4 common recruitment mistakes B2B tech start-ups make

If you’re currently hiring and want to attract the best talent, Matt Dodgson outlines some common mistakes you may want to avoid

If you’re a founder of a startup, it’s highly probable you’re not a marketer. You may even question why you need marketing in the first place: “Why dabble with marketing when I know nothing about it and I could spend the time making an even better product?”

However, the reality is that buyer behaviour has changed, and marketing has evolved so much that you can now track spend and results more accurately. So while most founders aren’t marketers, the ones who see the fastest growth in their company recognise the positive impact marketing can make to growth.

However, now that you’ve decided to hire a marketer, what are some potential mistakes you could make that'll lead to a bad hire?

1. You aren’t honest about your progress

Start-up founders are generally optimists — why would you start a business and go through all the pain if you weren’t, right?

That optimism can sometimes translate into a founder’s perception of their business. You need to be positive, I get it. However, you need a particular type of marketer for each stage of your business’ growth.

Saying you’ve genuinely achieved product-market fit, when you haven’t, will only set a marketer up for failure. You’ll end up throwing money into campaigns only to get limited results. Resulting in you losing faith in marketing, having a high turnover of staff, and wasting time. So, before you press the button on recruitment, write down all the barriers to growth your business currently has.

  • Do you need a product marketer to help you achieve define your market and messaging?
  • Do you need a growth marketer to help you with customer acquisition as well as customer experience and retention?
  • Do you need a marketer that can create demand and a pipeline to help you scale?

Once you’ve identified those barriers, speak to someone who can help you map those to the exact type of marketer you need.

2. Hiring the wrong type of marketer

Most good marketers can talk about marketing. However, being able to talk about marketing doesn’t mean they can do it to a level that you need. Hiring marketers isn’t like hiring SDRs. It’s probably more like hiring developers.

Because a developer could have all the attributes for the job you want — presentable, confident, organised, clear communicator, strong work ethic — but how strong is their actual coding? Too often, interviewers take for gospel that a marketer can do a particular task. And it’s difficult if you’re a founder who doesn’t understand marketing — because any decent marketer will be able to talk about their craft to a level that you won’t understand.

  • Is thinking strategically more important, or are you looking for someone who’s more hands on?
  • Will they have support from internal colleagues or external agencies on specific activities, or do you want someone to manage the execution end-to-end?
  • How large is your marketing budget? Is this person well suited to managing budget?

3. Thinking it’s all about you

Companies that struggle to attract the best people are those that don’t consider the candidate enough. The best candidates don’t just want any opportunity. And of course, they know that joining a start-up isn’t without risk. If you think about it, hiring someone isn’t too dissimilar to dating.

If on your first date, you spend most of the evening talking about what you want and need, then you determine whether you’re a fit for one another. The trouble is, candidates go into interviews knowing they’ve got to wow the person in front of them with their work. But do you have the same attitude? If you go into an interview thinking it’s a one-way process, the candidate will likely think you’re a little arrogant, self-centred, and probably won’t want a second date.

So, build a recruitment strategy and process that’s genuinely going to wow people. Moreover, the good thing is that it doesn’t cost anything to create.

  • What benefits are you offering candidates? (that doesn’t mean a permanent job or ‘competitive salary’).
  • Are your candidates updated at regular intervals in the recruitment process?
  • Do you listen to feedback from ALL of your candidates? Do you give your candidates feedback?

4. Being too specific

Let’s be honest. Unless your business is a unicorn or is easily raising money, focusing on hiring someone who has every aspect of what you need will probably end up in failure. Why is someone who is at the top of their game going to join another similar business (or lesser well-known one) to do the same job again?

It doesn’t work like that. There has to be some give.

With record employment in the UK and London, too many businesses are looking for a marketer who ticks every single box. And, it’s not to say that those people don’t exist, but when you do finally find them, you’ll probably find yourself competing with a host of other more successful businesses to hire them. Now, that’s fine if you’re happy to wait. But for most start-ups, time can be a killer. Not having the right people in the most critical jobs can slow your growth. So, of course, try and find your ideal candidate.

However, try and balance what you’re looking for, with the time it might take by being more open to people slightly outside your ideal criteria. As those marketers are more likely to remain with your business for the long-term because they get an opportunity to grow into the role.


Matt Dodgson is a co-founder of Market Recruitment who help B2B Technology companies in London hire marketers

B2B Marketing Ignite 2019

1500 of B2B’s brightest come together to make sparks fly at B2B Marketing Ignite. Ignite will fire-up your inspiration, spark your connections and is the place where new things happen.

Book now