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The Startup Hiring Guide: Hiring for rapid growth from 5 to 50

A startup hiring guide is invaluable for rapid growth. It provides a roadmap for attracting top talent, creating effective job descriptions, developing a robust hiring process, and building a strong employer brand. It's a strategic tool that can significantly enhance a startup's ability to scale and succeed.

Content team
Content team

Content manager Keith MacKenzie and content specialist Alex Pantelakis bring their HR & employment expertise to Resources.

Hiring for rapid growth

“I meet too many founders who’ve read 27 blog posts on landing page optimization but make it up as they go along in interviews. Startup literature urgently needs more guides to headhunting and fewer how-to’s on the email etiquette of VC introductions.”
— Nikos Moraitakis, Workable CEO

The hardest thing you’ve not been told

The Series A crunch may be tough but the talent crunch is brutal. We talk to high-growth startups every day and we keep hearing versions of “compared to recruiting, fundraising was easy”. Just like fundraising, it’s very competitive. It takes time, preparation and selling, and getting it wrong can slow down or kill your startup. It’s the hardest thing to get right. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

You need to be a hiring obsessive

Whether it’s two founders talking to an angel investor, a team of 10 making something from nothing, or a high-growth company with 50 staff, team quality is the single best predictor of success. If you can get great people then everything else becomes so much easier.

Growth hacks versus talent hacks

Silicon Valley has figured out how to build great products and turn them into successful business models. Methodologies have emerged like Lean Startup, agile product development and growth hacking. They function as roadmaps for the non-experts and inspire conversation and innovation in those fields. In comparison hiring practices have remained in the dark ages.

Getting from 5 to 50 and beyond

Your first five hires pretty much picked themselves but in getting from 5 to 50 you will need the best tools and analytics, and you will need to be systematic. It’s about more than ping pong tables and bicycle racks. We’ve spent the time to curate the best thinking on everything from employer branding and headhunting to every step in the interview process, whether you’re building a distributed team or you’ve got an office. We’ve thrown in ideas, tricks, talent hacks and real life examples from great companies. The result is this startup hiring guide that offers some structure when hiring for rapid growth from 5 to 50. It’s a starting point. And my aim is to get all of us to talk about hiring.

  1. Building an attractive company: Employer branding
  2. Always be hiring: developing a hiring process
  3. How to write job descriptions
  4. What to look for: Hiring for a startup
  5. Sourcing 101: Passive candidates
  6. Creating an interview process
  7. Workplace benefits and compensation
  8. Recruiting software and tools
  9. Where to post your jobs
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1. Building an attractive company: employer branding

Building an attractive company

Smart companies typically operate in competitive talent markets. This means that the people you’re looking for are likely to be juggling several job offers. Competing for outstanding candidates with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter might seem like a losing proposition but it’s not.

It can be done but, first, you have to realize that hiring is marketing. We live in what’s called the “age of transparency”. It has never been easier for employees to be able to tell who you are or what working with you would be like. Digital platforms mean that even the youngest companies can affordably showcase why they’re an exciting place to work. There’s more to social media hiring than just tweeting your jobs. Everything you do or say on social media is building your brand.

PRO TIP: Intercom’s blog is a great example of doing marketing and employer branding at the same time.

You’re speaking to two audiences: Customers & talent

In the early days, the way you market your product and the way you think about the problems you’re solving, says a lot about the kind of company that you’re about to build. If you become known for doing interesting things for your customers, you will attract talented and ambitious people. Smart people want to solve interesting problems. They’re not looking for a job, they’re looking for a mission. Smart people want to work with smart people.

Your presence in communities, your reputation, your contribution and ideas represent you. Use blogging, social media and public conversations to keep speaking to your ideal future hires. Signpost your involvement in events and your own content to make it easy for people to find out what you stand for and why you matter.

PRO TIP: Buffer’s focus on transparency led to their Open Salaries initiative which has created huge buzz and awareness of them.

Who the hell are you?

In the beginning were the founders. The early hires in startups don’t have a company reputation to buy into, so usually they’re taking a gamble on joining the founders in their big initiative. When you’re in the early phase, it’s the personal brand of the founders that’s going to be the strongest component. Simple steps like having an engaging personal blog can project why you’re worth working for and what you’re trying to do. Let prospective candidates get to know you.

Even in the early days of a company your employees become your brand and signal what kind of people work there. Chances are you’ve hired people who reflect your company’s brand and values well. Showcase your employees on your website and empower them to talk confidently about your business. Employees attending meetups and events, sharing a video of their home working environment, or just speaking with genuine passion about their jobs are a powerful marketing tool.

Hire people who can build teams

Good people know good people. Hire people who are already networked and know much of the talent you’ll be needing. When you can, go for people with a personal brand. This is also a signal to future hires. Remember, some of your best people will be high-potential junior hires who will grow with the startup. So, always look for those who can nurture and grow your young talent.

PRO TIP: FullContact’s paid-paid vacation initiative offers holiday bonuses to staff who go completely off the grid. Everyone needs to from time to time.

Live in the real world

Don’t just be digital. You’re going to be employing people after all and they congregate at events and around offline communities too. Be an active participant in these ecosystems. An event sponsorship or even a few beers can go a long way. Even as remote work becomes more of a standard in 2020 and beyond, human interaction is highly valued and appreciated.

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2. Always be hiring: developing a hiring process

Developing a hiring process

Networks are king

Ask any startup where most of their hires came from or ask bigger companies where their best people came from and the answer is usually the same: friends, friends of friends or ex-colleagues. It’s all about networks for one simple reason: good people know good people. Part of being a good CEO is building a great network with quality and reach. There are no shortcuts here, it’s real work. The better your network is, the easier your next hire is going to be.

If you don’t know the right person you will at least know someone who does. Remember quality as well as quantity. It’s not just about having thousands of LinkedIn connections (although it can’t hurt). Are you working hard enough to be an authentic member of the community where your talent pool is? If your tech is built with Ruby are you taking part in the relevant meetups and hackathons? Are your developers known for their thought leadership and contribution in your sphere?

Hiring is everyone’s job, especially sourcing

Just as you look for candidates through networks, the best candidates are looking for their next job in the same way. Word of mouth matters. The best recommendation you’re going to get will be when someone you’d like to hire is told by a friend of theirs who is already on your team that your startup is great place to work. If your team is proud of where they work they’ll tell their friends.

What happens when your own network runs out? Keep trying. There will always be someone you haven’t told that you’re hiring. You can go further, take the time to sit with your employees one by one and go through their online networks (LinkedIn is a good example). You’ll find good people and you can get your colleagues to message them then and there. This is a time-consuming process but worth it.

There’s tremendous value in referred employees in the form of greater job satisfaction, higher retention rates, quicker applicant-to-hire conversion – all metrics that ultimately reduce the cost of recruitment, especially when hiring for rapid growth.

PRO TIP: Set up a formal employee referral program in your company, with incentives for your current colleagues. You can even gamify the process to further motivate employees to refer people in their networks.

Get out of your bubble

Your own network can only extend so far and the chances are your colleagues’ networks have a lot of overlap with yours. Plus, there’s the potential for bias – as the old saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. If you’re hiring friends of friends or former colleagues of existing employees, that’s a potential trap in homogenizing your workforce. Get out of that bubble and speak to new people, ask for introductions from your own network so you can start tapping into adjacent ones.

Learn how a tech sales VP established gender balance in her team in a male-dominated field, by looking outside of the usual candidate resources.

PRO TIP: Sending your developers to the best conferences is a sure fire way to grow your network, as well as encouraging them to spread the word through their online networks where they live and play.

How to do social the right way

If you’ve done most things right so far you’ll start with an audience. This means you have something to bootstrap your social media recruiting effort to. Using social for hiring isn’t just about tweeting jobs and getting your colleagues to retweet. The companies who are most successful at social hiring have built up a relevant audience and target their tweets to influential people in their community. Not all retweets were born equal — you want to be talked about in context. You want influential people in your field talking you up as an authority.

PRO TIP: Netflix put their culture presentation online:

[slideshare id=36216034&doc=netflixorganizationalculture-131001173045-phpapp02-140623172442-phpapp01]

That open presentation promoting Netflix’s Culture of Excellence went viral – clearly boosting their employer brand and reputation.

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3. How to write job descriptions

How to write job descriptions

Don’t go with the flow

Job descriptions could and should sweep candidates off their feet. But all too often, we’re content to lean on the old-fashioned and generic with the result that most job ads are mediocre. We’re guessing you don’t want to be average. You’re not one of those guys looking for superheroes who is too lazy to craft a job description that might actually attract them.

PRO TIP: The first time we came across Medium’s careers page was in Lou Hoffman’s article: The best job descriptions on the planet. Enough said.

Love at first sight

We all know that applicants like to scan. They want to look at an opening and be able to recognize in the blink of an eye if it’s their dream job. Like all busy people they have a thousand things competing for their attention; especially the passive candidates for whom you’re trawling. Make every job description seductive. Start with the job title, keeping in mind that most job boards work like search engines, therefore candidates use keywords to search for jobs.

The about-the-company part

This is your chance to make a good first impression, so start thinking about the distinctive characteristics that make your company special. The type of job description you publish is closely related to who you are as an employer. Give them a glimpse of your company that will charm them into coming to working for you.

PRO TIP: Check out some of our favorite job ads from the Workable job board – each of which can fit different needs in your business.

Candidates need to be able to relate to job descriptions on a personal level. Tell them a story about your company that will make them sit back and picture themselves working with you. Start with an educated guess, with something simple, ask for feedback and then optimize. Ask employees why they enjoy working for your startup. If you have a marketing department lean on them for some content marketing advice. Hiring for rapid growth should not to be done in isolation – it’s a team effort. You’ll need to put in some extra effort but it will pay off.

The about-the-job part

You know that if you go with the flow then your job descriptions will be deathly dull but you’re tempted to do so anyway. Because that’s the way everybody is doing it. But it won’t help your company stand out, it will just add to the mountain of identical job descriptions that grows larger every day.

How are job seekers (let alone the precious, passive ones) supposed to spot that you’re offering a dream gig when it looks like a machine wrote your job description? It’s not necessarily because they’re not well-written, it’s because they’re presented as if they were not written by or for a human being. Do everyone a favor and stick to the important stuff. There are tons of job descriptions out there listing every tiny little task a future employee might perform. That’s not the point.

It’s all about clarity

Start writing job descriptions that build businesses. They will attract the best talent and convert prospects into candidates. How?

  • Sell your company and their future in it in an engaging fashion
  • Get rid of the boring corporate tone
  • Keep it chatty and friendly
  • Use words that evoke feelings
  • Make them aspire and then act on that desire
  • Use “you” or “we’; drop the passive voice

To up the ante you can also add a list of people the future hire will get to work with on a regular basis.

The about-the-requirements part

We’ve covered the basics in our “There’s a difference between what you want and what you need” blog post. If you’ve used Workable, you may have noticed the must-haves and nice-to-haves requirements. Why did we add this feature? To make sure that candidates won’t get excluded from the hiring process just because they clicked “NO” on a secondary skill that is unlikely to be pivotal. Think about what skills would make sense, adding to the equation the fact that they are individuals and not miracle workers. Must-have requirements are the bare minimum: the can’t-live-without list. Nice-to-have requirements are the extras: they belong on the we-can-live-without list.

Jobseekers also have a hierarchy of needs that you need to keep in mind as you craft the perfect job ad. In fact, if Maslow were alive today, here’s what he might think about your job ads.

PRO TIP: Worth looking at KinHR. They might not have a careers page at the moment but this sales job description rocks.

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4. What to look for: Hiring for rapid-growth startups

Hiring for rapid-growth startups

Punch above your weight

A startup literally is its team in the beginning. These are the people who will signal your ambition and set your limits. So, go for the people you think you can’t get. You’ll be surprised and once you’ve got the first few heroes it will become a lot easier to attract more of them. This is not a luxury. It seems obvious to punch above your weight but a successful startup will continually shift up the weight categories. If you don’t get these people you’ll get stuck.

Hire deliberately

You’re not hiring to fill a job, you’re building a company. Make the first 20 hires deliberately with the future in mind. Don’t hire people just because they’re good in general and available. These kinds of opportunistic or bad hires early on in a startup’s life can sink you. The cost of a pointless hire can be astronomical. That’s money that most startups cannot afford to waste. Beyond the cost of getting it wrong, your first few hires will set the tone for the future. Getting it right will make something that’s intrinsically hard a lot easier.

PRO TIP: Avoid hiring a candidate who badmouths their previous employers and coworkers.

Hire for potential

A successful startup will quickly outgrow everyone’s current skills and roles. If things work out as intended it’s going to grow and morph unpredictably. So will the demands on your employees. One of the most exhausting aspects of startups is this constant evolution, or as some founders call it “keeping up with their own company”. While it can be fairly simple to assess a candidate’s current skills rating their potential is less so.

Look for people coming into their professional prime. The past is a good guide, so take into account lifetime achievements whether they’re jobs, schools or hobbies. With few exceptions, smart, decisive and hard working people usually manage to go to a great school and do well in exams they care about. Look for high achievers.

PRO TIP: Include pre-interview assignments in the hiring process. Those who bother to go the extra mile will prevail.

The culture fit

This can be hard to pin down but it’s almost always important. It has its roots in the unfashionable word “congruence” — the fit between personality and organization. It means that you need to assess people on their behavior, mentality and match to the values of your organization.

PRO TIP: Valve’s Employee Handbook (the production quality, akin to what you would expect from their best marketing material) tells you a lot about who they are and how important this is for them.

But there’s one simple rule: never hire people with a bad attitude. It only takes one to poison an otherwise stellar team. That little problem you noticed in an interview will be magnified one-hundred fold by six months of hard work in a small team. Don’t overlook it. Go for people with an opinion, people who can honestly explain what they like and dislike. The kind of people who believe in missions, values and visions. They care. Those are the people who will be telling the truth when they assure you that they believe in your startup’s vision.

Hire for attitude, train for skills

You have to like a candidate before you hire them. This sounds highly subjective and unfair to them, especially when the context is strictly professional. However, someone’s ability to blend into your team, get along with you on a daily basis and build up some emotional reserves for tough times will ultimately determine their performance.

Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Ferriss can argue all they want about what and how fast a human being can learn but the truth is that certain human traits can’t be acquired beyond a certain stage in life. Focus on the fundamentals: intelligence, personality, diligence. Instead of testing for specific knowledge, check how a prospect reacts when you ask them to do something they haven’t worked on before.

PRO TIP: Carry out behavioral interviews, in addition to the standard ones. Always have a good store of questions.

Look for things you can’t train

You can teach financial management or how to interpret Google Analytics reports, but it’s probably too late to instil manners, ethics or numeracy. Skills and experience are worthless when not put to use. Knowledge is useless when not shared with others. The smaller your business, the more likely you are to be an expert in your field, so transferring those skills to new employees is relatively easy. But you can’t train enthusiasm or a solid work ethic.

According to a LeadershipIQ study, only 11% of the new hires that failed in the first 18 months did so because of deficiencies in technical skills. The majority failed due to lack of motivation, an unwillingness to be coached, or problems with temperament and emotional intelligence.

PRO TIP: Always ask for references. Poor players struggle to provide solid and believable references.

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5. Sourcing 101: Passive candidates

Passive candidates

Build a profile

Most people don’t know how to fish for talent that’s not looking for a hook. These elusive prospects are known as passive candidates. Sourcing is the process of finding people who are not overtly looking for a job. Your starting point is to know what you’re pursuing and as much as possible about where you’re likely to find it. Think about what the ideal person looks like. What experience do they need to have? What kind of job are they doing now? Which companies must have good people doing this job? Start building a profile. The key to sourcing is figuring out what you’re pursuing and where it lives.

What is sourcing?

Mature companies: You’re looking for established companies doing a great job at what you’re looking for (eg. selling to SMEs, content marketing). You’re looking for people trained by the best, whose options have vested, who are ready to move on to a new exciting gig.

Vulnerable companies: Startups are volatile. When a company experiences a shakeup, there’s a window of opportunity. Signs to look for include the departure of a leadership figure; ventures which have gone 18 months with no follow-up funding or rumors of layoffs. You’re looking for drift and discontent where the talent works so mine the industry reports (Crunchbase, Mattermark, CBInsights, Owler) and listen to the gossip.

Events: Where do the best people on your shortlist hang out? Think about what kind of events they attend and make sure you’re there – be they virtual gatherings or in person. These settings give you the chance to meet people who you may want to approach in the future. When the time comes you will have less cold calling to do.

Universities: The very best talent are only truly unemployed once in their life: right out of college. Universities have structures that help you identify this top echelon. They’re at careers fairs, on internship programmes, or even doing work experience that contributes course credits.

PRO TIP: Look for companies 6-12 months after a seed funding without followup.

Make a shortlist and lean in

Now that we know what to search for, all these sourcing tools (LinkedIn, TalentBin, GitHub,, and of course, Workable) actually become useful. Start browsing profiles and make a long-list of prospects. Prioritize people who you can reach out to through your extended network. If you can’t get an intro, then see if you can engage them on social media (Twitter) or engineer a chance meeting.

PRO TIP: Attend startup community meetups, design conventions or hackathons.

A courtship doesn’t begin with leaning in, it starts with people getting to know each other. If you do this well the prospect will have already gotten to know you before the conversation turns to a job offer. These are people you may not hire today, or even one year from now. They may also be the key to introducing you to your best hires in the future.

External recruiters

This is where you turn when you’re short on time or confidence to follow the steps above. They can be a fantastic shortcut. It might look simple but there are a couple of things to bear in mind. Look out for recruiters who have hired for small companies before and have a track record of placement in the role you’re looking for. Most startups use contingent recruiters whom you pay only when they deliver someone you hire (typically one-third of the hire’s annual salary).

The upside is that you only pay for what you get. The downside is that your aim and the recruiter’s aim are not the same. You want to hire great people. They want you to hire someone. This subtle difference can lose you time dealing with uninspiring candidates.

PRO TIP: Pay your recruiter more than they ask for. They’ll think twice before referring the next high-quality candidate to another competitor or well-funded company.

A nod to ethics

You need to be competitive but you also live in a community. Employee poaching can backfire on you, especially when you’re just starting out. Getting the balance right can be as simple as being mindful of basic good manners.

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6. Creating an interview process

Creating an interview process

One of the biggest mistakes made when hiring for rapid growth in a startup is to think that just because you’re small you don’t need a process. If you think “process” means doing things slowly, think again. Get the right tools, remember to hire as a team and you will stay on track. The selection process is a funnel – you get a lot of applicants, you speak with some of them, you meet a few of them, you hire the one you like best. An efficient filtering process will save you and your candidates time.

Pre-interview questions

This all starts with the pre-interview questions, the questions you ask a candidate when they apply that will help you decide whether to progress with an applicant. Make sure candidates can sensibly weigh themselves against the requirements. Do you know anyone who will say “no” to the requirement “must be hard working”? Neither do we.

PRO TIP: Get candidates to do an assignment or task related to the job as part of the pre-interview.

Pre-interview questions can only get you so far. They weed out the most inappropriate candidates and give you an insight beyond a basic resume. However, a major factor in your hiring decision will be how well a candidate will fit in with your business. It’s personal and you need to get to know the candidates.

Screening assignments / testing

Ever walked in to an interview and known within 30 seconds that the candidate you’re meeting is never going to work out? Sure, most people have been there. The worst thing is that it wastes your time. You can’t just stop the interview after half a minute so you go through the routine and waste an hour of your time. It doesn’t have to be that way. An initial phone call, Skype screening conversation, or asynchronous video interviews will prevent that scenario nine times out of 10. Resumes, pre-screening questions, screens, interviews – we use these techniques to use past performance as an indicator of future success.

But what if you want to better understand how candidates will actually perform in the job you’re hiring them for? One way of finding out is to get candidates to do an assignment or task related to the job – in other words, a skills assessment. Hiring for a customer support associate? Test candidates by getting them to answer some hypothetical customer queries. If you are hiring developers, there are online tools like Codility which can put developers through their paces so you can see exactly how they code.


Have a plan. Don’t just ask the same questions over and over. Take the time to know who you are meeting before you walk in. Not just their name and not just the job title of the role they’re interviewing for. Get to know them a little, check their resume and note some questions in advance.

Interviews shouldn’t slavishly follow a script. There are probably some standard questions you want to ask all candidates, such as whether they’re eligible to work in your territory. But these are just hygiene questions – you have to go further. Ask open questions that encourage a discussion, engage with the candidates’ responses and consider follow up questions you want to ask. If it’s boring, it’s not working. There’s nothing worse than the candidate feeling like the interviewer hasn’t read their resume and is just going through the motions: “Tell me about this job, now this job, and now this job…” No one gets much out of this kind of interview.

Interviews work both ways

When you leave an interview you should have a much better understanding of the candidate’s credentials and suitability. Equally, they should leave knowing a lot more about the role and the company. If you’ve screened your shortlist properly then everyone you interview should be a real contender – which means it’s worth selling to candidates in interviews. Chances are you’re going to offer them below market rate if you’re an early stage startup. Generally people don’t like getting paid less so you’d better give them a good reason to be excited.

PRO TIP: Note down personalized questions for candidates before the interview but don’t stick slavishly to the script.

Take a deep breath

If you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right when you’re making an offer, don’t rush. Take your time to identify where that uneasiness comes from. Talk it through with a colleague. Don’t be afraid to ask a candidate to come for another meeting. Chances are if you have a concern, the candidate will be feeling the same and a quick conversation will iron out any problems. In the long term a bit of caution will pay off.

When you’re hiring for a function where you have little or no personal experience, it can be very hard to assess resumes or know what to ask during interviews. You might want to consider bringing in some outside help. This doesn’t need to be paid help, it could just be a friend or ex-colleague who can help you out with the skills-based aspects of the hiring process.

Keep it challenging

This is where you set the bar and show your rigour and ambition. A challenging interview process is a signal to candidates that your company doesn’t do average. This doesn’t have to mean a drawn-out 15-phase interview – even Google is moving away from the huge number of interviews they put candidates through – but you absolutely should establish a thoughtful pipeline that gives the candidate an opportunity to prove their mettle.

PRO TIP: Level the playing field by posing customer support queries for a tool most people are familiar with or can access easily e.g. Facebook.

Taking references

Not everyone believes references from previous employers are useful way in determining future performance. Candidates are unlikely to provide a reference whom they expect to say negative things about them. And many people don’t want to talk badly about someone so even if your candidate was terrible in a past job their reference won’t tell you.

This is not a reason to ignore references. It’s a reason to work harder at getting them right. Get more references. Successful entrepreneur-turned-VC Mark Suster recommends getting at least five, including people the candidate didn’t propose. If we assume people are smart enough to gather good references, ask yourself: “Are they glowing?” If not, why not? Ask candidates why they chose the referees they did.

PRO TIP: Get at least 5 references and make sure some of them come from people the candidate hasn’t put forward. Read this.

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7. Workplace benefits and compensation

Workplace benefits and compensation

You can’t pay for groceries with equity

You’re not going to compete on salary with Google and Facebook but you need to get survival out of mind. Even your earliest hires ‐ and that includes you, the founder ‐ will need to pay bills. Some startups go to extremes, trying to make their runway last longer. Don’t build your runway on the backs of an exhausted and underpaid team. You objective is not to delay the next round but to get to it in the best possible shape. Here’s a few things you can do to achieve the right balance.

The power of perks

You’re not going to have the swankiest offices but you can make them reflect why people came to work for you. You don’t need a big budget to create a friendly, informal and energetic work space. Our environment helps to shape our mindset and reminds us who we are. Spend the time to make it attractive to your team, even if you can’t initially spend much money. There are many ways to make your company an attractive place to work – even if you’re in an “unsexy” location.

PRO TIP: Buffer’s emphasis on transparency led to their Open Salaries initiative, which has created huge buzz and awareness of them.

Perks are powerful and cost effective. When you take into account tax and deductions a $10 lunch is worth more to your employee than $10 on their salary. But it’s about more than a free lunch. Taking care of peoples’ needs makes them feel taken care of. This pays off handsomely in productivity and morale.

That shouldn’t mean that you neglect traditional benefits. Before you start on the ping pong tables and games consoles make sure everyone has access to health insurance. When people know the basics like health are covered they’re more prepared to live leaner when it comes to salaries.

Compensating risk

Equity compensates risk. It is a form of deferred reward. When deciding whether to join your startup a prospect is looking at what they could earn at market rates for their skills over the same time period and balancing it against a potential future return that should be several multiples of the income they lost out on. It’s mathematics.

All early employees should have a significant amount of equity. This ensures their sense of ownership and mission. A properly structured stock option is also a commitment on the part of the employee. Equity grants usually vest over a period of three to four years and there’s a “cliff period” (typically one year) before a new employee earns their first tranche of shares.

This way, you’re not giving your company away. Instead, you’re binding the core team to your mission for long enough to make meaningful progress. With that in mind, don’t wait till the best people are restless. The best companies also give retention equity packages to fully vested employees. You need to think about this, before your star performers do.

How to research market rates, equity standards

Knowing the going rate for salaries and equity is notoriously difficult. A good place to get a benchmark is AngelList (for startup equity and salaries) or Glassdoor (for market rates). Make sure to compare yourself to similar companies. For each hire, check what’s on offer for jobs they could take so you know what their other options look like.

Especially when it comes to equity, it’s always better to err on the generous side. Rather than being hung up over a 0.1% more or less, think about whether this employee will improve your chance of success by that amount. A good hire will make it worth your while.

PRO TIP: Wealthfront’s Startup Compensation Tool is one of many benchmarks you can use.

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8. Recruiting software and tools

Recruiting software and tools

You need tools

We consider an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to be the centerpiece of any effective toolkit – especially when hiring for rapid growth. This is why we built one from scratch and obviously consider it to be the best of its kind. When choosing an ATS, ask yourself how well it integrates with other tools that you’ll need. A good one will integrate or at least play nicely with most of the software we recommend below.

Even then, it helps to know which ones are tops in the market. We’ve compiled for you the 12 best applicant tracking systems to help inform your decision on purchasing an ATS.

Sourcing and referral platforms

TalentBin,, 3Sourcing and Gild are people aggregators with searchable, often pre-evaluated or classified profiles of people. Professional networks or communities like LinkedIn, GitHub, Dribble, AngelList are good places to do manual sourcing. Zao is one of the best referral platforms we came across. It’s made based on best practices, optimizes matches across all companies’ open jobs, has a gamification layer making it fun to participate and allows extended referrals. Another one to consider is RolePoint.

Online interview systems

Interviewing has gone video and this lets you record video questions, invite candidates to submit their responses so you can review them. Set time limits for responses, pause to take notes, tick the ones that are a perfect match, share if you’re not sure to take a second opinion. Workable’s Video Interviews can set you up for success here – particularly if you’re hiring for rapid growth in a short period of time and need to establish a standardized screening process with minimal breakdown.

Assessment tools

Codility is a niche, engineers-only, database. These guys are loaded with millions of engineers — active and passive. Considering the gap between demand and supply then this app is a treasure trove of prospects and a pretty straightforward tool to use if tech job boards aren’t cutting it. You can browse and filter data, collaborate with your team and do social recruiting too.

Smarterer have revolutionized skills assessment. Just give them 10 questions, 2 minutes and voila! you get a quantified skill. It’s basically a skills testing app but different. All of its test content is crowdsourced from the individuals who take the tests.

SHL has ability and personality tests if you need to test for critical qualities. They only offer science-based assessments and benchmark data.

Weirdly has your cultural fit riddle all figured out. It’s a four-step culture assessing recruitment tool. Define your desired cultural profile, publish the vacancy, watch candidates complete the quiz and select the right kind of weird.

Onboarding & talent management

KinHR is probably the best when it comes to onboarding new hires in a comprehensive and thoughtful way. The new employee signs in and reads about the company and the team they’re going to work with and what tasks they should start working on.

Zenefits is good for payroll and benefits management.

The shift to remote work also means onboarding remotely – such that you’re bringing people on board without them having met anyone on the team in person. Learn some tips and tricks of successful remote onboarding for you and your company.

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9. Where to post your jobs

You know exactly what you’re looking for so what’s your next step? Plaster your ad over every job board out there, right? Wrong. It pays off in time and money to do a little homework. Consider these questions:

  • Where does the rest of your industry (in your city or country) post jobs?
  • Did you get enough qualified candidates the last time you hit publish on XYZ job board? Did you get any candidates at all?
  • Did you get too many candidates, maybe?
  • Ask people who already have this type of job, where they first saw it?
  • Visit to see how popular the job board you are considering is.
  • Find out where the audience you want to reach hangs out online
  • Study the other job postings on that XYZ job board where you’re thinking of publishing your opening

The job board forest

To facilitate the job board selection process, we brought together a handy list of the top ones (below).


LinkedIn is the leader due to its three-way nature; professional social network/headhunting tool/job board – the biggest of its kind with 760 million members. It enables you to search profiles, pay to post jobs and more besides. With LinkedIn InMail, you can even contact candidates directly.

Indeed is the premier job site globally with 250 million regular visitors. You can post all types of jobs, sponsor the ones from your careers page, pay per click and search resumes.

Craigslist is the site for classifieds. Doesn’t match the traditional job board criteria, is famous for its no-frills user interface but beats everyone for inbound traffic.

Monster is one of the oldest job boards that keeps expanding worldwide. It’s a bit expensive in some countries (unless you post through Workable), has a lot of traffic and loads of resumes and free content.

Careerbuilder operates in the US, Europe, Canada and Asia. CareerBuilder is used by 80 million job applicants and has three million job postings per month.

Stepstone is one of the most successful job boards in Europe.

Beyond automatically distributes postings to niche sites and talent communities based on specific criteria. What’s in it for you? Targeted exposure and more relevant applications.


StackOverflowCareers is the careers platform of StackOverflow. It’s used by more than 100 million developers and technologists and is the trusted first destination of tech recruiters. If you’re looking for developers, it’s the place to go.

Dice is also a leader in the tech job boards industry. It has a cross-posting network and minimizes unqualified clutter due to its niche nature, with a database of more than nine million members.

Github Jobs taps into developers and engineers by being the place they hang out. Good place to trawl for passive candidates – especially with 50 million developers checking in regularly.


Behance is where some of the top brands post their creative jobs. It’s also the place where professionals showcase their work enabling you to take a sneak peek before you decide.

Dribbble gives you access to designers’ portfolios and profiles. Workable’s designers are really fond of it. Plus you can post your jobs and connect with top talent.

Authentic Jobs introduces recruiters to creative professionals. Simple and efficient.

Remote & flexible jobs

We Work Remotely is the job board without borders allowing you to narrow down talent without it having to be in the same location as you.

Upwork is free and for freelancers only. If you’re looking for one, check out their well-rounded freelancers’ database.

Flexjobs is free and effective when it comes to flexible jobs job posting. Only applies if you’re in search of part-time, telecommute or freelance employees.


AngelList ‐ you probably already know it if you’re a startup. Candidates get to apply privately and see salary and equity up front and startups get to access a huge list of developers and designers actively looking for a job. On top of that, it’s free!

Startuply is a free job listing site aimed mainly at small startups, which find it rather difficult to attract engineering talent. Startups can create a detailed company profile to give prospect candidates a sense of what it’d be like working for them. You should definitely give it a shot.

StartUpHire lists hundreds of jobs, but only for venture capital backed companies. It also comes at zero cost and has a widget that enables you to automatically add your open positions to your website

The Muse lets job seekers look behind the curtains of great companies. You can “showcase the heart and soul of your company” in 500 words, videos and photos and then display your job openings.

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