Startups needing to Hire employees (Getting positions filled with TOP Talent)

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With my background in startups and recruiting, I’m always asked about how to hire for early stage startups (three people asked last week).   This blog post is for startups with 1 to 10 employees that don’t have enough funding to hire a recruiter as an employee.    The goal is for startups to hire high quality talent without letting the position remain open for an extended period of time.


I created because of how hard it was to hire top Talent at Microsoft.  4 years later and after the acquisition, I’m still a big believer that the TalentSpring search model is the best way to get top talent resumes in minutes.  I’ll include all techniques that tiny startups use to show the full range of techniques.

NOTE: Hiring brilliant talent is fundamentally hard.  Without a tool like TalentSpring, it will require around 10 to 40 hours of labor — if you want to guarantee the position will fill in 1 to 3 months and with quality candidates.  It can take less time if an additional 6 month lag is okay for your business.



#1: TalentSpring: The best way with the least hours of work is TalentSpring.  However, the market we focus most on are agency recruiters or companies that have a recruiter or team or recruiters inside of their company.  The details are here.

#2: Track people who Applied: I recommend startup companies use an “Applicant Tracking System” in order to take notes and track as they reject or progress candidates.  They will generate new resumes because they will drive free organic traffic from, and other sources.  My company (Talent Technology) sells HireDesk as an ATS.  There are a wide range of great ATSes from free ATSes ( to bigger and more sophisticated ATSes (Taleo, VirtualEdge, Oracle, and more).  Since price isn’t a problem, there is no reason not to have one to save time tracking which resumes you rejected and which are progressing.   Opening positions in the ATS will get them advertised for free so open those job postings SOONER rather than LATER.  The traffic from SimplyHired/Indeed you will receive for free will deliver “n” resumes per month per job posting, so keep job openings open over time to get resumes for free and in quantity to help hiring later.   Also, use the URL to your ATS job posting (with Apply button) when you post it everywhere (Job postings, tweets, etc.) because it will funnel people to apply directly into your ATS so you never have to upload their resume or enter them in your ATS.

#3: CraigsList Job Postings: The fact that CraigList charges between $25 to $75 per job posting makes it much cheaper than most other job postings.  The quality is often lower at CraigsList, however the right candidates periodically come through.  CraigList is so cheap, purchasing a job posting is often worth while simply because it is so inexpensive.  Hopefully you receive 15 to 30 resumes from the job posting, however only 3 to 5 resumes may reach the quality you are looking for.   You must write your job description and subject line to have a strong pull to attract candidates, and that can increase the number of people who apply up to 400% over boring job postings.

#4: Tweet/Facebook/LinkedIn: I recommend posting on Twitter, Facebook and in Linked-In’s stream mentioning the types of open positions you are filling.  Include a link to your ATS job posting for people to apply.  There is no silver bullet to hiring so getting the word out as far as possible helps.   Adding a line to your email signature helps (“We are hiring a VP of Engineering and Sales Manager”)

#5: Your Website: Your ATS creates a “Job Site” website that is publicly visible, and often brandable to be consistent with your company website.  Adding a “Careers” link will further get a small amount of traffic, but that traffic will often be a strong culture match (passionate about your business, startup employees, local candidates, salary compatible, etc.).   Also, posting on your blog about your new open positions is helpful.

#6: Networking Events: Attending local networking events that match the people you need to hire is also useful.  Attending different events and only visiting each event only once will gain access to the most social circles with the least time investment.  An important technique is to mention to people “We are hiring xxx”.  The person at the networking event may not be a right match, but they may know someone.  People at networking event strengthen relationships by connecting people who are a match in business.

#7: Recruiting on Linked-In: When getting certain positions filled is critical, such as executives, and when top quality is a must, there is a lot of value in spending 4 hours focused on deep searches in Linked-In.   Most of the other items in this list mostly deliver a flow of resumes over time for free and with little labor (but are valuable only with 3 to 5 months of flow).  This technique is useful when you must guarantee someone is hired and sooner than later.  Google searches in the following pattern can be helpful:  “Seattle Area” Ruby EC2 “VP of Engineering” -jobs.   You can browse your Linked-In first degree connections for people who are high quality and browse their connections for people who match the job titles you need.   TalentSpring is a paid service that makes getting resumes nearly instantaneousness from this source and many others.  However, if you have absolutely zero budget and are willing to spend 4 hours to 20 hours, you can often find some of the potential that exists in Linked-In.

#8: Hiring an recruiter as an employee: Startups who raise $3m+ and need to hire several employees in the next quarter or two often hire an employee to be a full time internal recruiter.  This could be less expensive than an agency recruiter.  The issue is that there is a huge difference between a great recruiter and a mediocre recruiter, and that will show up in positions just not getting filled or the quality that you receive being low.  I have seen several companies close a VC round, hire a recruiter and then realize months later that they were low quality and having to replace the recruiter and the positions never filled.  This can result in the worst of all situation so the risk must be managed.

#9: Hiring an Agency recruiter: Recruiting high quality employees inescapably takes 10 to 40 hours of labor if you don’t want filling the position to drag out.  As a business leader, you need to also need to visualize the “time value cost of money” of the position taking an extra 2 to 6 months to fill.  Understanding the amount of lost revenue or value is lost every month the position remains open will be helpful in opening up your mind to paying money for paid services: job postings, TalentSpring (Talent Technology’s external search) or an agency recruiter.  Using an agency recruiter is a way to free up your time, only pay on success and that person will put in the hours on all of the labor listed above.  Most startups that I know don’t rely on a single recruiter and instead allow several agencies to work on the position in parallel.  This allows the company to win because they benefit from the strongest agency since poor quality agencies won’t deliver at all, won’t deliver soon, or will deliver low quality candidates.  Agencies have a rack rate of 25% to 33% of first year hired, however these fees are highly negotiable.  Startups have paid agencies as low as 15% to 10% of first year hired salaries at the very lowest range of the spectrum.


I wrote this post for startups with less than 10 employees who often have no budget, almost no time and no access to an internal recruiter.  Recruiting is always hard work so I hope these techniques are helpful.   It is useful to think of recruiting as “How many people have learned of my job opening” per month and “How many qualified resumes have I read” each month.  Recruiting is the process of getting these to scale.   If the numbers don’t scale up, then the months to fill the position expand out.


Happy recruiting


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