Startup Hiring Trends Report

Empowering startups with data

Our mission is to empower startups to find, hire, and retain the best people. Data is the key to successful hiring, but has historically not been used due to lack of availability. Our second annual report dives into challenges, insights, and best practices across the employee life-cycle. The report includes insights, followed by report data, spanning the topics: Headcount Planning, Recruiting Teams, Hiring Process, People Programs, Compensation, and 2018 Goals.


Tracking data creates success

Metrics are necessary to allocate resources, identify areas of weakness in the hiring process, and invest in effective programs. Startups who tracked metrics were 58% more likely to hit their hiring goals. However, only 60% reported tracking their recruiting efforts.

Recommendation:  Track pass-through rates, interview time, and offer declines.

93% of startups feel they are behind on diversity hiring

With less than 1/2 of startups having a diversity hiring goal, it’s not surprising that the majority feel their diversity efforts were ineffective. Year over year, investment in diversity still does not reflect its importance.

Recommendation:  Invest in resources with a focus on diversity: recruiters, programs, training, etc.

The rule of “happy thirds” for hiring

Startups at every stage maintained “happy thirds” hiring ratios: 1/3 sourced, 1/3 applied, 1/3 employee referral. Investing in company brand and developing an effective referral program ensures a balanced candidate flow.

Recommendation:  Develop balanced hiring channels and teach everyone in your company to source.

Take-home assignments are generally misused

An ineffective take-home assignment can result in a poor candidate experience and wasted team time. Our findings show companies with the highest offer acceptance rates use take-home assignments after the phone interview.

Recommendation:  Use take-home assignments after the phone interview when they are most effective.

Focus on total compensation

Cash compensation continues to be the top reason for declines when recruiters, HR, or hiring managers deliver the offer.

Recommendation:  Anyone delivering an offer should be trained to explain total compensation. An emphasis on equity can offset a heavy focus on cash.

Basic people programs are a must

People programs are important for developing company culture and minimizing attrition. Most companies have a baseline of new hire onboarding, referral programs, and performance review programs.

Recommendation:  Best-in-class people programs include manager training, unconscious bias training, and diversity & inclusion programs.

Build a balanced recruiting team

Across stages, the highest leverage hires are recruiters. Early-stage startups should focus on hiring hands-on recruiters with less emphasis on managers.

Recommendation:  As you grow, remove operational overhead with recruiting coordinators.

Startups are constantly evolving, headcount plans should too

Only 2/3 of companies have a headcount plan and less than 1/2 involve recruiting in planning meetings. This can lead to misalignment between business objectives and recruiter hiring capacity.

Recommendation:  Headcount plan quarterly and involve your head of recruiting.

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Survey Directors

Cat Surane

Talent Infrastructure

Luke Beseda

Talent Infrastructure

Alexa Makreas

Talent Marketing