Guest Writer

This may strike a nerve with the general TV-watching Filipino population, but a talent show is really only as good as its judges. It doesn’t actually matter how unique or talented a hopeful artist is. To a judge that already has a notion of an ideal candidate, only the ones who have all of the tick boxes checked will survive till the last round.

If it works, why change it?

You can ask the same thing about finding talent for businesses. The usual path is employing an experienced HR practitioner who will carry out tried-and-tested methods of finding, evaluating, and eventually recruiting candidates. Does it work? Of course, it does. Recruitment practices have been in circulation within established companies for many years now.

However, it is quite a different case for tech startups who may not have as of yet specialized services, like recruitment and training. In its genesis, a startup would only have a few people in the team. Almost all of them are founders who are likely to be more knowledgeable in tech and product development than in human resources. The train of thought often goes like this: software/hardware idea––finding people to execute the idea––creating a minimum viable product––beta-testing the prototype––improving on the product––launching––and, eventually, sustained marketing of the product.

One of the first few problems these founders may encounter is finding the right people whom they can count on to bring their ideas to fruition. After all, these founders, as mentioned, may have more expertise in tech than in recruitment.

What should founders try to find in a talent?

Talent is literally everywhere. Founders just need to revisit their product idea and think of relevant competencies that would make it work.

With the disruptive nature of tech startups, traditional knowledge and skillsets are almost irrelevant in the playing field. Startups always aim for something new, something yet to be discovered or repurposed––hence, adaptability is a more important quality than, say, proficiency in a particular word processor or spreadsheet software. Relying on industry standards is not recommended as these often look for graduates of particular universities and degree programs, with a highly-specific knowledge base.

And so to the startup nowadays, Generalist talent who are able to multitask may be preferred to specialists. To get to the market faster before anyone else executes on the same idea, startups need people who can wear several hats and accomplish tasks across disciplines. Modern skill sets such as tech-savviness coupled with amazing project management capabilities are what founders should try to find in a candidate.

Where should founders look for talent?

There are a number of recruitment platforms that have sprung in recent years. LinkedIn is the virtual directory for professionals and potential critical hires. SaaS platforms such as Kalibrr and Recruitday allow employers to tap potential candidates referred via their more popular social networks. Rewards are even available in the new and socialized headhunting endeavors. Employer branding events, conferences, and job fairs are also a great way to meet prospects in person, as well as to evaluate them partially based on the first encounter.

Looking for talents has significantly been made easier with technology, so this now leads us to the question: How can a startup retain valuable talents?

Admittedly, a tech startup would possess considerably less prestige compared to an established conglomerate. It also goes head-to-head with the longstanding belief that climbing the corporate ladder is the sole career path to consider. To break these barriers, a tech startup must present a very clear vision and mission. It must truly believe in what it is offering the world. Ideal as it sounds, this actually makes a company appealing to a young, vibrant, and creative crowd –– exactly what a startup would need to push forward a product of the future.

In order to retain talent, a startup must be competitive in presenting career growth opportunities to its employees. While competitive compensation and benefits still matter, the new generation of professionals prefer companies that present them constant challenges–– and with them, a lot more opportunities to improve and learn new skills. Stagnation is not a choice, lest one becomes prey to complacency in a fast-paced digital era.

What kind of perks should founders be offering?

Unconventional perks are also known to boost employee morale and energy. In our office at FullSuite, for example, employees regularly get a breath of fresh air, with our workplace strategically perched on a hill that overlooks an enchanting Baguio skyline. We have free lunches daily prepared by our in-house cook. Employees enjoy discounted meals at any other time of the day, as well as a 50 percent discount in Tau Ceti, a third-wave coffee shop located within the office building. More importantly, leadership and teambuilding opportunities are available to our employees that condition them for growth opportunities in areas of tech, finance, and leadership. Monthly meet-and-greets also foster camaraderie among employees from different teams.

In conclusion, a tech startup’s journey in attracting talent is indeed not far from a talent search reality show: it can only be as good as its judges, or in a startup’s case, its founders who will be doing most of the screening and evaluation, and mentoring. Startups must consider deviating from recruitment strategies that other companies have been using for years, and become creative not only in product development but also in attracting, retaining and motivating the best available talent who will commit to work and spend their waking hours at your startup. In the end, current problems like startup recruitment require relevant solutions, like take-your-pet-to-work days.


Maggie Po is the chief strategist for Full Suite, a finance concierge for Singapore’s top companies catering to their fundraising, runway management, and mergers and acquisitions needs.