employer brand for startups

Why You Should Make Sure Your Startup Has an Solid Employer Brand

When running and growing a startup, your employer brand is probably not the first thing on your mind, but it can play a huge role in influencing the kind of talent you’re bringing in. Attract and hire the right people and you’ll be able to accelerate the growth your investors are expecting. Hire the wrong people, and well, your startup might not last too long. 23% of startups fail due to an inadequate team, so recruiting is something you want to do correctly.

If you’re part of a small startup and are ready to start recruiting you might be wondering, “How can I convince talented people to take a risk and join my young company?” It’s a tough question, but a lot of it comes down to how well you’ve defined your employer branding. Employer branding helps to shape candidate decisions just like good marketing shapes investor and customer decisions. Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure your startup has a solid employer brand so you can hire the people you need.

Employer Branding in the Bootstrap/Seed Funding Stage

In the very early stages you probably don’t have the resources or the need for a dedicated career page or a full time recruiter/HR professional, but you still have to convince people to join you. Here are the two things you’ll need in order to establish the early version of your employer brand:

💪 Company Pitch and Vision

This is virtually identical to what you are pitching to investors and early customers, so you’ve probably already got this down. Just be sure to take the time to tweak it a bit to think of it from the employee’s perspective. Investors want to see returns, customers want a product that works well, and employee’s want to build something they are passionate in and can grow with. This last part is key, tell people how they could grow if they take the risk and join you and they’ll be more likely to take your offer.

💪 Define Your Culture Early

Culture is something that can happen deliberately or by accident. If you take the time carefully shape your culture you’ll ensure that it supports, rather than undermines your vision. This culture will also be a part of your employer brand. Is your culture about careful collaboration? Or does it center more on radical experimentation? Does every action have to support eventual revenue growth? Or do you have more social goals as part of your agenda?

There’s no right or wrong culture to have, but take the time to define it. This will strengthen your company in the long run and help you create an employer brand that attracts exactly the kinds of people you want to hire.

💪 Make Recruiting Everyone’s Job

At this stage your company probably doesn’t have a full-time recruiter, which means that the whole team will need to help. Make sure the people you hire are comfortable in facilitating future hires. This will help spread the workload and make hiring great people are core part of your company identity.

Employer Branding After Series A and/or Strong Cashflow

Once you’ve got some cash coming in you have the chance to not only hire some full-time HR and recruiting staff, but to also invest more in your employer brand. There’s a lot of things for you and your team to do here, but there are three areas that can be overlooked: your employer value proposition, sourcing strategy, and career page.

💪 Establish Your Employer Value Proposition 

The employer value proposition, or EVP, is similar to the unique value proposition you use when pitching to customers and investors. The difference is that with an EVP you are of course focusing on the employee experience, rather than the value of the product or service. There are a variety of EVPs you can use, so try to use one that strikes the right balance between being unique and realistic. Some startups can overpromise, which results in new hires quitting early, so try to avoid that.

A startup that has an EVP we really like is the Berlin-based fintech startup N26. Their career page tells candidates: “We’re taking personalized to a whole new level. For you too. Find a career path. Not just a job.”

This EVP works so well because it is tied directly to the product, but also tells candidates that they can expect a personalized career, rather than a fixed job. For ambitious people who want flexible jobs that involve lots of growth, this is the perfect message to hear.

Your EVP may be different, and that’s completely okay, just make sure you have one that is well aligned with your company.

💪 Build a Sourcing Strategy

A classic mistake startups make is to rely on post and pray recruiting – They post a job online and wait for candidates to apply. Unfortunately for them, this causes them to miss out on top talent. Sourcing, on the other hand, involves a more proactive approach.

In sourcing you go out and hunt for the candidates you need. You might look on social media, like LinkedIn and Github. You might also host meetups and local events. There’s a wide variety of things you can try, but the governing rule is to be proactive in searching for candidates. This helps you to find people you’d otherwise miss. To learn more about creating a sourcing strategy read this.

When you are sourcing people use the employer brand you’ve build to convince them to listen to your pitch. Without an employer brand sourcing is going to be much more difficult.

💪 Create a Strong Career Page

Potential candidates will review your website to inform their decisions, so you want to make sure your startup has a solid career page. We devoted a whole blog post to looking at why Slack’s career page is so great, but there are examples from smaller, less famous companies you should look at too. A good example comes from Barcelona based startup Travelperk.

Travelperk opens by inviting potential candidates to help fix business travel, which means they want people who believe in this vision as well. They also include a direct display of their Glassdoor reviews, a quote from a developer (one of the hardest groups to recruit), and six key points about why people should want to work there. The site is simple, but it does a great job at making the company look like a good opportunity and a fun place to work – which is exactly what candidates want to see.

Building a good employer brand for your startup takes time, but if you work to do it in both your early days as well as when money is starting to flow you’ll be in a better position to hire candidates who can help you succeed.