners about their companies and you will invariably hear that the business changed significantly in its first years.

So the most important attributes for your first employees are that they are enthusiastic, eager to learn and capable of fulfilling a variety or roles within the company — that way their contribution to the business can evolve as the business itself evolves.”

Evolution, iteration, change… that’s what startups are all about, right? Rodolphe Dutel has some additional thoughts on hiring for quick wins or hiring for potential as your startup evolves.

Rodolphe Dutel
Operations at Buffer and Remotive Founder.
“Startups usually hire someone for their skills (what they can do today) or their potential (what they may be able to do once they ramp up). It’s important to decide ahead of time which of those two routes startups want to explore: Understanding how immediate your need is, and whether you have time/resources to mentor someone to grow into a role is key. 
A typical example is for sales, you may get a seasoned sales person to build a team around them, or hire one/two junior sales people and mentor them.”

5. Strengthen Your Employer Brand With Content Marketing

It’d be nice to have a strong employer brand, right?

A brand that the top talent in your space has heard of, and wants to work for, so that when they learn about a position at your startup they’re excited about the opportunity, and not wondering who you are.

Business leaders are convinced that branding to attract talent is critical to staying competitive.

But who has the money for employer branding?

As it turns out, you do. Because these days you don’t need to run an ad during the Super Bowl to get the word out there. The internet has made publishing inexpensive and doable for any business, and content marketing is a great way to raise awareness about your brand.

One of the key components to content marketing is sharing your knowledge to attract customers.

Each member of your team probably has an area of expertise. Help them find ways of sharing this in a variety of places, whether it’s writing a short article on Medium or your company blog, tweeting short tidbits of wisdom, or answering questions on Quora.

Your work culture is another great content marketing asset.

Share it with Instagram photos, use Facebook’s live broadcasting feature, and write about how it informs day-to-day decisions at your company.

Give people a chance to learn about your team and an idea of what it’d be like to be part of it, and they may just want to join. That’s how branding attracts talent.

6. Embrace A Coaching Culture To Attract Millennials

The future is already here.

If you’re not working to attract millennials to your company, then your recruiting strategy is heading nowhere.

Not sure about that? Consider this.

In just a few short years, millennials will make up nearly half the workforce. By 2030, they’ll be 75 percent of it. Start strategizing now if you want the best of this generation.

One way to start attracting millennials is to build a coaching culture. Millennials have overwhelmingly shown that they’re interested in opportunity. They don’t want to just settle in for the long haul for the next 20 years, they want go know where they’re going in the next 2.

Help them learn and grow, and you’ll attract and keep them.

If you’re not working to attract millennials to your company, then your recruiting strategy is heading nowhere.

7. Create an Office Space Millennials Want to Work In

The last few decades have seen some big shifts in cultural norms.

The suit and tie, once a symbol of powerful companies and serious jobs, has become a sign of stodginess in many industries.

But there is probably no work convention more hated these days than the cubicle. From Dilbert to Office Space, it’s become the symbol for a creativity killing work space.

Want to attract millennials to your startup? How you design your workspace should be part of your recruiting strategy. Open office plans are much more popular among millennials than the rat mazes of yesteryear.

Beyond open spaces, the office is also becoming a destination for millennials — a place where they work, exercise, eat and even sleep. Think about what you can offer employees that makes the office a destination.

John Feldmann
Content Marketing @ Insperity Jobs
“A startup’s recruiting strategy should offer the candidate an emotional investment. Since startups are focused on their core business, many overlook the work/life balance and long-term stability aspects. Offering a salary and office perks isn’t enough. Candidates want to know how they will make a difference at work and in the community.”

The part 2 of this article is coming later this week on Wednesday. Subscribe to our Facebook page to not miss it.

Publishing remains summary of the article. Read original at: upflow.co

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