How can startups attract high quality employees ? Joining a startup …

How can startups attract high quality employees ? Joining a startup is a risky choice, which means it’s hard for a bootstrapped startup to attract the right people. What has worked for you ? And what mistakes have you made ? ,

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89 thoughts

  1. Personally have called the candidates and spoke to them about the vision and the mission statement worked for me the best… It also depends upon how much are they willing to work in a challenging environment… Didn’t have tools like naukri, so just started sending requests on LinkedIn and got positive responses!
    My initial mistake was about being too hesitant to make that phone call!

  2. Soup or Coup? Who ate my cheese or tu cheez badi hai mast mast!
    Worked: Selling a dream (some people understood!)
    Mistakes: Selling a dream (some people misunderstood!)
    The biggest challenges for bootstrappers is not just about attracting high quality people but also about offering them something in return, if they are interested.
    Maybe, we are so hung up on the equity and financials that we don’t see other components for achieveing co-creation.
    Say, I want Dr Aniruddha Malpani to be part of my startup. How can I achieve this? Is there a fool proof guaranteed formula to get you on-boarded? Maybe, it’s a chance which has to be taken unless you are willing to disclose the secret recipe!!

  3. I have followed the following so far –
    1. Engaged advisor who has tons of experience in the product and guide to build a product which is high chances of user acceptance – (Advisor on board – Equity)
    2. Idea shared with friend who is technically rich. Delegate responsibility from design to development. ( CTO on board – Equity)
    3. ‎CTO has engaged UI / UX guy from his network who has proven in the past. (Freelancer – Qualitative and Economical solution)
    4. CTO has engaged Coder, again from his network (Freelancer – Qualitative and economical solution)
    5. CTO has engaged developer (Freelancer – Qualitative and economical solution)
    6. Product is ready to go to market. Now, we need a Marketing guy. One of my friend who has vast experience in marketing manly in MNCs. ( CMO on board – Equity)
    7. CMO engaged a digital marketing guy from his reference (Freelancer – Qualitative and economical solution)
    Once the founders team and product is in place, it’s less challenging to build a great and sustainable team.

  4. There are a lot of manpower services company which support startups, like the one I am heading. Just like an entrepreneur takes a risk starting a venture, there are lot of individuals who take risks for knowledge and we all know there’s no better place than a startup to gain knowledge and acquire skills. So what we do is we keep a database of these individuals and when an opportunity opens up we do the match making:)

  5. I have had an interesting piece of read for all employees planning to join Start Up- its in the book named ” The High Performance Entrepreneur ” by Subrato Bagchi. It states about 10 odd rules every employee should know for joining start up.
    I still refer it as one bible. Have lend that book to someone recently. Would post those rules once I grab it back.

    1. What is vision? When I was your age, it used to mean some kind of hallucination or illusion that required treatment. Please do not get worked up with jargons so early in life. A goal is good enough. No need for vision. 🙂 Giving Gyan as a senior. 🙂

  6. I am not that experienced here but I want to share my two cents –
    1. Conveying the vision to the right ‘talented’ people. Most of the times the founders lack the conviction to communicate their vision properly. The clarity of vision is a must.
    2. You can’t have talented people and tell them what to do, convey your vision and make them believe in it so that they can tell you what you should do. Most of the time the good people get deterred away from startups because their is too much micro management going on in there.
    I am open to having a discussion on this.

  7. Startups are not for the faint hearted. If you like risk, have a burning desire to broaden your skills and at the same time leverage on your skill sets than startup is ideal for you. Life in a startup is exciting yet stressful but you learn a lot.It all depends on the leadership of the startup .

  8. I think the biggest reason someone joins a startup is because they believe in your vision. If you are lying then they will know. You can’t fake passion. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented and passionate people who believed in our vision and took the leap of faith with us.

  9. Vision? Hire someone with great potential, great communication skills, within budget and spend time grooming and aligning with vision gradually. Will be committed, productive and loyal employee. Give enough opportunities to scale, if not repeat the above process.

    1. Chetan Indap we have guts and doing fine from last 10 yrs with our start up. And knows tomorrow also will do fine…. was wondering how you missed the point which we wanted to show or may be intentionally you wanted to miss what challenge i given to you?

    2. Kanak Pal . Oh…my bad. Communication skills I guess…i thought you were saying it is difficult to find people like I was suggesting, to which I had said, not really. Hope you are not asking me to prove myself and hire a few for you? I sure you don’t. I am glad you are doing good. Happy endings!

  10. The perfect talent for a startup:
    * Startups work their people to death. The talent has no time for personal relationships. They have a vow of celibacy.
    * Startups cannot afford to pay them decent compensation, and many of them go bankrupt, causing thes equity to be worthless and the talent laid off. They have a vow of poverty.
    * Startups only hire true believers.
    Hmm….true believers, vow of poverty, vow of celibacy….they want nuns and monks.

  11. In my case, as my startup was completely bootstrapped, I faced such a tough choice too. But then I took the decision to take trained freshers from Training institutes, train them for the corporate world and finally absorb a few of them into the company, those who have responded very well to my training. I still do it. Works for me. Employee loyalty and longevity is assured.

  12. The first thing is they should be ready to pay a good salary . Many startup want candidates do have very good communications skills, experience but not ready to pay. If they get a candidate take lot of time to decide , hence candidates jump to other company. They never make the roles clear in the beginning.

  13. I have worked as an intern at a startup and I look forward to work in a startup even now. The creative freedom on offer and flexible timings are what attract me to a startup work culture. Also the people are more welcoming and close knit in a startup as compared to a cold corporate setup. Also your talents are valued more in a startup and you are able to contribute substantially more than in a rigid corporate setup. This is with regards to Mechanical Engineering positions.

    1. Srishti Prasad, thanks so much for providing the intern’s/ employee’s perspective!
      If you are motivated and enthusiastic, you can learn so much more by working in a startup, as compared to a large company

  14. My education is my work experience, I dropped out of school and started working with a start-up which is now a company of 100+. Now working for a startup and my motivation has been to innovate. Startups with great vision and dedication can attract a lot of high-quality employees. But high quality is only recognized based on the outcome. Start-ups are amazing, the students should be taught about soft skills, negotiating, real-world problems etc,. will surely produce “Start-up ready folks” which I believe, can be applied on both corporates and start-ups!

  15. In my opinion, startups have to hire semi-skilled employees and train them to allign with founders vision and road map.
    Importantly founders have to take up all sort of tasks in the beginning and prepare SOP. So that, smooth functioning of daily basis operations can be regulated with ease.
    Also, founders should be generous in encouraging their employees to become ‘Entrepreneurs’ in future by providing necessary assistance as a token of gratitude.

    1. Prof.Manjunath T N it helped me . I am strong believer of it .
      It’s the intent that matters the most in beginning .
      Skills they can always improve and it’s the responsibility of founders to encourage them why they should improve on that and how it can be a help for everyone . I think that’s the key .

  16. Every employee is different.What motivates one is different from another.. having a honest chat and understanding their motivation helps customise the offer..
    At what level they come in also matters ! No one formula works consistently. But deciding if they are right fit or not early on helps avoiding lot of pain. High quality hire is a exploratory process 🙂 you learn by doing mistakes

  17. I believe in outsourcing key solution to bring in quality and standard and less pain of handling mistakes and when you have volume or scale to bear, switch it to own company. Initially one has to act like a collaborator. I don’t think Patanjali would be making Parle G quality biscuits from day one without outsourcing. (Tiger biscuits couldn’t make the same till date).

  18. In my opinion attracting high-quality employees (freshers/interns) vs. high-quality employees (experienced) is something that needs to be considered. Including a fresher /intern in the team is easy, but then one has to put considerable effort into training this person. And to train this person, the team should have some existing knowledge in the particular area. This is usually when there is more workload, and there is a need for more people. However, in a case where there is a knowledge/skill gap, I would need a high-quality experienced person. In most cases, it is difficult to afford such a person while bootstrapping. The person is either already well engaged in a company or would involve diluting a significant share of your equity to afford him. Thus, either taking up a consultancy or outsourcing the work would make more sense. In some cases, it might also work out cheaper in the long run for a startup in the early stages.

  19. High quality is not often directly proportional to number of years of experience. Junior employees sometimes produce high quality.
    Take care of the the individual growth of the employees along with the company’s. Don’t hold them tight, give freedom follow their instincts, and encourage them even in instances when they make mistakes. Just make sure the team learns lessons from individual’s mistakes and don’t repeat them.
    At NALAM we all enjoy the taste of start up journey, sweet, spicy or even bitter sometimes. 🙂 We have crossed and 6+ years and growing.

  20. Bootstrap startups are always lean. They don’t have fancy officces and facilities. Don’t hire freshers, they come with MNC dream, and will eventually leave.
    Hire mid exp(2-5yr) guys with decent salary + equity option ( Not ESOP).

  21. According to me people choose the start up based on various factors like product, founder, vision, technology, funding etc. So irrespective of you have a roof or not if the vision and team is good with a great atmosphere talents will be automatically join you irrespective of the package coz they see a long term benefit and not short term

  22. I asked my employees what made you join a no name firm with no investment. They listed their reasons as follows:
    1. Your vision
    2. Your past experience in the domain
    3. Reputation of the firm you worked for in the industry
    4. Your achievements in other areas (CFA certification mainly)
    5. The industry is growing rapidly but has very few entry points
    6. The way you treated us during the interview
    What made you stay?
    1. The work is very interesting
    2. There is near to no micromanaging
    3. Excellent mentorship
    4. Free lunch 😀

  23. Making everything else(learning, growth prospects, work environment etc.) as attractive as possible helps in attracting good talent. Common mistake in this approach is to unintentionally set wrong expectations.

  24. Have relationship with high quality systems, who can mentor, guide and build such system within a start-up. Basically class is measured by results not by certificates or past performance.
    Skill grooming process is something which no company has…this needs to be put in place. This way we have built 200+ people company in 9 months.

  25. We can’t doc..every startup journey and culture is so unique, you might hire who you think is a great talent, based on past achievements, but, once on boarded, things could be completely different. Rather than burning fingers doing that, our endeavour is to hire good talent and give them the space and time to grow into high quality…

  26. If you have a good business model and reward process even a startup can attract quality employees. The hard part is convincing the employee of the potential of your company and belief that you can are doing something disruptive.

  27. At early stage, founders play big role, at that time founders are bigger brand than that company.
    At intermediates state, If you are doing good, then no issue at all, because you can pay even more than market (That’s what most of start-up do) also you have already earned a trust and awareness.
    If unfortunate, performance in initial stage was not upto the mark then Its really difficult to keep experts with us for long time.

  28. We always give prospective interns / freelancers a case to solve (pertaining to their job role) before we get them formally onboard – their attitude towards case makes it easy to understand their motivations. If they are inclined towards a long term growth – trust based relationship, it makes us a little lenient on capability front

  29. *Frndzzz hum FB pe apne photos hare karte hai par us photos pe*
    *bahut hi kam aate par aap believe karo is trick se aapki pics pe like aur comment 100% badhegi jitna aap chaho utni aayegi..*
    *Watch this vedio*

  30. For a Bootstrap company, it’s good to hire freshers. They will stay for long run, if they are clear about Career path. Here is the challenge for the entrepreneurs to convince about career path , but success rate is high with clear vision

  31. Hiring right ppl on board is crucial for any company, but startups can’t afford to make hiring mistakes. When money is tight and credibility has yet to be established, a wrong hire can set you back for period or keep your business from taking off altogether. U know before hiring someone u should consider what they want in real- Money or work or culture or quality balanced life or responsibility or what? As other says i think we should keep few things in mind like:
    *If u build a company culture that’s trying to do something big, good ppl will surely want to work for u. It means define yourself before u hire. U’ve to really think abt what yor company is doing, where u r at n what yor culture is.
    * Once u’ve been able to attract top talent, how do u retain it? Key is engage n empower them.
    * take away the fear of failure n be open with candidates at interview. If they will join they can become yor good assets.

  32. The best employees as well as investors for a startup are the “risk takers” who realize not taking any risk is the biggest risk. In fact for the true risk takers “quality work” is one which has some risk in it. The very definition of start up is that success is not guaranteed but there is payoff irrespective of success. If successful you additionally get huge money. Otherwise you are still learning a lot and solving a worthy problem instead of wasting you time on trivial issues in large companies.

  33. Bootstrapping startups don’t have the privilege to hire high calibre employees, specially in countries like US and Australia companies have to pay minimum wage to even interns.
    We have invested a fraction of that minimum wage while developing MVP in India. Works just fine.

  34. I have started my career in a start-up (The company wasn’t​ funded in the early stages). These are the things that attracted good candidates
    1. Trust – Our founders had a good reputation among the peers and reportees in their earlier companies. A good number of their colleagues followed them to the new venture.
    2. Common Purpose – Many of the early employees joined our company, with a common purpose. “To build a world-class semiconductor company from India”
    3. ESOP – Since many of the senior employees came on-board with a considerable pay-cut, they were compensated with ESOP. This made them feel, that they don’t much in the long-term
    4. Lectures – Our founders and Sr.executives volunteered to take classes at IISc and IITs. This gave them an opportunity to interact with the bright students, tell them about the work we do. Eventually, many bright students from the top institutes joined, even though we weren’t pay masters

  35. Its not like risky to join a startup!! it all depends on the concept, revenue generation and yes traffic influence. In my case i tried to target freelancers first which has really helped me to built my backbone…!!!

  36. The founder’s vision and commitment towards the goals and the team lays the right foundation for employees.
    These are mere not employees but human capital. The urge to do something beyond the 925 rut is the base of employment.
    Second is the attitude of the human capital towards work and team. So the founding team has to get this one right from day one.
    RnR are fine to get talent but not complete human capital. The open bandwidth to work and produce results is the first empowerment by the founding team.
    Degrees are useless if there is no spark in the team. Digging and spending time to segregate the right time at the founding level lays the right stones to the startup building
    This is the time the startup should not shy from hiring people with right startup experience at board or senior levels to sort and shortlist the right founding team. No point in having money here as these are the people who will reap profits and milestones for the company.
    My 2 cents doc.

  37. What worked for me: hired freshers with a promise to learn enterprise scale product development in a niche industry, average salary with significant growth potential! stock options were not attractive for majority of them in beginning. balanced team with couple of seniors & on demand experts as consultants.

  38. I somewhat agree with this argument, it’s very hard to convince them so that they can join you with a low pay. Moreover, you sometimes have to hire someone who is way too much experienced than you.

  39. It’s only the right people who get attracted. Those who are able to relate to your business model and understand the growth they can get. Right ones are convinced in first meeting others you can keep convincing yet they don’t join n if they join with doubts they are never able to perform

  40. mine was bootstraped ofc but luckily god gave me skills to attract right talented employees
    No-Nonsense app for | Investor Networking | Franchise | Marketing | Find Co-Founder | Financial Advisor AXVIBE – attract your vibe . Download Axvibe Free app ? AppStore & PlayStore

  41. 1. Look for leaders who are Intrapreneurs. They would have felt short of becoming entrepreneurs themselves.
    2. Convey your Vision and Mission strong to hires even at interview stage. Give them a presentation . It works !
    3. Convince them of the business idea and any investment commitments done . Builds confidence and basic security.
    ……and many more.

  42. We are a bootstrapped company and we hire freshers and train them which has worked out for us very well. We tried hiring experienced candidates but it didn’t end up well since their demands are more and they boss over other employees who are freshers.

  43. We are a bootstrapped technology start up and have been able to hire good developers and architects. Here’s been our approach :
    – we looked for people who are genuinely interested in technology and pitched our company as a place where they can fulfill their aspirations
    – we mostly went through referrals … almost all our hires are through employee referrals
    – we have offered key people the option to work remotely I.e. work from their hometown. This was a big draw. One person we hired from Bangalore now works from the comfort of his home in Bilaspur. Another from Kullu and another from Vizag. Remote working is not easy but I feel productivity is higher, employee satisfaction is higher and I was able to hire from companies like IBM, Dell, Accenture .. with very minimal hikes or even pay cuts. And touchwood , attrition is zero.

  44. Selecting right co-founder was the hardest part in earlier days of my time. We need to look the personality for 2-3 months, were they working hard, were they just sit back looking for instruction, were they just playing games to kill the times.
    Hiring in earlier days also is too risky if you’re bootstrapped and not “rich” kid on the block. So keep your stuff done together in solo or even with your partner without “pay”, budget your stuff in milestone.

  45. “Do not hire the best, hire the people that are best for you.” – Jack Ma
    Know that your company is part of a journey for an employee, make sure that you know where they are heading, and make sure that you can help them reach the destination. Make sure that it is an equitable relationship.
    Many successful founders talk about how they leveraged their passion, and culture to bring in the best. However, I find that for most first time founders, the reality is far more nuanced. What matters is that you make things equitable.
    Founders value prop to new employees is a mix of Brand, Compensation, Impact. Often the chance to drive an impact is the only lever that is feasible for most first time founders. Startups can supercharge growth, find employees who value that.
    My promise to my hires was ” Give me two years, and I will guarantee that your market value will increase by 4x”. Together we created a culture we far exceeded that promise for almost all our alumni. Oxylabs alumni went on to start multiple startups, and join the top consumer internet brands in the world. I feel this is the biggest achievement of my life.

  46. By not putting job descriptions and degrees required. People with real life experiences impact more than degrees. Also hire people who have failed or fired which is considered a taboo in India. Also there should be no reference checks because when you are hiring someone there needs to be trust between employer and employee.

  47. The same situation can be seen from two different perspectives : 1] Founder’s viewpoint: Bootstrap time period is the best time to do the acid test to choose the right team , that would go a long way in building the company of tomorrow. Only ethical and value based people will stay and survive the negativity and challenge of that phase. When the “boat rocks”, weak minded people run away. The selfish people don’t survive this phase and would certainly commit mistakes which would ensure their own self-destructing inherent characteristics. Even the “integrity issue” people would also surface up in this phase. One would also find some people getting aggressive w.r.t ESOPs or arm-twist the founders. Sometimes even the team-cohesiveness get staked. So bootstrap time is the best testing time to choose the “right-fit” team. “Misfits” would leave in this period due to lack of patience and other reason which is actually good for the Startup. Only key care required is that the outgoing “smart” person should not harm the team by stealing the startup’s IP and confidential proprietary information and use it for raising some quick money by using the “stolen technology” to the startup’s competitors.

  48. Startups are not for the faint hearted. If you like risk, have a burning desire to broaden your skills and at the same time leverage on your skill sets than startup is ideal for you. Life in a startup is exciting yet stressful but you learn a lot.It all depends on the leadership of the startup .

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