5 Strategies to Attract Top Talent When Nobody Has Heard About Your Startup Yet

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Advice for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs, Recruitment Advice, Trends and Learning

Everyone has to start somewhere. At the ground level of your company, you’re going to need highly talented and passionate people. You’re trying to build an empire from the dirt, and it’s hard to do that with minimally skilled employees. Therein lies the dilemma – if you have nothing to show yet, how are you going to capture the attention (and work ethic) of the people you need the most? Attracting top talent for an emerging company can be a challenge, but with the right strategy, it’s far from impossible.

1. Offer More Life

Unless you hit your investment pitch so far out of the park that you’re staring with a small fortune, you cannot afford to offer a massive salary. Instead, offer more life. Many highly talented employees desire a better work-life balance. They might want to work remotely a few days a week. Maybe they’d prefer a six hour workday, or a four day work week. If they’re worth it, make the compromises. Let them have what your biggest major competitors can’t or won’t give them. Sometimes, freedom and flexibility in life mean more than a paycheck.

2. Use Culture in Your Branding

People spend a lot of time on social media. Talented candidates, especially those belonging to the younger generation, fall under this umbrella. There’s no better place to broadcast your company culture than through your branding on social media. Until you’re launched, you won’t have much to share. Work on developing and strengthening a brand voice that directly conveys what you represent. Top talent will recognize your message, as it likely will resonate with their own desires for a workplace that reflects their values. Do a lot of talking and be as present as possible. Stay engaged in industry related conversations. The exact people you want to meet might reach out to you based on your messaging.

3. Promote Creative Freedom

Top talent doesn’t need to be micromanaged. These people are excellent at what they do. They don’t want an itemized list, and they don’t want to be told exactly how things should be done. Offer an environment where that won’t be a problem. Promise talented people the freedom to do things as they see fit, experiment with ideas, and run their respective projects in the way they feel is best.

This is a great idea for two reasons. The first reason is that they’re likely seeking creative freedom they aren’t getting from their current job or never got from a previous job. The opportunity to execute that freedom may be too great to pass up. The second reason is that your plate is going to be full. Startups are notoriously hard to run, and if you have the right people in the right places, your workload will be significantly easier. Everyone wins.

4. Practice a Perfect Pitch

If your startup was built on outside funding, you’re probably used to singing for your supper. You had to convince someone with deep pockets to believe in your dream, and they ultimately did. Try using the same strategy to win over top talent. If you find candidates on professional social networks or industry forums that seem promising, there’s nothing stopping you from initiating contact. Craft a pitch email template you can use to reach out to great candidates.

Let them know who you are, what you’re doing, why you’re different, and why you want them to be a part of your startup. Include links to relevant information and attachments that explain your products or services. Give them time to review all the information and self-assess for fitness. If you’re a cultural fit for each other and a talented person can feel that, he or she will be more likely to embark on the journey with you.

5. Take The Show on the Road

Get out into the real world and talk to people. Attend industry events, networking events, and trade shows. Make your presence known. These types of events are a great place to stumble upon highly talented candidates, and even spur of the moment investors. You might also have an opportunity to network with other startups whose needs and aims complement yours. There’s no telling exactly how much you can benefit from a productive networking session. Put something together, have some business cards made, and book a hotel room.

Attracting top talent to a startup may require a little more work and a lot more imagination than attracting top talent to a Fortune 500 company, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. If you’re persistent and you’re willing to take the time, you may be surprised by who would be eager to work with you.