Launch Pad Blog


How to Make Candidates Love Your Start-up: Tips from RockIT's Cody Voellinger

by Cody Voellinger | Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

As Featured on the RocketSpace blog:  Ground Support - Recruiting for your Start-up


Since most folks reading this probably aren't recruiters by day (although everyone at a small/ early-stage start-up should be recruiting within their network), I'll start again with the basics. 


What is recruiting?

Generally recruiting gets broken down into 2 big ideas: 1) Where do I find candidates? and 2) How do I create a postiive experience that makes people want to join? My first guest blog for RocketSpace outlined building a good recruiting process, so we will focus here on creating the experience, a.k.a Employment Branding.


Do you have an Employment Brand?

Yes! Every company has a brand, whether you work at it or not. If you are not working at creating a postiive experience, your lack of effort shows that you don't care about hiring. As a small company, the hiring process is a candidate's portal into how your company operates.

*To test the experience, ask a friend to find your company, apply, and go through a mock process. Now you have a baseline to build on. 

There are many touch points that can act as Ambassadors for your Employment Brand. Some common, and more importantly, scalable and easy to control Ambassadors are: 


Career Page/ Website

Don't jump straight into a list of open positions.

Do outline a set of core values that your company hires for. Identifying these agreed upon values makes the hiring process more effective, and sharing these values on your site helps to self-select applicants.

Do show personality of your company and team. This allows candidates to find reasons they want to work at your company and gives them the opportunity to impress you with research and personalization.

These Dos will make candidates actually want to read your...


Job Descriptions

Don't laundry-list required skills that will rule out the majority of applicants. What has become the norm of job descriptions was actually created in a different environment, where the goal was to turn away most applicants because there were too many. Read more here.

Do create a job description that generates interest and excitement in the role.

Do create a list of upcoming challenges and past accomplishments to help applicants envision the actual responsibilities of this job.

People join start-ups because they want to learn and be challenged, so they should be judged on their ability to deliver and not if they have 5 years of Ruby on Rails. In fact, listing X years experience required is a turn-off for most candidates.



For a more thorough description, refer to my previous article, but in short- 

Do create a hiring process that is fast, flexible, personalized, high-touch and creative. If you can't exemplify these traits, how will your company succeed against your competitors that have 100x the resources?

Use speed as a competitive advantage.

To be flexible, skip steps in your process, meet in off-hours, don't require a formal resume. 

Personalize by giving an offer to suit an individual's needs, not fitting them in a band or title. 

Invite candidates for lunch or happy hours, have the CEO call the candidate pre-onsite to express excitement. The more positive interaction points you can create, the more comfortable a candidate feels taking the risk to jion your team.



Don't assume everyone who works there already knows how to sell your company.

Do create a consistent and repeatable message that your team, and also everyone who knows your company can share. Consistent repeatable message = referral generating machine. Example: Acme Co values ambitious risk-takers. Acme employees ask their friends to join the team, but all are happily employed. Luckily, these happily employed folks know ambitious risk-takers also, and can easily identify and refer good candidates.   

Empowering your employees grows your referral network by (# employees)X.


Perks/ Benefits

Don't expect candidates to make huge sacrifices in compensation to work for your company without offering anything in return. Too many companies write this off to "not the right fit."

Do make your offer as competitive as possible. There are countless ways to do this outside of just cash and equity, a few examples are:

- flexible working hours, or major bonus points for WFH!

- understand what your employees like to do, but aren't good at yet. Give them the opportunity to improve! 

- give a title that shows increased responsibilities. 



Don't agree to work with every recruiting company that approaches you. 

Do limit yourself to working with a handful of recruiters so that you have time to give valuable feedback and company/ hiring updates.

Do your due diligence. Meet with and vet the recruiters since they will be the first point of contact and first impression with candidates they are speaking to.


In Summary

To put some numbers behind how important it is to create a positive experience, this quote is from the Talent Board which surveyed 45,000 job applicants- "Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying."

Those are powerful numbers in a small valley. 

You can measure your performance and make sure it is always improving with a quick and simple survey to applicants- "How likely are you to recommend friends/ family to interview here (1-10)?"

Administer this survey immediately after the on-site and before a final decision is made. Explain you are doing this because you put a high value on hiring and creating a great Employment Brand - this gives you 1 more touch point to impress your future team!



For any follow-up questions, feel free to contact or attend the next Ground Support with RockIT Recruiting.