5 Ways to Recruit Top Talent for Your Startup

Business.com / Employees / Last Modified: August 22, 2017
Photo credit: dotshock/Shutterstock

A startup's success is dependent on talent. Learn how to start recruiting top talent now.

Finding the right employees is challenging for any business, but when you are seeking to build a strong team for a startup without a proven track record of success, encouraging the right talent to join your company can be even harder.

Employees who are at the top of their game, work in a highly competitive field, or have the specialist skills and knowledge you need to give your company an edge are naturally in great demand. Identifying the right people for your team is just the beginning. You then must convince them that you have something desirable to offer. In most cases, you are competing against established companies with a known history of offering premium packages to ensure their desirability to potential talent.

Settling for second best or making a mistake with your hires early on can be much more than just an expensive learning experience. It's essential that you get the right core team in place, as this could make or break your startup.

Benefits of getting top talent for your startup

Bringing the right people into your team is vital for any business, and when it comes to startups, your ultimate success or failure hinges on your team. Ensuring that your team has the right skills and experience to help your business thrive and grow may seem like the obvious reason for getting the best talent on board, but this is only the beginning.

The first members of the team you bring into the fold will help establish your company culture and also have the power to turn your business from just another struggling startup into one of the market leaders in your field. This will establish the beginnings of your reputation and put your company on the map.

All of these things need to form the basis of your decision-making process when targeting high-flying talent and making your early hiring decisions, but how do you find the top talent in the first place, and convince them to give you more than a second look?

5 ways to recruit top talent for your startup

Investing in your core team of talent is one of the largest expenses for the average startup, but even if you put as much cash as you can behind the salaries for your most desirable hires, the chances are that you will still fall somewhere behind the more established competition. This means that your total package has to offer something different to tempt the top talent out of their comfort zones, as well as ensuring that your salary and benefits packages compete with the industry norms for top-flight talent.

Consider equity and other performance-based perks

One of the greatest challenges startups face is working out how to convince individuals to take a gamble on an unknown entity: you. Even if your concept is good, you have the right backing in place and look all set for success on paper, talented employees are always in demand and, in many cases, actively head-hunted.

Startups can rarely compete on an even field with established firms in areas such as job security, salary and reputation. When it comes to salaries and packages, you must think differently.

Offering equity is a common tactic startups use to attract talented hires during their early days, but naturally, not everyone is willing to chip away at their shareholder stake and parcel out percentages to strangers. Additionally, offering equity is not necessarily the strongest bait for top-level hires when it comes to a new, untried firm – after all, 5 percent of nothing is still nothing.

It is certainly worth considering offering equity to a select number of premium hires, but do not view this as the easy approach or expect would-be hires to fall over themselves to get a piece of the company that they will potentially be working for.

Offer flexibility

When you are paying out a large chunk of your startup capital on salaries for top-level staff, you will naturally be keen to get your money's worth, but don't fall into the trap of cracking the whip too hard and demanding ridiculously long hours and unachievable goals, or chaining your top team to their desks. Being prepared to offer flexibility is one of the strongest ways to incentivize potential new hires and make them give your company serious consideration as their next place of employment.

Encouraging a good work-life balance, allowing remote work and flexible working hours where appropriate, and giving your employees a voice on what they are looking for from their working environment are great ways to reel in talent. Valuing individuality and allowing people the space to innovate is also highly prized. Do not be tempted to try to box all of your team up into neat packages nor to encourage groupthink, both of which frustrate top-level talent and hinder creativity.

Incentivize with perks and benefits

In particularly competitive fields, employee perks and benefits are highly prized and can make the difference between gaining a lukewarm response from talent versus bringing the top talent directly to your door.

According to Forbes, these are the top benefits that will keep employees for the long term:

  • Health insurance
  • Vacation and paid time off
  • Pension plan
  • 401(k) plan
  • Retirement plan
  • Dental insurance
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Sick days
  • Vision insurance
  • Paid holidays


While some fun perks such as pool tables, bringing your dog to work, etc. are enticing, they aren’t proven to keep your employees around long term.

Be honest and transparent

Honesty and transparency from the management team are valued by employees, and establishing these factors as part of the company culture from the get-go when recruiting will provide you with a definite edge.

Don't make promises that you know you can't keep, and be upfront about your company ethos, future plans and projected growth. After all, if you feel the need to exaggerate or lie about these things, this is an indication that you are already aware something is not quite right – something you should be concentrating on fixing rather than glossing over.

Seek and accept feedback

If you find that your early attempts to attract the right people for your startup are going nowhere, get some feedback from colleagues and other trusted individuals. If you have an employment attorney who you work with regularly, their input could be invaluable to your efforts. Feedback is critical, but acting on that feedback is even more important. Be sure to take any recommendations and insights to fine-tune your employment package so it appeals to the talent you need to get your startup to the next level.

Following these five tips from the get-go will help to ensure that you get the right talent on board from the start, and give you a better chance of holding on to them when another opportunity comes knocking.

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