How Startups Can Win Top Talent – Part 2

How Startups Can Win Top Talent – Part 2

Our Founder and CEO, Mei Lu, recently gave a talk on the “How Startups Can Win Top Talent” panel during Seattle Startup Week, hosted by Mikaela Kiner of uniquelyHR, along with four other panelists: Matt Cholerton, Jennie Ellis, Shauna Swerland and Meagan Sylvester. Mei shared tips on how startups can win top talent using a variety of strategies and techniques to attract, recruit, and hire top tech talent in today’s competitive market.

Here are Mei’s thoughts on questions from the audience. (This is part 2 of a multi-part series to address the hiring and recruiting questions of startup founders. You can find Part 1 of the series here.)

Q: What are some ways in which startups can attract and win talent in their competition with larger companies?

While larger companies can offer higher salary and a bigger compensation package, oftentimes money is not the first and foremost concerns of the candidates you are trying to recruit. What’s going to attract them is the opportunity to do things they haven’t done before – things they feel they won’t be able to do if they join a bigger company or stay where they are.

It is important for recruiters and startup founders to identify what each candidate wants to do next – something different from what they are doing right and will challenge them to grow. You know you’re targeting the right candidates if the opportunity you’re offering them is a better match for what they want to do than what other companies, big or small, can offer.

Additionally, many bigger companies already have well-established culture and candidates are expected to fit into the existing system. Startups, on the other hand, are still forming their culture. Many startup founders are looking for culture builders and not necessarily culture fitters. In a more flexible and open-minded environment, a different perspective or a different voice is welcome as long as you can work together to reach the common goal.

Q: There seems to be a trend of remote work among startups. Have you ever seen that being successful?

Remote work can help attract candidates because your employees can have a higher level of freedom. Also, startups that offer remote work are opening themselves up to a bigger candidate pool by not restricting themselves only to those candidates who are near their physical locations. For example, there are many talented developers in the Midwest where the cost of living is lower than that in Seattle or San Francisco; hence, your offer becomes competitive.

Among the startup community, the well-respected Basecamp (aka 37signals) is famous for advocating for remote work early on in their own company history. They even wrote a book about it, sharing what they did to not only pull it off but also make remote work a big success.

Many very successful startups have been following Basecamp’s footstep, including Github, Zapier, and Buffer. However, to make working remotely successful, you need to first have trust and communication as the necessary foundation. When you hear about remote work arrangement not working out, you need to question if your team has established a high level of trust and open, healthy communication.


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