How to Recruit Without a Well Known Brand

How to Recruit Without a Well Known Brand
Gareth Webb discusses what early-stage startups without brand recognition need to get right to ensure their pitch and messaging cut through and attracts top talent.

What's discussed/questions to ask yourself: 
  • why are we all here?
  • why should others come work here? what's in it for them? how will they grow?
  • has the team internalized and agreed on this?
  • what's the competition look like?
  • what's your end game?
  • build into a genuine, realistic, and repeatable pitch
  • have self-awareness about where the product is and that not everyone may share the same passion about the product as the founder
  • ensure this actually matches the experience a future employee will have when joining
  • don't let your enthusiasm dwindle 

If you liked this show or want to share feedback please leave a review so we can keep improving and share the word with other leaders in the tech talent space. If you have suggestions for topics we should cover, feel free to reach out to either Jake Gorgol or Gareth Webb on LinkedIn or send us an email at

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[00:00:00] Jake: Okay, so I'll kick us off for today. Yep. The other week we spoke through job boards some of the benefits of them, some of the inefficiencies of them and of where they fall or should fall within your recruiting strategy. And I think it brings up a larger question of like, you know, that's one, one element of recruiting, an inbound larger brands also have the benefit of just much larger organic awareness and in.

[00:00:22] So I wanted to spend some time today and pick your brain on, you know, what, if you don't have that brand awareness or strong brand to help drive some of the inbound, maybe you do feel more reliant on a job ad and that might drive you toward that, towards that. And then, so that's part one.

[00:00:37] So how are you kinda getting out in front of potential candidates and then part two you know, once you're in front of those candidates, how should you think about crafting the pitch to make [00:00:45] sure that you. You're telling the company story and, you know, getting the best chance of having a candidate want to work for you.

[00:00:52] Gareth: . Cool. Yeah. I mean, So employer brand is huge conversation. Isn't it? A huge place, a huge piece of spend across. Especially in the technology industry. There's a lot of, there's a lot of conversation around employee brand. There's a lot of conversation around storytelling in marketing in general, but also in like running business, leading a product vision, growing a team asset, raising funding and.

[00:01:20] That, that is a skill simply because of noise and competition and crowdedness and that's not changing. It's getting worse for people. So I think you, you [00:01:30] have to have clarity and you have to have distillation of. We could call it all kinds of things. I think we tend to internally call it like purpose and why we are all here is the short answer to probably the way I think about it is like, like yesterday we're interviewing somebody.

[00:01:46] We want to distill down to them why we are all here and then why they should be here. And it's like, that's the. Crux of the matter in its purest form, there's lots of peripherals around how they end up there and why they decide to join. But like, if you leave people thinking, whether it's from reading a job description or an introductory email, or coming away from an interview, the distillation is that is like, why would you, why be here?

[00:02:13] And there's a lots [00:02:15] of. There's lots of factors as to going into like what that conversation's about. And so I think, we need to start with, you know, as founders or as leaders or as a team that's hiring, first of all, there's the, okay. How do we internalize and agree on what that is?

[00:02:34] Like, what is that reason for being and why are people here and what do we, why do we want people to join? Because if you, if it's absolutely fine to not have much of an employer brand, or even if you're a stealth type startup and you don't have any kind of brand, you maybe don't even have a company name, a brand like any kind of logo or website, like, but you can still gauge people.

[00:02:53] If the messaging and the distillation of purpose is is clear. Or what the purpose will be. So I think just, [00:03:00] you know, having the internal clarity on that with your team, with your partners, with your co-founders, with your execs you know, what is, what has been the kind of Genesis for having everybody there and going on a fairly.

[00:03:17] Tough journey to get that potentially. And I think, you know, go starting there is critical.

[00:03:22] Jake:

[00:03:22] Gabrielle kind of summed up part of this conversation when you were talking with her about, or you were talking with her about employer branding everyone, it, their company had their own version of the same thing they were telling.

[00:03:33] And it was just obviously a very authentic way of doing sore, telling. You're not, you know, prescribing any specific pitch to each person, but everyone is very aligned on the mission and has their own [00:03:45] kind of like version of that kinda stood out to each of the candidates when they were speaking in a, you know, interview or recruiting conversation.

[00:03:53] Gareth: Yeah. And it's fair, you know, like it can't be scripted, right? Like you can have a, Hey, here's what our product's trying to do. And here's what our company's trying to do, but like the conversation of why am I here? Like why I'm here is different to why you are here is different to. Why Jasmine's here and why Cameron's here.

[00:04:10] Like everyone's got different reasons and motivations and that's all fine, but like at some point it all ties back to one thing it's like, yeah. I believe in that I do believe in that or I believe in what I don't believe in what currently exists. So we talk about old way, new way or big company, small company, corporate versus startup.

[00:04:28] Like people sometimes latch [00:04:30] onto the. The new thing or they just detach from the old or bigger or different things. So it's like the enemy. So yeah, I think just, it's probably where a lot of people go wrong and I'd say, I go wrong as well on this is where probably cuz you think you're just repeating yourself.

[00:04:48] But the more I read about these things, the more important it is to repeat yourself and. Into like your customers and your community, why you are here. And you know, the kind of like the repetition and the, and perhaps also the evolution of that, like why you start like where we are now three, four years in is entirely it's pen, it's pegged to the same overall mission, but the nuances are really quite [00:05:15] different now.

[00:05:15] And actually we're thinking even bigger around you know, how we improve matching. But three, four years ago, I was more thinking about like doing that within a smaller part of the world and you know, I wasn't necessarily thinking small, but I was trying to be pragmatic within my own mind.

[00:05:33] And then now I'm like, no, this is actually like a bigger opportunity. And there is a much bigger mission and it's potentially gonna be harder work as well as a result, but that's fine. Like as long as you know that you acknowledge it and you communicate it. And as I said, probably repeat it.

[00:05:47] So I think just. You know, if you're hiring and you are a one person law firm, or you are a 20 person, AI startup it's, it comes down to. [00:06:00] You know, you can have like the business plan, but you can have the principles that, that guide, like how people behave. And then there's like, then there's the elevator pitch.

[00:06:09] Like the one or two sentences that would be like, okay, this is what we are here for. This is like how we're trying to do it. And this is how we behave whilst we're trying to do it. And then here's the kind of like overall bigger business. And the outcomes we're chasing. And it doesn't have to be massive as well.

[00:06:26] I think everybody thinks that their business has to have a massive proposition just for customers and for employers. Some people you don't need to do that. Like you just need a, you can potentially make a very small difference to people's lives or like people working for, you can just turn up and get paid really well and enjoy the team they're with.

[00:06:43] And that can be very satisfying. [00:06:45] So I think being very clear about it being really honest about it. I don't like use the word like authentic, but like genuine and not overly polishing it, I think is super important. Cause you'll then find the people that, that, that will be most fulfilled with being part of it.

[00:07:01] So a

[00:07:03] kinda unify thought through doesn't need to be fully polished, authentic if you wanna call it that purpose or company vision. Well thought through initially, anything else? Do you wanna think about a setting, a stage that would be worth talking through here?

[00:07:18] Natalie said evidently like your baby's not accused in the room probably nine times out.

[00:07:22] 10, if not more. I think. That's where really good business leaders and founders [00:07:30] are very self-aware and honest. It's like, yeah, look like we've got a bunch of shit to do to get anywhere close to being how good we should be. But like knowing that and knowing what those things are is really part of the skill.

[00:07:41] Anyone that's like, Hey, we're gonna be the next Uber of this or Spotify of that. It's like, yeah, come on. Like, get real, like, like what's your story? Like, don't steal someone else's or don't try and don't try and, you know, add brand from someone else's don't, you know, attach to someone else's brand to ate your brand, which is huge.

[00:07:59] I think in the last five years I've got like running gags with friends of mine and it's like, you know, the Uber of this and this in the cloud. And, you know, I think the world is smart enough now to see through those kinds of lazy pitches, [00:08:15] I think, like not being lazy with it and being bold.

[00:08:21] But when I say bold, like I said, I don't mean that's like, yeah, we're gonna be the next Tesla. It's bold enough to be comfortable with who you are as a business and like what you are trying to do. So like I said, if you want to just be a community type business that has the best. Pizza truck in your neighborhood and that's what you want to be.

[00:08:40] That's powerful enough in itself. And then it's like, if you actually do want, or you wanna be the tool that everybody uses to make Excel less boring like that, then that's huge. And tell that story, but like, just be latch onto whatever it is you are. Because that's what people will. I think [00:09:00] especially smart people, they will see through the bullshit.

[00:09:04] And they will, they would much rather latch onto a like genuine, authentic, realistic pitch. That is war and all. So, and then there's no surprises either when people are working for you, which is obviously what you don't want. You don't want people coming in and being like, oh, this is not what was said to me.

[00:09:19] That still happens. And that still crazy. So yeah, I think yeah, you need to have internal alignment. You need to have the messaging, right? You need to say what you are, you need to say, well, you're not the team internally. Have to agree it. And then. When you go out to the world, like it, it has to be you know, if we're talking about hiring, you know what's the strategy.

[00:09:38] And so for most people, yeah there's job boards, but people see thousands of jobs and they read thousands of [00:09:45] words or they, you know, they try to if you are sending an introductory email or an email, or you're talking to somebody on the phone, like everybody internally in that business, Needs to be on the same sort of page.

[00:09:57] Like you said, they can have different versions of why they're there, but that everyone has to be around a singular messaging framework. And so, you know, I think everybody even older, more famous, well established brands have changed in the last five, 10 years. And so their messaging changes and you know, I think making sure.

[00:10:17] There's repetition and everyone actually knows prior to interview, or like putting a job out there or sending an email you know, what's the, what is the evolution of the pitch and, you [00:10:30] know, TA you have to tailor it as well to the individuals. So, but I think some folks take tailoring too far.

[00:10:34] I think you know, we look. All kinds of different things, right. When we're talking about ourselves or we're talking about clients and depends what stage you're at. If you are, if you're bootstrapping, then you're talking about the bigger vision and you're talking about the problem and the customers and like the IP behind the approach to how you can solve problems.

[00:10:51] And then there's obviously like competition that you can talk about. That's ahead of you. How they're doing things differently. You can talk about shorter and more medium term plans. Some people, if you're hiring an intern, they don't probably don't care about the long term vision, but if you're hiring an executive or a more senior person, they wanna know like where's this gonna be at in 3, 4, 5 years.

[00:11:08] So I think there's chapters to. The employer brand story for each company, even if you're a one person or a hundred company. [00:11:15] Got it.

[00:11:17] Jake: What do you mean by some of the, I guess like the short, medium, long term? That's kinda interesting.

[00:11:21] Gareth: So yeah, like for us right now I use us as an example, like if we are hiring certain folks, Certain parts of the business.

[00:11:31] We need people to come in and be very effective, very early on. But then also we're talking about hiring people next year, who might be building stuff that doesn't come in to action for a year. They might be building like, I don't know, say the mobile part of what we're trying to do or some more complex, like matching backend stuff.

[00:11:54] So those folks, you know, they need to be thinking more medium to long term cause their output's gonna [00:12:00] have that faith and other people need to come in and know that you're not gonna need to be effective very quickly like client acquisition, talent experience hiring. So I think just each knowing like, Who's coming to the business, into what part of the business and what their output's gonna be.

[00:12:14] You can, that there's gonna be like a different story and a different urgency perhaps is more my thinking there. What it mean what I mean by that is like there's different upside and different downside to different like functions and hires that you're making and that has to appeal to them.

[00:12:31] So, you know, if you say to someone, yeah, you need to come in and build this for us within three months. They're like, well, that's not realistic expectation. Whereas it's like, okay, this is what we're trying to do for next year. Come in and help us build that then. That's part of the expectation management, which is what we've [00:12:45] talked about before.

[00:12:45] So I think, you know, I'm probably, I don't know, like, I think I'm very clear with people about the downside of working for a startup, like it's, but you can, the problem is when you do, I think you said this the other day about getting from the first hundred of anything or the first 10 of anything being much harder than probably getting from.

[00:13:06] 10 to a hundred or a hundred to a thousand, but first anything is like really awful. Yeah. Yeah. Like you question why. And that's why some people won't touch startups with the barge ever, and then some would do it and they're like, I'll never do that again. It's like really brutal and it is brutal.

[00:13:20] But the, it is a thing people want, like they want to have impact. They want to see. I hate this phrase, but it's to say it, people want to see them themselves [00:13:30] moving the needle. So they wanna see, right? Yeah, I did this changed. So you get that with startups, but it's You know, it's also pretty painful sometimes where it's like, okay.

[00:13:37] Yeah, I did. But the amount of effort was gargantuan for how far, how much feedback of how much of a feedback loop I got, but you have to be honest with people and say that this is really hard, you know, the variables are massive and with constantly trying to create and sustain and build momentum, which big companies just have by funding or brand name or just.

[00:13:58] Being great. Like it can also be that or being fortunate to catch headwind, uh, tailwinds. And then in startup, you get the headwinds all the time. So just being very clear about that, so that you know, That's part of the pitch and the term has been used before selling repel. [00:14:15] It's the same.

[00:14:16] You don't want the wrong people in the room. So wherever pitch, whatever, you know, if you're talking to somebody about a certain product, whether it's hiring or not, like if they can never afford to work for you or they're too expensive or they're, under-skilled like you, you unfortunately do want the wrong people outta the conversation quickly.

[00:14:34] Cause nobody has the time. So I I think really like your employer brand is it's in essence, it's like what you are trying to do, what you're capable of doing and like who should or shouldn't be on the team. And so the fast that you find the right people and the faster you get rid of the wrong people and I don't mean wrong people.

[00:14:58] For any other reason other than just like, it's [00:15:00] never gonna appeal to them or they won't be capable, like, let's be clear about it. Like it's then that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to narrow down your pool of feasible team members. Quickly and then try and get them over the line.

[00:15:13] And it doesn't mean that just cause someone's in the room, like they're gonna say yes, like they might say, no, it might get right towards the end, but like you wanna know you've tried as well. So I think that's all our clients want is they, that's why we exist really it's to make sure that like whenever a client has a need, we can get as many of the right people in front of them to.

[00:15:32] Match and join as possible. And that's, you know, comes down to lots of reasons but the key reason is just the employer brand, which is fit.

[00:15:41] I do think we're com a lot of companies get it wrong is just by. [00:15:45] Not being an individual enough and just, you know, like I said, latching onto other brands, latching onto other stories. We're the X of this, or we the Y of this I've heard and seen those pitches before and just I'm immediately like, well, you don't really know who you are yet.

[00:15:58] And so it's quite, it's, you know, they, how can you work really hard? And. Raise money or sell or grow, like have everybody really productive and bought in if there isn't that sort of clarity of purpose

[00:16:13] Jake: yeah, this is interesting. So obviously a lot around employer branding and understanding the vision and singular message and knowing very much who you're for, but also who you're not for laying out some of the downsizing risks you mentioned as well.

[00:16:26] I think one thing. Stood out when you were talking with me initially, actually that I [00:16:30] wanted to bring up. So that was interesting is having a realistic sense of where you want to go, which you've of mentioned, but this might be more specific to startups, but probably this other company as well, but like, you know, what's the upside looking like . So I wanted to get your thoughts on that.

[00:16:44] Gareth: Yeah. ours is very, very simple. You know, we, you can see how small we are. You can see how we, where we could grow. Realistically, you can see where we could grow. If things went really well. You know, the, there is, and then it's tying that into again, like sell and repel. It's like, if you want to earn.

[00:17:04] Half a million dollars a year. We are not the firm yet. Like we're, you know, we are investing, we are doing lots of things at once. It, you know, going to work for a behemoth [00:17:15] firm will allow some people to do that. And we see some people do that. They. They'll stay in the same firm, cuz you become very comfortable and accustomed to like the RSU or the big quarterly sales bonuses.

[00:17:26] Cause you're selling multimillion dollar contracts startups, rarely like that. So, you know, you have to be, I say startup, like I'm talking seed series a like, or these like real like small 10, 20 people. So you have to be motivated by other stuff, which is like the impact and the shaping of the culture and influence in the product and the service.

[00:17:49] And then the hope that like you go in and do so well that, you know, the people that hire you would be mad to not promote and reward you through [00:18:00] cash or stock or whatever it may be. I think a lot of people just get really tired of telling their story, which if you look at like why most companies are successful or why, especially founders and startups are very successful, cuz they don't let their enthusiasm dwindle, like they are resilient probably stupidly believing in what they are doing.

[00:18:22] To the point where each person they talk to, whether it's an investor or a person they interview, or a customer, like they don't look fatigued by their own pitch. And that's very clear when you meet some folks like it's oh yeah, you are sick of telling the story. I met somebody this week who has 20 odd years in the industry and in his industry and like owns a very successful company.

[00:18:44] And [00:18:45] I was. Very inspired by how he did. He seemed to have no loss of enthusiasm telling the story about his business and must have a lot of money and no need to necessarily be on call with me, but was I came off it thinking that was impressive, just because. You know, he looked like someone absolutely.

[00:19:06] At top of his game who had not lost enthusiasm for this story. And I think that's what sets like, like certain people apart, whereas I will talk to other companies and founders and CEOs and it's so half asked and I'm like, yeah, you're just burnt out by your own story. And so I think that must come, that must feed through to the business.

[00:19:26] And so, yeah, probably depends on how [00:19:30] successful you're being and how hard it's been and and the timing and all that kind of stuff. But I think, yeah, we like, like when we were talking to you, it was like, we knew it was an important hire. We wanted to be realistic and I wanted to make sure that people understood the scale of the opportunity.

[00:19:44] That's in the data, right? Like how big is the hiring market and spend in the us alone and internationally and who are the top 10 operators? And you know, then there's like, okay, how can, what we, how can, what we are doing. Make a dent in that and change things. And, but then also feeding it back to, yeah, it's not gonna happen overnight.

[00:20:04] And we do need people to really dig in. We need better processes. We need better products. We need better people. We need everything to be better all the time. And so that appeals to certain people, whereas some [00:20:15] people love status quo and some people will just naturally against it or wanna prove a point and innovate.

[00:20:21] And that, and then neither a right or wrong, like, you know, some people talk about disruptors all the time, but actually there's plenty of businesses out there that are not disruptors in the, in themselves, or they innovate as a business, but they're steady, nice places to work where you can make a lot of money, like big insurance companies that are not necessarily sexy, but there's probably people earning fortunes at some of these places.

[00:20:43] Never gonna be, have a job, have great 401k and benefits. And then yet, like, So I do think there's been over glamorization of startups. We see we've seen it this year, where the story doesn't pan out and the funding dries up. And then the, like the curtains fall. But [00:21:00] there's obvious there's, but that's what we see in LinkedIn feed, but there's lots of really successful stories.

[00:21:04] So it's like with anything it's just latching on getting the story right. Being consistent. Having everybody, like on the same hymn sheet, so to speak. And if you are a candidate and you are hearing a pitch, I strongly urge people to like, get their BS radar out and look at the person in the eye and see like, do they mean it?

[00:21:24] Do they, do I feel that they truly still have the enthusiasm for the story? Or are they just like spouting off to me? And I think that. Often a good I've noticed a good hack for that. It's just like, are they rushing it through, like, is the person telling the story in a hurried, rushed manner?

[00:21:40] It's like, okay, that's a giveaway that they're sick of it. It's like, yeah, anyway, we're gonna do this. We're gonna be an Uber [00:21:45] of this. And we've got this funding and like, yeah, it is great. Come work here. If someone's more deliberate and they are taking the time to explain to you the story, then they're not sick.

[00:21:54] And then that means there's probably a, there's probably an enthusiasm. That's still there. Like people can look a bit tired and they can tell you it's been hard. But like, if they're like, yeah, we still think like, this is still the opportunity. This is how, or how we've changed it slightly because we've listened to customers.

[00:22:11] And so we're now focusing on this. If they're not rushing it, then they probably still believe in it if they're, and that's one of the things I've definitely. Learn to view yeah. When talking to founders or anyone?

[00:22:24] Jake: Well, yeah, just, uh, summarize some this too. Cause I what you sent over to me almost felt like a good like checklist to think through you've [00:22:30] got of like the vision and problem that you're solving for.

[00:22:32] Talking through the team and culture. Yeah. Competition in the landscape of your company, industry really hon in on why you're different, right. You talk through the short, medium, long term on where the company can go. What's realistic that you're trying to achieve the upside, the downsides and risks. We are a little over on time. I feel like that probably is a good spot to wrap up. Any final thoughts before we do?

[00:22:53] Gareth: No. I would say like, like with a lot of things, I think distilling down to three things, like, like, what's like, what's the reason that you started.

[00:23:04] What's the kind of like, like, so probably you're trying to solve or the reason why you got the gen the Genesis for the idea where could it go? Like in a perfect state? Like, what are you trying to do? What's the [00:23:15] potential end game, if there is one. And then the third piece is like, how do we plan on doing that?

[00:23:19] Like, yeah, so you've got the Genesis, you've got the potential end game. And then in the middle there's process or like methodology or mindset, I think if you could think in those three things, whatever kind of business you are, you can have a pretty good employer brand on one page. With three, three.

[00:23:34] Whether it's bullet points or three kind of headlines, and then you can obviously flesh those out and work around them. But I do think like working in threes helps with the team to remember things and for you to remember things and customers or candidates to remember things you know, and I think that's a good framework.

[00:23:49] Cool. Yeah. Great summary to finish up. Very good until next week. Cheers. Until next week I'll be earlier. See you.----

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