Hiring for startups: Navigating 5 hiring obstacles faced by engineering SMEs

May 13, 2020

Source: serts/iStock

Recruiting great candidates can be extremely difficult for engineering startups. The competitive landscape is challenging for all businesses to hire the talent they need.

However, recruiting for startups is even harder, because it means you’re competing with companies who have more resources and higher brand visibility. 

In this post, we’ll talk through the most common recruitment challenges faced by startup companies and explain how you overcome them. 

5 Challenges

Challenge 1: Where can I find the time to focus on recruitment? 

When you start building a company, budgets are typically low, and hiring an internal recruiter or talent acquisition manager can be very costly. However, hiring a candidate who turns out to be the wrong fit could cause a lot of damage to a small business in the long run.

Time is a crucial factor in hiring top engineering talent for your company. Without an HR department, it can be tempting to hire as quickly as possible in order to get any pending work done. 

However, your first hires will play a huge role in shaping your company culture and future direction, which is why it’s so important to get it right and invest time in the decision making process. But how do you find the resources to make the perfect hire when you’re setting up a new business?

Recruitment tips for startups 

Attracting the best talent in competitive technical industries is key to the success of your business. Working with a recruitment agency will help you to hire the right workforce efficiently and quickly. Agencies provide the expertise to act as an external HR function, therefore helping you mitigate unnecessary costs and potential project delays due to bad hires. 

This level of expertise will offer a reliable and cost-effective solution to hiring difficulties due to lack of internal resources. 

Find out more about Airswift's recruitment services

Challenge 2: Is my recruitment process hurting my chances of finding talent? 

When recruitment isn’t the main focus of your business, it can be hard to develop a top-down talent acquisition strategy that delivers consistently successful hires. 

A lot goes into a recruitment strategy, including best practice job descriptions and a documented interview process that ensures you stay in regular contact with candidates to keep them updated on their progress. If you don’t get these elements right, you risk losing talented candidates. It’s essential to have the best processes in place so you can do everything right consistently. 

For example, if you’re a manager or business owner trying to hire candidates and you get sidetracked by something else, even if it’s just for a couple of days, that can send poor signals to the candidates you’ve been in contact with. This is problematic because many candidates value communication above all else when applying for a job. 

Another factor to consider when working on your recruitment strategy is how predictable your pipeline is. For example, if you’re using an ad hoc recruitment process every single time, you’ll struggle to forecast the time and resource needed for hiring, as you won’t have a repeatable, effective process. 


Improving your recruitment process 

When it comes to improving your recruitment strategy, candidate communication is essential. It’s also important to have an engaged contractor base and jobs board, to keep candidates in the loop about new opportunities at all times.

During the recruitment process, it’s useful to use techniques like video interviews to keep candidates engaged and up to date with what’s happening with their job application, so you’ll never lose the trust and engagement of the individuals you want to hire.

Challenge 3: How much am I supposed to pay new startup hires? 

For a startup owner-manager tasked with hiring people, a lack of knowledge of the wider jobs market can be a challenge. For example, when you’ve never hired for a particular role or seniority before, it can be difficult to know what kind of salary to pay. 

It’s easy to assume that the best talent will have high salary expectations, but there are often other factors that draw them to a job, such as location, lifestyle and exciting, innovative work that aligns with their career goals and aspirations. 

Being aware of candidate expectations means understanding not only what candidates expect in terms of salary, but also what they’re looking for in terms of other workplace benefits. 

Becoming more aware of candidate expectations 

Working alongside a global recruitment agency can provide you with access to accurate salary benchmarks and information on non-salary benefits pertaining to your sector. 

It’s also beneficial to conduct plenty of research into the jobs market. For example, the Global Energy Talent (GETI) report provides the latest, up-to date information on the jobs market through surveys with employers and employees within the energy industry, to help you understand what potential candidates are looking for in terms of salary, career opportunities, benefits and more. 

Challenge 4: How do I deal with the level of competition for talent? 

One of the biggest challenges associated with recruitment for technical and engineering roles, regardless of sector or company size, is that engineering and technology skills have been in short supply worldwide for many years. 

This problem poses a serious problem for busy startup businesses because they are already juggling the process of setting up their organisation with keeping new projects moving and within budget. This can make sourcing talent without impacting cost and time very tricky.

How to bridge the skills gap 

One way to bridge the skills gap is to recruit from non-local labour markets and from outside of your sector, i.e. from areas where there are transferable skills. However, this approach requires a level of understanding of other sectors that startup business owners and line managers might not have.

Again, working with a specialist recruitment agency can help here. They can take on the burden of sourcing candidates for your business by searching within other areas that have transferable skill sets, giving you more time to run your company. 

Challenge 5: How to improve brand visibility

Available candidates will tend to search for jobs with companies they’re aware of, and that already have an established reputation. This puts startups at a disadvantage because they often haven’t had the opportunity to build their employer branding and visibility before beginning the hiring process. 

Unfortunately, reputation isn’t something that is earned quickly; it can take years of good service to develop a brand that people know and trust. This can make it difficult to attract potential employees who have already had job offers from well-known, highly reputable companies. 


Improving your brand visibility

In the short term, working with a recruitment agency can help you ensure your job specifications and advertisements are attention-grabbing, and promoted to the right audience. They will also explain to candidates why they should be excited by an opportunity with your business. 

Then, in the longer term, agencies can offer advice and consultancy on how to build an effective employer brand, including competitive salaries, employee benefits and finding employees who hold the same values as your company. 

How Airswift can help you navigate the challenges of engineering recruitment 

Airswift is committed to helping companies of all sizes find the candidates they need. Even if your business is just getting started, we have services designed to assist in building your workforce and your hiring strategy. 

We have more than 40 years of experience in helping companies of all sizes recruit engineering talent in countries across the globe. We offer a range of services, from consultancy and managed services to global mobility solutions and relocation services. Find out more by visiting our services page.

Find out more about Airswift's recruitment services


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This post was written by: Kat Ploch, Recruitment Consultant at Airswift, and Matt Irish, Information Technology Recruiter at Airswift