Pitching Your Company to Candidates

The Pitch.

If you’re a startup, you’ve done one to investors, maybe several different times in different forms; when it comes to candidates, though, their motivation, initial interest level, and tolerance for BS are all very different.

As part of my never-to-be-published-book “Recruiting Secrets I’m Making Up As I Go Along,” I’ll give you the formula: the four sentences you need to craft and refine so they’re ready for any potential candidate you might want to join your team, with some examples for local Seattle companies.

1. This product is interesting

Explain the product you’re building. Focus on who it touches – ideally a real group of people that I might have heard of or care about – and make it a real, down-to-earth, noun-and-verb-heavy sentence that tells a story I can draw in my head. Avoid buzzwords and adjectives that just talk about how awesome you are.

Tred: “We’re making buying a car a dramatically less stressful experience: test drive a car from your home or office, negotiate online without any pressure, and close the sale, all without walking into a dealership.”

Panopto: “We’re making it possible for professors to easily record lectures along with any second-screen information they present, and for students to see and search the lectures at any time – something we would have wanted as students.”

2. This business has opportunity

Demonstrate why this business is worth a candidate’s time: maybe the entire market is big, maybe companies doing similar things have made money for their team, maybe you’ve become the biggest player in a rapidly-growing market. Don’t use numbers (“This is a 6 billion dollar market!”) unless I can immediately put that into a useful context – which I almost certainly can’t.

Limeade: “It’s super-early in the world of company wellness programs, we’re leading the space and getting referrals, and as more companies care about reducing insurance costs and having healthier teams, we’re the company they’re calling.”

3. Our problems are challenging

Great engineers (and designers, and writers) want to know that much will be asked of them, and that their skills will be put to good use and are needed for this product to be successful. (I’ve talked to plenty of engineers who went to exciting companies and left because there was nothing exciting for them to do.) One sentence that explains why there are challenges that they can help solve (i.e. not “we need regulatory approval in lots of countries,” unless you’re hiring a lawyer) goes a long way.

(If you don’t have these, skip this section.)

Point Inside: “Real-time, measured-in-tens-of-milliseconds geospatial search over tens of millions of data points, processing daily product changes over millions of products, and building fast, easy-to-use mobile APIs are all part of what we do.”

4. How you should value us

where are you as a company: you’re an early startup with huge upside opportunity, you’re a de-risked later stage startup that can pay market rates and still offer meaningful equity, etc.

5. Optional: I know you will like it

If you know the person who will see this, and you know what motivates him, add a sentence that points that out clearly and professionally. “John, I know you’ve been happiest at companies that are obsessed with great product design and that bring joy to their users with the things they make. Haiku Deck is one of them.”

That’s it. Write the pitch; have people you know read it; have them critique it; write it again; repeat. Make sure you can write it and you can say it out loud. Go back and remove the adjectives that sound like “awesome” and “great” and replace them with nouns.

Have a pitch you want us to see? Add it as a comment and I’ll take a look. (Oh, and the companies above? Who knows, maybe some of them are clients of ours. So email us if something caught your eye!)