In the early stages of building a startup, your focus as a founder is building your core team and creating a quality recruiting process. But after you have that in place, how do you start thinking about scaling your efforts to attract even more high quality candidates? You have a beta product and paying customers and you’re looking to scale from 10 to 30 employees at lightning speed. It’s really important you have a repeatable process in place and get ahead of the curve when it comes to your recruiting brand. One thing I’ve noticed during my 10+ years of experience recruiting at Google, Amazon, AppDynamics, and now Unusual Ventures, is that broadcasting your company culture by establishing an online recruiting brand is crucial to attracting top talent as you scale your startup. This means going beyond just your company website. An online recruiting brand includes all online touchpoints that together create your overall brand as an employer.
Invest time in tailoring your entire company website in order to tell a compelling and differentiated story for potential job candidates. Many startups make the mistake of focusing on just the Career or About Us pages on their websites and neglect to create a unified company brand that is welcoming to candidates. Future employees will look at your website as a whole, so while certain sections are targeted toward specific audiences, you want to make sure the entire website resonates with potential candidates, not just the Career page. Your goal is to help candidates envision what it would be like to work at your company by creating a fun, welcoming brand. For instance, you might post pictures of your team or your office if you have an attractive space and weave in messaging that reflects the culture and values of your team.
Harness (an Unusual portfolio company) does a great job of showcasing their company culture by including pictures of the Harness team engaging in fun outings and gathered together with their families, alongside a clear statement about their mission and hypergrowth:
Beyond your own company website, make sure external websites are aligned with the employer brand you want to communicate. One of the most effective platforms for demonstrating your recruiting brand is Glassdoor. Glassdoor has become the go-to resource for job seekers to check the reputation of a company. A lot of early companies have virtually no presence on Glassdoor and in the worst cases, leave negative feedback from candidates unaddressed. It’s important to remember that employees are not the only people who can leave feedback about a company—interview candidates can as well. As we mention in "Sell While You Hire", the candidate experience is a big part of the recruiting brand as well. Having a robust, quality process should prevent bad reviews in the first place, but sometimes a bad experience happens. In those cases, answering these reviews shows you’re being thoughtful and care about the experience your candidates (and employees) have when they interact with your company. Otherwise, leaving negative feedback or reviews untouched can actively deter candidates. For instance, if any company on Glassdoor has a CEO approval rating of 80% or lower, that’s a huge red flag that employees are not happy with leadership and may scare off potential recruits.
One easy way to improve your Glassdoor presence is to get your team to populate the page with reviews. Make sure it’s 100% optional, but try to get as many reviews as possible. Remind existing employees that it’s beneficial to them because if you recruit more candidates, they get more of the help they need. For instance, there might be an automation engineer on your team who is also handling customer requests. That means they’re essentially doing two different jobs. Improving the company’s recruiting brand and having positive company reviews can go a long way to attract needed talent and fill out the team.
Besides adding employee reviews, make sure you upload real photos to your Glassdoor page. This means photos of team outings or events that illustrate your company’s working environment. One thing to be aware of is that these photos can potentially reveal gaps in your team’s diversity. Use this “visual audit” as an opportunity to examine any gaps in your team and surface diversity and inclusion as a priority in your recruiting efforts. It’s important to remember that by all accounts, diversity of thought leads to better products and businesses.
Another high impact action you can take to improve your company’s online brand is making sure your LinkedIn company page is up-to-date. Even if you’re just sharing blog posts about new feature launches. This is where you can demonstrate thought leadership in your industry. Publish all your articles and press announcements. It sounds trivial, but it can sway candidates by showcasing your company’s momentum.
Here’s a great example from Banyan Security (an Unusual portfolio company):
Notice their original content on industry trends and pictures showcasing their tight-knit team. It does cost a nominal fee to have a LinkedIn company page, but the results are well worth the expense to attract top talent.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get out there and use multiple platforms to communicate your company’s recruiting brand. Use StackOverflow, AngelList, Twitter, Medium, etc. to cross-post job listings and announcements so you can build awareness and attract candidates. Whether it’s Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or any other platform, make sure there’s regular activity that shows the tangible (free lunch!) and intangible perks (an inclusive company culture) of working at your company. Is it a family environment? What types of events does your team do together? The goal is to make it fun and inspiring.
At the seed stage, you’re hiring future leaders who will help you build your company. Make it clear to candidates that they will have the rare opportunity to join a company experiencing exponential growth and have a hands-on role in building that “rocketship” from the ground up. No matter how big or small of a company you are, you’re competing for the same talent so your employer brand needs to stand out in some way. Odds are if a candidate is interested in coming to work at your early-stage startup, they don’t want to work in an impersonal, corporate environment. Your job descriptions, your company page, etc. all have to show how their career can flourish and the opportunities available to them if they join your startup vs. a larger company. That messaging needs to be present in any company description and consistent across all platforms so candidates have a very clear understanding of your company’s identity.
Here’s a great blurb from AptEdge (an Unusual portfolio company) that describes employee autonomy and huge growth potential for the company:
It can seem overwhelming to create this online recruiting brand if you’re starting from nothing, but it pays dividends in the quality and type of candidates you can attract to help scale your business. To help you get started, I created this checklist, which you can download to make sure you’re covering your bases when it comes to developing your online recruiting brand: