Recruitment for Startups and Scaleups: Attracting Talent

Once you have defined a role within your business it is time to start attracting top talent. Traditional recruitment methods are not as valuable as they used to be, and you are not going to find the perfect people by simply working within these guidelines. There is nothing worse than putting time effort and money into a large recruitment campaign to find that the calibre of candidates applying is simply not up to the job. It is something of a minefield.

However, using newer models of recruitment, including employee value proposition, employer branding and talent attraction strategies, should ensure that you have several high calibre candidates and you can have your pick. So, let's find out more about ensuring you are attracting the top talent for your role rather than scraping the bucket from the best of the rest.

Employee Value Proposition

First up we need to start with a lesson in employee value proposition often seen written as EVP. EVP and employer branding tend to go hand in hand and generally an EVP is developed in order to ensure there is consistency in the aforementioned branding.

So, What Exactly is EVP?

A set of associations and offerings provided by an organization in return for the skills, capabilities and experiences an employee brings to the organization. Minchington, 2005

And that's about as clear as mud. Let’s take a closer look. Basically, you need to think of an EVP as a technique that brings your employees to the centre of the equation. You are clearly defining the what's in it for me factor for your prospective talent. So, you are looking at things like career, benefits, compensation, culture, and work environment. We are going beyond the original recruitment perception of seeing candidates come cap in hand grovelling to convince prospective employees why they are suitable for the role. Flipping the coin, we now acknowledge that in order to attract top talent we should be defining our employee value proposition and showing them what we have to offer:

  • Compensation: Salary, compensation, opportunities for promotion, evaluation, etc

  • Benefits: Holiday, insurance, benefits, family, retirement, etc

  • Career: Progression, stability, training, development, education, etc

  • Work environment: recognition, achievements, challenges, work-life balance, etc

  • Culture: colleagues, leaders, managers, support, team building. etc

Defining your EVP can be broken down into five steps:

  • Goalsetting: what are you hoping to achieve? More applicants, top talent, and a reduction in the cost and time of hiring.

  • Identify the persona of the candidate: just as we are required to identify the characteristics of prospects when it comes to buying and selling, the job market is the same you should identify the characteristics that your perfect talent will be displaying as this will save you time in the long run.

  • Clearly defined EVP: why do your current employees simply love working for you? What are you offering?

  • Brand promotion: where are you going to be promoting your brand and how will you do it?

  • Reflect: finally, you need to take into account recording the results, and identifying where you need to adjust your strategy.

Employer Branding

Moving on you then need to tackle employer branding and define what sets you apart as an employer of choice to this pool of top talent you are looking to recruit from. You are looking to formulate how your current and potential employees perceive you as a company. This means you need to look into things like company value, personality and culture and ensure that these are going to align with the type of talent you are hoping to attract.

A large part of this will have been taken care of when you look at your EVP and you would have hopefully defined the unique benefits that make prospective talent want to come and offer you their skills and capabilities.

This is an important recruitment technique, but it goes further. A company who has taken the time to ensure they understand and have defined their employer brand will also retain employees because they will like working for you and enjoy the environment you are providing and reduce the cost per hire as you are defining a reputation of positivity and ensuring you have a good reputation attracting the best quality applicants, (aka talent attraction strategies).

Some numbers

76% of candidates are explicitly looking for what makes a company an attractive place to work (CSIM)

80% of talent acquisition managers believe employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire top talent (LinkedIn)

79% of candidates use social media for their job search (Glassdoor)

28% is the reduction in employee turnover seen by investing in employer branding (LinkedIn)


So, now you have your EVP and your employer branding, so you have some strong talent attraction strategies. Cast your eyes back up the page slightly and you will see that 79% of candidates use social media for their job search. We think that's a pretty good starting point. Job boards are still used however they can be slightly overwhelming especially if a candidate is entering the job market as a beginner. Whether you are young talent just graduating or someone more experienced it is very probable in this day and age that you have social media platforms that you favour. LinkedIn is of course known for attracting top talent in various industries and bringing them together, and you can also take advantage of Google for jobs, and Facebook. With the competition for top talent so fierce, it’s worth investigating other channels such as CW Jobs for IT talent, Creativepool, Github for tecchies and Stack Overflow.

If you don't feel you have the time or strength to correctly implement your advertising, you can also look to work with specialist recruitment agencies who fit with your style of business and are also displaying clear EVP’s and employer branding of their own.

A good job advert will ensure that the key facts from the EVP are clearly promoted as candidates now are looking for work-life balance and career progression. it should be kept short and easy to read so aim for something around 300 words or less. most candidates are happy to do some research rather than be overloaded with information so keep the working concise and provide links to where they can find in-depth information like your meet the team page.

Another important point about advertising is that the job spec you’ve put together, is not your job advert. The advert will be shorter and capture the key things about the role and the company.

Time to Hire

So how does modern recruiting fit in with time to hire? As you are aware the time to hire is how long it takes you from sourcing a candidate e.g. applying for the role to when you actually get them to accept the offer. While data is important you need to ensure you are using it correctly in order for it to be valuable. This metric is useful to give you an overview of how your hiring process works or not. But it should not be the only thing you take into consideration. The new buzzword is hiring velocity which focuses on how many jobs were filled on time so stop it answers the key question can we find top talent when we need it?

Candidate Experience

Finally, to ensure that you are getting the best recruitment process possible you should be hot hot hot on candidate experience. There are various tried and tested methods of recording these. Whichever you choose you should ensure that you are picking up on the seven key components that are recommended by the industry which are the key points in the journey your candidates interact with you. By gaining an insight into the process from the candidate view you can make changes and avoid issues in future hires. Ensure you design or use a model that incorporates 7 key stages.

Turning a Rejected Candidate into a Brand Ambassador

It’s important to think about the candidates that didn’t quite make it. Firstly, it’s just polite, but secondly, it can do wonders for your employer brand. So many complaints come from candidates saying they never heard back from their initial application, or that the feedback as to why they didn’t get the role was a bit, well, ropey. You don’t want anyone left with a bad taste in their mouth. Research from Talent Board found that 81% of candidates will share their positive candidate experience with friends as well as 51% saying they would post a positive review on a social platform. A term used in recruitment for candidates who are brilliant but got beaten to the role buy someone else is ‘silver medallist.’ It’s so important to keep these people engaged. Making a candidate into a brand ambassador is one of the best things you can do for your reputation. Here are some basic things you can do to keep rejected candidates on side:

  • Feedback properly & constructively. If a candidate makes it through to interview and they are rejected, feedback over the phone is much more personal than an email. If people have applied but they aren’t right then a simple email is great. It’s important to be honest with feedback. If there are things they need to work on, then tell them. Add value.

  • Ask them for feedback and then send them a feedback survey. A qualitative survey is better than a quantitative one.

  • Ensure you’re connected with them on LinkedIn

  • Ask them if you can keep them updated with other roles by adding them to your recruiting newsletter which details employee testimonials, job openings, company updates and team events.

If you wanted to go slightly further and really wow, you could send them your company branded keep cup or your company branded swag bag!

Final Word

So the final thought for the recruitment process and attracting the top talent is to ensure that you are not using an old methodology and have flipped that coin to ensure you are selling your business to the candidate and not looking for candidates to come grovelling for a job. That is the difference between attracting mediocre candidates and the top talent you need.

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