If you’re an entrepreneur or working in a startup, you’ve heard all the hype around the extravagant perks and benefits some companies, especially in the tech scene, are offering.
Stories about companies with lots of ping pong tables, free yoga classes, gourmet chefs—it’s starting to feel like the TV series “Silicon Valley” is a little too much like the real-life Silicon Valley.
You may also be painfully aware of why it’s like this.
Great employees, especially ones with technical skills, are often hard to come by—and the competition for them is fierce. Not only that, talent is key to growth. The team with the best players is the one that wins.
So if you don’t have the money for unlimited ping pong tables and a gourmet chef—much less top salaries—can you still find and attract the best people?
I think so. Here are some tips you can use to make it happen.
1. Don’t just think different, be different
I don’t mean that you should start going into work barefoot or stop taking showers. I’m talking differentiating yourself from other employers in a purposeful, meaningful way.
I’ve got two easy research tricks you can do to find out exactly how you should be differentiating yourself to make the best impression on potential employees.
Use Glassdoor to find employee pain points
First, take a few minutes to jump on Glassdoor and find out what people who work in the position you’re hiring for complain about.
- Go to Glassdoor
- Type in the position you’re hiring for, clear the location.
- In the left sidebar, you’ll see employers. Click one.
- Now you’ll see info on that employer. Click “reviews.”
Check out the reviews, and look for reoccurring complaints from people with the job you’re hiring for. These are the “pain points” for your potential hires, coming from their own mouths.
So, for example, if the people in the position you’re hiring for complain about having to use outdated equipment, and you happen to use top-notch gear at your company, you’d want to include that information in job postings, on your company careers page, and in social media posts aimed at potential candidates.
Try a Google search to find more pain points
However, not all jobs have enough representation on Glassdoor for you to find this type of info, which is why the following Google search is helpful.
- Go to Google.
- Search for inurl:forum [position you’re hiring for]. Example: inurl:forum project manager.
Nearly every job has a forum where people who do that job go to talk shop. Oftentimes, they’ll go there to complain about the worst points of the job.
Look for threads about the “pros and cons” of the job, or “the worst thing about being a…”
The information you’ll get through these two tactics will help you to not only know what you should say and write to differentiate yourself from other employers, but should give you some great intel on what direction you want to take with your company culture.
One of the great things about a startup is that the culture is still forming; you make the rules, and you have the ability to mold it into what your ideal employees want.
2. Consider going remote
What are the chances that your ideal employee lives within driving distance of your office?
Moving is a big obstacle for a lot of people, whereas being able to choose where they live is really attractive.
Also, a salary that barely gets someone by in tech hot spots is a princely sum in other parts of the world. Lots of startups, including Betterteam, are remote, and research shows that remote workers are more productive and easier to retain.
Tips for going remote
Never hired a remote worker before? Most of the staff at Betterteam, including me, have been doing it a long time. Here are a couple things we’ve learned along the way.
- Go with people who have experience working independently. Working remotely takes a certain ability to stay on task, especially when it means you’ll be on the internet all day. Ask candidates to talk about projects where they’ve had limited supervision, and what they did to stay focused.
- Stay connected with good tech. Besides Skype and Google Hangouts, there are a ton of great tools to help remote employees stay connected, and make it easy to coordinate projects. We use Slack for day-to-day communication, Basecamp to manage projects, and Calendly to help us schedule meetings.
- Don’t skimp on live meetings. Text-based tools like Slack are great, but I’ve seen plenty of misunderstandings arise when an innocent message is taken the wrong way. If you’ve got to talk about something sensitive, or with the potential for misunderstanding, do it in a live conversation.
- Meet in person whenever possible. Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, is a completely remote company, but they help each team, and the company as a whole, get together a few times a year. For bonding, nothing substitutes a little face-to-face time.
- Read “The Year Without Pants” by Scott Berkun. It chronicles a year he spent working remotely for Automattic. It’s all-around a great story, with lots of useful insights about remote work.
3. Give freelancers a try
Can’t afford to take on that amazing employee full time? Not sure if you’re ready to invest in a position? Try hiring freelancers.
It helps you stay within budget, lets you try people out before they go full time, and quickly ramp work up and down as needed. This could be useful if your company experiences a seasonal boom, has a particular project that requires extra help, or just wants to see what it’s like to have someone in a position before making a full-time commitment.
There are many websites, such as Upwork, that make hiring freelancers really easy. Oftentimes, you can literally have someone on the job in minutes.
I have a lot of experience using Upwork, and have hired graphic designers, researchers, data entry positions, and software developers here.
One thing I’d recommend is searching for the candidates yourself. Upwork does offer to broadcast your job to potential freelancers, but I’ve found that I get overwhelmed that way. Instead, I use their candidate search, and look for people who have had 90 percent job success, with “at least 100 hours billed” selected in “advanced filters.”
I’ve found many great freelancers this way, some of whom I’ve worked with for years now.
4. Treat potential employees like customers
When you’ve got a position open, don’t just post a list of requirements and responsibilities to a job board. Instead, write a job posting that sells the job, telling applicants just what it is about your company that makes it an awesome place to work.
The research you did in step one will come in handy for this. If you’re able to respond directly to common pain points people have with a job, be sure to put that in the posting.
Beyond these, there are some other areas you’ll want to address:
- The Team: what makes their potential co-workers great to work with.
- The Company: why your company is great to work for.
- The Benefits: be as detailed about the benefits you offer as possible.
- The Location: moving is hard—sell them on why they’ll love your city or region.
Honestly, I can’t believe I’m still having to tell people this. It’s the easiest hiring hack, it’s super effective, and it costs nothing. Yet no one does it.
5. Grow your network by being good
We’re busy at startups. Oftentimes we’re doing several different jobs, all at once, and it’s hard to keep up with all the details. So we’ve got to let go of some of the details.
It’s tempting, once you’ve found your ideal candidate, to forget about everyone else, hire the person you need, and get on with the job. Don’t do that.
Not only should you send a nice message to declined candidates once you’ve made your hire, but you should also keep up with them if possible.
They’ve shown interest in working for your company, and the person that doesn’t quite have enough experience today may be the superstar you need two years from now. Make this even easier by using hiring software that helps you communicate easily with candidates.
Part of the fun of being a startup is being scrappy, and figuring out ways of making things work when it doesn’t appear they can. If you’ve got a great company, I think you can hire amazing talent—if you’re willing to be creative and flexible.
If you’re strapped for time, just try the writing job ads the way I described in step four. You’ll be amazed by the difference.