Crosscheck Your Hiring Process: How to Get Ahead and Build a Diverse and Inclusive Startup Culture


Crosscheck Your Hiring Process: How to Get Ahead and Build a Diverse and Inclusive Startup Culture

In today’s hot market, the competition for attracting top talent is more fierce than ever. Just as we’ve seen with large tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Uber, hiring for diversity and inclusion in the tech startup space is receiving a lot of attention right now.

All of the added scrutinies should be giving us the push to make our companies better.

Research shows that diverse teams create more innovative products, make better decisions and the companies in the top quartile for diversity can grow an organization’s bottom line by as much as 35 percent above the national industry average.[^1]

Hiring For a Different Fit

In the early stages of a startup, the focus for founders is on establishing product-market fit. For most, expending time and energy on the absolute perfect hires are a luxury displaced by a need for speed and driving market validation.

Often times, this means founders turn to hire friends or people closely associated with them to build their teams—usually people who look similar and with similar life experiences. While there are always exceptions, this lack of diversity leads more groupthink and less room for new ideas and perspectives which can ultimately spell disaster for an early-growth company.

Consider these statistics: [^2]

  • Inclusive teams (or teams with high levels of cohesion and empathy for one another) make better business decisions up to 87% of the time
  • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with half the meetings
  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results

You might be thinking, “I get it, diversity is important, but what does that have to do with culture fit?”

Finding the Startup DNA

When recruiting talent, it’s important to hire people who reflect and/or can adapt to an organization’s core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, but it’s imperative to think more about whether the person has the right startup DNA: the broad experience that will likely project to succeed in the role at a company.

The best startup teams support each other and embrace a common purpose. For job seekers, there’s an allure of a high-energy environment, opportunities to make big strides in their career and the possibility of a substantial reward if all goes well.

But it takes a certain amount of grit, tolerance for change and ambiguity, and the ability to dive into all kinds of tasks to succeed at a startup.

When thinking about these “must-haves” for hiring talent in these high-stake and fast-paced roles, you need to be able to first assess people who can add value. You really want to bring in people who embody the values (i.e.; how you behave, how you treat each other and how you make decisions) and uphold what’s important to your business, so it’s important to evaluate candidates along those lines.

Put another way, you want to look for and hire people who are culture contributors.

When you bring on these people, you’re finding those new hires who can add a little something to your culture that’s already there—you’ll uncover the gaps, identify what is missing, and extend and reinforce your culture.

Here’s how you can actually do this:

4 Tips to Prioritize Hiring Culture Contributors

1. Extend Your Talent Pool

Don’t just hire based on internal referrals alone. Think outside of your usual networks and professional organizations to find a broader range of talent. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look into on and/or off-campus college recruiting. In-person events are great but can eat up your staff’s limited time to physically travel from school to school. Instead, maybe consider online events as a way to reach more schools and encourage students to join wherever they are.

Also, consider joining conversations that are happening throughout various social media communities. Tap into those LinkedIn Groups or Facebook communities with topics related to your business, and then strike up conversations with other members.

2. Foster Diversity and Inclusion From the Top Down

Make your commitment to diversity and inclusion known and show your sincerity by taking this step beyond putting a few paragraphs together on your company website, materials or in job descriptions. Consider holding regular face-to-face town hall-style meetings and offer anonymous employee feedback surveys. You can uncover employee sentiment towards their leadership style across all demographic groups.

Perform health checks by regularly and effectively communicating that diversity and inclusion is top of mind. Communicate diversity and inclusion policies, promote any initiatives that are coming up and share social and personal successes which result from these. All of this activity will help increase confidence that your leadership team understands the importance of diversity and inclusion to individuals and the business as a whole.

3. Evolve your Hiring Process

A great way to get an understanding of whether someone shares the company’s core values (even if they possess the desired skills, knowledge, and achievements) is by paying attention to their behavior and communication patterns.

A fantastic example is Southwest Airlines. The company hires for three specific attributes: a warrior’s spirit (a desire to excel in all things), a servant’s heart (the ability to put other’s needs first and treat people with respect) and a fun-loving attitude (has passion and doesn’t take his/herself too seriously).[^3]

While these are listed on every single job description, they’ve developed a culture of continual learning and creative methods for interviewing and onboarding new hires.

They do this by making all of its employees recruiters. Southwest employees are continually "interviewing" applicants for jobs at the company. They notice how candidates greet the receptionist, how they respond to people in the hallway, etc.

If you’re a startup founder, consider taking a page from the Southwest Airlines hiring handbook. Find people who love your company’s culture and be determined to hire only those who will contribute to it.

4. Partner With an External Recruiting Firm

Between building their team and juggling many other duties (managing board of directors, investors, KPIs, fundraising, and so on), startup founders should consider enlisting the help of an external recruiter. These firms have additional resources and fundamental techniques that can help startups with their diverse hiring needs.

Diverse Hiring: The Final Approach

When it comes to hiring, diverse candidates offer insight and perspective based on their own unique set of experiences. As you look to build your team, think about what is really needed in your company’s culture and then where you need to broaden your perspective. You don’t need to throw out the “Would I want to sit next to this person on a cross-country flight?” litmus test but maybe strive to find someone who can teach you something new on that flight.

Veronica Feldmeier

Veronica Feldmeier

Runs content at Hunt Club. Motivated by ticking things off checklists. When not writing, probably on a yoga mat.