Adapting Hiring Practices in Uncertain Times: A Guide for Start-ups With Tom Greenwood

Read our comprehensive article based on an interview with start-up advisory expert Tom Greenwood. Learn how to tackle high turnover rates, understand the advantages and disadvantages of various hiring strategies, identify common recruitment mistakes, and discover effective tips to ensure your start-up’s success.

Feb 05, 2024

Hiring practices for start-ups are the cornerstone of their success. The emphasis is not just on filling positions but on identifying individuals who bring their passion and dedication to the company’s mission.

However, navigating the hiring process becomes challenging during uncertain times, affecting the ability of businesses to attract and retain the right talent.

Together with Tom Greenwood, a GTM sales and start-up adviser, Computools has collaborated on an article designed to help new start-ups navigate economic instabilities and adopt effective hiring practices to find tech talents.

About Tom: Renowned for his expertise in recruitment, built over 16 years, Tom offers valuable insights into work structures and dynamics.

Serving as a director of The Nudge Group, a recruitment agency specialising in start-ups and scale-ups, he plays a key role in aiding founders/start-ups to discover exceptional talent around the world.

Beyond his advisory role, Tom contributes to the entrepreneurial landscape, partnering with industry leaders and working with a vast network of investment groups.

This article comprehensively explores the hiring landscape, covering everything from the benefits of outsourcing software engineers to expert tips on how to hire employees for start-ups.

The Impact of the Macro Environment on the Start-up Landscape

During the initial stages of growth, every decision carries weight, and one of the most important for the leadership team is hiring. This process involves more than a financial commitment; it requires dedicating time to help new employees understand the business, its customers,and the company culture.

Despite high aspirations, the stark reality is that only 1% of start-ups achieve unicorn status, while up to 90% face failure. Numerous factors contribute to this rate, with poor hiring practices standing out as a primary reason, particularly during periods of economic instability.

Statistics for startups

Our expert, Tom, states that as a start-up recruiter, his work is profoundly influenced by the broader macroeconomic environment. Recruiters must navigate through various factors that shape the hiring landscape, adapting their strategies to these dynamic elements.

Here are some key macro elements affecting the hiring processes.

In terms of economic conditions, Tom is attuned to the ebb and flow of talent availability. During economic downturns, a surplus of candidates might be available, while in thriving economies, attracting top talent becomes more competitive.

Technological advancements are also pivotal in the recruiter’s role. Staying updated on recruitment tools and innovations is essential for sourcing, screening and engaging with candidates efficiently.

Sociocultural trends guide Tom’s approach to hiring. Understanding evolving preferences, such as the rise of remote work, helps in tailoring strategies to meet the expectations of both candidates and clients.

Political and legal influences directly impact recruitment processes. Adhering to changing labour laws and regulations is not just a legal requirement but a vital aspect of maintaining trust with clients and candidates.

Environmental considerations play a role in candidate preferences. Start-ups with eco-friendly initiatives may be more appealing, and aligning with such values becomes a factor in the recruitment process.

Tom also says that globalisation requires the consideration of diversity and cultural awareness. As start-ups expand globally, understanding the nuances of different markets is crucial for sourcing candidates that align with both the role and the organisational culture.

Adapting to crises, such as the recent pandemic, is a core competency for Tom. The ability to pivot recruitment strategies quickly in response to a changing environment is vital for success.

At its core, the role of a start-up recruiter involves remaining agile and responsive to the ever-changing macroeconomic environment. By doing so, they can position start-ups to attract and retain the right talent for sustained growth.

Effective Hiring Practices for Start-ups in Fluctuating Economies

Crafting a recruitment strategy doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all solution, but there are essential hiring practices for start-ups that can guide founders through preparing for uncertainties and securing the best talent.

Tom has shared a detailed step-by-step guide designed to help young businesses navigate the hiring process with confidence.

Step 1: clearly define roles and requirements

Clearly outline the roles you need to fill and the skills and qualifications required for each position.

Step 2: utilise cost-effective recruitment channels

Leverage cost-effective recruitment channels such as job boards, social media and your company website.

Step 3: build an employer brand

Develop a positive company brand to attract top talent. Showcase the start-up’s culture, values and mission on your website and social media.

Step 4: tap into your network

Utilise your personal and professional network for referrals. Employee referrals can be a cost-effective and efficient way to find qualified candidates.

Step 5: implement internship programmes

Consider implementing internship programmes. This allows you to assess potential long-term hires, and interns who have proven themselves can be a valuable addition to your team.

Step 6: embrace remote work opportunities

Remote work options expand your talent pool to a global level and can often result in cost savings compared to hiring locally.

Step 7: offer flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements can be an attractive feature for many candidates and may even allow you to hire part-time or freelance workers.

Step 8: streamline the hiring process

Simplify and expedite your hiring process to reduce costs. Lengthy and complex hiring processes can result in the loss of qualified candidates.

Step 9: implement technology solutions

Use applicant tracking systems (ATS) and other HR technologies to streamline the recruitment process. These tools can save time and resources.

Step 10: competitive compensation and benefits

While being mindful of costs, offer competitive compensation and benefits. This is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent.

Step 11: evaluate and optimise

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your hiring strategy. Analyse metrics such as time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and quality of hires. Use this data to refine and optimise your approach.

Step 12: outsource non-core functions

Consider outsourcing non-core functions, such as recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), to specialised agencies. This can be a cost-effective way to handle certain aspects of the hiring process.

Learn more about hiring practices for start-ups.

Contact us →

Key Candidate Qualities for Long-Term Start-up Success

How can founders build a team capable of navigating the challenges of a start-up? Our expert recommends focusing on the following qualities during the hiring process.

Adaptability and Resilience

As a start-up founder or team member, having a partner with adaptability and resilience is absolutely crucial in today’s context. The business landscape is dynamic, and we often face unexpected challenges. 

A partner who can quickly adapt to changes and bounce back from setbacks is invaluable. This quality not only helps us navigate uncertainties and learn from failures but also fosters innovation, creativity and a positive company culture. 

Passion and Commitment

Look for candidates who are passionate about the start-up’s mission and are committed to its long-term success.

Problem-Solving Skills

Prioritise candidates with strong problem-solving skills, able to think critically and find innovative solutions to challenges.

Ownership and Accountability

Value candidates who take ownership of their work and hold themselves accountable for results, fostering a culture of responsibility.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

Prefer candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset, willing to take risks and think beyond their specific role to contribute to the company’s growth.

Team Collaboration

Seek candidates who can collaborate effectively with others, share knowledge and contribute positively to the team culture.

Continuous Learners

Value candidates who are committed to continuous learning and personal and professional growth in response to the start-up’s evolving needs.

Strong Communication Skills

Prioritise candidates with effective communication skills, capable of articulating ideas clearly, listening actively and contributing to a positive work environment.

Customer Focus

Prioritise candidates who understand the importance of customer satisfaction and can contribute to developing products or services that meet customer needs.


Value candidates who are resourceful and can achieve goals efficiently, even in resource-constrained environments.

In-House vs Outsourcing

Start-ups, particularly those in the technology domain, often confront the decision between building an in-house team or adopting outsourcing practices.

Each approach has its own pros and cons, and perhaps a combination of both strategies is the optimal choice. Let’s analyse.

Maintaining an In-House Team


• Control and Oversight

Direct control and oversight over the entire team and its activities. This allows for better alignment with company culture and goals.

• Team Integration

In-house teams tend to have a stronger sense of unity and collaboration, fostering better communication and synergy among team members.

• Skill Development

Opportunities for skill development and career growth within the company. In-house teams provide a platform for employees to enhance their skills and contribute to the company’s success.

• Company Loyalty

Higher levels of loyalty and commitment from in-house employees who may identify more closely with the company’s mission and values.

• Immediate Response

Faster response times and more immediate availability, which can be crucial for rapidly changing project requirements.


• Higher Costs

Generally higher operational costs, including salaries, benefits and office space. This can strain a start-up’s budget, especially in the early stages.

• Limited Specialisation

Limited access to specialised skills. In-house teams may not have the same depth of expertise as external specialists or agencies.

• Scaling Challenges

Challenges in quickly scaling the team up or down based on project needs. Hiring and training processes may slow down response times.

• Risk of Skill Gaps

The risk of skill gaps within the team, especially if the company operates in a rapidly evolving industry that requires diverse expertise.

• Management Responsibility

The responsibility of managing HR tasks, including employee performance, motivation and conflict resolution, falls on the company.



• Cost Savings

Potential cost savings, as outsourcing allows access to skilled professionals without the need for full-time salaries, benefits and office space.

• Specialised Expertise

Access to a broad range of specialised skills and expertise. Outsourcing firms often have professionals with diverse experiences, making them well-equipped for specific tasks.

• Scalability

Greater flexibility in scaling resources up or down based on project requirements. This agility is particularly beneficial for start-ups dealing with variable workloads.

• Focus on Core Competencies

Allows the company to focus on its core competencies while leaving non-core functions to external specialists.

• Global Talent Pool

Access to a global talent pool, enabling the selection of the best-fit professionals regardless of their physical location.


• Communication Challenges

Potential communication challenges, especially if there are time zone differences or language barriers between the in-house team and the outsourced professionals.

• Loss of Control

Less direct control and oversight over the outsourced team. This can lead to concerns about quality, security and adherence to company standards.

• Dependency on Vendor

Dependency on the reliability and performance of the outsourcing vendor. Any issues on their end can directly impact the company’s operations.

• Confidentiality Concerns

Concerns about data security and confidentiality, especially when dealing with sensitive information that is shared with an external entity.

• Cultural Differences

Potential cultural differences that may affect collaboration and understanding between the in-house team and the outsourced professionals.

Ultimately, the decision between maintaining an in-house team and outsourcing depends on the specific needs, goals and resources of the start-up. Some companies find a hybrid approach, combining in-house talent with strategic outsourcing, to be the most effective solution.

Remote vs On-Site Teams

Adapting to evolving times requires adjusting our approaches. Just five years ago, remote working was a relatively new concept.

However, as per Forbes Advisory, currently, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, and an additional 28.2% follow a hybrid model. Let’s explore an expert opinion on this significant shift.

Remote Teams Benefits 

• Cost Savings

Remote teams can lead to significant cost savings for companies, as there is no need for physical office space, utilities and associated expenses.

• Access to Global Talent

Remote work enables companies to tap into a global talent pool, accessing skilled professionals regardless of geographical location.

• Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Remote work offers flexibility for employees to manage their work schedules, promoting a better work-life balance and enhancing job satisfaction.

• Productivity Gains

Many employees report increased productivity when working remotely due to fewer distractions and a personalised work environment.

• Disaster Preparedness

Remote work provides a level of disaster preparedness, as teams can continue working during natural disasters, health crises or other emergencies.

On-Site Teams Benefits

• Collaboration and Communication

Physical proximity fosters spontaneous collaboration and quick communication, leading to faster decision-making and problem-solving.

• Company Culture and Team Building

Having employees work in the same location helps build and maintain a strong company culture. Face-to-face interactions and shared experiences contribute to a sense of unity.

• Security and Confidentiality

On-site work provides enhanced security measures for handling sensitive information, with physical office spaces having secure infrastructure against data breaches.

• Training and Mentorship

Training and mentorship programmes are more easily facilitated on site, with new employees benefitting from direct interactions with experienced team members and managers.

• Monitoring and Accountability

On-site work allows for easier monitoring of employee performance and accountability. Managers can observe work habits, offer immediate feedback and address issues promptly.

Hybrid Approach Benefits

A hybrid approach aims to capture the benefits of both models, providing flexibility for employees while maintaining some level of in-person collaboration. There are some considerations for the current economic climate.

• Employee Preferences

Many employees now prefer some level of remote work. Companies that accommodate these preferences may have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent.

• Cost Flexibility

In uncertain economic times, the ability to scale costs based on business needs becomes crucial. Remote work provides flexibility in managing overhead costs.

• Adaptability to Changing Circumstances

Remote work allows companies to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, such as public health crises or economic downturns, without major disruptions to operations.

In summary, the choice between remote and on-site teams depends on the specific needs and circumstances of a business. Many companies are finding success in adopting a hybrid model that allows for flexibility and harnesses the benefits of both remote and on-site work.

Long-Term vs Short-Term Approaches

For a start-up recruiter or founder navigating economic instability, it’s crucial to strike a balance between short-term and long-term hiring strategies.

1) In the short term, prioritise flexibility by considering temporary or contract hires to meet immediate project needs. Look for candidates with specific, immediately applicable skills and explore remote work options for cost control.

2) For long-term stability, the key lies in adaptability, continuous assessment and a strategic approach to both immediate needs and sustained growth. 

Expert’s recommendations

Align hiring decisions with the start-up’s strategic goals.

Invest in talent development, identifying individuals who can grow with the company. Prioritise cultural fit and consider leadership potential within the organisation. 

Regularly evaluate economic conditions, build a talent pipeline and maintain a strong financial foundation. 

Maintain transparent communication with the team to foster a sense of stability. 

The Importance of Cultural Fit 

Even when working with highly skilled professionals, challenges may arise if there’s a lack of compatibility between teams.

Here’s Tom’s perspective on the significance of cultural fit:

From my perspective, cultural fit is of utmost importance in the hiring process for startups. It ensures that employees share the core values and vision of the company, fostering a positive work environment, team cohesion, and high levels of employee engagement. This alignment contributes to lower turnover rates, promotes adaptability and innovation, and enhances customer relations. It also speeds up the onboarding process and reflects the brand identity externally. In essence, finding individuals who align with the startup’s culture is important for building a unified, productive, and successful team.

Common Mistakes in Start-up Hiring

As newcomers to the business world, start-up founders often make mistakes they might not be aware of. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common hiring mistakes to avoid.

1. Hiring for Hard Skills Alone

Focusing solely on technical skills without considering cultural fit or a candidate’s ability to adapt to the start-up’s dynamic environment can lead to mismatches.

2. Rushing the Hiring Process

Pressures to quickly fill a position can lead to hasty decisions. Rushed hires may not be the best long-term fit, and the process may overlook crucial aspects of a candidate’s suitability.

3. Lack of Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Failing to clearly define roles and responsibilities for a new hire can lead to confusion and inefficiencies. It’s essential to have a well-defined job description and expectations.

4. Underestimating the Importance of Diversity

Neglecting diversity in hiring can limit perspectives and hinder innovation. A diverse team brings varied experiences and insights, contributing to a more robust and creative work environment.

5. Not Seeking Employee Input

Disregarding the input of existing team members in the hiring process can lead to a lack of team cohesion. Involving current employees in interviews or decision-making can help ensure a good cultural fit.

6. Failure to Check References

Skipping reference checks can be a critical mistake. Checking a candidate’s past performance and experiences provides valuable insights into their potential fit for the role.

7. Inadequate Onboarding Processes

Neglecting a proper onboarding process can hinder a new hire’s integration into the team and the understanding of the company culture and goals.

8. Being Unrealistic About Budgets

Setting unrealistic salary expectations or failing to consider the budget constraints of the start-up can lead to financial strain and potential dissatisfaction among team members.

9. Ignoring Red Flags

Dismissing warning signs during the interview process or overlooking discrepancies in a candidate’s background can lead to hiring the wrong person for the role.

10. Not Leveraging Networks

Overlooking personal and professional networks can limit the pool of potential candidates. Utilising networks can lead to the discovery of individuals with the right skills and cultural fit.

Not having a plan in hiring for start-ups

How Does Subject Matter Expertise Benefit Start-ups?

Addressing challenges becomes more manageable when tackled collaboratively.

Outsourcing tasks or augmenting in-house teams with subject matter experts can significantly enhance the likelihood of success for start-ups, for the following reasons:

• Guidance and Mentorship

Subject matter expert partners can provide valuable guidance and mentorship, helping start-ups navigate challenges with insights gained from their experience.

• Access to Specialised Knowledge

Start-ups can tap into the specialised knowledge and skills of industry experts, accelerating their learning curve and avoiding potential pitfalls.

• Networking Opportunities

Collaboration opens doors to industry-specific networks, facilitating connections with key players, potential clients and strategic partners.

• Credibility and Trust

Partnering with established industry players lends credibility to start-ups, fostering trust among customers, investors and other stakeholders.

• Resource Sharing

Start-ups may gain access to resources such as technology, facilities or research capabilities that are otherwise challenging to acquire independently.

• Market Insights

Subject matter experts bring deep market insights, helping start-ups understand trends, customer needs and potential opportunities for innovation.

• Risk Mitigation

Sharing expertise with established companies can help start-ups mitigate risks by learning from the experiences and challenges faced by industry veterans.

• Adaptation to Market Changes

Industry experts can assist start-ups in adapting swiftly to market changes, providing guidance on how to pivot or adjust strategies during uncertain times.

• Access to Funding

A collaboration with a subject matter expert can enhance a start-up’s credibility in the eyes of potential investors, making it more attractive for funding opportunities.

• Brand Exposure

Partnering with established companies increases a start-up’s visibility, providing opportunities for exposure and brand recognition within the industry.

• Market Validation

Collaboration with subject matter experts serves as a form of market validation, signalling to customers and investors that the start-up’s products or services have industry acceptance.

Adapting in Difficult Times: Success Story

As a seasoned expert in crisis management, Tom has a track record of assisting businesses in overcoming challenging times. He shared with us a success story about a thriving UK pharmacy successfully adapting to a recent lockdown.

Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s largest pharmacy faced a pressing need to adapt its operations swiftly. With lockdowns and safety concerns impacting traditional in-store services, the pharmacy recognised the urgency to ensure timely and safe medication delivery to individuals across the country.

Challenges Faced

Traditional in-store services disrupted by lockdowns.

Increased demand for medication delivery due to safety concerns.

Need for a rapid response to meet evolving customer needs.

Adaptations Made

1. Establishment of Remote Pods

The pharmacy swiftly devised a groundbreaking strategy – the establishment of remote pods strategically located across the UK. These pods acted as central hubs for medication preparation and dispatch, ensuring a quick and efficient response to customer orders.

2. Technology Integration

To support the remote pods, the pharmacy embraced technology to streamline operations. Automated prescription processing systems and advanced inventory management tools were implemented to enhance accuracy and speed in medication dispensing.

3. Remote Workforce Expansion

Recognising the need for a skilled workforce to manage the remote pods, the pharmacy adapted its hiring strategy. Leveraging remote work capabilities, the hiring process was expanded beyond localities, enabling the recruitment of qualified professionals from various regions.

4. Training and Onboarding Innovations

Given the urgency, traditional onboarding processes were revamped. The pharmacy implemented virtual training programmes to efficiently bring new hires up to speed on the unique challenges of remote pod operations and to ensure adherence to safety protocols.

5. Safety Measures Emphasised

As safety was paramount, the pharmacy implemented rigorous safety measures at the remote pods. Staff members were provided with protective gear, and strict hygiene protocols were established to safeguard both employees and customers.


1. Timely and Safe Medication Delivery

The remote pods enabled the pharmacy to maintain a consistent and timely medication delivery service, meeting the heightened demands during the pandemic.

2. Operational Efficiency

Technology integration and strategic hiring contributed to enhanced operational efficiency. Medication processing times were reduced, and accuracy in order fulfilment was significantly improved.

3. Adaptability and Resilience

The pharmacy’s ability to swiftly adapt its operations showcased a remarkable level of adaptability and resilience. The remote pod model proved to be a sustainable solution beyond the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.

4. Positive Customer Feedback

Customers appreciated the pharmacy’s commitment to safety and efficiency. Positive feedback highlighted the importance of the adapted strategy in ensuring uninterrupted access to essential medications.

In conclusion, the UK’s largest pharmacy successfully navigated the challenges of the pandemic by redefining its hiring strategy and establishing remote pods. This adaptive approach not only addressed the immediate needs of the situation but also laid the foundation for a more resilient and efficient operational model.

Addressing High Turnover Rates in Start-ups

Dealing with the turnover of employees in start-ups is a critical task, especially considering the uncertainties in the overall business environment. Let’s explore some expert strategies to tackle this challenge.

Dealing with the turnover of employees in start-ups is a critical task, especially considering the uncertainties in the overall business environment. Let’s explore some expert strategies to tackle this challenge.

• Define and Communicate Culture

Articulate your company’s values and culture to attract individuals who align with your mission.

• Employee Testimonials

Showcase positive employee experiences through testimonials and highlight the unique aspects of your workplace.

• Continuous Employer Branding

Regularly update and reinforce your employer brand through social media, company website and other relevant channels.

• Structured Onboarding Programme

Implement a well-structured onboarding programme to acclimatise new hires efficiently and help them integrate into the company culture.

• Assigned Mentors

Assign mentors to new employees to provide guidance and support, aiding their transition into the organisation.

• Feedback Mechanism

Establish a feedback mechanism during the onboarding process to address concerns promptly and ensure a positive experience.

• Personalised Development Plans

Tailor development plans to individual employees’ career goals, fostering a sense of growth and progression.

• Continuous Learning Opportunities

Provide ongoing learning opportunities, including training sessions, workshops and access to educational resources.

• Feedback and Recognition

Regularly provide constructive feedback and recognition to acknowledge and motivate employees, reinforcing a positive work environment.

Future of Start-up Hiring

Predicting the future of any industry is a challenging task, particularly with the unpredictability of external factors.

This is Tom’s perspective on the future of start-up hiring:

This is a challenging question to answer. I believe AI will undoubtedly begin to have an impact, hopefully serving as a time-saver in the screening of talent. I also hope that more startups will recognise the value of seeking expert assistance in their business growth, understanding the importance of getting it right the first time.


As you can see, there are many factors to think about when implementing hiring practices for start-ups. However, with the right expertise and by partnering with suitable advisory and technology experts, overcoming challenges becomes feasible.

The Computools team appreciates Tom for sharing his industry knowledge. We hope entrepreneurs find valuable tips in this article to help them sustain the growth and success of their start-ups.

To explore how our expertise can enhance your start-up’s success, contact us via email at


Clients trust us for our clarity, structure, high performance and intuitive functionality across every stage of creating Software Solutions.

Contact Us

Get in touch to discuss your project or service expectations. Simply fill in the form below or send us an e-mail to

Thank you for your message!

Your request will be carefully researched by our experts. We will get in touch with you within one business day.

Related Articles

Explore all Articles

Thank you for your message!

Your request will be carefully researched by our experts. We will get in touch with you within one business day.