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You get a Machine Learning Engineer, You get a Machine Learning Engineer, EVERYONE GETS A MACHINE LEARNING ENGINEER! (Oprah reference) 

Let’s be real here, there are certain roles that seemingly every company is searching for. With unemployment at a 49 year low, the tech markets on a hot streak, and the goliaths (Facebook, Apple, Google, etc.) emptying the talent pools, how can a startup or mid-size organization meet their engineering and hiring needs?

Can you pay more than Facebook? Does your company have more perks than Apple? Does your workplace have more gadgets and gizmos aplenty than Google? If a candidate is set on a goliath and what they specifically provide, you can’t compete and you probably shouldn’t. Chances are even if you did manage to convince a candidate to take your offer over an offer from a goliath, if they are better aligned with projects, culture, and compensation plans of a large company, then neither of you will be happy. What you CAN do is bank on your strengths as a lean-and-mean startup and find talent that’s attracted to what you can offer and won’t care as much about the things you can’t provide.

You don’t need to change your company to attract top-tier talent, you just need to play to your strengths.

Startups and smaller companies have a lot to offer for the right people. The right people are those who find what startups offer as motivating enough to outweigh any drawbacks. Here are a few of the most common characteristics that tend to shine for startups (and sometimes mid-size orgs):

Speed – startups move fast and break stuff. They are notoriously agile, moving quickly, and pivoting often.

Impact – employees typically feel they have a bigger impact on their teams, the company, and on the product.

Leadership opportunity – there is more leadership opportunity, and promotions can come quickly since startups tend to grow fast.

Variety – there’s tons to do, and people can wear many hats. 

Deferred but potentially large compensation – of course, we have to mention the white whale of startups. The promise of huge cash payout potential if you’re in on the ground floor and the company goes through a significant event like a successful IPO or acquisition.

The Game Plan

Here’s a simple game plan that connects you with the right type of talent who will want to grow with you: 

  • Step 1: Understand your value proposition and selling points.
  • Step 2: Sell the crap out of your company.
  • Step 3: Expose the flaws and growth opportunity.
  • Step 4: See if you’re both still excited to work together.

In order to win the race for talent, you have to be able to make sure that the type of talent you want actually wants you back. Hype the hype and sell them on the future of your company but also show them the seedy underbelly, the disorganization and the holes in the plan. The right person will thank you for it and become even more interested as they better understand not only the opportunity but also the challenges.

TL/DR: The secret to competing with global goliaths is not to compete with them. Find the crazy, qualified people who want to build a company with you, instead, and hire them!


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This post was written by Jessica Stielau and Matt Abbott, and was originally published on

Your time is valuable. As a hiring manager, you only want to engage with the most qualified handful of candidates, who have already been pre-screened. The Sourcery is the industry’s best-in-class sourcing and recruiting experts. We’ve helped over 350 startups, scale ups, and enterprises hit their hiring and growth goals. Our client list and track record speaks for itself. Drop us a line, or refer us to someone you know if there’s a need for our help.

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