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The best ad for a startup job ever?


Last week, I received a link via a Yammer network that I am part of seeking help to find employees for a startup.

The startup, founded by corporate escapee Marc Harrison, doesn’t have a name yet. And the purpose of the venture is vague at best. (Something to do with “lists”, according to Harrison on Yammer.)

However, it offers one of the best examples of startup recruitment that I have ever seen. (And I’ve seen more than my fair share.)

Here’s why.

The challenges associated with recruiting for a startup are numerous.

To begin with, the startup founder is usually unable to offer a big, fat salary, or even a competitive wage.

And, indeed, that’s just the beginning.

Jobs within startups generally offer no security, the founder will often have little or no clue about what he or she is doing and the odds of the job description staying the same over a six month period are zero to none.

So, how does an aspiring business builder recruit for a startup?

Harrison’s startup ad can be found here. Please do check it out (or the remainder of the post is unlikely to make much sense). Here’s what I like about the linked promotion:

1. Appeal to the ‘Why’ and not the ‘What’.

As mentioned, Harrison barely articulates what the startup actually does. This is incidental to the reasons ‘why’ any smart or talented person would want to join a startup.

Fans of Simon Synek will know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never heard of Synek, check out his Ted talk. It’ll be the most productive 10 minutes you’ll spend all day.

Marc’s reasons for joining his startup are elegantly simple: “We’ll have fun and make a bit of a name for ourselves. We’ll do good work and with a bit of luck we might even make a dollar or two.”

(Screw the pissy salary. Where can I sign up!)

2. The founder did not make big promises.

Here’s a big tip for every business builder or marketer, involved in any industry or any business anywhere in the world; Customers only get shirty when their expectations are not met.

That’s why some of your favourite, most memorable dining experiences happened in that tiny Vietnamese restaurant with terrible service and plastic placemats. It’s also why your most disappointing dining experience happened that time when you spent up big at Epicure’s new favourite gustation lab only to have the slightest delay at coat check-out set you off like Donald Trump on a bad hair day

Set expectations low and the worst that can happen is that you meet or exceed those expectations. The only promise that Harrison’s job ad offers is that you could be involved in something great.

3. The founder did not advertise.

He seeded his request through appropriate networks.

I came across Harrison’s link when browsing the York Butter Factory Yammer feed. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrison found ways to push his request out to the Silicon Beach network, AngelCube, Inspire9, The Hub and other hotbeds of Victorian innovation.

This is important. When promoting any message, it’s folly and slightly self-destructive to attempt to reach everyone. Every message should be seeded to reach and tailored to appeal to the ‘right’ kind of person.

And ‘only’ this person.

The alternative is to blow your budget on mainstream advertising and waste your time vetting people who’ll never work out anyway.

Harrison has also given his efforts to target the right type of person an additional layer of focus by creating an affiliate offer. Notably, this is not the primary focus. Nobody wants to profit from a friend, even a friend by association.

(From our perspective, should Anthill be responsible for finding Marc his dream startup protege, we’ll be using the $2k to fund a job board for the Anthill community. It seemed only right. Good idea?)

I could also mention how the ad is responsive across all mobile devices and clearly uses language that will appeal to the technically minded. (What’s a wireframe, grandma?)

But the true genius of this ad is that it doesn’t patronise, barely over-sells and relies on word-of-mouth to get Marc’s message out to only the right type of person.

Here’s the link to Marc’s ad (again). We’ll be watching with interest.