Compete on culture rather than salary, tech start-ups told

culture, News, Compete on culture rather than salary, tech start-ups told

It’s not about the money, it’s about the company culture fit. Tech start-ups told they should focus on promoting culture, as communication and teamwork is paramount to start-up success.

  • Almost all (99%) of tech start-up and scale-ups believe it is important to ensure a new hire is a good fit for their business and its culture
  • 84% say that they would not hire someone who is a poor fit, even if they have all the required technical and soft skills
  • The ability to work as part of a team is the most important factor for almost two thirds (65%) of employers at tech start-ups and scale-ups, according to the Hays Tech Start Up 2019 report created in partnership with Empact Ventures

Good employee ‘fit’ is vital at tech start-up and scale-ups, according to findings from the Hays Tech Start-Up 2019 report. Out of 114 founders and employers who work at tech start-ups and scale-ups across the UK and Ireland, almost all (99%) believe it is important to ensure a new hire is a good fit for their business and its culture. More than four in five (84%) say that they would not hire someone who is a poor fit even if they possess all the technical and soft skills required for a role.

Teamwork most important factor for cultural fit

When asked what being a good fit at a tech start-up or scale-up entails, being able to work as part of a team is the most important factor for almost two thirds (65%). Following this is being able to work independently (64%) and being passionate about the product/service (59%).

In keeping with the importance placed on good fit, candidates with start-up experience are preferred. 51% of employers say it is somewhat important to hire someone with prior experience working at a start-up, and 19% say it is very important.


“The journey from tech startup to scaleup often brings with it many challenges at each stage to be overcome. The right approach to addressing them can speed up the pace at which you scale and contribute to your success. We are delighted to have co-designed this report with Hays to support founders to recruit the right co-founders, team and advisors.”

Kosta Mavroulakis, Founder & CEO, Empact Ventures

Fit only assessed via basic channels

While they know fit is important, many tech start-up and scale-up employers are still using limited recruitment processes to measure it. The most commonly cited actions tech start-ups and scale-ups undergo to assess if someone is a good fit for their business and its culture include reviewing a candidate’s CV (by 75% of employers), bringing a candidate in to meet the whole team (74%), conducting two or more interviews (64%) and reviewing and researching their online profile including social media accounts (56%).

Just (25%) bring candidates to social occasions with the rest of the team, 10% conduct behavioural or psychometric testing and just 5% use an in-house assessment centre.

Compete on culture rather than salary

Findings reveal that start-up and scale-up employers believe that salaries are not a key driver for candidates. When asked why people are attracted to join their organisation, most tech start-up and scale-up employers (74%) cite a belief in the product or service their organisation offers, and only 17% cite their salary and bonus offerings. Even fewer (9%) say their benefits offering.

When it comes to competing against more established organisations for talent, culture is key. Promoting company culture should be a focus for employers throughout the recruitment process, from job adverts through to interviews and onboarding. 89% of employers at tech start-ups and scale-ups offer flexible working options, which should be pushed as a huge selling factor for tech startups.


James Milligan, Director of Hays Digital Technology, comments: “Employing people who are a good fit is, quite rightly, being prioritised by most tech start-up employers. Employers are encouraged to assess candidates for traits such as ability to work well in a team, take on many roles and responsibilities, proactivity, passion and being a fast to increase the likelihood of them fitting in with the company culture in the long term.

A CV alone is unlikely to give a true indication of whether a candidate is a good match for something as nuanced as workplace culture, nor is trawling through social media accounts. Ensure you have a written set of company values and that these are clearly communicated on your company website, in job ads and throughout the interview process.”

Valentin Vincedon, Product Leader at checkout.com, comments: “When seeking to attract people who will be a great fit for your business, focus on the wider benefits of working at a start-up as opposed to a more established business, such as the freedom to prioritise your own work.”

Amelia Nicholls, Chief of Staff at digital bank Bó, comments: “Even when building at speed and under pressure to fill urgent skills gaps, remember the importance of diversity when hiring and ensure that candidates are still a good cultural match and understand your long-term vision.”


culture, News, Compete on culture rather than salary, tech start-ups told

Matthew Hughes

Editor in Chief at Top Business Tech, digital marketing lecturer, and previously creative director at Aurora Demand. A fan of all things marketing, tech and mindful.