11 Steps For Startups To Recruit An Elite Staff

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." - Walt Disney

Whether or not your realize it, the number one most valuable asset that your company has is your staff. Your employees are the people who have made your dream a reality, the people whose own labor has breathed life into the brand and company culture that you had envisioned. You must nurture your team and show each employee the respect they deserve as individuals in order to reap the benefits that accrue when your staff is happy and working together effectively.

That being said, finding the right people for your team is crucial to the success of your company. You can have the most cutting-edge technology, the best industry contacts, the most innovative business idea - but none of that matters if you don't have the right people to help get your company off the ground.

Use this step by step guide to recruit an elite team of top-quality employees who will ultimately build the biggest value for your brand.


The process of recruiting the best talent starts before you even post a job opening. Once you recognize the need for a new employee, there are several steps you can take to attract the highest quality candidates to apply.

1. Identify the role. So, you have realized that you need to take on additional staff in order to continue - or begin - your company's path of growth. Now is the time for you to define exactly what that role is. If you don't have a clear-cut job description in mind but just know that you need more manpower, it can be helpful to take a backwards approach: what is the department that you need to fill, and what role does this department play in your business process? What are the specific functions that the employees in this department do? Make sure you have a clear idea of the exact role you are looking to fill and have an understanding of why it is imperative that this role is filled. Think critically to identify the areas where bringing on a new employee would bring the most value to your company.

2. Think about what qualities your ideal employee should embody.Now that you know exactly what the job is, you need to have a clear picture in mind of what you are looking for in a candidate. Identify the qualities, experience, and characteristics that an individual would need to fill this role effectively. Write them down. Create two lists: the first should be a bare-bones list of all the basic requirements that a candidate must have in order to meet expectations. The second list should include all the qualities that your ideal candidate would have - one who has what it takes to grow with your company, exceed expectations, and add amazing value to your team. You'll notice that your first list could be used for any company trying to fill a similar role, while the second list is more personal and reflective of your unique company culture.

"If you have a clear idea of what culture you want at your company, what dynamics you want within your team, or what the quality bar for each position is, do not make compromises when hiring." -Bastian Bergmann, COO of WATTx

3. Write an effective pitch for the role. This is the time for you to start writing your job description. Use your sales skills to write a compelling job description that clearly defines the job description and a candidate's basic qualifications (refer to list one from the last step!). Include relevant goals and expectations - the more specific, the better. Make sure that you are not only defining the basic tasks and responsibilities, but are also laying out exactly what you expect to see from this role. Explain what you would like to see from this role in the future - and don't forget to highlight what YOU have to offer to the candidate. Quality candidates are looking for quality roles. Make them see this role as more than just a job, but an amazing opportunity for personal and professional growth. Make them want it!

4. Broaden your applicant pool. Once you have a compelling job description, it's time to start spreading the word! You can start by posting your job opening on one of the many job-search websites, but it's also a good idea to reach out to your personal and professional network giving them a heads up that you're looking to fill a new role and if they might know anyone who could be a great candidate. Develop relationships with recruiting companies and local universities' job placement offices.  If you simply wait for the right candidate to find your job posting, you are probably missing out on a ton of great talent. Be proactive about going out there and finding the best candidates, instead of letting them come to you. Your perfect candidate might not even be looking for a new job - that is, until they hear of this amazing new opportunity at your company!



Your job has been posted and you're ready to start identifying the best candidates to bring in for an in-person interview. These best practices will help you streamline the process of going through the stack of resumes and weeding out the top candidates for the role.

"[One] common startup hiring mistake is to assume that the hiring process is separate from your company as a whole. It isn’t." -Selina Kerly, online recruiter

1. Recognize potential when you see it. Too many employers limit themselves by only considering candidates that have a requisite amount of experience. Depending on the nature of the role, give equal consideration to the untapped potential of a candidate as well as their experience level. Even the most mediocre candidates can have all the experience in the world if they've been in the job market for long enough. In many cases it is wiser to hire an individual with a high level of sheer talent and intelligence but perhaps less work experience than a candidate who has all the experience but who hasn't appeared to grow from it. Experience comes with time, but you can't teach natural skills or talent. Focus on finding candidates with the greatest amount of potential and give them an opportunity to prove their worth - you're also giving yourself an opportunity to tap into their unlocked potential for the benefit of your company and everyone involved.

2. Interview effectively. When the time comes to start bringing in candidates to interview, make sure you are prepared. Do your homework and familiarize yourself with a candidate's resume and LinkedIn before they come in. This saves you from wasting precious time with a candidate rehashing the materials they have already submitted. Remember, the goal of an interview is to find individuals who bring more to the table than just their resume. By the time they come in for an interview, you should already know what the candidate is like on paper. Have some basic interview questions ready, but you will quickly find that the best candidates' interviews tend to feel more like a great conversation and the discussion will come naturally.

3. Empower the staff that you have. Your existing staff should always be involved in the hiring process. After all, these will be the people who work alongside your new employee day after day. Give your employees the opportunity to recommend someone they know for the position, and make sure they get the chance to meet your top candidates and voice any concerns they have before making a hire. Listen and learn from their feedback, and build upon it to find a perfect candidate who will not only thrive within their role, but who work effectively with the rest of your team. Utilize the amazing human capital you already have! By making your staff a part of the hiring process, you are making your team committed to helping their future coworker succeed in their role before you have even made a hire.



Once you've found the right person for the role, act fast and don't hesitate to make a hiring decision. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that the best candidates will wait around for you to make an offer. You shouldn't force a hiring decision, but if you don't act fast all the top quality candidates will be swept out from under you!

"Imagine that you’re at a farmers market and you needed exceptional quality produce. If the market was open from 8 to 5, you could of course, find and buy pretty good produce at most any time. However if you wanted exceptional quality produce, your best chance would come at opening time. And by the end of the first hour, the last bit of exceptional produce would likely be gone. Recruiting top talent operates on a similar model." -Dr. John Sullivan, HR thought leader and author

1. Use your scale to your advantage. Now that you have found the right person for the role, you need to make them an offer that they can't refuse. Highly skilled candidates are a hot commodity, and you're going to need to use every trick in your book to stand out from competing offers. You may not be able to offer a salary as high as giant household names, but the smaller scale of your company means that you can afford to be flexible where these companies can't - take advantage of that fantastic position! When making a job offer, sweeten the deal by offering small benefits that clearly optimize the work-life balance for your potential new employee - such as the ability to work from home when needed, flexible time off, and the opportunity to truly grow into a role.

2. If necessary, create the right role for the right candidate. Sometimes you'll come across a candidate who might not be a perfect fit for the role you had in mind, but who leaps off the page and would clearly be a fantastic addition to your team. You can't let an amazing candidate slip away just because they didn't fit the cookie-cutter mold of your original job description! Don't be afraid to be flexible for the right candidate - another benefit of being a smaller company means that if needed, you can alter the job description that you originally envisioned. Construct a role that makes sense for the candidate's unique skill set and leave no stone unturned in creating new opportunities for them to add value to your team.

3. Culture comes first. If your goal is to develop an elite team of quality employees, your work doesn't end once you've found the perfect employee and made the hire. The very first thing you should introduce your new employee to during their on-boarding process is your company culture. Familiarizing a new employee with the core values and philosophies that drive your business right away will set an optimal tone for the rest of their training and will give them a solid foundation to begin their job functions. The best employees should eventually be capable of making independent decisions to support your company's growth, so it is imperative that all new employees embrace and understand your company culture.

4. Follow up and follow through.This probably goes without saying, but don't make any promises to your employees that you can't keep. Do your best to make good on the promises you made during the interview process - if you don't, you run the risk of losing that amazing new hire or, at the very least, having them resent your broken promises and lose trust in your leadership. Regularly touch base and follow up with new hires during the first few months of their employment to ensure they are meeting goals, and listen carefully to their feedback. The best way to reduce employee turnover and dissatisfaction is by being a consistent mentor and leader for your team.

"Leadership will always involve some degree of telling people what needs to get done. But the best way to make that happen is by helping others figure out what needs to be done on their own. It’s about guiding, mentoring and coaching, not telling, controlling and micromanaging." -Lolly Daskal, leadership coach & consultant

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