Computer Futures

Six ways that start-ups can stand out to developers

Everyone knows that the pandemic has disrupted the job market – and nowhere is this more apparent than in tech. As successive lockdowns drove work, socialising and leisure online, tech companies saw their profits soar.

What’s more, according to data from Tech Nation, the pandemic also resulted in an explosion of start-ups, with a new tech company registered the equivalent of every half hour in the UK between January and December 2020 – double that recorded in 2018.

Consequently, tech workers of all kinds are in high demand – with a particular shortage of developers. This presents a different challenge to start-ups, which need to take a different tack when attracting talent owing to their reputation for having intense workloads and needing employees to take on diverse responsibilities.

But there’s plenty of ways that start-ups can boost their chances of attracting the best talent. Here’s some examples.

1. Creating a holistic benefits package

When people think of working in tech, perks are one of the first things that come to mind. With companies like Google offering free meals, onsite massages and generous maternity and paternity leave, candidates’ standards are already high. And developers moving into start-ups will expect much of the same.

But start-ups need to tread carefully. There’s a lot of cynicism about work perks, with some employers offering things like pizza parties or tabletop football in lieu of proper remuneration or providing a work-life balance.

But benefits can come in many forms and don’t have to be costly – supporting mental health and wellbeing, offering flexible working models and cultivating a positive working environment are just a few examples of what start-ups can do to create a genuinely valuable proposition.

2. Making your story resonate

The pandemic has made a lot of people reassess their priorities, with many now looking for a job that aligns with their passion or values. This has made it even more critical for companies to sharpen their brand.

What makes your company different? Whether you are looking to change the world, create cutting-edge tech or can take a candidate’s career to the next level – using storytelling to forge an emotional connection can make a start-up stand out to prospective employees.

Using stories is key here – we are 22 times more likely to remember facts that are told to us this way, according to cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. And there are many ways start-ups can highlight their unique offering. For instance, creating a narrative around a company’s history and where it wants to ultimately go can illustrate their values and mission. Or perhaps there are inspirational leaders or existing employees that these stories can centre around.


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3. Flexible working as standard

Another lasting impact of the pandemic is changing working patterns. With many people abruptly forced to work from home, companies found that they were just as productive – or perhaps even more so – with remote or hybrid working models. In turn, their employees have benefitted in many ways themselves, from gaining back the hours spent commuting to even relocating to more affordable areas.

Going forward, many candidates now expect this kind of flexibility as a given. This was reflected in a 2021 UC EXPO survey of 1,000 workers, with 82% saying that they’d choose a job with a flexible work pattern over one without. It also means that start-ups can widen the net, recruiting candidates from farther afield, as location is no longer a requisite.

4. Nurturing younger talent

Looking in different places to find the best talent is another strategy that start-ups can employ. The pandemic has been particularly hard on the job market for graduates, with many feeling like they have an uncertain future or struggling to find work. Companies often seek out candidates with more established careers, overlooking younger talent.

Indeed, the time recruiters may waste looking for more experienced candidates could have been spent finding and training graduates. Highlighting training and development programmes, as well as outlining potential career progression, are some of the ways start-ups can attract graduate developers.

And there are many benefits to focusing on this cohort, from learning about a younger generation’s perspectives to taking on someone fresh from education who is still in a learning mindset and eager to develop their career.

5. Ensuring contractors are not forgotten

Of course, many firms will require a more flexible talent strategy, with some gaps being filled by contractors. Accordingly, having a strong contractor value proposition is vital. These colleagues will not necessarily value the same things as their permanent counterparts. Many prefer to work outside of IR35, operating as their own business. They are also likely to value autonomy on their projects and to be given real responsibility, so companies that can offer ownership on projects may have a better chance of securing talent. Finally, contractors still appreciate some predictability in their work, so organisations should offer them stability and, where possible, longevity.

6. Open lines of communication

With hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people applying to each job, communicating with candidates is particularly challenging – especially for start-ups lacking the same in-house resources as bigger companies. As a result, recruitment ghosting has never been more of an issue.

Every impression counts in such a tight job market. With multiple-stage interview processes now incredibly common, especially in tech, it’s even more critical to stay on top of communications. As well as there just simply being more chances to get it wrong, candidates are becoming frustrated with long, time-consuming hiring processes coming to a halt without any, or an unsatisfactory, reason given.

Not only can failing to communicate properly potentially lead to negative Glassdoor reviews, but this could also damage companies’ chances of successfully having offers accepted. It’s not uncommon for developers to receive multiple offers – and many companies are being encouraged to make offers to more than one candidate in order to snap them up.


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