How to Reach Diverse Startup Talent and Build a Holistic Team


How to Reach Diverse Startup Talent and Build a Holistic Team

Hiring for diversity and inclusion in the startup world has received a lot of attention lately — more founders and CEOs are seeking to find ways to improve the hiring experience because data is in. Diverse teams surpass homogeneous teams by just about every metric that matters to a startup.

I flashed back to a recent conversation I had with a client about the current state of their team and their goals for the coming year. It was so obvious that for them to innovate, test and launch their products and services faster, they didn’t just need the best talent — they need the best team.

Hiring for the team, not the individual

Too often when recruiting talent, we turn to a checklist of status-based measurements of success. We think about who the best person is for a job and typically start out asking things like "What college did this person go to?" or "How many years of experience do they have?"

And when someone doesn't have the "right" degree or experience, we disqualify the individual. We don’t think about what value they can bring to a team, collectively. The problem with this is that we gloss over candidates who, because of their unique perspectives and life experiences, can help companies break down boundaries and truly innovate. There are so many new ideas and developments stored in the brains of candidates who have not been given a chance to act on them.

It’s an outdated approach deep-rooted in the industry. It hurts our abilities as recruiters to really help push our clients forward.

Turning a high-growth company into a successful business is a race against the clock.

In the conversation with my client we talked about the milestones they set for the coming year, and what it will take to meet their goals and make their investors and customers happy.

In high-growth environments, executing this greatly depends on the creativity, grit and the experience of a team. A more diverse operation can offer new and different perspectives, helping bring in bigger profits, strengthen processes, and cultivate innovative thinking. The startups that grow faster are the ones that have made getting diverse voices to the table a priority.

As a recruiter, my primary responsibility is to help my clients build the best team and the best products possible, and I firmly believe that such a team is made up of a variety of people and perspectives.

Here are three tips to help move the needle faster on diverse hiring:

  1. Think about your talent brand. Make sure your social and totally public version of your company encapsulates what your talent thinks, feels and shares about your company as a place to work. When it comes to your website, sales materials or social media profiles, it should be clear to anyone reading that your organization insists on diversity and that it's imperative for success.
  2. Gain a broader perspective. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30% more likely to perform above the mean in their industry. When recruiting, think about how a person’s life experience can contribute to a more global perspective for your business. We all know that when startups initially hit the ground running, their customer focus is narrow. When they scale, they expand the target customer base. If you have someone on your team with the first-hand experience, it'll be much easier to reach, market and sell to your future customers.
  3. Leverage an external recruiting team . In the early stages of a business, it’s hard to justify paying for talent and naturally resort to hiring your friends (or friends of friends). While it’s a short-term solution it, unfortunately, leads to a homogenous knowledge base. Consider gaining an outside perspective from the start as external firms have sourcing methods that contain more diverse candidate pipelines. The third-party lens can help your business solve the challenges about how to hire great business leaders who are a fit for your team, and who represents the world in which you and your customers operate.

It’s critical to have people of diverse backgrounds at every stage of a business, and it’s crucial for founders of companies to be self-aware and conscious about diversity and inclusion. As someone responsible for infusing your company with great talent, fostering diverse hiring practices early-on will help address any talent challenges now and potential ones in the future.

Tara Nesser

Tara Nesser

Tara Nesser is passionate about people first and foremost. Director of talent strategy at Hunt Club. 10+ years at hypergrowth start-ups such as Trunk Club and Groupon.