Hiring in uncertain times

Even in the best of times, hiring can make or break a business. Here's how to approach building your team when hiring in uncertain markets.


"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go." — T.S. Eliot

As a startup, risk-taking is necessary. It’s your advantage—and hiring is one of the biggest risks you take. Not only is headcount your most significant expense, but great teams are what make or break businesses. Just as a great hire can 10x your business, the wrong hire, especially at a management level, can break teams and halt your momentum. In uncertain markets like we’re facing today, these risks are amplified. The good news is that as entrepreneurs, you’re ready for it. You manage risks, challenge assumptions and push boundaries every day.

When it comes to hiring in uncertain markets, it’s not all bad news. As a company that is still growing, you have a huge advantage. Big tech companies are laying off incredible talent in droves today. If you don’t have layoffs.fyi in your bookmarks bar, add it now. Pay attention to companies that have grown in similar verticals and have a plan of attack as a founder for creating awareness about your company with those people when you see relevant layoffs hit.

... it’s not all bad news. As a company that is still growing, you have a huge advantage.

While you have an advantage in the talent market as a growing company, there are also challenges to being small. You need to be incredibly intentional about building and sharing your employer brand and running top-tier interview processes. You need to sell candidates on your vision, and you also need to de-risk the opportunity for them (and for you!) by making sure you have effective hiring processes in place. The talent market has changed drastically since the pandemic; candidates have higher standards and are searching for purpose in their work (your potential advantage). But there is more competition than ever as remote work and distributed teams have become the norm.

As you head into headcount planning, with so much market uncertainty, think about the following:

  1. Get clear on your goals. What do you need to accomplish in the next 6 to 12 months to reach your next milestone as a business? Make sure you and your team are aligned and let those targets drive your headcount plan.

  2. Where can you get creative on headcount? In those areas, leverage freelancers or partners to supplement until the full-time need is indisputable. You want to limit turnover on your team to preserve culture, so look at your goals and make smart hires to drive them.

  3. How can you de-risk your hiring? When you need to hire, especially at a leadership level, you want to do everything you can to make sure you’re effectively sourcing the right candidates, selling your business, and conducting high-caliber, unbiased interview processes that are going to result in strong matches.

So take a deep, cleansing breath, and get out there and hire. You got this.