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Published: Jun 13, 2023 14 min read
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Building your startup can be both an exciting and stressful time. Having the right team can help you claim your spot in the market. But how do you find and hire skilled employees without breaking the bank or wasting precious time? Use the hiring tips for startups below to learn more about setting up effective recruiting and onboarding systems (Hint: job posting sites like ZipRecruiter can be a big timesaver).

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Why is it important to optimize your startup’s hiring process?

Startups face major risks as they navigate the first months or even years of business, such as lack of proper direction, managing cash flow and not having the right team. A recruitment strategy can help to mitigate these risks and provide additional benefits such as:

  • Attracting qualified candidates that have the best skills for your job openings
  • Increasing efficiency while reducing time and money by having a solid plan in place
  • Finding best-fit candidates for your company and improving employee retention
  • Creating better overall performance by driving motivation and productivity
  • Building trust between the company and employees

If you know how to find great candidates for a job and how to choose between two great candidates, it’s more likely that you’ll hire skilled employees that can contribute more to your startup and fit into your company culture.

12 startup hiring tips to find and hire top talent

Explore hiring tips and tricks for startups below to build an effective recruitment strategy.

1. Have a hiring plan

Hiring plans are crucial for startups that are seeking funding and looking for overall growth. Investors and customers are looking for a business with the right people to satisfy their needs. However, early-stage startups will need a slightly different plan than larger companies.

Startups generally need to identify growth-oriented candidates that are committed to helping the company hit new milestones. Culture fit is also extremely important since you’ll likely have a smaller team. Employee personalities must match. They also need to think unconventionally and problem-solve creatively, whereas larger companies hire more conventional people who follow an organization’s hierarchy.

A startup hiring plan should include the following:

  • Strong employer branding: Company values and goals, benefits and perks, development opportunities, etc.
  • Talent retention plan: Fair pay, trust between employees, respect, etc.
  • Messaging: Employee value proposition, word choice, audience-specific marketing, etc.

2. Invest in recruitment tools and technology

While you may be trying to save money, investing in some recruitment technology to make the process more efficient is worth it. The best recruiting software can have several benefits, including reducing your hiring time, improving the candidate experience and making it easier to screen applicants.

Various types of recruitment software can complete different tasks. For example, you might use a social media aggregator that scans social media to find potential candidates. Or you could use an applicant tracking system (ATS) with features to help create job listings and schedule interviews. (Read about the best practices for using an ATS to maximize your investment.)

3. Utilize an employee referral program

An employee referral program allows existing employees to recommend people for a job and get a reward if that person is hired. These programs allow hiring startups to tap into their employees’ professional networks.

The main focus of your employee referral program should be your overall company culture and the rewards for recommending strong candidates. Company culture is crucial to these programs because employees only recommend good employers. For example, your company should offer development opportunities, work-life balance and respectful communication to build an environment that your employees are proud of.

Choose the reward for your program based on a set amount, or adjust it depending on the difficulty of filling the position. Clearly communicate the rewards and the requirements for earning the rewards, such as minimum tenure or performance standards. Getting recommendations from the best employees will increase your chances of finding qualified candidates.

4. Consider hiring remote employees

There are many benefits to startups hiring remotely. Remote workers can help startups save money by reducing the need for additional property and overhead expenses. In addition, startups will have access to a wider talent pool, where they can find skilled workers that they may not be able to hire otherwise.

Working remotely often has a positive effect on employees, too. They can often balance work and life obligations more effectively, which reduces stress and contributes to higher levels of dedication and motivation. Remote work has also resulted in a more diverse workforce since people all over the globe have the ability to take on open job positions.

5. Improve and promote your company culture

A solid company culture can promote positivity and happiness, leading to more productive employees and better business performance. Happier employees can also improve communication and improve your brand image to customers. If you know how to express gratitude towards employees, you’re likely on your way to building a healthy company culture. Here are some more strategies for improving the culture:

  • Celebrate employee milestones and accomplishments, including work and personal events
  • Regularly give small compliments and recognition
  • Build a system that allows employees to choose their own rewards
  • Learn more about what motivates your employees and how they like to receive recognition
  • Plan team-building exercises and events where employees can relax and socialize
  • Hire diverse employees to expand perspectives and promote inclusivity
  • Invest in professional development programs and training
  • Teach and promote mental and physical wellness

6. Build a talent pipeline

A talent pipeline helps you build a community or pool of potential employees with the skills and qualifications to fill positions within your business. Instead of having to start from the beginning of the recruiting process, you can keep these candidates on file for when a job opens up.

You can begin setting up a talent pipeline by assessing the types of people you want to include. If you expect business growth, you can expect to add a diverse group of candidates. However, if you know that a specific position will open up shortly, you can focus on finding people who meet those needs.

Source your candidates from a variety of places, such as job boards, your career page, professional networks, social media or staffing agencies. Consider using recruiting software to store information about your candidates and filter them easily as needed. Even when you’re not actively hiring, engage with your talent pipeline by posting job updates, offering recruiting resources or sending out email newsletters.

Build in your employee development program so that current employees act as part of your talent pipeline and have a chance to experience job growth while they work for you.

7. Write effective job descriptions

A job description will outline the responsibilities of a specific position, along with the necessary skills and qualifications needed to complete the job. Writing effective job descriptions makes it easier for applicants to understand whether they meet the requirements for the job. It makes it more likely that you’ll spend time screening applicants who are qualified and truly interested in the job.

An effective job description might include the following:

  • A short summary of what the job entails
  • A list of daily activities and regular responsibilities
  • A list of required skills and education
  • The salary range, benefits and potential scheduling requirements
  • Company information, such as values and goals

The best job posting sites for employers, like ZipRecruiter, will allow you to post listings with your job description to access a large pool of talent — up to 3 million job seekers a day*. In addition, you can learn how to create a better career page using your job description to attract qualified candidates.

8. Offer flexible working hours

Flexible working hours go a long way in helping startups stand out amongst large competitors. If you can’t afford to pay for unique benefits or higher salaries, startups can offer more freedom and work-life balance to attract top talent.

Many different schedule options can offer flexibility for your employees. Consider having certain days where they can work from home, either based on a set schedule or upon request. You could also have longer workdays in exchange for an extra day off each week. Seasonal businesses may also implement an extra day off during their slow season without making employees make up the time. You could also simply designate a few different work times (such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and let your employees choose which works best for them.

9. Develop a good onboarding strategy

Startups that are hiring should have a strong onboarding strategy to make the recruitment process more efficient and increase retention rates for new hires. Onboarding should integrate with your recruitment strategy so that candidates can begin to learn more about your company culture and feel socially accepted even before their first day.

The interview process should contain behavioral interview questions that can help you gauge whether candidates are a good fit. You can also use the best background check sites to screen applicants as you move into onboarding.

Welcome your new employees in fun and creative ways that allow them to learn more about their position and make connections with team members. Provide them with an employee handbook, training resources and the necessary technology to complete their job correctly. Make sure they have the opportunity to express opinions and share ideas collaboratively with your existing employees.

10. Find potential candidates through networking and social media

Social recruiting allows you to find potential hires by accessing the talent pool on social media and within your personal and professional networks. Just as businesses can use social media to gain customers, they can also use it to promote job openings and find people with the skills to fill them.

Pulling talent from your existing networks reduces the time and money it costs to recruit employees. You can use many of the same social media marketing strategies to promote jobs as you would promote your products or services. Post about your job openings and company culture to attract those who might be a good fit. You can also ask your employees to post on their social media to access their networks.

11. Encourage employees to apply for internal positions

One of the best recruiting and hiring tips is to consider internal hiring or looking to existing employees to apply for other jobs within your company. Employees aware of their employer's growth opportunities are typically more motivated. Internal hiring also helps save time and money since you may already have access to the skills and qualifications needed to fill a position.

Make it easy for employees to learn about job openings by promoting them internally. While career sites can give access to both internal and external applicants, try to encourage current employees to apply by utilizing company email or chat software to reach your internal talent directly.

12. Ensure that your new hires are managed by good leaders

New hires cannot be introduced properly to your company and their role within the company without someone to guide them. Management and leadership need to be educated and prepared to onboard new employees in a way that sets them up for success.

Supervisors and management should continuously develop their skills and become more effective communicators. Employee-focused managers realize that the people within the company are irreplaceable assets and should be made to feel valued. Management should know what motivates the employees, how to measure performance and provide constructive feedback and how to spot employee burnout so they know when to give them a boost.

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Summary of Money’s hiring tips for startups

Startups have unique risks that can be mitigated by hiring the right employees. Small startups hiring for the first time need to have strong recruiting and onboarding processes to retain ideal candidates. Smart hiring tips like using recruiting software, setting up employee referral programs, and social networking can help locate qualified applicants and efficiently add them to your team. Employers can use ZipRecruiter to post job listings and access a diverse community of applicants, while job seekers can use it to search for “full-time jobs near me” to find hiring startups.

*Based on ZipRecruiter internal data. Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021.