It’s a bit of a business catch-22: Startups are in desperate need of brilliant talent to take off, but the best of the best are already working with more established companies. This is where we had to be creative to come up with some cool startup hiring practices. At ELM, we’re well-versed in startup hiring; especially since just two years ago, practically no one had even heard of us.

That’s why we needed to rethink the hiring process as not hiring, but recruiting. With the promise of great work culture and collaboration as our ace in the hole, we’ve been able to grow ELM with industry leaders, creative minds, and seasoned pros. How? Here are the secrets to our staffing success.

Focusing on Culture

We’ll be honest: When we first started out, ELM had to balance the hiring process directly on the shoulders of company culture. Without years of success and tried-and-true methods, culture was the one place that we could highlight as a benefit and a draw for potential candidates. We may not have had a proven track record of success, but we could focus on a culture that gave every employee the best opportunity for success.

By allowing plenty of room for employee and management collaboration, adding in company retreats and events, and making ELM a creative, exciting, and fun place to work, we were doing more than enticing recruits with the promise of free lunch and a ping pong table. Instead, we utilized the culture as a method for drawing the type of employee that craves opportunity for personal growth, professional growth, and the promise to enjoy a continual state of learning.

From Day One

When is the best way to highlight a company’s culture? From day one. The culture should read loud and clear from job postings to the interview process. By setting the tone throughout all pre-interview communications, potential recruits knew exactly what to expect from us. It wasn’t going to be a super-formal interview process, but more of a “trying on” of a recruit’s skills and our goals. Personality assessments and meeting the rest of the ELM crew are integral parts of the interview process, which not only help us to find the best fit, but give possible employees a taste of how we do things.

When we asked one of our client development directors, Brad Previti, what sealed the deal for him during the interview process, he indicated that it was all about the culture. “I first learned about ELM’s culture when meeting with [our CEO] Andrew Fayad during the interview process. It definitely grabbed my interest; although at the time, it seemed too good to be true,” he admits. “When I… met the rest of the team and saw how happy everyone was to be working for this company, that’s when I really felt the culture for the first time.” Brad says that culture was a major factor in his decision to come onboard: “Work/life balance is everything to me, and ELM gets it. They trust me to execute in my role, they’re always happy to support and assist me in whatever I’m doing, and they genuinely care about my life outside of work. I’m not sure I’ll find that anywhere else and I feel really lucky to be a part of a company like this.”

Show, Don’t Tell

Besides the fact that the feeling is completely mutual, Brad’s experiences highlights exactly why culture is the currency of recruitment when it comes to startups. Instead of telling potential employees how great it is to work for ELM, we showed them and it was enough to snag some of the best talent available in our industry. From graphic designers to learning architects, we only hire the best–and it’s our eLearning company culture that helped to put us in that enviable position.

The real secret to startup success isn’t the best product or an epic marketing plan, but the people surrounding you in your first year. We’ve successfully transitioned from industry newcomer to neuroloearning force, and it’s the result of a talented team that continues to exchange top-notch output in exchange for an amazing company culture.