There are a record number of unicorns, but what does it mean for tech recruitment? — Talent Works International

Talent Works
6 min readJan 26, 2022

According to Sifted, Europe currently has almost four times as many unicorns as it did this time last year. 2021 was a record year for unicorns, especially in the UK, as 25% of the country’s Unicorns were founded in the last 12 months. As you probably know, a unicorn is a term used in the venture capital industry to define a privately held startup worth over $1 billion. So, the fact that the startup and scaleup space is seeing more of these than ever proves what an exciting time it is to be a startup right now.

However, with so many startups reaching unicorn status, there will be undeniable pressure on recruitment, HR and talent teams. As these businesses try to grow rapidly and live up to the potential given to them by their funding, they need to hire new For any scaling business, talent is the most valuable asset. Surrounding yourself with the right sort of people is vital to business success; scaling tech companies need innovators, creative thinkers and hard workers to achieve their growth plans. The talent coming into a unicorn needs to be top tier if the business is to be successful, but in a candidate-driven and ever-competitive talent market, this isn’t always possible.

The candidate-driven market means that there are more vacancies than skilled candidates. Every business, from tech giants to scaleups, are fighting for the same skills and experiences, while the talent pool remains limited. This means tech recruitment is becoming more competitive and challenging. Businesses are having to rely on their existing reputation, employer branding and company culture to set them ahead. This is where big-name tech giants have an advantage as candidates already know of them and what to expect. However, with more unicorns emerging and more excitement surrounding these scaling businesses, tech recruitment just got even more competitive.
We’re investigating the impact of a record number of unicorns on tech recruitment in an already competitive tech market.

More competition means adjusting tech recruitment strategies

Unicorns are the big names in the tech scaleup space. They’re the companies that get a lot of recognition and a lot more attention. They’re also the companies that tech talent often hopes to work for. They’re exciting as they’re growing enough for talent to make an impact but are more recognisable names than most startups. Therefore, with more unicorns coming into the spotlight, there will be even more competition for tech talent. These businesses will need to hire talent to grow at the speed expected and, therefore, will ramp up their hiring efforts.

Whether your business is a unicorn or not, this surge in successful scaleups will affect tech recruitment. Hiring tech talent and retaining tech talent will become increasingly challenging if more growing enterprises enter the race. In what’s already a competitive market, tech recruitment will become even more intense as these businesses seek to hire more talent and bring in more skills. These unicorns will be exciting propositions to many candidates, and therefore even established players run the risk of losing tech talent to a unicorn.

Therefore, employers big and small need to adjust their tech recruitment strategies accordingly. In such a competitive market, advertising a job and waiting for applicants to come to you won’t always be enough. Employers need to look at tech recruitment strategies and focus more on promoting the unique aspects of their employer brand, showing candidates what differentiates this business from any other. Recruitment will become more like marketing with recruitment teams trying to sell the workplace to candidates. There should also be an uptick in the use of recruitment marketing tools to push your employer brand AS-and open opportunities to a broader talent pool. Rather than waiting for candidates to discover your vacancies, businesses will need to adopt a tech recruitment strategy that gets their open roles in front of the suitable candidates, creating various touchpoints to build employer brand recognition and anticipation.

Diversity is important

Over the last few years, everyone has been talking about diversifying organisations, particularly in tech recruitment. Tech businesses are notoriously lacking in diversity, and many startups and scaleups strive to change this. Diversity is very high on the agenda of VCs, and if they’ve given funding to unicorn businesses, there’s hope that they will prioritise this. However, finding diverse candidates to join your scaleup is even more difficult with skilled tech candidates in short supply. The talent pool is limited, and therefore, diverse candidates are being snapped up quickly.

So, what’s the solution?

To diversify, scaling businesses must look at their existing tech recruitment strategy. Unicorns will never be diverse if they look to the same places and try the same tactics to recruit talent. Instead, the time has come to think outside of the box.

Tech recruitment is becoming more about reaching passive candidates who aren’t currently thinking of leaving their roles. This is why employer branding is essential, as recruiters and recruitment strategies need to act as marketers and tempt them to leave the comfort of their current employer. Unicorns and other scaling tech businesses need to show precisely why they’re so exciting and why candidates should prioritise joining their organisation over everything else. If they managed to get funding, it should be doable, as they convinced investors to believe in them.
Social media makes it easier to reach passive candidates, with social media advertising a low-cost solution to connect with a highly targeted and relevant audience. LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms can help you to reach candidates who may not be actively looking for new opportunities, but with the proper messaging and creativity, you could capture their imagination. Digital talent attraction is advancing tech recruitment and helping companies reach audiences from a range of backgrounds and experiences which may not have found the opportunity otherwise.

Increased pressure to find talent

Unicorns have all eyes on them. They’re making headlines, and everyone knows they have the funding and ability to become something huge. They’re only missing having skilled people on board to help them grow and deliver their mission. Therefore, talent teams at these Unicorn businesses are under considerable pressure. They have to find the best talent in the most competitive market in decades, and time isn’t on their side. Some roles will need to be filled urgently. Others will be harder to source and will take time. Talent teams and internal recruiters at these businesses will be even more stretched than others, as the unicorns are essentially relying on them to scale.
There’s only so much planning talent teams can do. Research and talent mapping will help create a more strategic approach to recruitment. However, the talent isn’t available in abundance, or the teams are too stretched to reach recruitment demand, which causes problems for the growing number of unicorn businesses.

So, what’s the solution?

Unicorns dealing with the pressure of added recruitment demand could look to outsource their tech recruitment. Finding an RPO provider to act as an extension of your talent function can help to relieve pressure on existing teams and give you a strategic and competitive edge. RPO providers act as a recruitment partner; they embed themselves into your organisation, and your goals become theirs. For any unicorn trying to navigate the increasingly competitive market, outsourcing tech recruitment to a dedicated team of experts could give them a step up from the competition.
RPO providers can help with tech recruitment and sourcing candidates directly, but they can also help to build an employer brand, work on a unique Employer Value Proposition and can run digital campaigns to help unicorns reach passive candidates too. In addition, they can work on strategies that help people to discover your brand and roles rather than just finding them on a job board. It’s these strategies that will help tech scaleups to stand out.

Originally published at on January 26, 2022.



Talent Works

Leading provider of global talent sourcing, recruitment intelligence, employer branding and creative communication solutions