Your startup needs great talent if it’s going to succeed, but that doesn’t mean you have the bankroll to fund the salaries top-talent commands. How can you get the candidates you need to turn down higher offers from more established companies? Consider offering incentives your competitors may not have considered. Even the most highly-sought after candidates may be willing to consider a pay cut for great benefits and a company they believe in.

Commuter Benefits

If your business is located in an urban area and particularly if you don’t have dedicated on-site parking, consider offering a monthly transportation allowance for employees to cover parking, metro or bus fare, or Uber charges. An expenditure of as little as $200 a month can go a long way towards making up for the inconvenience of a daily commute into the city. Most candidates will barely notice a $200 increase in their salary offer, but the same amount applied towards their transportation costs can make an already attractive offer more competitive.

Transportation reimbursements are usually tax-free for you, which makes it a winning move for everyone. Don’t forget about offering options for those who want to bike or walk to work, too. Thanks to the Bicycle Commuter Benefit, employers may elect to provide up to $20 a month in pre-tax dollars to employees who ride a bike to work most days, so long as they do not claim any other transportation benefit. Other non-monetary benefits can help encourage biking as well, such as offering secure bicycle storage, shower/changing facilities, and a guaranteed ride home in the case of inclement weather or employee illness. By developing a company bicycle program, you can brand yourself as a company that is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of your employees and the planet, a benefit worth a lot more than a mere $20 a month.

Concierge Service

Top employers like Google have started adding concierge service to their list of employee perks. Taking care of mindless time-eating errands such as dry cleaning and oil changes helps employees focus on their work, and of course everyone enjoys being treated like a VIP.

Full concierge services are likely beyond the resources of a small business, especially start-ups, but that doesn’t mean you can’t implement a small piece of this type of service into your standard benefits package. Consider dry cleaning. Employees bring in their clothes on Monday morning and pick them up freshly cleaned on Wednesday. Talk to local dry cleaners in your area. Other small businesses may be eager to win your business and may be willing to offer a discounted rate, since you’ll be dealing in bulk, or even to offer pick up and drop off services. Get creative. Your staff will appreciate the consideration and the personal touch.


Consider what motivates the candidates you want to hire. If it’s just money or resume building, then they are going to go work for Microsoft or Google if they have the option, and no amount of perks or persuasion is likely to convince them otherwise. If your candidates are motivated by intangible benefits, however, then a clearly written, compelling mission statement could be enough to swing the balance in your favor. Be passionate about the vision for your company, and the place you see it holding in the future of your community and your employees. Enthusiasm is contagious, and top candidates are often driven by the desire to make a difference. Commit to a collaborative environment. Show that your company is focused on more than just driving sales figures, and candidates will want to be a part of your success.


Consider the work itself. Top performers, particularly in tech fields, are motivated by work that they find interesting. Give them more creative scope, interesting projects, and challenging work, and they’re hooked. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, “opportunities to use skills and resources” is the number one factor in job satisfaction among employees, outranking compensation, co-worker and supervisor relationships, and even job security. Additionally, you must provide learning opportunities. Top talent is always hunting for positions in which they can gain valuable skills for the position they will accept after yours.

Offer your employees a fair salary and creative perks that show you value their time and save them money, and they may be willing to turn down a higher offer. Add challenging, interesting work that supports a cause they believe in, and they’ll be hooked.