As startup owners, my managing partner Andrew Fayad and I know too well the Catch-22 that can affect small companies. To excel, startups need powerful hires who are experienced and innovative, but it’s hard to entice executive-level professionals to swap name-brand careers for something more obscure.
At our company, we’ve successfully attracted an executive team made up of the best and brightest, despite the fact that we are still in relative infancy. We’ve learned that for executive-level employees, attractive compensation isn’t enough. They want more than just an executive-level paycheck. Instead, it’s about showcasing your company as a cultural vanguard. High-level professionals want to work for a company that aligns with their ideals and desire for work-life balance.
Once we discovered that our company culture could act as a lure for experienced influencers, we streamlined our recruitment and hiring process so that it was completely centered around company culture. In looking for big fish in a big pond, we’ve used four recruitment strategies to reel in an executive team and the best minds in design, marketing and project management.
Be Culturally Selective
At eLearningMind, we’re selective about the team we hire because we focus on carefully putting the right people in the right places to ensure our success and longevity.
We want our company culture to be apparent from the first moment a recruit communicates with a hiring manager. When we meet with a potential employee, we use assessment tools and a personality test to ensure that the individual not only has the necessary skills, but would also fit our existing culture. As a rule, our employees are ambitious leaders who enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Even if a candidate exhibits top-notch skills, if they don’t fit into our culture we’d rather pass and wait for the right employee to come along.
Hiring based on culture means we spend less time assimilating new employees to our way of working and more time reaping the benefits of a perfect employee fit.
Work Your Connections
My business partner and I enjoy networking, so many (if not all) of our executive hires have come from a professional connection. We’ve learned that the best sources of culturally conscious recruits have been the result of “friends of the company.” These friends—colleagues, industry connections, even past employees—send us amazing contacts who would easily fit into our company culture. Our professional contacts are often from top art schools or startups, so they already have a pulse on the job market and know what we’re looking for in our team members.
We call this “organic sourcing,” and it’s great for a culture-driven workplace. Mentors, contacts and advisors already know what we’re looking for and how we operate, so they don’t hesitate to send us names for potential employees when we’re in the market.
Utilize External Hiring Sites
One of our most successful hiring platforms is Glassdoor.com. When current and past employees leave positive reviews for our culture, we’re able to leverage them for future connections and recruiting. Some organizations feel that a review site is too much of a loose cannon: What if someone leaves a negative comment? But we’re confident enough in our culture—and spend enough time on it—that we’d rather allow our employees to do some of the recruiting work for us. It proves that our commitment to culture isn’t just a short-term lure, but a long-term strategy for organizational success. We have the happy employees to backup our claims.
Show, Don’t Tell
You can promise free lunches and ping-pong tournaments, but if you want to use your culture as recruitment bait, you can’t just tell prospective employees that you’re different—you have to show them. Show your dedication to company culture from the very beginnings of the hiring process.
Other companies hire from the same pool we do, but don’t always focus on how well a recruit gels with their company culture. Although many claim that culture is important, they’ll get distracted by an impressive resume, even if the individual isn’t a perfect fit. Unfortunately, this mistake can become apparent a few months later when conflicting ideals sour what should have been a promising hire.
We don’t just say we want positive leaders. We know that top-tier employees are looking for more than just lip service, so we set our sights on proving to new recruits that ELM is truly different.
Admittedly, it can be hard to “show off” company culture. It can sound too much like tooting your own horn. You can, however, direct prospective new hires to your profile on GlassDoor. We also make sure that prospective employees meet at least five current employees during the interview, assessment and hiring process to ensure that our culture (and its positive effects) are apparent. After hiring is complete, we continue our commitment to culture: We fly NYC hires to San Diego within the first month to meet the team there, new employees have bi-weekly lunch or breakfast with our CEO, and post-work happy hours and other offsite events keep the workplace culture front and center.
When you’re a small company or startup, it’s difficult to compete with established brands and household names. But whether you’re new, small or both, cultivating a positive company culture can be a huge draw for the kind of employee you really want. By showcasing what makes you different—and being picky with your hires—you go beyond employees just looking for a paycheck and instead, net positive leaders that contribute to your organization’s success for years to come.
Author: Simon Casuto is the co-founder and president of eLearning Mind, an interactive creative agency focused on designing education and corporate learning by leveraging ultra-modern design principles combined with science-back neurolearning principles to deliver smart, beautiful and engaging experiences that also deliver results.