The five biggest hiring challenges for startups right now and how to solve them

20 September 2021

Hiring right now isn’t easy. It’s incredibly competitive, and candidates are in control. Everyone is on the hunt for the same talent, looking in the same places and competing for the same individuals. Even established businesses are having trouble attracting talent. With so many current opportunities for candidates, many companies are being left behind. Then there’s the issue that employers are pulling out all the stops to hold on to their existing talent, as they know the recruitment market is so competitive; it will be damaging to lose them.

Factor all of this in with being a startup, and you’re bound to face even more challenges. As a startup founder, you have a lot on your plate, and recruiting talent in the current climate will only add to this pressure.

At Talent Works, we’re passionate about helping innovative startups to grow; this means helping them surround themselves with relevant and exceptional talent. Therefore, we’re rounding up some of the biggest hiring challenges that startup businesses are currently facing and how to solve them.

Company reputation and visibility

As a startup, it’s likely that your business isn’t yet a household name. You don’t have a reputation to fall back on in the hunt for talent like larger corporations do. If no one has heard of your business, it’s increasingly difficult to attract talent to work for you. It’s a risk for candidates to join a company they’ve never heard of and are in the early stages of growth. As much as we hate to admit it, reputation plays a huge part in candidate decisions and employer brand perceptions which is why recruiting for your startup is often tricky.

Solution? Your EVP and Employer Brand

Firstly, you need to consider what really sets you apart from your biggest talent competitors, and yes, this includes the more prominent players too. As a startup, your mission, values and culture will be a huge drive for many candidates, especially those looking for a challenge or to be a part of something exciting.

With a small team, you probably haven’t thought too much about creating an EVP (a set of guidelines that outline what candidates can expect from you as an employer), but in the current talent market, you should. This will help you identify what makes your business a unique place to work, and then you can communicate this to candidates, providing the foundations for your employer brand perceptions. The EVP will act as a guideline for your company culture, how employees are treated, and what you expect from them. It’s a useful tool when trying to differentiate yourself from the competition and build your employer brand.

Lack of tech talent on the market

There’s a global tech talent shortage that is currently making tech recruitment difficult for businesses of all sizes, especially startups. Universities are only producing so many tech graduates every year, and experienced tech talent is also in short supply, with employers pulling out all the stops to hold on to them. How are you meant to hire people to grow your business if they don’t exist? You can’t build people as much as we’d all like to, and you can’t always afford to wait for the talented people to come to you as this will put your growth plans on hold. Tech skills are in such high demand that candidates are being swept up quickly, and it’s leaving many businesses at a loss. Specific tech skillsets are needed to scale and meet demand, but they simply aren’t available.

Solution? Reaching passive or alternative candidates

With every startup, scaleup and established enterprise looking to the same pool of talent to fulfil recruitment demand, there’s no wonder many are struggling to find talent. Therefore, startups need to get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to hiring. Think of other ways to expand your talent pool, like using paid media campaigns to reach out and promote your opportunity to relevant passive candidates or rethink your idea of the ideal candidate. Skills can be learnt, and attitude cannot. Therefore, if you find candidates who share your drive and values but may need a little help refining their tech skill set, this could work in your favour as a startup. For example, they may have been working in another industry and see an opportunity to reskill, or they may have taken a lot of leave and are looking to re-enter the world of work. Being more open-minded and using digital advertising to expand your talent pool could help.

Increased competition for talent

Just as there is a lack of talent, there is a huge increase in companies recruiting and searching for the same talent. This causes a problem for startups as you really have to stand out to candidates, candidates who may never have heard of you. If you’re competing with the big players in tech like Amazon, Google or Facebook, then there’s also the issue of compensation. Startups often cannot offer the same salaries and packages as these big names because the funding isn’t there. This makes it increasingly hard to appeal to talent as you risk being priced out of the race.

Solution? Form an emotional connection

So how can you compete? Think about your EVP and what makes you a great place to work, but also consider your mission. Why did you begin this journey, and what does your business stand for? Using these unique selling points and shared values as part of your employer brand communications will help you to resonate with like-minded candidates. These will be the candidates that care more about the value their work brings and being happy in the workplace than salary and company names. You need to appeal to candidates on an emotional level and give them reasons to want to work with you. Suppose you can connect with candidates emotionally by promoting your culture, values and mission. In that case, you’ll end up with better quality hires and improved retention as they’ll be more dedicated to your cause.  

Balancing recruitment with growth

When you’re a startup, you have other things on your mind besides recruiting. Your leadership team are probably wearing many hats as you concentrate on finding funding, growing your product and raising brand awareness, to name but a few tasks. Recruiting takes up capacity, which your small team probably don’t have. Not only do you have to advertise a job, but you have to screen candidates, arrange and conduct interviews and often conduct skills-based assessments. This takes time and resources. So how can you grow your business while recruiting the talent you need to take your startup to the next level and meet demand?

Solution? RPO

The answer? Get help. As a startup leader, it can be tempting to want to do everything yourself and carry out every task because the business is like your baby. However, if time isn’t on your side, outsourcing recruitment isn’t giving up responsibility. Instead, it’s a strategic move to allow you to focus your attention where it’s needed.

Engaging an industry-specific RPO provider isn’t just for large businesses; a flexible approach to RPO means that services can be scaled to meet demand. It makes outsourcing recruitment risk-free and affordable. RPO providers will also put your mind at rest because, unlike contingent agencies, they take the time to get to know your startup business and what makes it great. They’ll get to grips with not only the role you need to fill but the kind of person you need to fill them. Forming a recruitment partnership with an RPO provider means you can reduce pressure on your leadership team and still recruit at scale confident in the knowledge that they have the best interests of your business at heart.

Lacking recruitment experience

Finally, a prominent challenge startup founders face when hiring talent is a lack of recruitment experience and expertise. If you’ve never built out teams before, how do you know what to look for? How can you ensure you’re hiring the best people possible?

 A lack of experience recruiting talent could set you back in a competitive market as you’re going against established HR and talent acquisition teams who provide a seamless experience. As a startup founder, you may be learning on the job, but you don’t want this to come across to candidates in the initial stages as it could impact employer brand perceptions. Plus, in a rapidly growing business, recruiting the wrong person or facing high attrition rates could be detrimental. No one wants to be recruiting and replacing employees so soon after making the hire.

Solution? Outsourcing 

If you’re lacking in recruitment experience, there’s no harm in asking for help and advice. Outsourcing your tech recruitment to an RPO provider means you benefit from years of recruitment expertise and knowledge. These organisations will know how and where to reach the relevant candidates with various recruitment strategies. Plus, they’ll have an idea of the right candidate and what that means for your business. RPO providers work as a strategic talent partner; they don’t simply fill roles but help with your entire talent acquisition strategy, from raising employer brand awareness to identifying untapped talent pools. In a startup, there’s a lot of learning through error. However, startups can’t always afford to make costly recruitment mistakes, so the RPO provider’s expertise could be invaluable.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about Talent Works’ flexible approach to RPO, specifically designed to help startups scale.

Our risk-free and agile RPO solution reflects the changing nature of a growing business and is currently being used by some of the world’s most exciting growing businesses. Find out more by viewing our work.

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