Unfortunately, most other tactics that work for larger companies aren’t going to work when hiring your early-stage team because you don’t have a talent brand. Cultivating a talent brand is a long-term investment, and you just don’t have the time or resources to do so.

🙋 Inbound applications & career sites

Many founders think the first step to hiring is to launch a career site and post some jobs. This almost always ends up being a waste of time. As a small startup, no one knows you exist, so how will candidates know to look for your career site?

To make matters worse, in the off-chance a candidate finds your career site, there’s a very low probability they’ll be the right candidate. I would advise against spending much time on your career site to hire your early-stage team or consider not having one at all. At Gem, we didn’t have a career site until we were 40 people and raised our Series B.

The one exception to this rule is if you’re starting a company that many candidates would know about, e.g., a B2C social app that’s blowing up or a company started by a founder of a wildly successful open-source project. But let’s be real, that’s not 99% of startups.

As a litmus test for prioritizing a career site, ask yourself how many inbound candidates you get today (e.g., inquiries to info@ or your work email)? If you aren’t getting any inbound applicants without a career site, I guarantee you won’t get any by having one.

🎓 Campus recruiting

Campus recruiting may not be the highest ROI use of your time as a startup:

Given how long it takes to break into schools, the delayed start, and time ramping, campus recruiting probably isn’t your best bet to hire your early-stage team.

The big exception is if you’ve recently graduated yourself, in which case you should definitely be recruiting people you know from school. But the best way to do that is by 2a. Sourcing 1st-degree connections from your school and 4. Nurturing passive talent from your network. A booth on campus will probably be lower ROI, though it’s definitely worth it if you graduated recently.

🗓️ Meetups & Industry Events

Meetups have super high variance, and there are a ton of reasons why hiring from meetups is tough as a startup: