Hiring as a tech startup is hard enough as it is. During the beginning phases, you're working with investors and a limited budget allocated to hiring the top talent you need to make your business successful. When it comes to engineers, it's one of the most critical roles you need to fill for the development of your company.
However, finding an engineer is an especially large challenge. There are far more openings in the job market than there are qualified people to do the job. In this highly competitive market, most startups already begin their talent hunt at a slight disadvantage. You want to hire an engineer that is right for your startup without exhausting all your resources to give them a comparable financial package.
This article will dive into the steps you need to hire a quality and motivated team of engineers to give yourself a competitive edge among other companies looking to hire engineers. Even when you're not quite drowning in investor money or revenue just yet.
Engineers are in high demand in this economy. You can bet that big-name established companies are making generous salary offers with a comprehensive benefits package to hire the best and the brightest. You don't want to be caught up in a bidding war in salary negotiations and scrambling to make an immediate hire.
Create an ideal employee profile, including the skills you would need and the salary you could potentially afford. Be clear with what you're looking for in an engineer to help you narrow down the search for the right person. Not every candidate is going to check every box but decide what your deal breakers are and what you're willing to work on with the right person.
Hiring the right candidate is not just about putting a startup job listing on the market and hoping someone applies. You must be proactive in your hunt and create an attractive offer that will land the best candidate. Working as a startup, you're already a high-risk choice for many employees. With over 90% of startups failing within the first few years, many candidates are hesitant to give startups a chance. This is where a good pitch can come in and make the difference.
When pitching to a potential candidate for engineers, you want to highlight that working with you allows them to be a part of shaping the company from the ground up. They can help build the infrastructure that builds the success of the company. Offering them equity just solidifies the ownership they will have and share in the growth and success giving them more motivation to sign on.
Talk about the workplace culture you want to achieve. Culture in today's workplace is everything, and more people are signing on with companies based on their culture alone. Share your visions and where you hope the company will be heading in the future, and talk about the candidate's strengths and how you think they can help you reach your goals.
Engineers are in high demand, and a high-demand job requires a top-market salary. As a startup, you will likely not be able to pay them their market value. Still, you can entice them through a compelling benefits package. Most startups offer equity or first employee equity in their company better than what they would receive from a major company.
While the stock may not be worth a lot to begin with, the potential for growth as the startup finds success can provide employees a generous financial bonus. Providing employees equity gives them the motivation to help your startup find success. If their hard work pays off, they could potentially see significant returns based on the stock options agreed upon, well worth turning down a high-salary job.
Once you've got the logistics down for who you want to hire, what you're going to say, and what you have to offer, it's time to start looking for candidates. With the job market in its current state, you don't want to limit yourself to one avenue. You want to cast a wider net to reach as many potential candidates as possible.
Personal Networks – When you're building a team from scratch, it's hard to jump right in and begin the talent search, especially for an engineer. As a startup, you've likely started to make business connections with potential investors, employees, partners, and more. Your close contacts and connections will be the most familiar with you and your startup, so you're more likely to have a better opportunity to find a receptive candidate.
Along with reaching out to connections to see if they know anyone, reach out to people you may have worked with in the past. If you already know their talents and enjoy working with them, they could be a great fit and make a major difference in your company's growth. You'll have an easier chance of convincing someone you know to take a chance and join you.
Exploring your personal network should be the first place you focus on looking to hire an engineer. As your team grows, you can start to diversify by hiring through other avenues to ensure you build a team that works well together.
Cold Outreach – Throughout your startup journey, you should create connections to find people who may benefit your company. Start looking and connecting with tech engineers and people in your industry. Building a brand and name for yourself and your connections can go a long way on LinkedIn.
When you're ready to start the hiring process, you can craft a well-worded message to tell them a little bit about your startup and what you're looking for. Be sure to keep it short but with as many specifics as you can. Ask them if they are interested and see if you can close a meeting with them.
Beyond manually connecting with people on LinkedIn, you can begin utilizing tools to up your cold outreach game. Cold outreach and sourcing have long been part of the roles of founders and startups. You can use software that builds email campaigns by searching connections or related keywords on LinkedIn and other platforms and creating an email to send in your drafts. You can customize your email template and easily send customized or personal emails to potential candidates you feel may be a good fit.
Recruiting through cold outreach can be time-consuming and exhausting. You have to move quickly in this job market to reach great candidates before they start interviewing with other companies. You'll have to spend a lot of your time crafting emails and sending responses. You can delegate the task if you feel comfortable and confident doing so, but the more you work on your outreach, the faster and more likely you'll get in touch with someone who wants to work with you.
Hire a Recruiter – Sometimes, you may not have the time or the capacity to search for a qualified engineering candidate, and that's okay. Many recruiters are dedicated to getting to know your company and helping you find someone who is the right fit. They can search through indeed and other marketplaces for qualified candidates, saving you time and effort. Find a recruiter who can work on a contractual basis, like a freelancer, to reduce the costs cutting into your hiring funds.
After the tedious process of looking for the right candidate, the interview process is as much about reviewing their skills as it is about selling them on joining your startup. Your interview should give your potential candidates a realistic idea of what it will be like to work with your team.
Structure the interview with questions that relate to the tasks you'll need to be done regularly. Find out how well they can solve problems and what their ideal day-to-day would look like. Always set aside time for interviewees to ask questions and address any concerns they might have.
The job market for engineers is a highly competitive field, and you want to move quickly. A candidate looking for a job usually wants to close quickly, and you want to move the process along with little to no stalls, if possible. If you decide to move forward on a candidate, try reaching out to their references within 24 to 48 hours before moving them along.
In the last rounds of the interview, work towards learning more and introducing them to others in the team, and getting them excited about joining your startup. Talk about compensation packages and get excited when talking about the equity package. With a startup, remember it's more about the potential value of your company. Once you've closed the deal, celebrate. You just managed one of the most challenging hiring processes for startups!
Hiring an engineer during the first stages of your startup will be hard unless you're well connected. Create a compelling pitch, build connections and relationships, and prepare to work hard to fill your open positions.
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