I remember sitting in orientation on my first day as the head of Recruitment Marketing for a startup. One of the onboarding speakers said, “I find startups intoxicating in the best way. They’re not for everyone, but I hope you find the unique startup environment fun and exciting.”
And after my experiences over the past few years, I can honestly now say that I do feel this way. And I’m happy to share that I’m currently embarking on a journey to lead Recruitment Marketing and employer branding at a startup for the second time!
That being said, it isn’t always easy to lock down a Recruitment Marketing role at a startup. Startups that are hiring for employer brand and Recruitment Marketing roles are few and far between. However, I think that really needs to change! And I hope by writing this blog post that even one person working at a startup will read this and convince their leadership why having a dedicated Recruitment Marketing professional is worth it.
Why Recruitment Marketing is important for start up success
Early stage startups often have a list of “key” roles they need to fill to really hit the ground running, like developers and sales reps, while some corporate functions such as HR, payroll and marketing may fall under the “outsource” category. Recruitment Marketing is rarely a thought for startups because it tends to fall under the HR or marketing umbrellas.
However, managing your employer brand reputation especially as a young company and using digital marketing strategies to attract talent cost efficiently are critical because startups need creative strategies to reach the right talent to accelerate their growth — and this is exactly what we can do for the organization. A friend and former colleague taught me this a few years ago: if you can help a company make money, save money or create efficiencies, you’ll always have a job. So, I’m here to tell you how Recruitment Marketing and employer brand professionals can in fact help startups in all of these ways. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Recruiting Marketing professionals help startups to hire more efficiently
If you’ve worked or interviewed at a startup,you know that startup culture isn’t for everyone. Long hours are common, deadlines are fast and tight and you’re typically working with lean budgets and small teams.
While this presents an awesome opportunity for certain employees and prospective candidates, this type of culture does not appeal to all. And since startups clearly want to attract talent that’s going to be a good fit for their environment, they need to strike a balance between clearly communicating what’s expected of someone in a startup, while highlighting the positive factors too — like the sense of community, flat hierarchy, open communication and healthy challenges.
In my previous Recruitment Marketing role at a startup, I conducted voice of employee (VOE) interviews as part of my candidate persona project. During those interviews, I asked employees what characteristics you need to embody to work at a startup. Their responses were all the same. They said, to love working here, you have to be:
- agile because plans change often
- okay with ambiguity because no one is around to tell you what to do, and
- a swiss army knife or jack of all trades—no job is above or beneath you
All too often in startups, I see candidates drop off late in the process or quickly leave a company because it was not what they expected. This can have major implications on your recruiting and people costs and your employer brand reputation — which I’ll talk more about shortly.
However, when you have a Recruitment Marketing professional working at your startup, they will know how to communicate honestly about expectations and what candidates will get in return for their efforts. This will help to ensure your company attracts the right applicants the first time around.
While many may think this approach will scare candidates off, you’ll find that the right talent won’t be scared because there’s a clear trade off that is always worth it for them. For example, while a company may lack structure and needs someone with a good sense of direction, the candidate will get autonomy in return.
In my last role, I was able to leverage the information that came of the VOEs and give candidates an accurate depiction of what was expected of them and what they would see in return.
As a result, I was able to increase hiring efficiencies by reducing the amount of time our talent acquisition specialists spent interviewing candidates who didn’t match the personas of the ideal candidate. That means less time spent on hiring the wrong people and more time having qualified talent on your team to help you drive your company goals forward.
Rally note: to learn more about this “give and get” approach to employer branding, check out our blog Please Stop Bragging About Your Employer Brand by Bryan Adams.
2. Recruitment Marketing professionals help startups to save money
As I mentioned above, when a company is able to communicate the reality of their culture, candidates know what they’re getting into before they apply. This is important since the average startup attrition rate is double that of larger organizations. While attrition is a natural part of the employee lifecycle, there’s an opportunity to get the right folks in the door from the get-go and reduce attrition when you have a Recruitment Marketing pro on staff. Recruitment Marketing can directly help to cut costs by:
- Attracting the right applicants — saving recruiters hours and reducing the cost per applicant
- Communicating an employee value proposition that entices the right hires and repels the wrong hires who won’t succeed in the startup environment
- Delivering a stellar employee experience by ensuring that the employee value proposition rings true internally through regular pulse checks to reduce attrition
In addition, making a bad hire can cost up to 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings. For many startups, there isn’t any extra money lying around, so being able to save thousands of dollars simply by having a Recruitment Marketing professional on staff is a great investment.
3. Recruitment Marketing professionals help startups to make money
Early in the pandemic, there was a spreadsheet circulating that listed brands who were mistreating employees — encouraging consumers to boycott those brands. Conversely, companies who took care of their employees during the time of crisis saw increases in social media engagement and positive brand sentiment — enabling them to capitalize on all the good PR.
Not only are consumers scrutinizing your employer brand, but investors are also beginning to look at your reputation and company culture. During my experience at previous companies — both startup and midsize — investors have flagged low Glassdoor ratings and bad reviews. That’s because investors understand that for a company to succeed, they need the right people in place as well as employee stability to help see your venture through.
When you do a quick Google search of “startup culture,” it’s usually preceded by “toxic.” Employer brand professionals have a unique opportunity to change this for their organizations by developing talent attraction and employee experience programs.
Through regular pulse checks, employer brand leaders can get ahead of any disconnects between the employer brand and current employee perceptions. In addition, they also work to infuse your employee value proposition across the employee experience, creating a more positive and engaging workplace. And this type of environment results in happier and more productive employees — and productive employees will not only stay, they’ll help your business to make more money!
Building a strong employer brand for your startup takes time and commitment, but if you invest early on, you’ll be in a better position to hire candidates who can help you succeed and grow your company faster.
I hope that I continue to see startups add Recruitment Marketing and employer brand roles to their priority hiring list, alongside CEOS, COOs and CMOs — perhaps there’s an opportunity in the future for a CEBO or CRMO? One can dream! Until then, I will continue to encourage startups to unlock their employer brands early on and unleash their potential to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and increase revenue. And if you want to chat more about employer brand and Recruitment Marketing for startups, don’t hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn!