Five Startup Hiring Tips That Actually Work

By Eazyhire Team
In Tips for YOU
Oct 26th, 2013


It’s a tough market to hire in around the world. The economy is in good shape. Tech is getting hotter every day. Good developers are like gold dust. Great product managers seem harder to find than water on Mars. So how do you hire?

I know a lot of other startups out there have clever hiring ideas. The techniques they use to convince people you’re the place they want to work, the things they look for in employees, the filter questions they ask, the places they look for people, the innovative programs they’ve put together to find talented people.

1. Recruiting Is Marketing

More often than not the best employees are the ones that find you, not the ones you go out and look for. The problem a lot of startups have is, how do I get more people to find me? Simple – think of it as a marketing exercise.

How do you get people to buy your product? Explain it’s benefits on your website and then make sure people can find out about it.

How do you get people hire good people? Explain what it’s like to work for you (in real language, no HR platitudes thanks), what you look for in people and then make sure people find out about it.

We’ve done this in a few ways. We have always clearly explained on our website what we look for in every employee but we never really told people what it was like to work at Atlassian until recently. Quite a few people who came to work here said the actual job was better than they expected – which is a lovely thing to say but really meant that we didn’t do a good job of marketing ourselves to potential employees.

Thus the genesis of the Life At Atlassian page. The aim is to simply show people what the office looks like, what their co-workers do, what blogs we write, what events they can expect during a year – to make them feel comfortable and keen to work here. If you’re doing cool things to keep employees (like Marty) be sure that people can find them when they’re investigating your company. In the 2 or 3 months it has been live, we’ve already hired someone who said it was a deciding factor in applying – score one!

(Oh, and please – no generic stock photography!)

Want more examples? The Omni Group’s hiring page has always been one of my favourites for their honesty and the feel I get for the company from just reading it. Even small firms (like FreshView) can do a good job of selling themselves, it’s a small investment to make.
2. Trust Your Team

You’ve hired smart people already right? You think your team is the best on the planet. So put them in front of candidates! Don’t hide them in a back room. Too many people have their HR people do most of the interviewing.

I’ve had at least two or three new hires mention to me that one of the reasons they decided to come work for Atlassian was because they felt they wanted to work with the guys across the table in their interview. I want people go back to their existing job after an interview, look around at their co-workers and thing “You know what? Those guys at Atlassian were much more fun / smart / interesting than these guys. I could learn from them. I should go work there.”

For example, in our developer interviewing process – you’ll talk to at least 4 different engineers (phone interviews, tech interviews, pair coding tests), our HR director and probably one of two founders. I love our team, so I make damn sure to put them in front of anyone I want to add to it.
3. You Don’t Win With Money

I’d like to politely disagree with all those entrepreneurs I meet who think that the simple way to hire a good team is to throw money at the problem.

In choosing a place to work people look at the company, the role, the people, the environment and the money. Pretty much in that order, but it’s important to keep balance among all the variables.

As long as the money is competitive (and this is key), the other factors should decide the final outcome. Money doesn’t win people over, money prevents you from losing them. It gets you in the game. People value their time and while you might be able to ‘buy it’ with an outrageous salary that’s a temporary measure. They’ll eventually realise that doing a boring job 10 hours a day for huge dollars isn’t the way they want to spend their life. It’s not a way to build a company, it’s a short term band aid strategy.

You don’t win people with a lot of money and I’d say you don’t want to. People who chose a job purely on the larger salary are probably people you don’t want on your team anyway. That said, the corollary here is that you can definitely lose people with money. If you’re not paying what the market is or your firm just pays really low salaries, people will go elsewhere. It’s all about balance.
4. Make Space For Smart People

Sometimes people come along who don’t fit into any existing role. We encourage it on our website by saying that if you want to come and work for us, but we don’t have a job ad that matches your skills – send your resume along anyway and we’ll see what we can do. Some of our best hires have come this way.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to redirect a candidate if you feel they’re interviewing for the wrong job. I’ve created a number of roles on the spot when I met someone, because they were smart, I wanted them on the team and I felt they could fill a need we had.

5. Know When To Fold’em

The hire-or-don’t-hire decision is critical. Why is this decision so important? The damage a wrong choice can do to morale, to your product, to your company should never be overstated. It’s a little like poker, the most important and hardest skill to learn is when to fold a hand not when to bet. Not hiring a few good people is far better in the long term than hiring a few bad ones. Err on the side of caution.

Over time, we’ve developed some rules of thumb internally that help us evaluate this choice.

Try to develop rules that work for your organisation. Look at your best people, what do they have in common? Why are they the best? Is it because of the way they perform their job or is it something broader, the things they contribute to the company as a whole?

Here are 3 of our “gut check tests”:

  •     Do you want him on your team? This is the number one question we ask our interviewers. Not do you think this person should work for the company, do you think they’re good but do you want them on your team. Is working closely with them for the next year something you’d want to do?
  •     Does he pass the beer test? Basically, if I was in a bar with this person drinking beer (or juice, or tea or anything) are they interesting? Would I learn something from them? Would I want to stay? If so – they’re probably someone I want to be around.
  •     Are they fired up, passionate, enthusiastic? Simply put, positive people make for positive teams in tough times. Passionate people rub off on the whole team. Try to find as many of them as possible, put ‘em in a room and let ‘em make magic.


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