How to attract graduate talent for your startup
Kitty Harris
Friday, January 6, 2017
5 min read

How to attract graduate talent for your startup

A common problem that faces many startups is how to attract great talent in order to push their business to the next level. Before a certain level of success or visibility, a startup might seem like more of a risk to a first-time job seeker, compared to a large corporation. Great graduate talent can be particularly tricky to attract as grads often leave university without a lot of information about the world of startups and jobs outside of the big grad schemes. If, however, you can swoop in and convince a smart graduate that your company is headed for brilliant things, then you could end up with a bright employee that fits with your hiring budget and brings tons of great ideas and a fresh perspective on how to do things. 
1. Create a company culture
Before you begin you will need to develop your company’s culture in order to have something concrete that your potential employees can connect to. Work out what the long-term aims of your company are and how you mean to accomplish them. Decide on how your ideal team should work – would you like everyone working through lunch and weekends or would you prefer team nights out and a collaborative office space? If you can’t offer a competitive salary right off the bat, then you can offer different incentives centred around the actual way that you work, and often the small company/startup version of office work is that bit more personal and friendly than a large corporate.
2. Offer alternative incentives
While you don’t want to hire someone who is only in it for the extras, some incentives certainly don’t hurt. Share options for employees can generate a feeling of ownership over the company and makes everyone motivated to do well. It can also be a great perk to highlight during the interview phase because if your company ends up doing amazingly well and gets bought out then everybody cashes in! Gym memberships and free lunches every so often are by no means vital, but can sweeten the deal if you are up against another company, vying for the same great candidate. Small extras that cost very little, like an extra day off on your birthday, may not seem like much but project an image of a company that cares about its employees – something many startups can genuinely boast.
3. Emphasise opportunities for professional development
Anything could happen in the first few years at a startup. Being part of a small team that is just starting out is perfect for someone looking to move upwards quickly and take on more responsibility. You might want to consider offering opportunities to develop skills through external accredited courses so that they will be assured of coming out the role you are offering with a bolstered CV. Many graduates leave university without a huge amount of experience to their name, so this can be a great chance for them to fill it up as quickly as possible while earning at the same time.
4. Consider flexible working options
In one study it was found that 82% of UK workers would choose a job that offered flexible working options (such as working from home) over one that didn’t. If you are a very early stage startup and are not able to pay for office space yet, then allowing employees to work from home (even if only initially) can kill two birds with one stone – attracting candidates for the role while allowing you more time to sort out a workplace. You could also consider a ‘flexitime’ approach by allowing employees to start and finish work within a certain parameter so long as they complete a set number of hours (for example, being able to start any time between 8 and 10 if they work 8 hours in total). This option can be attractive to graduates who dislike early starts and are just getting used to the world of full-time work.
5. Provide motivational work
When considering the workload that you want to provide a new employee with, make a concerted effort to ensure that it is meaningful. Employees will be more motivated to succeed if they think that their work has impact. Startups are often intriguing and alluring to graduates who want to make their mark on the world and be part of something big. If you make it clear to them that their role would be beneficial and heavily influential to the success of the company, then you might just pique their interest. You should also be mindful of the way that you describe the role to a potential employee – ensure you are clear and honest to the candidate and be definite about the exact duties that you would expect from them.
6. Remember that attracting talent doesn’t stop after hiring someone

You might find the perfect graduate and they might love your company and say yes to your offer. At this point you probably think that you can relax – not true. Retaining that graduate talent is just as important as finding them in the first place. Putting strategies in place such as regular review sessions and setting achievable goals will create an ongoing culture of nurturing for your new employee. Holding onto talented and productive people will not only help your startup succeed, it will also reap rewards by attracting more intelligent go-getters in turn – talent breeds talent, as bright employees are drawn to companies full of people like them.


BrighterBox helps place smart graduates into roles at entrepreneurial startups. 

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