The Top 3 Prospects in Startups Aren't Always The Best

By Quintin Ford

Share on: 

Now I’ve previously warned you about targeting small companies and startups. But...If you happen to know of a small company that is using recruiters or has a budget for recruitment, you’ll have a few options. First we'll cover the top 3 most effective prospects to hit and then explain where your other opportunities lie. 

The Top 3 Prospects In Startups and Small Companies

1) The Chief Executive Officer

The CEO is always a #1 target because they will always have the power to say yes and sign a contract. They won’t need to ask permission to anyone to make the decision to work with you. Also, a CEO at a small company is usually young or doing this for the first time. Typically a startup CEO is much more open to a conversation than you would think. Don’t let the CEO title scare you. In many cases CEO can stand for, "I started a company, got funding and don’t know wtf I’m doing, so please teach me about recruitment because I didn’t even know I could outsource that."

2) The Founders and Co-Founders

When you’re targeting a Co-Founder you’re just a bit off from reaching the decision maker. A Co-Founder can make a powerful decision but it’s sort of like dealing with a husband and wife team. They usually need to talk things over and discuss your offering with other founders and team members. It’s not a bad option it’s just not the best option unless it's your only option.

3) The Chief Operations Officer

If you have the option to target a COO you might be better off than working directly with the CEO. Sometimes CEO’s are too busy to deal with you, the annoying recruiter.A Chief Operations Officer is usually hired to handle day to day operations and in a startup, that could include hiring. I have experienced many startup COO’s that are able to sign recruitment contracts and hire a recruiter without approval from the CEO. The COO is usually trusted to make good decisions.

Listed above are the three major “power” positions in a smaller company. If you convince them that you are a worthy recruiter, they can sign a contract and pass you over to the person who is actually hiring for the role. This is a top down approach. The upper management can always tell their employees what outside vendors to work with. 


Other Prospect Opportunities At Small Companies

Find out how many people are working in the company your targeting and who they are. LinkedIn is a great tool to see who’s who. First what you’ll do is search for the company you’re looking for and then you’ll see an option that will display people listed at the company. Look at all the job titles and get a feel for the company structure.Understand all the different people in the company and analyze their titles, understand what they do and what “power” they have.

You must also factor in what position the company is looking to hire and what positions you're able to fill. For example, if you specialize in recruiting software engineers or the company is looking for software engineers, the Senior Software Engineer at the company might be someone to target. In many cases a small startup will have their Senior Software Engineer recruit for and interview other software engineers to hire. 

Similarly, if a small company is looking to hire an office manager and they currently have an Executive Assistant, it might be a good idea to target the Executive Assistant.The Executive Assistant might be overworked and assigned the task of finding extra help in the form of a office manager.  

In small companies I'll look for people with operations, human resources or recruiter titles and backgrounds. I'll also look for people with titles most relevant to the open job. I've found that with a little creativity I can find who would be most likely to be hiring for each role. 

Besides targeting the obvious top three prospects, I would encourage you to get creative when it comes to targeting prospects at small companies. Analyze all the roles in the company and try to understand from a practical standpoint, how things might be working in that particular company. An office manager might be hired by the executive assistant to help relieve office duties. A software engineer might be hired by the Senior Software Engineer who is growing his department, a COO might be hiring an administrative assistant to help with operations. In a startup or small company everyone is contributing to all aspects of the company so be mindful of the crossover and keep your eyes open for opportunity.


I'd love to hear from you! Any tips, comments or questions are welcomed. 

This article was written by Quintin Ford, a recruitment entrepreneur located in Playa Vista, CA. Quintin is the Founder of OCEAN | STREET  & Co-Founder at knw agency, avid blogger and social media guru. Learn more about Quintin on LinkedIn.  - To attend any workshops, speeches or amazing events please check out


The kind of stuff that Social Hire do...

The Social Hire team don't just do social media.

What the Social Hire gang loves is making a difference for our clients, and we don't want to waste your, or our resources on campaigns that aren't right for your organisation, if it doesn't get your organisation the difference you need - we prefer a better approach. When your business utilises social media management, Social Hire get your brand the exposure it needs and offer your business the lift it needs to improve.

The social media marketing team in our company are the best in the business at helping our partners enhance their online marketing. We create and implement original social media marketing plans that help our customers accomplish their organisational objectives and build up their online footprint.

We're an organisation that helps our clients boost their social media presence by providing social media marketing on a monthly basis.

You might like these blog posts 3 of The Most Compelling Social Selling How To Videos, 7 Signs You’re Ready to Hire a New Team Member, How to Leverage Visuals When Selling on Instagram + Tools to Use, and How to Choose the Best Social Influencer Marketing Agency.

  Back to Small Business blogs