Every organization, large or small, is defined by its greatest asset: its people.

Yet finding the right group of workers to join your startup business who will represent your company, serve your customers, and help the business grow is not an easy feat. Furthermore, since yours is a startup or small business, it’s unlikely you can match either the pay or benefits more established companies in your industry can provide. After all, you’re fishing in the same talent pool as large corporations are.

In an era where remote working has become the norm – an Ipsos/Global News poll conducted in late 2021 found 88% of Canadians enjoy working from home and only 50% expect they will have to return to an office or workplace sometime this year – finding and hiring the talent you need may seem like an impossible task. But here’s some good news: it isn’t. What you need to do is to get creative with how you recruit the folks you need.

A help wanted sign

Here are 10 hiring tips for Canadian startups and small businesses to consider to help you find the talent you need to grow your company:

1. Establish a recruitment strategy

Creating a recruitment strategy is your first step. It will help guide you at every stage of the recruitment lifecycle and ensures you’re tracking the right recruitment metrics so you can measure what your actual cost-per-hire is. Recruitment metrics also help you optimize the hiring process and identify areas where you can improve.

For example, some metrics you may wish to include is ‘time to fill’ or the number of days it takes to find and hire a candidate, ‘source of hire’ tracks your various recruiting channels, ‘cost per hire’ determines the total cost you invest in hiring divided by the number of people you hire, and ‘candidate job satisfaction’ shows how effective your recruiting processes are in terms of the candidates’ expectations.

2. Know who it is you want on your team

What characteristics in potential candidates are you seeking for your startup? Thinking of the candidate personas for specific job roles can help you define the type of worker you need on your team. That includes hard and soft skill requirements, a candidate’s experience, and where they’re located (if applicable). The more you can define what your startup’s employee value proposition is, the easier it will be to help you express what your startup has to offer and learn what any candidate’s expectations are by joining your company.

3. Write compelling job postings

Once you have defined your startup’s employee value proposition and know what kind of candidate you’re after, you can begin crafting a compelling job posting to attract the candidates you seek.

Don’t be formulaic, dull, and old fashioned with your job postings. Insert some personality into it while including all the relevant information a job seeker needs to know about your company and what the role entails.

Additionally, highlight the perks and benefits your company provides. What makes your startup unique from your competitors or more established players in your industry? For instance, do you offer a flexible work-life balance that allows employees to work from home regularly or semi-regularly? Or do you subsidize the cost of using public transit to get to work or offer your employees a free lunch every week?

Also, highlight your organization’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace and give clear guidance on the salary or pay range for each position you’re advertising. Data suggests companies that publish what they pay receive up to 90% more applicants.

4. Showcase your startup’s culture

Your startup may be small but show off your company’s unique culture. It may be advantageous when wooing high-quality talent to your ranks.

Your company’s culture is its shared values, attributes, and characteristics that run throughout your organization and encompasses everything from the workplace environment to your expectations of employees and strategic goals.

Your firm’s culture may not be contained in a written statement, but it is in plain view through the actions and behaviours of you and your employees. For example, showcase how your employees can be creative and spearhead new projects or highlight your team’s collaborative and respectful environment to resolve an issue or launch a new product. And talk up the workplace atmosphere. Do you allow your employees to dress casually when coming to work or permit them to have flexible working hours? Chalk it up and let your candidates know about it.

There can be drawbacks to working for a fledgling startup, such as longer working hours and a substantial workload, but there are many benefits as well, and you should telegraph those loudly and proudly. A prospective employee will take note of your company’s culture when deciding whether to commit their career and expertise to you.

5. Use job search and placement sites

While it’s common to use LinkedIn to search for the talent you need, it’s wise to expand your horizons beyond using a single network. Recruiters for larger organizations use several job search and placement websites in addition to LinkedIn. That’s because it’s where you’ll find job seekers at all levels of experience, many of whom may not have LinkedIn profiles.

For instance, advertising the positions you’re hiring for on sites can help you find the talent you’re after quickly, exposing your startup to a broader network of talent and allowing you to peruse profiles and résumés of job seekers. Other job search and placement sites include Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Monster.

Further, enhance your chances of capturing the attention of your desired candidates by sharing your job opportunities on your social media networks. Also, send them to local colleges and universities, and notify your local business improvement association and chamber of commerce to help spread the word.

6. Create an interview process

There’s more to hiring employees than drafting a wanted ad and posting it online. You need to think ahead about managing job interviews as people apply. Think of the interview process as you would a sales funnel, only for this funnel, you’re attempting to select and qualify eligible candidates.

Start by creating a list of pre-interview screening questions you ask a candidate via email to help determine whether you should move forward with that applicant. It’s also useful to ask applicants to complete a test that’s related to the job. That way, you’ll get a sense of how they’ll perform in the role. Therefore, if you’re going to hire a software developer and want to see exactly how they code, give them a skills assessment test (there are several pre-employment testing sites to choose from online). Also, before you sit down to interview every candidate, research to learn as much about them as you can and draft a list of relevant questions to ask them. Remember: you may be interviewing them for a job, but they too are interviewing you to see if they want to join your startup.

Once you get to the interview phase, don’t just ask scripted questions. Encourage questions from candidates about the company, position, and your business’s culture. However, make sure to keep some of your interview questions as similar as possible to provide equity while interviewing various candidates.

Business is about successful relationships. You need to build a positive relationship with your employees to ensure they’re engaged and help your startup grow. Start that effort on day one when you conduct your first interview with any candidate.

7. Establish an employee referral program

A referral to hire someone from one of your existing employees is valuable for any business; personal references like these are a potential goldmine for a startup. Turning to your trusted employees to help you find others who will fit in and help your company grow makes perfect sense. They can help you save time and money during the recruitment process, but it’s also your employees who are the best spokespeople for your startup and brand.

That’s why it’s wise to establish an employee referral program that rewards your existing employees whenever you hire someone they have referred. You’re on a tight budget, so that reward doesn’t have to be cash. It could be an extra paid day off or a gift card for a restaurant or retailer of their choosing. Get creative and have fun with it. Your employees will appreciate the acknowledgement and whatever you offer for their help.

8. Hire people who have more experience than you

Great business leaders surround themselves with smart people, listen to their counsel and opinions, and then make informed decisions. It’s been said that whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision. So, have the courage to hire people who have more experience than you do in certain aspects of your industry.

By surrounding yourself with others who have knowledge or talent in areas you don’t, you’re strengthening your startup. You may be the founder and business owner of your small business, but that doesn’t mean you must be the most qualified person in the company. Moreover, it shows your existing employees and the wider world that you are a confident, talent-aware leader focused on achieving collective goals and who’s not afraid to be challenged and forced out of a comfort zone. Experienced people like these can help you move your startup forward and onto its next phase of success in time.

9. Conduct thorough reference and background checks

You strive to hire honest, hard-working, experienced people, and hopefully, you do. But don’t leave it to guesswork. Take the time to do a thorough background check on every candidate you’re planning on hiring, including an in-depth search of their online history (things they have posted on social media networks, personal blogs, or comments made on public forums). You may consider hiring a third-party provider to help you conduct those searches.

It’s also advisable to have every new hire agree to have a criminal background check. You can do so through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It ensures they do not have a record showing theft, fraud, or forgery. It also may be worthwhile to consider adding commercial crime insurance to your overall insurance policy to protect you from internal theft, fraud, and forgery.

10. Have a defined onboarding process

You’ve identified and hired the people you need, but the work doesn’t end there. Think about your new employees’ onboarding process, or the process by which you welcome a new team members and help them become familiar and comfortable in their roles. It’s not merely about training new hires on systems, procedures, and introducing them to their colleagues. It’s about keeping them engaged and ensuring they have what they need to do their jobs effectively. Regular check-ins over time can also help ensure your newest employees are comfortable and happy and it provides them with the opportunity to give valuable feedback if something is being overlooked. Regular check-ins will also help mitigate losing valued staff.

Protect Your Startup: Get the Insurance Coverage You Need

Your recruitment tactics may be different from other companies, but there’s nothing unusual about that for a startup. And regardless of what type of industry you’re in, be sure to have an adequate, customized startup insurance policy in your back pocket. Fill out an application to get a free quote from Zensurance. Our licensed brokers will find you the coverage you need at the best price.

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About the Author: Liam Lahey

Liam is the Content Marketing Manager at Zensurance. A writer and editor for more than 20 years, he has been published in several newspapers and magazines, including Yahoo! Canada Finance, Metroland Media, IT World Canada and others.