Even with the threat of an economic recession, the technology industry remains cautious but strong in performance. It is still a very healthy job market and salaries remain sky-high. 

This year Burns Sheehan have successfully delivered on a number of Engineering Leadership positions for Startups and Scaleups across the UK and Europe. Over the course of this year, we have worked with a wide range of organisations competing for talent in a buoyant market and have advised many Startups on different ways to compete with Scaleups. Scaleups are typically at a more advanced stage of growth and have often raised significantly more investment and so are able to attract talent with larger salary offers. 

Here’s how to try to level the playing field and make your business a more attractive proposition when competing with the hyper growth “heavyweights”.

✅ You have a list of requirements… but what can you compromise on? ✅

It's essential to establish what your non-negotiables are when creating a talent profile. If the salary is at the lower end of the market bandings, you may need to compromise on certain aspects of your ideal candidate’s profile. Could you hire someone to step into the role who has some unofficial exposure to managing via mentoring or coaching abilities, with the desire or ambition to step up into a people management role? Do you have someone in the business who could mentor and coach this person into a management role over the next 6 to 8 months? 

Hiring an Engineering Lead to step up into your Engineering Manager role could be a way to compromise if you are unable to increase an uncompetitive salary offering. Currently, in the market, Lead Engineers are earning on average between £90,000 - £120,000, whilst Engineering Managers are earning between £100,000 - £135,000. Check out our Salary Guide for more details on how salaries are changing and what to expect at each level.   

💸 Bring your equity and share options to life 💸

For your Equity offering to be a valuable tool for attraction, you need to explain and show the candidate exactly how much their equity could be worth. Companies that best utilise equity as part of the offer tell a story about the potential value that the offer represents. You can tell a compelling story by sharing the vision and roadmap of the business, along with any real-world exits, IPO or future acquisition plans.

It can be difficult for a candidate to trust the value of equity, especially if only one exit scenario is given. Detailing three different exit scenarios (underachieved target growth, achieved target growth and overachieved target growth) would allow the candidate to see a realistic range of what the equity could be worth.

Likewise, let the candidate know how their equity could grow during their tenure as a way of rewarding staff, as well as about the achievements of your Founding team and how they can deliver success for this business. If you have a Founder that has been through successful exits, IPOs or acquisitions then share those stories. If you don’t relate the company’s success to the candidate’s financial outcome, they are unlikely to buy into the story.

🏡 A great work-life balance can set you apart from others 🏡 

In February 2022, 97% of candidates surveyed in our 2022 Tech Hiring & Market Insights Report said that they wanted flexible working options. Of this, 38.5% of candidates wanted a ‘work where it works’ mindset, 31% preferred flexi-time hours, 19.3% wanted to be fully remote, and only 2.2% would like to be fully office-based.

Start-Ups and Scale-ups have the benefit of being able to offer more flexibility when it comes to working hours and ensuring a work-life balance, in comparison to more established competitors that are more likely to have rigid policies with little room for flex. Whilst remote working options are still very attractive, we know that the majority of candidates are looking for some form of hybridity. You could consider offering flexibility in terms of start times, hours, or even shorter working weeks, as many Start-Ups are now trialling the 4-day working week.

We have also seen an increase in companies offering a ‘work anywhere in the world’ benefit or ‘nomadic working’. Companies are setting themselves up to allow workers to work overseas for a length of time (usually between 30-60 days per year). This is particularly attractive to any candidates who have family outside of the UK as they can visit without having to use all of their annual leave. This is also a good way to show that you trust your team which is a great selling point.

However, if you are not able to offer remote-first options or a flexible hybrid arrangement, it is important to clearly outline and explain why this is the case. With the majority of people working remotely for the past 2 years, it is understandable that employees want to continue this work arrangement. Whether the reason for compulsory office attendance is to create a positive culture and have more impact when growing the team or to improve collaboration, creativity and ease of communication, this must be relayed to the candidate, so that they can get onboard with the company’s decision making and not see it as a detractor. 

💙 Build on your Employee Branding 💙

For most early-stage Start-Ups, likely, the candidate may not have heard of your business or understand what it is that you do, especially if you are a B2B product. That’s why it’s essential to share great stories of the company’s success at every stage of the interview process; this could be your portfolio of current clients as well as any successes in sales or business development. This will enable the candidate to understand plans for growth and how this will benefit them in terms of career progression and the value of their equity. You could also consider demoing your product to the candidate if possible.

The first interview shouldn’t be all about the candidate, but rather a chance for you to sell the business and begin building that essential emotional attachment right from day one. You need to convey a strong sense of who the company is, what you are trying to do and how they will play a part in that mission. Likewise, demonstrating your company culture – including promoting team outings, celebrations, and events – is a great way to increase a candidate’s buy-in. Work with your recruitment partner to make sure that they understand your brand and represent you in the right way.

🤗 Take a personalized approach to the offer 🤗

If a candidate is deciding between your company and another, a personalised approach to the offer could make that final piece of difference. You could consider offering your candidate in the form of a personalised presentation or PDF, allowing the candidate to feel more valued and visualise their place in the team and their impact on the company. Call the candidate or meet them in person to explain the offer.

Talk about expectations, the role and have a wrap-up conversation to explain why you want them to join and what your expectations are as well as how you are going to help them achieve their career goals. This shows that you have taken the time and effort to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and thus how you can help them grow within the company.

📈 Outline How You Will Support Personal Development 📈

Lack of career progression is the most common reason that a candidate will be looking for a new opportunity. Therefore, a clear and transparent path for career progression needs to be detailed in the interview process or when giving the offer. Informing a candidate of the progression plan for the next 6-8 months will undoubtedly provide them with confidence that their role and the business has direction and that you can see them progressing in the company.

If a company can offer mentorship, training programmes or external courses to help the individual grow their skills, the candidate will feel more supported. Providing the candidate with examples of past success stories of people who have been promoted in a relatively short time frame would be a great way to back up this information. It could be a good idea to have the CTO or Head of Talent indicate this to the candidate, this would show the company as being very transparent and honest. Ensure that you have someone on the interview panel that has had progression and can talk about it. Explaining challenges, time frames and first-hand experience, don’t rely on your agency or talent partner to explain this.

The team at Burns Sheehan are proud and privileged to partner with organisations at all levels of maturity. Across our client portfolio, we advise those who are at very early stage growth (often pre-seed→Series A), hyper stage growth (Series B→Series E) and the larger corporates who are transforming their culture and technology. 

If you’re trying to hire a leader in your business and want to get your Employee Value Proposition just right then get in touch with Grace Duffy (Senior Leadership Recruiter) to start a conversation.