How do Startups Compete with Corporates for Talent?

In this episode, I sit down with Bernt Schindler to discuss how small businesses and start-ups can compete with larger brands for talent. There are positives and negatives to both these types of organisations. One is agile and offers exposure, the other may provide superior career progression. Bernt has decades of experience in recruitment, holding positions such as the Head of Talent Acquisition at leading companies such as IBM and Graincorp. Here are our insights.

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How do Small Businesses Compete with Larger Brands that Everyone Thinks They Want to Work For?

First of all, the business needs to be self-aware. Self-awareness within an organisation is essential, especially in startups. Self-awareness, in this context, means understanding what your company actually looks like. Not necessarily the CEO’s thinks it is, or how the salesperson pitches the company externally. It’s what the culture really like in the business. If you want to compete for talent as a startup, then you’ve got two major things going for you:

  1. Employees can grow with that company and create something amazing. They can be at the forefront of getting involved in that piece. A major selling point for sure.
  2. You can have exposure to anybody in the organisation – because it’s a startup. Also, you can learn from Jane in Finance, and you can learn from Anwar the CEO. You can have multiple, different mentors in this organisation that you can learn from.

More and more you’re seeing Heads of Talent Acquisition roles go to people who have got started in startups. Why? Because they’ve had more exposure to how a business operates. If I have a recruiter, or anyone, working in an IBM, they’re doing that job and having exposure to specific areas in the business. 

In contrast, if you’re working for a startup – the difference between maybe ten people in a room and 380,000 people globally, is the fact that you have exposure to anybody within that organisation. As that startup grows, you’re involved in that element. You are instrumental in building that. How many people feel like, when they work for a Microsoft or a Google or an IBM, if something happens, “I was really instrumental in that.” Not many! They’ll say “that was the business.”

Are You Getting Quality, Engaging Work at Big Brands?

Over time employees they start to realise that big brands might not give the best work. It depends though, there’s positives and negatives, and it comes down to the individual candidate. A recruiter in a startup is going to look for a different person than someone in a multinational. You’re going to be looking to varying skillsets within that business. If you have someone who’s a recruiter in a larger organisation, which also has hundreds of other recruiters, you’re going to be looking for a different skill set than an HR person who needs to recruit as well for a startup of ten people. It’s a different skillset.


startup recruitment

Diversity and Inclusion. How do Different Businesses Approach This?

In my world, I hire engineers and software architects, most likely they’re immigrants from different countries. They’ve got some insecurities and issues around accent or the fact that their degree is from India or Europe, for example. 

Degrees are not as important as they used to be – 10 years ago, that was the case. If any organisation I was working with had those rules put in place, regarding where someone came from or where they studied, I’d be having active conversations internally.

For example, I can guarantee that 95%+ of every software engineer that has a degree from any country that isn’t the Western world would prefer not to tell you the country. They’ll put the name of the University, not the location. They will very rarely put the country, they feel they need to hide it, you can see that in the structure of the resume. Unfortunately, they’re protecting it! Sadly, there can be a tremendous amount of discrimination regarding gender and where a candidate came from. 

Company EVP – Do Size and Beaurocracy Stifle Change?

When you’re building your EVP (Employee Value Proposition), the CEO’s working with the recruiter (they’re the same in many instances in small startups), can restructure EVP’s very quickly. It takes years to restructure EVP’s across thousands of managers in a large company.

However, there would be startups that also have that same mentality. You can only change things quickly in a startup IF you’re self-aware. A lot of startups are teams that have pulled out of big multinational companies. They’ve decided to go out and build their own thing as well. So really, they’re all coming from the same place. Changes can only if they’re self-aware enough to realise they have these issues.

Overall, not just inclusion or diversity, in every way you can be a lot more agile in startups – it’s a smaller ship to steer. It’s easier to turn a canoe than it is to turn a freight liner!

The Top Three Reasons Why People Want to Work for Anwar

  1. Learning
  2. Inclusion
  3. Remuneration

The Top Three Reasons Why People Choose to Work for Bernt

  1. Career Progression
  2. Team Cohesion and Fit
  3. Sustainability of the Business and a Sense of Purpose


Missed Part 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 with Bernt Schindler? Read them here: 

What Makes a GOOD Recruiter

What Makes a BAD Recruiter

Advice for Young People Who Want to Become Recruiters

How Do You Know Your Employees Won’t Leave?

Should you Hire Entrepreneurs?

Take your company’s recruitment function to the next level with the #1 end-to-end recruitment and onboarding software platform. MyRecruitmentPlus – try it for free today.



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