People often say that a startup is only as good as the people behind it. While this may be a cliche, there’s some truth to it. Companies with employees who can create the best products, design the most intuitive interfaces, and close the most significant deals or partnerships almost always wind up reshaping their industries.
Nearly all startups experience challenges filling all open roles with high-quality candidates who have the right experience. The average time to hire software engineers is over 35 days. And in a field like health tech with unique regulatory issues and notoriously long sales cycle to contend with, nascent startups can encounter additional problems when it comes to hiring.
Health tech startups often need to find employees with higher levels of education or particular sets of skills or work history, so the standard recruiting channels may not be sufficient. While a post to Indeed.com might work for companies looking to hire an entry-level developer or sales development representative, it likely won’t work as well for a business that wants to bring on an electrical engineer with 10+ years of experience to design medical equipment.
To find the most qualified potential employees as a health care startup, you should look beyond the usual job boards and recruiting software like Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter. Here are some tactics and sources for finding the best people to help you build a transformative digital health business.
Health Tech Job Boards
Posting open positions to job boards like the ones found on Indeed, Glassdoor, and even Product Hunt has always been a tried and true way for startups and larger companies to find candidates. But it is sometimes more effective to seek out industry-specific job boards to find the people deep experience and passion for particular industries.
If you run a health tech startup that is solving complicated medical problems, at some point, you will probably need employees with 10+ years of experience or professionals who are so eager to fix certain aspects of health care that they’ll work 100+ hour weeks to make that happen.
Job boards that are only for digital health positions and candidates could be the place where you find your next great hire.
Here’s a list of the best health tech job boards available to you as a founder:
This group is by no means an exhaustive set of health tech job boards. But, you can use these websites as an additional source of leads for your startup’s open positions.
Sponsor Health Tech Meetups
There are hundreds of med tech Meetups that happen every month around the world. People who are enthusiastic about health and technology attend these events to network and meet with like-minded individuals. These events can be a great way to meet potential future employees.
While you can’t travel to all of these Meetups or meet most of the attendees at each one, you should look at sponsoring some of them as a way to create interest in your company’s jobs.
The cost of sponsoring Meetups can often be quite low. Whereas conferences charge sponsors thousands of dollars to have their name prominently displayed to attendees, many Meetup organizers will be grateful for your company to cover the cost of food and drinks at their events. For small to moderate-size Meetups, this means a sponsorship may cost $250 - $500.
To find events to sponsor, go to Meetup.com and search for health tech or digital health Meetups in your city. From there, reach out to one or more of the organizers for a Meetup you like to express your company’s interest in sponsoring food and drinks at it and find out what this would cost.
When reaching out to Meetup organizers about sponsorships, be upfront about what you’re looking for from the event. In the process of lining up a Meetup sponsorship, there are several ways you can promote your startup’s jobs to guests.
As a sponsor of the Meetup, you can ask the host to provide some information about your company and its open positions to attendees.
Or, you can ask the Meetup’s organizers to distribute to visitors well-designed flyers about your startup and the most important jobs you need to fill. As another part of the sponsorship, you could ask the organizers if they will include links to your startup and a few of your urgent job openings in their event’s email newsletter.
Whatever method you use to promote your health tech startup’s jobs at a Meetup, make sure that you and the organizers of it are entirely clear on the expectations for what you’ll each be providing via the sponsorship.
Advertise on Niche Health Tech Blogs with Information about Key Positions
If you truly need to hire for a crucial job, you can always contemplate sponsoring a sizeable med-tech newsletter or blog with information about the role. MedCity News, MobiHealthNews, and other significant publications will be happy to have your business.
That said, most startups likely don’t have the budget for or the interest in spending thousands of dollars on sponsoring a significant digital health newsletter/blog with a link to one job listing.
However, digital health startups might consider advertising their most pressing open job listings on smaller health tech blogs or newsletters. A newsletter sponsorship or display ad on a blog with less traffic and notoriety might only run $50 to a few hundred dollars.
With more affordable rates and exposure to an audience interested in health tech, you will likely find candidates via these niche publications. To inquire about sponsorships on this type of site, reach out to the owner or editor of them with your interest and desire to learn more about their advertising rates.
Once you and the owner of the site you’re sponsoring agree on the rate and the creative/copy for the advertisement, you can test its effectiveness for your business.
A few of the smaller health tech publications and newsletters you can consider contacting to advertise your open jobs include:
Poach Qualified Candidates from Large Companies
Since the dawn of time, tech startups and other young businesses have poached candidates from enterprise companies as a way to get the best talent.
Large companies may not appreciate when upstarts and competitors poach their employees, but they recognize its effectiveness as a method for finding workers. You only need to look back at how Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe paid $415M to settle a class-action lawsuit related to their illegal anti-poaching agreement to understand the problem that this practice causes for large businesses.
If your digital health startup needs to hire for prominent roles, you should look at poaching as one way to do it. Some of the most successful companies in the world have used poaching as a way to build out their initial team and find critical employees as they scaled. For example, Amazon poached principal Walmart employees back in its early days to build out its technical operations.
With all of this in mind, here are several tips and things to examine when poaching other businesses’ employees:
1. Consider the length and breadth of any non-compete or non-disclosure agreements the employee(s) you’re looking to poach may have signed. In today’s day and age, most businesses have their workers sign strict non-compete and non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from working for competitors in the same or similar industries for a certain period. If your company operates in a different industry or market than your new hire’s old employer, then you should be fine. When thinking about this issue, you or your newly poached employee don’t want to end up in a situation like the one in which IBM sued its former VP of Human Resources for leaving to take a similar position at Microsoft.
2. Understand the needs of the employee you’re poaching and make a compelling offer. Changing jobs is usually stressful for everyone, including experienced executives. Leaving a safe position at Epic Systems or Aetna for the risks that a startup presents can add another layer of stress to the decision. For these reasons, you need to understand the specific needs of the person you’re looking to poach while creating an intriguing compensation package.
ook to see if the candidate in question wants to move or wants to spend more time with family. For example, if you know a candidate has these needs, you can position your startup as a chance to explore a new location while giving one to two work from home days each week for added flexibility.
By building relationships with people who you might like to hire away from other companies, you can learn about specific perks or benefits that will be persuasive for them.
As well, when crafting an offer to an employee you’d like to poach, you need to ponder compensation. Because your startup may not have the ability to pay an experienced candidate as much money as their current employer, think long and hard about the equity or stock options you provide as a part of their employment agreement. For positions and hires that will likely make or break your business, think about as generous as possible when it comes to equity.
3. Take a long-term view and respect the decision of employees who don’t want to be poached. When reaching out to people you’d like to poach, some of them won’t have any interest in your proposition. In these situations, always respect the decision of the person you wanted to add to your team. Sometimes, a person will reject your company’s interest outright. Other times, they will get to know you and your business before deciding that a shift isn’t right for them.
In either case, by respecting the decision someone’s decision to not work with your company, you leave the door open for continuing to build a relationship with them that might be mutually beneficial down the road.
As well, keep in mind that poaching employees can take a long time. You probably want to go from initial outreach to a signed offer letter in a few weeks. But, it frequently takes much longer than this to poach an employee. Don’t rush the process of hiring another company’s employee and view it as building a relationship with them.
If you go down this more patient route, you and the person you’re poaching will both be confident in the decisions you make.
Use Your Venture Investors to Find the Right Candidates
Your venture investors have valuable connections to potential hires with years or decades of experience. Need a VP of Sales who can scale your pipeline from $5M to $100M? Or, looking for a consultant who can help with the FDA approval process?
For these types of essential roles, your VC’s should be able to put you in touch with qualified candidates from their networks. Don’t be afraid to ask the people who have invested in your company for help with hiring. After all, this will often be one of the primary value-adds that great investors provide to their portfolio.
In addition to asking for introductions to potential hires from your VC’s, you should also take advantage of the job boards that they highlight on their websites. Many experienced professionals look to great VC’s job boards as a way to find exciting jobs at high-growth startups.
While the occasional VC may not supply a job board to its portfolio, most firms will have it as a perk. For example, just a few of the health tech VC’s that feature job boards on their websites include Dreamit, Rock Health, Venrock, New Enterprise Associates, and Versant Ventures.
With the assistance of your venture investors, you will be on track to secure your next crucial team members.
Don’t Be Afraid to Buck Convention and Look Outside Your Local Area for Talent
Some startup founders detest the idea of allowing employees to work in a remote setting because they feel it detracts from their companies’ cultures. Other founders believe in the power of remote work as a way to increase productivity and attract top talent outside of the usual tech hubs like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, NYC, and Boston.
No matter how you feel about remote work, if you run a health tech startup that’s struggling to fill specific roles, you may want to look at opening up this option as a work perk.
Why is that? There are two main reasons. First, most startups don’t allow remote work, which means the companies that do offer it position themselves as flexible and reasonable employers. 24,000 startups are hiring on AngelList at the current time. However, only about 7,200 of those startups allow employees to work remotely for individual roles.
For many med-tech professionals who have 10 - 15+ years of experience, the prospect of working from home, and spending more time with family in the process, might be a deciding factor in favor of working for your startup over another company.
Second, several different high-traffic job boards only allow companies to list remote positions. And, if this Tweet is any indication, remote job boards can drive hundreds of applications to a single job.
Some of the job boards that allow listings exclusively for remote positions include:
You may need to consider several factors when deciding if you'd like to allow remote employees at your startup. But, keep in mind that giving employees the opportunity to work remotely is an excellent source of additional talented candidates.
Putting It All Together
There is a good chance you will encounter obstacles when filling specific jobs as a health tech startup founder. But, with digital health job boards, the sponsorship of relevant Meetups or industry blogs, poaching other companies’ senior employees, asking your venture investors for introductions to talent, and the consideration of allowing remote employees, you should begin to hire for critical positions more quickly.
When thinking about hiring and where to find stellar employees with health care experience, don’t forget to mull over the value and skills that team members without a background in the industry can bring.
To illustrate this point, MedStack Co-Founder and CEO Balaji Gopalan had this to say: “By bringing in some leaders who have a proven track record in technology development for other industries, and pairing them with advisory boards, mentors and investors who have strong health care policy and industry experience, startups can build valuable solutions with rich, engaging workflows.”