Want to Attract Top Talent to your Startup? Think Bizarre


As an early stage startup you are already having a tough time with limited (if at all any) resources, incumbent competition, critical naysayers and an almost negligible bank balance.

It’s another huge challenge to design an out-of-the-box recruitment campaign for attracting top talent that is already difficult to acquire.

But, this is certainly doable. I used a very different approach while trying to attract talent to my venture Aspirare Ventures. It was a risky bet.

I only created a single page teaser and posted it on all my social and professional networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my alumni networks of IIT and ISB).

Within 24 hours of posting this, I was inundated with replies from people who were either interested in getting in touch or who sent me a note of appreciation for this pitch!

So I’m sharing 6 Tips from what worked for me and hope that it helps you as well.

1. Aim your Recruitment Message well.

Your recruitment campaign is NOT an interview process. It is only a message that you are sending, to get people’s attention and to make them come to you.

If your aim is to get core management team level people, then the message must be unique & super appealing, as compared to when you’re looking for a regular pair of hands for a task.

If you don’t do this first, then you end up shooting in the dark.

2. Appeal to the ‘Ambitious Achiever’ in People, not the ‘Skilled Professional’

Most people need a challenge to bring out the best in them. If your recruitment campaign calls ONLY for ‘Skills’ then you might get a highly skilled person, but is that who you really want in your early stage venture? Well, maybe you do.

You need to appeal to the ‘achiever’ inside people. That is what will encourage the most ambitious go-getters to get in touch with you. That is what you want.

3. Do not avoid comparison. Be upfront.

I see in many advertised job descriptions (JD’s) - people’s outrageous claim about how that is the best job on the planet. Please, don’t do that. People are NOT stupid.

While you are super confident about your startup, you should also acknowledge that there are many other high paying, promising career opportunities out there as well.

Be upfront about this fact, but then, also specify WHY your venture offers something unparalleled.

4. Catch people’s Fancy, not just their attention.

When you create a unique message then people remember you for that and spread the word. People need a special reason to remember your pitch. Remember, every public communication is PR for the startup, so is the recruitment pitch.

Being a movie buff myself, I used the ‘Red Pill vs. Blue Pill’ concept from the movie ‘The Matrix’, which almost everyone knows about.

However, don’t try too hard to force-fit some ‘concept’ into your pitch. If it happens naturally then great! But bizarre definitely sells.

5. Filter the Attitude, not just skills.

I figured that I didn’t have the patience to sift through a large number of irrelevant applications, if I did get them. So I tried to build a subtle filtering criterion into the message itself.

I made it clear about the type of people who should get in touch with me. I was not filtering skills, but the attitude. This matters to me more.

In such a situation, there are higher chances that the people who reply to you will be the seriously interested ones who have cleared the initial barrier that you created for them.

6. Spoon feeding is for toddlers. Never do that.

Not when you’re trying to hire a decision maker.

Encourage the applicant to do a little bit of research. The serious ones will do it. For instance, I did not mention my startup’s URL but gave my official email address. A serious applicant would get the domain name of my company’s website just by reading the email address.

There are some who will reply with very basic questions, expecting to be spoon fed. Avoid them. They will suck your time and will do no good.

If you have some ideas about hiring as well, please do share with me! I’d love to learn.

About the Author

Kunal Varma is the founder of Aspirare Ventures, a young startup in the education sector with a focus on skill development for the youth. Prior to founding Aspirare, Kunal founded Whimsia Custom Works, a marketing and trading outfit for customized apparel.Kunal has spent 7 year in the hi-tech industry, designing and building next gen semiconductor products for wireless and handheld devices.

Kunal did his B. Tech in Computer Science from IIT Roorkee and MBA in Marketing & Strategy from ISB, Hyderabad. He is a restless soul, fitness buff and a foodie.