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How to Hire Employees for Your Startup? | Tips to Build Your Dream Team

Startups

Just last week, we onboarded two content interns at TCC. 

And before that, we had onboarded a graphic intern. 

And before that, a full-time content marketer. 

And before that….

In short, TCC has seen a plethora of young faces and talents in the past 1.5 years. 

What if I tell you that 100% of those hires are from social media? And what if I tell you that we have not asked for a typical CV from any of them? 

Then, how do we and other startups actually hire? And what are the recruitment strategies startups implement? 

You will find it in this blog 🙂

How does the startup culture differ from the corporate culture? 

Let’s first talk about how startup culture differs from other organizations and corporate culture. 

1. Younger, leaner teams

As you might be already aware, startups have and even promote lean teams. They hire only when they absolutely need to, and when they think that they can’t fulfil the role of the existing team. 

Not only that, startup teams are comparatively younger, with some of them working alongside their graduation or interning to gain some work experience. 

2. Challenging environment

Running a startup can be overwhelming, and challenging. 

Well, no one ever said it would be easy. 

Those challenges eventually reflect in the culture as well. In fact, the culture is built stronger and better with these challenges, because your team works together to overcome them and achieve your business goals. 

3. Smart work > hard work

Because startups neither have time to invest in tasks, nor budget, they are naturally inclined towards getting things done smartly. 

If they have a tedious task on their list, they will think about doing it in a way that takes the least time, effort, and resource. The Hindi word for this is ‘jugaad’. 

4. Convenience and flexibility are favored

Startup cultures are all about flexibility. 

In fact, the infamous ‘flexible culture’ in startups is one of the reasons for individuals opting to begin their careers there. 

I have observed that smaller teams are stronger teams. I mean, they have each other’s backs. So, when the going gets tough, your convenience is put first. 

Even at TCC, we refuse to let our team work on weekends. No matter how many weekends Mehul and I have spent working. 

5. Innovation over productivity

Startups value innovation and involvement at the root level, much much more than productivity. 

No one cares about how many hours you worked for, or how long you spent on breaks, all they care about is the value you bring to the team and to startup’s growth. 

6. PRO-risk attitude 

It is essentially said that startup founders are risk takers. Well, as a startup founder myself, I’d say that it is mostly true, not always though. 

This develops a culture that is open to constantly taking risks, experimenting and optimizing; while growing their self-confidence. 

7. You drive the change

Startups are meant to revolutionize, and even drive that sector’s economy to some extent. 

So, startup cultures are responsible for bringing that change at the root level, and grow outward as they progress. 

8. Learnings over security

Whenever someone is asked why they work in a corporate, the first and most common answer is job security. 

And that is fair to some extent, because a lot of us have responsibilities, which is fueled by the sense of security a full-time job gives. 

However, it’s often been said that jobs at a startup are not secure, and may be affected even by the slightest change (not always true). Rather, they aim for learnings and experiences more than the said security. 

Although, let the recent layoffs be proof that there’s no such thing as job security even in big corporations and conglomerates. 

This is how an ideal startup culture should be.

Tried & Tested Startup Recruitment Strategies

Now to the point about how recruitment happens in startups. 

1. Budgeting

First things first, see how you are doing revenue-wise, and set a budget aside for the entire hiring process. 

In fact, it won’t go too far if I ask you to assign a budget for each step that you come across in this blog. 

2. Define roles and responsibilities

The second step you can take is to define the roles you want to fulfil and their responsibilities based on what and how your current and future requirements are. 

Try to plan each role beforehand and not rush into acquiring talents, as much as possible. 

Ask yourself whether the tasks and projects you are hiring for would be permanent or temporary. If temporary, would it be better to outsource? 

#TCCTip: This can help you decide how to source content. In-house or outsource

3. Typical approach of vacancies and CVs

Ideally, corporates and organizations list their vacancies on job portals like Indeed.com, LinkedIn, Naukri.com, and hire talent acquisition specialists to get the best people onboard. 

One of the most important steps in your startup hiring strategy is that, YOU get to decide how you want to do hiring at your startup. 

Mehul and I decided from Day 0 that when we hire, we would not ask for typical CVs or resumes, and all our interviews would be unplanned. 

In fact, Economic Times has commended our hiring approach. 😎

4. To have or to not have an HR

That is indeed a million-dollar question. 

Is onboarding an HR necessary to expand your team? 

Well, it totally depends on the roles you want to fill and the industry you are in. If you are from a tech background, and need to hire developers, you can very well do without an HR exec for the time being. 

However, I do suggest setting a goal for yourself to hire a human resource personnel after you cross a milestone. 

5. Social & community hiring

My favorite step of all. Social and community hiring. 

If you have a community out there, reach out to them for help and who knows, you might find a talent there, waiting for you to be grabbed. 

Moreover, your community will help you scout the right people, whenever and however you ask them for it. 

TCC’s community on Twitter has been a true blessing for us. 

6. Referral hires

If you have collaborated with any other brands and startups, you can run a referral program among them to onboard the talent you need. 

A crucial startup hiring strategy is that you can run a referral campaign among your community and existing team members or freelancers too, to drive your reach further. 

7. Right platforms to hire

It’s super important to understand and pick the right platforms for recruitment in your startup. 

For example, LinkedIn works well for most of the startups and brands looking to hire these days. 

But Twitter has worked best for TCC. 

(That doesn’t mean we don’t share our vacancies on LinkedIn.)

You observe and decide which platform is ideal to hire the best team for your startup. 

8. Pay attention to Proof of Work

In the world of increasing freelancers and remote hires, it is essential to check out the portfolio of your candidates. 

At the same time, consider building one for your startup too, until you have a strong user base to leave you reviews and ratings. 

Check out TCC’s proof of work here

There are startups like Fueler and Rivista helping individuals build their portfolio, collect reviews and promote themselves with their proof of work. 

9. Organize cohorts and workshops 

One more thing that seems to work for startups these days is cohorts and workshops. 

Brands organize these online events on different topics and agendas at a fixed cost and timeframe, get individuals to register, and at the end of the event, hire some of them for their teams.  

This not only enables better connections, but also builds a network you can rely on for the future. 

SkillValley organizes amazing cohorts for developers and web designers from time to time. 

10. Take help from recruitment agencies

The last and totally optional step to take for startup hiring is to approach recruitment agencies and get help from them. 

They have a vast network, and have a radar to identify the best talent for your startup. 

Though, ask for their help only when you have a budget, because you’d need to pay them for every hire you make from their pool. 

A friend of ours, Narayani runs her own recruitment agency.

Types of hires startups can do

Now that you know how hiring can happen in startups, let’s see what types of hires you can have.  

1. Mentorship programs

Similar to cohorts and workshops, you can run mentorship programs at no cost, where individuals can apply and learn about a field you usually work in. 

We have a mentorship program at TCC, where we onboard mentees at regular intervals, help them learn, build their understanding of a particular niche and prepare them for a lucrative career in it. 

If you have the time and energy to invest in mentoring freshers and even college students, I’d suggest going for it. 

2. Paid interns

Next up after mentorship programs are paid interns. 

Startups are filled with learnings at every stage of their journey, and if you can have interns learning and working with you, there can be nothing better than that.

In fact, a lot of graduate degree programs require mandatory internships for a certain period of time, and startups can leverage the best from it. 

They can be a true asset for you at minimal investments. 

3. Full time employees

One step ahead of paid interns are full time team members. They are salaried co-workers and contributors who get involved in day-to-day operations. 

You hire them based on the work policies you set and even develop with time. 

No startup ever had a clear idea on how to treat their team members. But you experiment, learn and evolve. 

Listen to them, build a culture that thrives every day, and face it all together like a family. 

4. Freelancers 

Partnering with freelancers and building a resource pool that works with you on a project basis, is a great way to expand your network.

This way, you don’t bear the infrastructure cost of onboarding a full-time team member, and also get to work with experienced professionals closely. 

When should startups hire employees?

A burning question that I’m asked more often than you can imagine. 

WHEN is the best time for startups to hire? 

In reality, no one can answer this better than you. 

Ask yourself these questions to know better:

  • How intense your need for a resource is, is it temporary or permanent? 
  • Do you have time or need to onboard someone right away? 
  • What is the budget? 
  • If you hire someone full time, do you have enough capital to fund their salary and some more for at least 6-12 months? 
  • If you recruit interns, do you have the time to invest in their learning phase? 

Think practically and practice ruthless prioritization. You will have your answer.

Takeaways 

Mehul and I are often asked what kind of culture we want to have at TCC. 

And we always have just one answer.

We don’t know what we want to build, but we do know what we DON’T want to build. 

And that works surprisingly well for the most part. 

We have a co-worker who joined us in our mentorship program, became a paid intern and is now a full-time team member. 

So, all that I shared above is what we have and are experiencing with TCC hires. 

Is there any hiring practice you follow at your startup? Leave it in the comment section. 

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