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How to Hire and Retain Top Talent for Your Startup

“If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.” — David Ogilvy

Hiring top talent is important to any company, but especially for a startup. The right team can make a startup successful, while the wrong team can sink the ship. How do you build and keep your dream team?

Create an Attractive Company

Maintain a Social Media Presence

Often, the first thing a prospective employee does is check out your social media pages. What kind of company culture does your Instagram or LinkedIn display? If you’re a fun, laidback company, make sure you portray that. If you are aggressive and growth-oriented, let that be your tone.

In addition to social media, you want to ensure that your company website appears professional and allows prospective candidates to reach you effectively.

Build Your Brand

What do you picture for your company culture? Make sure you’re building into that. Build your reputation to attract the kind of team you want.

One advantage of a small company is that you are able to express personality. If you show that you are different and can have fun, you can actually use that as a recruiting tool.

Allow for Remote Work

Many employees are looking for fully remote or remote-first companies. Remote work allows for greater employee satisfaction, lower stress, and more flexibility for the company and its employees.

FlexJobs surveyed 4,000 remote employees during the 2020 pandemic. 81% of those surveyed said that they would have more loyalty to their employer with flexible work options.

Inspire Others

Believe in your company and your product, and potential candidates will catch your vision. You need to really sell your company and your vision. Passion is attractive to new talent. Convince your candidate that the potential of your company is far greater than the risk of working for a startup.

Employees who are motivated by your purpose and vision are more likely to stay motivated and stay with you in the long-run

Focus on the Advantages of a Small Business


You may not be able to offer similar compensation to a large company, but you have one major advantage – flexibility. Candidates value flexibility almost as much as compensation. Flexjobs reports that 52% of employees tried to negotiate more flexible work options with their employers.

What does your candidate want? More vacation time? Remote work options? Flexible hours? You have the power to make that happen!

Room for Advancement

In a startup, there is more opportunity for rapid advancement. Everyone is at the same starting point, so seniority isn’t a factor when it comes to promotions. This can be a major incentive to join a young company.

Empower employees with a chance to break boundaries and make it big. This is what differentiates scrappy startups from larger firms that end up becoming heavily process oriented.

Close Relationships

Community is a need for many people. A small company lends itself towards community much more than a large corporation.

Be a Part of Growth

Your team is getting on the ground floor of an exciting opportunity! Play up the potential of your company!

Filling the Job

What’s the Role?

Have a clear definition of each role before you begin the hiring process. Nothing is more frustrating than unclear expectations! A defined role will set up your employee for success.

Set 30, 60, and 90 day goalposts for your employee to clarify expectations. Set your employees up for success. To learn how to set your new hires for success, check out this ultimate checklist for onboarding new hires at startups.

Who’s the Team?

Define your team before you hire them! Look at factors like skill sets, personality, and employment history. Make sure you have complementary skills in your team. Your first initial hires should be ambitious go-getters who will get things done for your company.

Who are You Looking For?

Decide if you are willing to pitch top dollar for top talent. Look for quality over quantity. If you can’t afford top dollar salaries, how can you make up for it? Better work-life balance? Vacation perks? Find out what is meaningful to your candidate. Make it hard to say no.

Post the Job

You know who you want to hire, and the job you want to be done. How do you find the ideal candidate?


In this tech-savvy age, web postings are the go-to for many employers and job-seekers.

Social Media

Build your social media presence! Learn how to use SEO and hashtags to make your company easy to find. Post job listings on all social media platforms.


Sometimes it is all about who you know! Spread the word about your company. You never know who may be interested until you ask.

Interviewing Candidates

Candidates are accustomed to traditional interviews. Make an impression by thinking outside the box. Come up with a unique interview format that will attract new talent. Take them out for lunch. Allow them to get to know your current team members.

If they say no, find out why. Feedback can be vital. Show the candidate that you really want to hire them. Find out what it will take to make them say yes. Listen to what they have to say. Find out what they’re looking for in a job.

Hire slowly. Take your time to find the right candidate. Personality and compatibility with your company count! Don’t discount a feeling of connection with a candidate.

How to Retain Top Employees

Start with employee retention and management plan before you even hire. Plan to gain the respect and trust of your team from the start, and they’ll be more likely to stay. This is hard work! Show your employees they’re worth your effort.


Have a formal and effective onboarding process in place. Make expectations very clear. First impressions are lasting. Make sure your training and onboarding is top-notch.

If you regularly have employees leave within the first six months, it is most likely due to your onboarding process. Again, look for feedback, and utilize what you learn.

Be Inclusive

Have an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and safety.

Be Flexible

I didn’t say “Be a pushover.” But, most employees desire a certain level of flexibility in their job. It’s all about balance, and, again, listening to your team.

Have Well-Defined Values

What kind of company do you want to have? What do you need to do to get there? What matters to your employees? Decide on your values before you hire. Make sure your team is aware of your company’s values before you hire.

Listen to Your Team

What is working? What needs improvement? Once you have this information – act on it. Find the most important issue, and make a change. Utilize one-on-one meetings to find out how things are going.

Offer Opportunities for Growth

Train and build up your managers. Offer education and training opportunities. Find natural learning moments, and help your employees take advantage of them.

Provide Feedback

A job should start with clear expectations. After that, regular one-on-one meetings are vital. If there is something that needs work, address it. Make sure to balance discussions of successes and failures. Acknowledge effort, even the effort didn’t lead to success.

Realize You Can’t Keep Everyone

Prioritize which employees you want to retain. No matter what you do, you can’t please everyone. Know when to let go and make peace with it.

Final Thoughts

Top talent and an ambitious team are often key to the success of a startup! Know how to find candidates, how to make your company attractive, and then, how to retain your employees.

About AbstractOps

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We understand that ops can be painful. If you have any questions or need assistance with your ops, drop us a note at We’ll do our best to help.


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