Early Stage Recruiting – Boring Startup Stuff

Early Stage Recruiting

Today’s hiring climate is uniquely hard for young startups. Incumbent growth companies raising massive amounts of money, record low labor participation, digital burnout, and more are contributing to an obstacle course of hurdles when sourcing talent. 

Crafting the right outreach can make all the difference. Personalized cold messaging combined with a concise process can be the secret weapon for a startup in the face of current hiring challenges. Let’s take a quick look at what strong candidate outreach looks like.

Messaging Prospects

For new founders, writing cold emails can be a little scary. Here are a few pointers to structure clear, powerful candidate outreach campaigns:

  • Use (personal) email, not LinkedIn messages - While email has it’s challenges, LinkedIn can be incredibly limiting when attempting to scale a recruiting process. Additionally, many highly skilled candidates do not use or monitor LinkedIn (with the exception of Sales & Marketing candidates).
    • Subject lines matter - Short and sweet wins the day. Add the candidate's first name for an even better open rate.  
    • Tell them how you found them - Be honest here. It gives them some context as to what you may – or may not – already know about their background.
  • Spark some curiosity - This could include a wild backstory of how you ended up founding or working at your current startup. Or perhaps it's a few crazy facts about some of your team members. Anything to make them read onward helps!
  • Establish your credibility - Qualified candidates receive a lot of messages. But most of these messages have no relevant information and are quickly dismissed. Talk about who you are and why working with you would be a great opportunity upfront. Also try throwing in current revenue or customer traction metrics, early fundraising numbers, a sampling of your strong team members, or the idea behind your groundbreaking new product. Even better, ask the prospect about a common connection if you have one!
  • Make a call to action - Keep your CTA simple. In practice, people are rarely willing to schedule a call immediately. Offer to send over more information on the role, the company, or product. If someone is even the slightest bit curious about the position, they are much more likely to accept a proposition for information than a request for carving out more time.
  • Money is in the follow-up - As the old sales expression goes, the money is in the follow-up. Don’t let a single unanswered email get you down. Schedule follow-ups with your prospects easily with tools like Trinsly.
  • Bonus tip: If you created your email address within the last month, use an email warming service for a few weeks (we like Warmup Inbox) to ensure your messages stay out of the spam folder.

Should you use external recruiters?

There is no right or wrong answer here. Recruiters may be the answer for niche roles where your network or sourcing capabilities may not have reach. Most recruiters use the same methodologies described above – don’t think there is some secret sauce behind their hefty fees. Of course, if you are time-constrained and have the money to spend, a recruiter can be a godsend. If you choose to go this route, make sure your recruiting team is crystal clear on how to position and deliver the message about the role, company, and founder(s).

Some final words on recruiting for startups

Make sure you have a process in place before you start prospecting. The worst-case scenario is bringing candidates into a process with no clear ending.  

Make sure your team knows the core competencies you are hiring for. In other words, have an explicit set of qualities to define the ideal candidate. Competencies are not skills per se, rather they are more qualitative characteristics of a candidate (e.g. empathetic, analytical, resourceful).

Know your compensation package ahead of time. This question will arise, so you need to be prepared to answer on the spot. Failure to do so will result in candidates leaving the process or being picked up by competitors. 

Lastly, move fast. This market is challenging, but as a startup, you have one main advantage: the ability to move fast.

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