If you want the best people to come and work for you, you have to sell your company to them. In this post, I’m going to break down my elevator pitch to potential employees.
We want our company to be the place you want to work.
We want you to love your job.
Because when you love your job, you’ll do great things.
Come and do great things with us.
That’s how I usually end my 30-second pitch — the opener of a phone screen or an interview or in some cases an on-stage presentation at a job fair. Yeah, we have competitive salary and benefits, a great culture, free food and beer, all that. But with the first impression, I go for the gut, the heart — whatever you want to call it.
In this environment, where talent is king and the competition is brutal, it really is a job seeker’s market for those who have the skills and the experience to help us do what we do. When you understand that, you get better people, and you get them for less, because they, like you, are about the mission, not the job.
It’s shocking that we will bend over backwards to land investment, partnerships, and sales, but we barely have time to skim resumes to find the people who will fulfill the needs of those investors, partners, and customers.
Your employees are ultimately the most important part of the success equation, so here’s how you should make that first impression.
Talk To Them, Not At Them
I want to take all the time we need to get to know you. But first, I want you to have an idea of why this is the place for you.
I say “you” three times in those first two sentences. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing.
As with any good pitch, setup is more than half the battle, and the interview environment rarely allows for setup. Remember, your potential employees are also selling themselves. Hard. They’re locked in. This probably isn’t their first job discussion this week, maybe not even their first one today. So before they get into their routine, take them out of it.
Let them know that you don’t just want to have a discussion about their resume, you want to know who they are and why they’re here.
This is Not a Job
Startup is an adventure. So let me tell you how our adventure has played out over the last few months.
Do NOT start at the beginning. You’ll lose them. There will be plenty of time later to talk about your history, your management team, your tech stack, and so on. Plus, you have a website. If you have to explain who you are or what you do to a candidate, they weren’t interested in the first place. So skip it.
No one wants just a job. Or rather, you don’t want to hire anyone who wants just a job.
Instead, jump right into the adventure.
What’s In It For Them
Here’s the really cool thing we did in April.
Look. Everyone is going to say that they’re going to change the world. Everyone is going to talk about how their work environment is so much fun, the people are great, the walls are blue, and it smells like cinnamon and unicorn farts.
Pick one awesome thing your company did recently. And show them. Don’t tell them. Use images, video, charts, and then let them behind the scenes on the why and the how. Don’t talk about the struggle. They know what they’re getting into.
Soon after this awesome thing we did, our revenue spiked 120% month-over-month, we were able to open three new positions, and we’re embarking on a strategic fundraise in June.
Start with raw numbers, growth, and funding. Headcount and investors aren’t necessarily a sign of guaranteed success, but for a startup, they’re an indicator that there is and will be money in the bank, there is a pipeline, and there is strategy. Job seekers are looking for these things, even mission seekers.
By the way, if you don’t have money in the bank, a pipeline, and strategy, you shouldn’t be hiring.
Build Some Buzz
Thanks to the success of one of our customer launches, stories about us appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Verge, and over 20 other major publications.
Press clippings are definitely not a sign of success. But again, for a startup, they underscore that people are interested in what you’re doing, especially if that press is about your customers. It never hurts to put a little bit of sizzle on the steak, as long as there is plenty of steak.
Talented people don’t want to work in a vacuum.
Bring Out the Big Guns
We work with a lot of companies you might recognize. In January, we rolled out our product at Hooli. In February, we launched at Initech. Then in March we expanded our presence at both Skynet and Stark Industries.
Customers are a sign of success. List them. Talk about them. Show them off.
Remind Them That They Will Matter
You’re not just working for some VP who doesn’t know your name. Your work will be seen by customers. We get tweets. We get emails. We get all kinds of love.
The most important reason someone takes a job is because they want what they do to mean something. This trumps everything. It’s more valuable than salary, benefits, work/life balance, just about anything you can name.
You might doubt this, because people usually aren’t honest about it, especially during the job search process. But the vast majority of people leave their jobs for one reason — because they feel under-appreciated. Assuming you can handle this internally, make sure there is some external appreciation to strive for as well.
Close the Deal
We proactively work on our company culture, striving to make our company the best place to work in the world. It’s working so far locally, and we want to be known for it nationally.
Again, no one comes out and says, “The pay and the benefits are nice if you can put up with a toxic work environment.”
If you don’t have fancy awards or lists to lean on, put some thought behind it. Bring out your core values, your mission statement, anything that you live by. Make sure your candidate knows that those things mean something, and that you’re constantly measuring to make sure they they keep meaning something.
Ask for the Sale
See the opening lines of this article.
One of the reasons people come to work for our startup is the mystique around it — it’s seen as a cool place to be, a good place to grow, and most importantly, a place where everyone is wanted.
It’s funny how people react when you let them know that they’re wanted.
Funny, but not terribly surprising.