How to build an employer brand as an early stage startup

August 10, 2021

Building an employer brand is one of the most important things you can do to attract the best talent.
Separate from your company’s brand, your employer brand is how you portray your company culture to potential new hires.
According to Greenhouse, establishing an employer brand will “increase the number of inbound applicants, reduce hiring costs, create a steady pipeline of candidates, and increase the quality of candidates.”
But how do you portray your employer brand when you only have a dozen employees? Or are looking for your first hires?

When you only have a handful of employees...
Get employee testimonials
Ask your existing team members to write a few words about why they love working for your startup and why new hires should be excited to join. These will go front and center on your careers page.
Have a photoshoot
Hire a professional photographer to come into the office and snap some “action” shots of the work environment. If you’re at a coworking space, don’t mislead people to make it seem like you have a real office. Be upfront about it, and get some good photos of a brainstorming session in a conference room, or a company “retreat” at a happy hour.
To set yourself apart from other startups: this is just a pet peeve of mine, but please, I beg you, don’t post photos of your entire team in matching t-shirts with your logo on them. They seem contrived, and it’s awkward to look at company co-founders trying to squeeze into a size medium when they’re clearly a size large.
Highlight the benefits of being at an early stage company
Obviously, you’ll want to list your benefits package (salary, healthcare, stock options, etc.) but you should also highlight reasons why someone would want to work at a young company. Frame these benefits in comparison to a more corporate environment, or a more established startup.
Here’s an example:
As an early stage company, we don’t want people who are impressed with unlimited cereal in the kitchen, or a ping pong table in a conference room. We want go-getters who want to be rewarded for taking a company to the next level.
See? As an early company, you won’t be able to compete with some of the extra benefits that larger startups offer, but you can offer the excitement of working for a young company. This will also help you thin the herd, and only attract people who are up for the challenge of growing a company.
Many founders think the best way to attract talent is to add bells and whistles to their office. There’s a stereotype of what a startup office should look and feel like. When you’re just starting out, you don’t want people who are easily impressed with that stuff!

When you’re looking for your first hires…
Be upfront about funding
Many candidates might be scared away when they see a startup is looking for their first hires because they don’t know if they will actually be paid. If you‘ve secured a round of funding, divulge as much of that information as you can so they know they will actually be paid.
Founder bios are very important
You should be as detailed as possible about you and your co-founder on your careers page. You need to let potential candidates know that they can trust you. Include a photo, bio, social media accounts, and even testimonials from people you’ve worked with in the past, including advisors, investors, or clients. Try to avoid testimonials from former co-workers or peers — you want testimonials from people with a higher status.
Include any press coverage
If you received press coverage for launching your app, winning a startup competition, or getting a new investment, include the links on your career page. This will provide valuable proof that your company is legitimate.