Shenzhen is highly competitive for top talents, but Millennials are looking for more than money

August 10th, 2018 | Bentley


Most startups may not have the resources, nor the brand name to compete against tech giants to attract top talents. But the battle is not lost, as our own example shows, so I’d like to share challenges and tips for spotting and attracting best talents.

In the following lines, I will try to answer those questions:

How does a startup do to attract candidates?

How to make sure they are the right fit?

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest headaches for startups is recruiting employees, especially when it starts to scale. This is already a big issue for established companies in China, but it’s even more important for a startup as its biggest asset is its team. I’ve been in charge (among many other things) to hire people for over 2 years, so here are my three suggestions on how to attract talents.

1.Respect for talents, respect for the market

We often hear that startups don't pay well enough. It’s partly true, especially if one only looks at the salary as the only compensation. Since most candidates will screen offers by salary range, I suggest to write on the offer a salary 10% to 20% above market value, or even 1.5 times to catch candidates’ attention.

This trick presents following advantages:

First, the volume of applications will increase, expanding the scope of candidates and profiles;

Second, the quality of candidates will greatly improve, as usually a higher salary corresponds to a higher education level and overall quality level of applicants;

Third, it will create a positive image about the startup being already “successful” and drive people who would normally consider more secure positions to rethink about this opportunity.

Choosing to start a business requires learning to treat people with respect and understanding the rules of the market. Equity will never compensate employees in the same way as salary does, because the returns are hypothetical and long-term. The hiring process is like a sales funnel: is important to increase awareness to get the chance to speak to candidates directly and spike their interest until they made a decision.

2.Make good use of tools

"Tools" can be found in many aspects of daily life, such as recruitment websites, BBS, exhibitions, community members, personal contacts and internal recommendations, as well as weibo and moments. 

Real "tools" should be broad enough to find the right person at any given time, as long as you really care. When you put finding people at the top of your list, you'll find opportunities everywhere. Such as participating events and conference, sponsor technology related competition and so on.

If you really want someone to help you find or recommend someone, at least treat him a drink and talk to him. This will at least increase his chances of finding someone for you by 10%, because it may be a small gesture to him, but he knows it's important to you, and he'll immediately think of you if the right person is available.

The hiring process is a daily priority for founders. You must have been reminded many times by your senior colleagues that you need to spend half your time looking for people. It’s even more true for entrepreneurs. Our investor William BaoBean used to tell us “always be pitching”. It also applies to talents.

3."Stand up high," making it easier for others to find you

The CEO should always look for opportunities to "expose" him or herself and let others know what his/her startups’ needs are. CEO exposure is an invisible tool for recruitment. The same effect applies for any founder and C level member.

For example, in many concerts, celebrities will bring new people to sing and many new people will become famous for performing with the stars. Why? On the one hand, it's because of the new talent itself. On the other hand, that person was exposed to a lot of social media when he stood in the spotlight of the concert. This is the equivalent of a person standing on a high place, and people can see him clearly.

     Loic was invited to introduce COOLHOBO project to Prime Minister of France

So it helps to have a "high ground" for hiring. This is also what we do, for example by giving TED Talks or sharing about our industry insights or startup journey during various events. It is an effective and low cost publicity for the company. And it's the equivalent of helping your company stand on the "high ground" to be discovered by people who are genuinely interested in your business and resonate with your dreams.

You'll find that there are many people who want to join your team not because of money, but because of the recognition for what you do. An effective method is that you stand at the "Top" to make it easier for them to see and find you.

 So, you spotted talents and started to talk to them on different medium – mostly through Wechat in China. How to test them? How to evaluate their hard and soft skills? How to evaluate their potential to grow? Many CEOs tend to focus on how on well candidates have done in the past. Unfortunately for us working in a nascent industry, the past is a poor indicator of the future. So here is our own process.

We will let the candidate to do a test before interview, with a maximum a 3 days to complete it. The question are designed to test the way a candidate finds answers, especially on new technologies he/she might not be familiar with. Some questions are mandatory and other are optional in order to provide the flexibility to test current skills and future ones.

If a candidate is less competent, in some ways not particularly fit with the company at the moment, but has the potential to improve through hard work and fast learning, then that person is certainly a good fit to startups. Because more than 50% of them are aware of their own shortcomings and problems, they tend to be more concerned about their future development and learning opportunities. They may not be stars right now, but have the potential to become one!

If he/she is a quick learner, or if he/she has successfully solved a problem through his/her own efforts, then such a person may be a talent in the future even if he /she is not the best at his/her job now.

Last but not least, we found out that five most frequently used labels of startups that receive high attention are stock options, quality product or projects, wide development space, large number of talents and powerful shareholders. Of the positions put up by early-stage startups with fewer than 100 employees, 7.6% promised stock options -- not as crazy as you might think. The days of attracting talent on pay and benefits alone are over. Good company atmosphere and development space are what millennial job seekers value the most.


Team building for July

We are  Creative,Original,Open-minded,Learning,Happy,Open,Bold,Optimistic !We are COOLHOBO!

 After speaking on the phone, chatting on WeChat and reviewing the tests, we usually eliminate over 80% of the applicants. This might seem a high number but usually we found out that we need to limit the number of face-to-face interviews for obvious time considerations.

The last part our process is the face-to-face interview, probably the most important and yet most difficult part. We usually spend one to two hours with each candidates, digging as deep as possible to find out what are their true motivations. Are they here for the money? For the industry? For the product? For the team? Do they want to be recognized as experts? As manager? Do they want to use Coolhobo as a trampoline before applying to a large corporation? Or before setting up their own business? Are they willing to commit to the high speed development and sacrifices required in startups? What are their familial situation? Plans to leave Shenzhen soon or settling here for the long-term?

Over the time, we’ve refined the questions and found out which ones to ask to make sure they are not giving us the “PR” answers. The mentality fit is as important as hard skills, but we only have a few hours to figure out if they could be a match. So far, we are very happy with each team member, so even though this is an on-going process and will still evolve, it works for now! 

If you and people you know who wants to join an innovative AR startup like us, please feel free to contact us or check out our job openings here.