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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

How to Convince People to Join Your Start-up

When you’re first getting your start-up off the ground, finding and reeling in awesome team members can be one of your biggest challenges. In my last post, I discussed the strategies that InstaEDU used to find its first employees—and those strategies work for finding people you want to meet with. But once you’ve found them, how do you convince them to drop what they’re doing and join your company?

In my experience, there are a few key factors that matter most to early stage start-up employees, and these are often the reasons that employees join start-ups in the first place. So, if you can show your top candidates how you can offer them those things, you’ll have a much better chance of people coming on board.

Here are the four important aspects of your company you’ll want to showcase throughout the interview and hiring process.

The Opportunity to Make Significant Contributions

While working at a large company usually provides greater career security, a higher salary, and better benefits, it can also mean corporate ladders, constant meetings, and narrowly focused job descriptions. One of my favorite things about start-ups is that everybody on the team is expected to wear multiple hats and manage multiple parts of the business—and the right people crave that kind of responsibility and variety, too.

So when you’re talking to job candidates, make sure to discuss the ways in which you’ll expect them to contribute to the team and build out their role in the company. This may mean talking through what a given candidate’s team might look like down the road (and if he or she would want to be running it someday!) or chatting about what other skills he or she might like to utilize (like a marketing person who also can do support, or an engineer with a knack for design).

The Chance to Build Something Meaningful

A major part of the excitement at start-ups is that your team is actually building something from nothing. As a founder, chances are that you started the company because of a problem you want to solve, and chances are you’re not the only one who recognizes the problem. (Let’s hope!) Most people who work at start-ups are there because they want to be part of the solution, too.

So at interviews, I always ask candidates what makes them interested in working at InstaEDU, which inevitably sparks a conversation about why what we’re doing is so meaningful and lets me discuss our bigger vision. Even if your company’s mission isn’t tied to something somewhat altruistic, spend plenty of time getting people excited about what you’re building—whether it’s a food truck or a fun game.

Your Great Team

People spend most of their waking hours at the office, so knowing that they’ll be surrounded by smart, fun people can make a big difference. And sure, great teams can be found in every type of company, but as a start-up, it’s easier to show yours off during the interview process.

Aside from the official interview, we often take candidates to drinks, dinner, or coffee to get to know each other in a more casual environment, and we make sure they have the chance to get to meet multiple members of the team.

The Possibility of Making a Lot of Money

At a start-up, what you may not be able to offer your employees in salary, you can give in stock options. Granting stock options essentially means that your employees will have the opportunity to own a portion of the company—in other words, when your company makes money (usually through an acquisition or IPO), your employees make money, too.

In a successful start-up, the potential financial upside that comes from stock options can far outweigh a low base salary. Cases like the Facebook IPO, which turned more than 100 early employees into overnight millionaires, may be rare, but they keep the dream alive—and they can help make employees more invested in your company’s dream.

So, when you’re making an offer, consider combining salary and stock options. It can make the difference between a non-starter offer and a competitive compensation package.

When you start bringing potential employees into your office to meet with you and your team, remember that you’re both interviewing them and selling them on your company at the same time. Both of you need to pick each other in order for a potential hire to become an early (and enthusiastic) employee. So as you ask them about their experiences, find out what motivates them, and make sure they understand your mission and vision. If you do that well, the right people will be happy to join.

Photo of start-up interview courtesy of Shutterstock.