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7 Ways Sustainable Startups Recruit Top Talent

sustainable startups hiring top employees

Millennials are changing the workforce forever! Things will never be the same. Or, maybe they’re actually not that different overall. Maybe millennials are a lot closer to other generations than we can imagine.

There’s about as many opinions on how millennials will affect the labor force as there are millennial applicants. While there may not be a consensus on their characteristics, there are companies that are succeeding with young people. Recruiters would be wise to examine what has worked elsewhere, so they can thrive in a hiring market that millennials now make up over half of. In particular, sustainable startups have discovered five specific strategies for identifying and recruiting top talent in today’s job market.

Meet them on Their Terms

The line between work and life is quite a bit blurrier for younger workers than it has been for previous generations. While older workers tend to compartmentalize heavily – “these are my work friends, these are my social friends…,” – millennials make a greater priority of seeking a genuine human connection amongst their coworkers. 

With this in mind, recruiters need to make a point of showing how their workplace facilitates this sort of interaction. This goes beyond the clichéd bean bag chair clad relaxed office culture one typically associates with sustainable startups. Having a manager stop by and show interest during interviews, showing genuine interest in a candidate beyond their profit creating capacity, and offering benefits that increase employees’ quality of life are all ways of showing this to top talent prospects.

Communicate your Company’s Message

Along with having an integrated view of their work and social lives, millennials likewise allow work and charity to overlap quite a bit. It’s hard not to notice the increasing focus on “making a difference” coming from young workers. Some companies have reacted well, with organized corporate charity and volunteer days.

Most companies were not started for purely financial motives. While no one should fault a corporation for wanting to make a buck, typically there was a mission beyond this. Perhaps the founder saw a problem in his community he was uniquely positioned to address. Maybe he had a personal connection to one industry and wanted to foster its growth in his community. Regardless, there is almost always something at the core of an organization recruiters can showcase to prospects.

Consider a medical device startup. Of course making a profit is a necessity and a goal. But recruiters could also emphasize how the company is poised to solve a major medical problem faced by consumers. When the profit driven motives of the company are connected with the humanistic aims, top candidates will be drawn to this company. Candidates endowed with the sorts of skills that allow them to rise to the top of their company typically want to see their skills used for the greater good while also being compensated healthily.

Drop the Sales Pitch

Millennials have been exposed to a tremendous amount of advertising in all its manifestations. Growing up on the internet, they have seen every marketing trick you can think of. Anything resembling an attempt at inauthentic persuasion will likely fall flat. Instead, recruiters looking for top talent need to objectively present all aspects of the company. Ironically, showing the good, the bad and the ugly is the best sales pitch. When only the good is presented, candidates become suspicious and assume the worst. When they feel they are getting a fair representation of the organization, they will be more optimistic about the company overall.

Besides, if some aspect of the company is a non-sequitur for a recruit, even top talent, wouldn’t you want to know it will not work out before thousands of dollars are invested in hiring and training that candidate. Authenticity is key here. People, especially the top talent you are looking for, are attuned to authenticity and can pick up when something is not quite right. This could be all it takes to cost your company the perfect candidate. If they had a bad feeling about a recruiter, if they thought they were being sold to or misled, they could very likely go work for someone else. There’s a few key ways to maintain authenticity while hiring. While structured interviews have their place, anything overly rigid or robotic risks feeling more like a rehearsal than an actual interview. Likewise, make sure recruiters have the whole picture too. If recruiters are not able to accurately speak on all aspects of the company, top talent candidates will start to wonder.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Why should I work for your company? While this question – often asked by millennials – is usually taken as a sign of generational entitlement and ideas well beyond the role of the entry level position the enquirer is typically interviewing for, successful human resources departments instead look at questions like this as indicative of a long-term orientation. Interviewees that ask questions like this are probing out how well the company can facilitate their growth.

All companies should be thinking win-win regardless, so it shouldn’t be too hard to answer questions like this. Consider what the organization can offer that others do not; is it the opportunity for internal promotion, mentorship and coaching, industry contacts, or something else? Rather than presuming candidates that ask what you can offer them will be bad employees, recruiters should consider this the sort of mindset that makes organizations excel. Top talent, more than other workers, need to maintain a long term focus. If all the doors are open to you, you have an obligation to explore where each on leads.

Show Your Spirit!

Nobody wants to work in a sterile, humorless environment. The sorts of top tier candidates you are seeking out often know their worth, so they are even less willing to compromise on intangibles like this. While it might be a bit excessive to follow the Google model, complete with tennis courts, professional chefs, and everything else the heart desires, offering a few culture building perks and benefits can go a long way.

While small organizations and startups typically have an advantage here, larger companies can still show their energy. Workplace culture is multifaceted, but keeping in mind the effect of small actions on how an environment functions is half the battle. Allowing your employees a chance to socialize, bond, and lead their own work occasionally are all great ways to build a positive environment and spirit in the company.

Creative Brand Marketing

It’s no secret that a company’s brand is just as influential on employees as it is on potential customers. Branding is not just an external process. Startups are excellent at this. Think of your brand as a funnel for recruitment. Prospects that want a trendy, young organization will look into companies that position themselves as that. The more straight-laced, serious types will pursue companies they perceive to fit that mold.

Branding is not just an advertising and mass media process. Every time someone interacts with a company that is a branding experience, good or bad. Convention center exhibitions are an excellent example of this. Companies that utilize the power of creative trade show displays will project competence and high-performance to everyone that passes by. Don’t think for a second that people don’t notice sloppy displays and designs.

Get Them in the Door Early

Many companies have internship programs, but few utilize these well for recruitment and retention. What better source of candidates than those that have already agreed to work for your organization and are already bought in.

Internships allow for younger workers to enter your company as a cohort and ensure that they are convinced your company is a good cultural and career fit for them. Internship programs should showcase the best of your organization. Not only should interns be exposed to a wide array of job duties – proving your company is interested in their long term development – they should have ready access to mentoring and training materials. This allows potential recruits to feel out your organization for the summer and make a decision.

Often, the difference between hooking a top candidate and watching them go to a competitor is marginal. Sometimes the decision is not even a fully conscious one on the recruit’s part. Startups and other companies that consistently nail top talent have perfected the little things, and candidates notice. It takes time, effort, and money, but it will be worth it for the longevity of the company.

About author

Matt James, editor-in-chief at Smart Data Collective, is a veteran marketer & tech geek that has helped many large brands increase their online footprint. He specializes in influencer outreach and business growth.
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