I talked to our recruiting staff here at Betterteam. Between us we’ve got many years of hiring under our belts. We talked about the challenges of hiring for startups, and as a bootstrapped startup company ourselves, thought about what we were able to do to build our team.

The biggest thing I’d say is stay creative. In these David v. Goliath battles, the startups have nimbleness and creativity on their side. You can quickly determine if the old rules of hiring make any sense, and recruit in a way that works best for your company.

Here are 7 tips to get you started:

1. Create job posts that get applicants excited.

Several times in the course of trying to help people hire I’ve recommended that they rewrite their boring job post, lose the bullet-pointed list of what the employer wants, and replace it with concise information that actually interests top candidates.

The response I often get?

They can’t. HR has strict rules in place about what goes into a job posting, and they cannot alter it. That’s with the big companies. Smaller companies see them do this and figure that’s just the way job postings are supposed to be done.

But there’s no law that says your job postings have to be boring. So what can you do? When you write your job posting, look at if from the point of view of an applicant. What will they be most excited about? Do they have any concerns that you can put to rest?

Put as little as possible about what you want need in a candidate, just the absolute necessities, and focus on what will attract your ideal candidate. If you need to do some screening, save that for the next step. Once they’re hooked and have responded to your ad, send them an quick email asking more detailed questions.

2. How to Give Star Applicants What they Want

If you’re a startup, you’ve still got a chance to write the book on what it is you offer employees, and what you demand from them.

This is a hackable part of your business that you can turn to your advantage with a little research.

Talk to people who work in the position you want to hire. Go to Glassdoor and look up reviews of the people you’ll be competing with for applicants, and check out industry forum posts.

Find out what people hate most about the jobs you need to hire for. Is there something you can do differently? For instance, if a software engineer feels they get overwhelmed by repetitive tasks, maybe you can have a budget for getting help from remote personal assistants.

If they complain about long hours or lack of flexibility, maybe you can institute a strict 40 hour work week, or allow employees to make their own schedules.

If you succeed in doing this, go back to your job posting, and make sure it’s in their, right in the title if possible.

3. Negotiate Better and Win Over Top Talent

Great candidates will almost always have multiple companies vying for them. How can you beat the competition?

A few quick tips:

  • Be faster. Bigger companies will often respond slowly to applications. If you see a star applicant come in, shorten the process with them. Arrange a meeting with a co-founder, and yank them off the market before the competition gets around to reviewing their resume.
  • Be nimble. Maybe you can’t offer a better salary or benefits. But consider what you can offer that your competitors won’t. Maybe you can do a 4 day work week? Remote work?
  • Hack the reference process. When you call references for a candidate you know you want, talk about what a great hire they’ll be, and about how excited you are to hire them. Word will get back, and they’ll be flattered.
  • Prep them for counter offers. If they’re already employed, there’s a good chance they’ll get a counter offer to stay. Remind them of the non-monetary reasons they wanted to work with you, and let them know this frequently happens, but that working with a company that’s been forced to give you a raise is often unsustainable.

4. Check out Niche Job Boards

These days there’s a niche job board for almost every job. A lot of times, people who aren’t necessarily looking for work like to check them out, just to get a feel for what’s going on in their industry.

If you’ve got a great job posting, you might just be able to snag some great talent that just happened to be out surfing the niche boards that day.

A few boards to check out:

5. Encourage Employees to Participate in their Communities

For example, one of our software engineers at Betterteam blogs about what he’s learned using a particular programming language while building our app.

This contributes back to the community of programmers working in this language, which is worth doing on its own.

But it also gets our name out there as an employer among exactly the type of engineers we’ll need to hire in the future. Encourage your employees to contribute back to their community, and even consider making time for them to do it each week.

6.  Scale Up and Find Talent with Remote Freelancers

I know how it can be, hiring for a startup. You really want to hire for a position, and you think you’ve got it figured out that you can definitely pay for it.

But what if you can’t? What if something goes wrong, right when you hire the person, and suddenly you’ve brought on a new person and have trouble making payroll?

There’s no need to put yourself in that position. Jump on a site that makes it easy to hire remote freelancers, such as Upwork, and you’ll solve multiple startup problems at once by outsourcing.

First off, these are contract workers. You hire them for projects. There’s no expectation or obligation for long term employment. In fact, the best thing to do here is find a very small, short term project, and test the freelancer on that. If all goes well, give them something bigger.

If things continue to go well, and what they add to the company is clearly bigger than their cost, you may end up hiring them down the road.

7. Be awesome.

Treat people well every step of the way in your hiring process. Get to them faster, follow up better, and make them feel appreciated.

The junior engineer you pass on today might be the senior engineer you hire in a few years. The growth hacker who takes another position might have a killer recommendation for you.

Let the word get out that you treat employees right, and you’ll get some good employer karma.

One concrete thing I recommend is being sure to email all declined candidates to let them know they’ve been declined. Don’t tell them why they’ve been declined, but instead let them know that it was a competitive process, and explain why you chose the person you did.

It’s a nice gesture that allows people to move on in their job search, and will make them much more likely to have positive things to say about you as a potential employer.

Ready to hack the hiring process? Apply your beginner’s mind to the hiring problem, look for the opportunities competitors are missing, and built your team.

Have your own hiring hacks? Let us know in comments!