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Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring: How We Hire Top Talent Without Bidding Against Corporates

During an HR panel, when we were first starting out, we found ourselves staring, glassy-eyed, at our dream hire talking about talent acquisition, best practices, and retainment with a string of words so eloquent we knew we wanted to bring her in for an interview as soon as she got off the platform.

So we brought her in, we did the interview, and we saw a lot of potential.

But when she said “I’m looking for a written offer, I might be up for a promotion”, I knew that our rockstar find wasn’t going to be joining us after all.

I was going to be losing her to the corporate ladder. We’re a team that’s growing fast and as our company purpose may suggest — we know how important it is to onboard the right talent.

And of course, a week later, she took up the promotion and our offer letter was leveraged to bump up her salary.

Ugh. I felt so defeated.

But we learned two lessons that day:

  1. Even though we offer highly competitive salaries in our space, we can’t compete with the pockets of large corporations for top positions
  2. Top talent doesn’t necessarily come with an alignment between their values and ours

How are we supposed to get the best people when we’re competing against enormous companies with networks and capital all around the world?

Then I realised we already have some of the best talent out there. But what attracted them to Oliv?

Think of growing employees like growing customers

Large corporations have some great benefits: stability, outsourced support, and of course, large sums of money for top positions.

But that’s not something we can compete on for applicants that are driven by those perks.

There’s a lot of similarity when we talk about growing our customers. We found early on that there are certain type of customers that don’t make sense for us to compete for: the free shoppers.

There are a lot of free job boards out there, and for a lot of people that makes a lot of sense. But competing for people looking for free services made no sense for us. Free job boards don’t offer much quality assurance and it’s pretty fish market style.

Even when we do offer free job listings and eventually convert the business, they’re higher maintenance for our support team and don’t have the best intentions for hiring the youth.

We learned we had to go for the companies that we could add tremendous value to and focus on businesses that actually wanted to work with us because our platform was the best fit for them, not because we offered freebies.

We learned to aim and focus on businesses serious about finding and developing top talent; our customers were the ones not motivated solely by price.

And that’s the way we needed to think about attracting our talent.

Defining your employee value proposition

I’ve read a lot about startup growth (also, it’s my job), and there’s a lot of content out there — growth hacks, email scripts, marketing tools, user workflows, more growth hacks… But what I’ve found, that always works, is starting with the customers you have.

It’s so important to understand the problems your business solves for them, what you don’t solve, and what you can do to keep them excited about using your platform/service.

Then of course, finding more like them and turning your typical marketing funnels upside down.

This way, you get a better understanding of your key value propositions to help you find the right customers that aligns with your product.

The key was to start thinking that way about finding new talent as well.

Not everyone would fit here and not everyone does well. But for the ones that do, we will do everything we can to make you understand why we were meant to be <3.

Here’s how we do that:

Our mission

This is the most important thing we look for, do you give a shit?

We’re looking for people who deeply care about improving the lives of others and their community. That’s our business and the problem we’re working to solve — MENA’s 28% youth unemployment rate, twice the global average.

We want to empower an underrepresented and undervalued demographic to get a step up the ladder in society.

This has powerful implications to nations and the world — sustainability, innovation, human rights, and global security.

Every Oliv team member is committed to that cause and it’s our primary way of aligning what we want to spend our lives doing.

Autonomy & culture

Oliv Talent Team

We focus on all our team members being leaders and we strongly encourage capturing any opportunities for growth that’s aligned with our mission.

The spirit of Oliv is highly entrepreneurial, the team is constantly exploring small projects to test its efficacy.

We do everything we can to empower those inklings by helping set up an initial hypothesis, experiments to test it’s validity and growth strategies.

Oliv really values recognition so we’ve created little “Culture cards” that we hand to each other when a colleague takes a step further to commit to our values.

culture cards

Less bureaucracy

We hate bloated processes, stupid archaic systems and red tape.

But we love iteration.

Process takes too long? Change it. You’ll have everyone’s blessing.

Tired of doing something tedious and want to automate it? You’re singing our song.

And most of all we’re impressed with people that can take a step back from the way things are always done to make everyone’s lives easier.

Which is why we focus on getting all our staff equipped with the best technologies we’ve found to help them make their jobs easier:

What this means for you

It’s important to realise a startup can’t compete on certain perks against larger corporates, but that’s not a bad thing. It helps you filter out the candidates that aren’t motivated by what drives your values anyway.

It’s about finding the right match.

Take the time to understand why your amazing employees value your company and use those learnings to attract the best damn people out there for your company.

Also, if you’re super talented, super passionate (just super overall), and think you’d be a good fit to the Oliv team, we’ve got a few openings.

PS. We’ll be sharing a lot more stories from our startup journey, get them straight to your inbox

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