Closed your investment round? How start-ups can build a stellar team to fuel growth

You’ve done it; after months of presentations, pitches and gruelling Q&As with potential investors, you’ve secured the capital you need to take your business to the next level. To put that capital to work and realise your full potential, you’re going to need people – the best people.

But how do you find these people? Recruitment in the start-up, scale-up space is very competitive with lots of high-potential businesses battling over the best talent; having a well-thought out recruitment plan is vital for success.

To dig into what it takes to build winning teams, we spoke to Zumar Dean, Client Lead at the internal consultancy, Talentful, who work with innovative companies like Box, Depop and Thought Machine, to build game-changing teams. Zumar was kind enough to give us his top tips on how to build a stellar team.

#1 Consider the candidate experience

Think about the candidate experience before you do anything! Many businesses are so eager to get out there and start searching for candidates that they charge ahead without thinking through the end-to-end candidate experience. If you haven’t taken the time to plan a great experience – from the message on your careers page, to the interview process, to your new team member’s first day- you’re probably not going to deliver one. And if a candidate has had a bad experience – are they really going to want to work for you?

#2 Don’t assume everyone wants to work for you

This is tip number #2, but it’s really at the top of my list. Good quality candidates expect interviews to be two-way affairs. As much as you’re assessing them, they’re assessing you. That means you need to sell to them. Avoid the mistake of starting off with a vague, ‘so, tell me about yourself,’ and instead start off by telling them how exciting your business is and why the particular role is important.

Once you’ve done that, you can assess competency by asking them questions, but do keep a focus on building a rapport. If you hammer a candidate with questions for two hours or subject them to obscure tests, they might decide you’re not the best business for them.

Final point on this, at the end of the interview ask them if they want to progress. Don’t assume they do and say, ‘we’ll be in touch.’ Ask them, ‘now that you’ve heard more, are you still interested in the role?’

#3 Offer compelling compensation

It’s no surprise that compensation is key to attracting top talent, but salary isn’t everything. There are a lot of benefits you can offer that people will value more highly than cold hard cash. Flexibility and remote working are huge at the moment; not only do they open up a wider talent pool for businesses, unconstrained by geography, but it’s very appealing to candidates. It supports work/life balance, cuts down on time spent commuting and importantly illustrates a high level of trust.

Stability is also key. As start-up businesses are inherently riskier, it’s important to make candidates feel the longevity of the business is secure. Highlight the experience the board and management team have in growing and exiting businesses and if you’ve got investment, make sure that’s celebrated.

The last point I want to make is around equity. A lot of the equity packages we’re seeing are out-dated, being based on higher odds of exit than are realistic in today’s market. If you are offering equity as an attraction/negotiation tool, you need to ensure this is actually attractive. Consider how it is reflected against valuation, how it will get diluted as you raise more capital and what your plan B is if your exit strategy changes.

#4 Explain the interview process up front for each role

This sounds like an obvious point, but it’s actually a very common mistake, one that leaves candidates confused and uncertain. Start off by identifying the role’s purpose and responsibilities. Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen companies in such a rush to fill roles that they start interviewing without having written a job specification.

Having identified the process, figure out how you want to qualify candidates – whether via a test, a series of behavioural based questions or by a deep dive into their previous experience. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s absolutely consistent for each candidate.

Do make sure that your process includes a way of assessing competency, otherwise you run the risk of selecting the candidate you’d most like to have a drink with down at the pub, rather the one that will do the best job for your business.

#5 Provide feedback to the candidates

Set people up for success – whether you hire them or not. This means giving constructive feedback throughout the interview process. Consider how unhelpful the comment, ‘you’re not the right fit,’ is to a candidate versus, ‘we’re concerned about your previous success rate selling to enterprise clients.’ With that feedback, a candidate knows exactly what to highlight on a subsequent interview.

Don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback either. Remember, you’re selling the role to candidates, so ask them for their impressions so that you too can be better prepared for your next interview.

About Talentful

Talentful helps people and companies reach their potential. They work onsite with innovative businesses to build world-class teams, harnessing the power of their vast network and deep understanding of how the most successful companies hire.


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