Part One of Two: Startup DNA

10 Challenges Startups Face When Recruiting Today


Being a startup, particularly in the tech industry, can be exciting—but it’s never easy. Startups face challenges in every direction they turn, especially when it comes to recruiting. In fact, few responsibilities stretch emerging companies as thin as hiring does. Finding, engaging, and landing the right employees can be overwhelming on a whole series of levels.

Understanding these hiring challenges, however, is the first step in conquering them. And the ability to identify, hire and retain the right talent with “startup DNA” is the lynchpin to any startup’s ultimate—and lasting—success. On the other hand, hiring mistakes are not only costly but also can negatively impact a company’s culture.

Below is part one (the first five) of Hirelab’s list of 10 of the most significant challenges for startups when hiring new talent.

1. Finding Qualified Applicants

There's nothing more frustrating than publicizing a job opening and getting dozens of unqualified and underwhelming candidates whom you would never really even consider. Your best bet? Work within your network. Employee referrals continue to be among the top sources for hiring and the single best source for long-term hires. Offer rewards for employee referrals and external referrals. Candidates sourced this way usually have a better, more accurate picture of the company than those responding to ads. In most cases, employees only recommend those they think will be a good match culturally; in that respect, they’ve already begun the vetting process for you.  

2. Qualified and Self-Motivated

Startups succeed when people act rather than react; when something needs to be done they do it, no questions asked. You need to find candidates with the level of motivation needed to work in a startup environment. Certain skills can be taught, but motivation?  You either have it or you don’t. During the recruiting and interviewing process, you need to gauge a candidate’s motivation in addition to their skill set. What spurs their motivation and expectations, both short and long-term? Motivation, coupled with creativity, is the true counterbalance to resource constraints.

3. Who Are a Cultural Fit

Working at a startup isn’t like working at larger, established corporations. Candidates without startup experience will simply not be used to the level of change and pace they’d find in their new role. You need to strongly consider this fact because, while everything else about a candidate lines up to a tee, new hires without prior startup experience tend not to last long. As seasoned recruiters, we’ve often heard someone say they were part of an “internal startup” at someplace like HP or IBM. That makes us laugh. Nobody at HP or IBM goes from a strategy meeting to changing the printer toner to a funding meeting to reviewing code. Doesn’t happen. But at a startup? All the time. Besides, nobody at IBM lies awake at night hoping they will still be around in 6 months.

 4. And Productive from Day One

As a startup, you need people who are agile and can get things moving fast. Big corporations can afford to have long onboarding periods and training programs that give new hires time to get their feet beneath them, but as a startup, you need to find candidates with the skills, motivation and fit to become a team member who produces results from the moment they join your organization.

5. Who Exhibit Maturity, Regardless of Age and Experience

While your company may be fledgling and green, you’ll need to land talent that is composed and confident, whether they’re an experienced engineer or a sales support representative who’s straight out of college. They’ll need that confidence to work assuredly, and without supervision. It’s all about efficiency, and startups can’t afford to hire employees unable to carry out their jobs independent of others.  


Stay Tuned:

Follow the advice above and you’ll improve your hiring practices. While these challenges relate primarily to the candidates themselves and what to seek in them, keep a lookout for our follow-up article. We’ll round out the list of ten challenges with ones geared towards what your organization must do in terms of recruiting processes and activities.

As always, your comments are welcome.