How to Truly Attract the Right Talent to Your Business

The Slack team in their office in San Francisco. Photograph: Winni Wintermeyer for the Guardian

The Slack team in their office in San Francisco. Photograph: Winni Wintermeyer for the Guardian

This guest column is by serial entrepreneur Aniket Warty

If there’s one thing that successful entrepreneurs all seem to agree on, it’s that the most important thing about launching a startup is making sure you have the right team behind you. More and more graduates are emerging with impressive experience and wide skill sets, but there are also an increasing number of companies launching and offering job opportunities. So the question for new employers is how do you find the right talent for your business, and how do you make them want to join your team?

Know What You’re Looking For

One common problem that start-ups face is ambiguity. When your ideas are new and your structure is constantly changing, it can be tough to pin down what exactly you need from new members of staff – and that often comes across throughout the hiring process.

However, if you want to make sure you get the best value out of your employees, you need to figure out exactly what skills you need and what tasks you’ll want them to undertake. While there is an obvious benefit to seeking out candidates with a broad skill set, make sure you know what your first priorities are and tailor your person specification accordingly.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, make sure you put it in your advert. The clearer you can be, the more likely you are to find the perfect applicant. Try to avoid adding in superfluous requirements – for example, if you don’t think that having prior experience is essential, make that clear in your posting. Otherwise you risk putting off potential candidates that have the attributes you do want.

Be Picky About Where You Post

Where you choose to advertise your jobs will determine the kind of applicants that you attract. Before you settle on a website or job section, think about who its audience is, and whether that overlaps with the audience you’re looking to appeal to.

Rather than – or in addition to – posting in generic forums, look for industry-specific job sites. As well as reaching the right people, you’ll be able to use the online community to gain further traction; often colleagues will refer one another for jobs they see advertised on these sites.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you’re looking for places to post your job ads. For example, Twitter is fast becoming one of the most popular recruitment resources. Not only does it offer a wide audience, the fast-paced nature of the site makes it ideal when you’re looking to recruit quickly. Choose hashtags that are likely to get searched and seen by your target audience.

Share Your Aims & Ethos

When bringing new hires on board, it’s important to make sure that you find people who match not only the skills and experience you’re looking for, but also the ethos of your company. In a small, start-up environment, all your team members will have a significant impact in the shaping of your company.

Make sure that your candidates are aware of your company’s philosophy. As they’ll likely check your website and social channels before applying or attending an interview, this is a good place to start. Your public persona will trickle down to your future employees.

You should also make sure your ethos and your company aims are clear in your job postings and emphasised during the interview. As well as making sure you find the right person, it will help inspire candidates who are looking for a company with the same values as them.

Build a Positive Office Culture

Office culture has become a topic of hot debate over recent years; expectations are changing when it comes to what a professional environment entails. Young employees entering the workplace are looking for more than just a cubicle, and popular opinion suggests that positive office culture leads to more productive employees.

Google is famous for its quirky offices and informal atmosphere – a trait that has made it one of the most desired places to work. Many other offices have begun to follow suit, introducing their own ideas and traditions. From beer Fridays to pool tables in staff rooms, companies are becoming increasingly more adventurous in their approach to office culture.

As well as attracting potential employees, creating a positive office culture is a great way to display your company’s personality to visiting clients and investors. It also makes for great press and social media opportunities – which can help engage your audience and reinforce your company message.

Ask For Recommendations

“Recommend a friend” schemes are becoming increasingly popular – and with good reason. You’ve chosen your employees because they’re skilled in their fields and they understand the values of your company, so they’re in a great position to recommend new additions to your team. Additionally, by offering incentives for recommendations you show your employees that you value their opinion.

As well as turning to your current team for recommendations, don’t be afraid to reach out to former colleagues and friends who work within the industry. If they’re able to tip off a friend about a great job opening and you’re able to find a candidate with the right skills and experience, everybody wins. By taking personal recommendations, you’re also more likely to get an insight into your prospective candidates’ characters, and be able to assess whether they’d fit in to your existing team and match your company ethos.

Work With Agencies

Of course, while personal and employee recommendations are a great way to recruit at ground level, there are also big advantages to working with a professional recruitment agency.

Look for agencies that specialise in your sector, and work closely with them to make sure they know exactly what you’re looking for. Make your requirements clear up front, and then give constructive feedback throughout the process. Where possible, let them know why you like the candidates you approve and what you don’t like about the applicants you decline. It will help them find a good fit, both when forwarding CVs for the same role and for future positions.

It’s also important to make sure that agencies give your candidates a realistic view of your company and what their role will be. If your candidates get mixed messages from you and the recruiter, you risk putting them off or bringing on board new members who are on a different page to the rest of your team.

Offer Shares and/or Stock Options

Often, start-up companies are working with limited budgets and aren’t able to offer the competitive salaries that bigger companies can. This can be a big problem in attracting talent, but one thing that smaller companies can offer is shares, or stock options.

As well as adding an extra incentive to your potential employees, offering shares as part of a compensation package is likely to attract candidates who have a vested interest in your company and who share your vision for the future. Not only will it help get the right people in the door, it gives them added motivation in their jobs. Any company successes are shared amongst the team, which helps increase morale and in turn boost your reputation as an employer.

Create a Unique Compensation Package

There are also a number of other benefits you can offer your employees outside their salary. As well as being added incentives for potential employees, the bonuses that you choose to provide outside the standard package are a great indicator of your company ethos. For example, Avon has long marketed itself as a company for women, and its generous maternity and flexible working policies fall in line with this.

Another great example of a company that’s built a reputation on its innovative benefits package is Virgin. Boss Richard Branson made headlines when he introduced unlimited holidays for his personal staff – a policy inspired by successful start-up Netflix. Both companies have achieved great things, and constantly top lists of the best workplaces.

Benefits such as working from home, flexible hours and discounts with partner companies are all great draws for fresh talent and aren’t dependant on having a big budget.

Of course, one of the best ways to figure out what will attract new talent is to think about what would motivate you to join a company. What unique benefits have you come across in other workplaces? What policies do you think more companies should adopt? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. 1

    Agreed. There’s no place for ambiguity when it comes to defining job roles, but it also does help to have people who have a broad skill-set. You never know where they might shine and come more in handy somewhere!

  2. 2

    I do see the sense in hiring people with a broad skill-set because 9 out of 10 times, you’re going to need employees who can juggle two or more tasks at the same time. It’s nothing personal, it’s business. I know that if one of employees has to leave me tomorrow, I’ll have more than enough people who can pick up the flak for it. The show must go on!

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