Hiring Lessons Fortune 500s Can Learn From Fast-Growing Startups


Many would agree that startups face unique hiring challenges. Established companies have capital, brands, and reputations to lure top talent. Startups typically struggle in these areas.

Still, when it comes to talent acquisition, there are a few things Fortune 500s can learn from startups:

Employing the Best Requires Give and Take

Working for a startup—even a well-funded one—can be risky, and getting the most talented workers to come on board can take some convincing.

Fortunately, savvy startup recruiters expect to have to sell their opportunity to talent. Fortune 500 recruiters might want to do the same. Let’s be honest: Talented people generally have options, and they’re put off by employers who treat them as though they should be grateful to be considered for a job.

Smart employers won’t do that, instead respecting each candidate’s time and interest while willingly expending extra energy to persuade the right candidate to hop on board.

Versatility Is Key

The typical startup has limited staff and little choice but to hire versatile employees who can do many things well.

But even when a company can afford to hire more specialists, there are real advantages to be had by sourcing talented generalists with the right traits to grow as the company grows. In time, these employees can become some of your most valued. They understand your company’s culture, have loads of institutional memory, and know your policies and procedures inside and out.

Being Flexible Pays

Many employees are challenged to balance work and home life and would welcome a job that allows for telecommuting and flexible hours.

The most forward-thinking startups are quick to offer such “perks” when scouting for talent, allowing them to entice good employees away from more established businesses with less fluid policies.

Smart Employees Aren’t the Enemy

Startups have a reputation for targeting and hiring the sharpest employees the market offers. This strategy increases the company’s brainpower and enhances the brand.

Unfortunately, sometimes more established organizations forget the benefits of hiring the very best. Hiring managers can become complacent and fearful, and rather than welcoming someone with high competence and confidence into the fold, they settle. Hence all the talk in the business literature about the downsides of so-called overqualified candidates. You don’t often hear this talk in startup circles. Startups love “overqualified” workers.

Getting Personal Is Okay

“Personal” is often considered to be the antithesis of “professional,” and by all means your hiring processes should be professional. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time getting to know your potential employees beyond the superficial.

But forget the backdoor internet searches. Instead, check references and ask pointed interview questions designed to verify skills and experience (of course), but also to gain some sense of who your candidates are and whether their passions align with your company goals and culture. Startups are particularly good at this, because passion for the company’s mission is essential to fuel the energy needed to get a young organization up and running.

It’s natural to assume that any practice embraced by a startup isn’t yet fully developed and is likely limited in efficiency due to the limits new organizations face.

It’s also natural to assume that Fortune 500 companies have figured everything out and engage in only the very best processes time and money can devise.

These assumptions aren’t necessarily wrong, but they miss the point that all practices should be evaluated on their own merits. And when it comes to hiring lessons, there’s a lot established Fortune 500s can learn from the newbies.

What are some other hiring lessons Fortune 500s could learn from fast growing startups?