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Companies - Hiring Remotely - Wed Jan 11 2023

6 Key Learnings From Startup Hiring Methods That Can Benefit a Company

Initial hires are key to any company’s success. Yet for startups, the stakes are even higher. 

Startups are characterized by extreme growth, making hiring the right talent a “make-or-break,” “sink-or-swim” issue. According to a study by Failory, "Why Startups Fail," talent is at the core of everything that can cause a startup success or failure related to tech, culture, finance, marketing, operations, and more. From idea to execution on every front, startups move fast.

Due to this high-risk, high-reward environment, the way that startups approach hiring is unique from other more established companies. Here are six key learnings from startup hiring methods that any company can benefit from. 

All About Startup Environments

Why are startup hiring methods so distinctive? To begin with, startup environments are typically high-stress and team members may have to make high-impact decisions and take on responsibilities that go beyond their usual roles. 

This makes hiring for startups even more critical than for other companies. Ultimately, the consequences of hiring the wrong candidate mean that startup projects may be severely compromised or even fail. 

6 Startup Hiring tactics That Large Companies Can Learn From

startup hiring a new software developer

1. Combine Soft Skills & Hard Skills

While large companies tend to begin their talent search with technical skills, startups often build candidate profiles that are specifically defined by soft skills. The bar is typically “insanely high” depending on how early stage the startup is, from recruiting a co-founder, and a core engineering team, or 2 to 20 iterations later. The scope tends to be more precise as the company grows.

Startups know firsthand the importance of seeking candidates with team-friendly traits. In fact, they’ll often create job descriptions with a tailored soft skills section and design behavioral interview questions to focus on understanding candidates’ personalities.

Take for example some of the most wanted soft skills for startups:

  • Proactive problem-solving: As in unstructured environments, startups don’t have time to delegate and plan all the details. Having team members who can resolve issues on their own and take ownership of projects – even those that aren’t directly related to their role – is essential for moving forward and getting things done. 
  • Adaptability: Startup culture is constantly evolving and it’s vital to have team members who adapt to it. Those who are open to new ideas and focused on addressing real feedback from customers, investors, etc. will help the startup stay business-oriented and customer-centric.  
  • Collaborative tendencies: Everybody at a startup must be a team player for it to succeed. Hiring for collaboration, especially for traits such as honest communication, active listening, transparency, and a positive attitude can make a huge difference in team productivity.
  • Ambitious goal-setting: Finally, startup teams are defined by aiming high. Team members should feel that drive of ambition and want to make an impact. Without this motivation, it may be tough to advance the company mission and meet purpose-driven goals. 

Ultimately, these traits are great for any company, especially if a new direction or high growth is expected in the future.

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

software developer through a hiring process

  • Make candidate profiles specifically focused on soft skills. Don’t hesitate to mention how important these skills are during your candidate journey.
  • Create job descriptions with a tailored soft skills section.
  • Craft company-specific behavioral interview questions to understand candidates’ soft skills.
  • Conduct cultural interviews from multiple perspectives for an unbiased match (leading to the next tactic).

2. Leverage “Collaborative Hiring” Concepts

In addition, growing startups often lean on a method called “collaborative hiring” to speed up the recruitment process and ensure a cultural fit. (In comparison, hiring at larger companies is typically led by a single recruiter or a traditional HR team.)

Collaborative hiring is a team-based method that involves a range of coworkers in the process. In this multi-stage approach, a candidate may have primary contact with their future team members and not just the HR manager and their direct report.

For example, a candidate may first spend 20 minutes meeting their direct report and then 40 minutes talking with several team members. In turn, this creates a more human candidate experience that checks for cultural fit and immediately weeds out the wrong candidates

Collaborative hiring also tends to be faster, as candidates meet several company stakeholders at once. Because hiring decisions are made as a group, they don’t typically require more than two or three interview rounds to get a full picture of the candidate’s potential for the role. 

And since companies lose up to 78% of potential candidates due to lengthy recruitment processes, this type of streamlined method can be effective for capturing the best talent today.

The outcome of each interviewer in each step should be any of the following (and remain private from the candidate): : 

  • Strong Yes
  • Weak Yes
  • Weak No 
  • Strong No

To define the extremes, a strong yes is equal to “I’ll do anything to have this candidate on my team” while a “strong no” is “If this candidate joins the team, I’ll quit.” Hopefully, no one takes this personally and everybody focuses on finding a match for the skillset and the role,  whether the candidate is ready or not YET (they may be in the future). 

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

  • Identify stakeholders to be included in your collaborative hiring process. 
  • Audit your interview process to remove unnecessary interview rounds. 
  • Find team consensus at the end of the hiring process, to extend offers to candidates who achieved the most “strong yes” votes (band hopefully no strong nos) from your team. 

3. Focus on Flexibility  

Software engineer making an interview for a large company

Startups may also be more receptive to non-structured processes compared to larger companies. While established companies may take a hard line on job requirements (such as the right degree, X years of experience, etc.), startups tend to cast a larger net by going beyond traditional resumes and even roles. Some startups even first hire outstanding talent and tailor a role around them.

To successfully do this, many startups rely on references or validated trusted sources (like Nexton) to verify candidates' abilities and credentials. While gauging skills is time-consuming, there are some trusted sources that often save startups valuable resources in making the right hiring decisions. 

For tech skills, for instance, startups may partner with Nexton which provides trustworthy information written by engineers. Skill normalization also opens up startups to hiring remote candidates in regions with a lower comparable salary, saving them on hiring costs overall. 

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

  • Consider being flexible with outstanding candidates by softening job requirements.  
  • Find a talent partner to handle skills normalization as needed. 

4. Invest in Robust Employer Branding

Three out of every four hiring leaders report that attracting top candidates is easier when they know about your organization. Unlike established or large companies, startups have to work harder to highlight their employer brand, as they may be completely unknown to candidates.

For this reason, startups often invest in marketing their company culture and branding. Startups will leverage branding tools such as company websites, professional networks, and social media in order to build excitement about their mission-driven atmosphere and workplace.

For example, startups may have a more dedicated budget for sharing their company projects and events online. They may also encourage team members to post reviews or reflections on professional networks, social media, Glassdoor, etc.

Most importantly, startups will personalize the recruitment process to showcase their unique company culture and value for candidates. In turn, this ignites enthusiasm for their workplace and better attracts top candidates who feel excited by the work environment and culture.  

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

  • Invest in employer branding, especially on your website, social media, and professional networks. 
  • Personalize the candidate journey to show off your company’s value proposition during the recruitment process. 

5. Put Together a Creative Benefits Package

Nexton’s 2022 Tech Salaries and Benefits Trends Report

(Source: Nexton’s 2022 Tech Salaries and Benefits Trends Report)

Overall, startups are more creative in the way they approach benefits. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Report, flexibility is a key value proposition for employers, with team members 2.1x more likely to recommend working for the company if there are flexible hours. 

Startups have taken note and most now offer work-from-anywhere models in order to attract better talent. Compared to larger companies, they also tend to think outside the box to add creative benefits to bring candidates to the table. 

For example, creative benefits such as a learning budget, stock packages, and/or wellness stipends may appeal to candidates. Ultimately, there are plenty of unique, non-monetary rewards that can create that extra appeal factor (see a full list here!). 

And as startups grow, they can offer greater long-term benefits, career paths, and job stability, the same as large companies.

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

  • Offer flexibility and goal-oriented work to attract top candidates.
  • Consider more creative benefits to add value. 

6. Constantly Iterate Hiring Methods

At startups, team members know the true meaning that “change is the only constant.” However, any company should take this to heart especially when it comes to hiring methods. According to a study by PwC, 49% of job seekers (especially in tech) turn down offers due to a bad experience during hiring

Startups know how expensive hiring can be, as they iterate hiring methods and collect feedback from candidates and team members on a regular basis (as frequently as once a month). 

If you don’t regularly iterate your hiring methods, you may also get stuck in a traditional pipeline that doesn’t adapt to today’s trends. Commit to constantly updating your hiring methods in order to polish your candidate experience and capture the right team members.

Actionable Steps for Large Companies:

  • Set up a regular feedback cycle for hiring that includes both candidates and team members. 
  • Collect NPS from candidates and interviewers.

Summary: Startup vs. Large Company Hiring Trends

Startup Hiring Tactics Summary

  • Focus on soft skills
  • Collaborative hiring methods
  • Faster hiring process
  • Use of skills tests
  • Prioritization of employer branding
  • Creative benefits package (flexible hours, career advancement, etc.)
  • Regularly iterated hiring methods


Leverage Nexton to Find Tech Talent

Nexton has already helped over 280+ U.S. startups in their late seed/Series A stage! We know how complex can be. Startups greatly depend on their people's power to succeed, which means that their hiring methods are tailored to find the right team members. Any company can benefit from incorporating the startup-oriented tips above to improve its hiring methods and build better teams.  

Ready to create a hiring strategy for your tech talent? Get in touch with Nexton! We provide full-scale talent solutions for hiring and retaining the best developers from Latin America. 

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Blog Team
Nexton empowers companies connecting them with the strongest engineering talent in LATAM.

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