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A 2-person startup wrote personalized pitch decks for job candidates, and the founders say it makes a huge difference in the brutal war for talent

Cindy Tran knew the job offer was coming when the email hit her inbox. It wasn't the offer letter she expected.

She had interviewed for the role of operations director at Hype and Vice, a small startup that creates trendy college apparel for women. The founders sent Tran a slide deck pitching the candidate on why she should take the job. The last slide left a space for her signature.

Tran liked the personal touch. A slide about the startup's values of grit and togetherness made her feel like she would become part of “a family growing together.” She signed the offer deck.

A war for talent is raging in California, where joblessness fell to its lowest rate since the 1970s in October, state officials reported. There are too few workers to fill the open roles, and those jobseekers whose skills are in high demand have their choice of opportunities. The recruiting battles can be especially hard on startups because they can't afford to pay salaries like Facebook and Google.

The labor shortage forces lesser-known companies to work smarter to hire top candidates. Hype and Vice's founders Cecilia Gonzalez and Kimberly Robles created slide decks for their earliest recruits, detailing their responsibilities, their compensation package, the company's values, and a note on why the founders were so excited to have them join. So far, two candidates signed their “offer decks,” and the founders expect to close two more hires.

The challenge for any employer is closing an offer

Gonzalez, 25, and Robles, 26, had been handling the business between the two of them for four years. They met as college seniors, started cutting crop tops and sewing on tags out of their apartment, and sold the bootleg apparel at sorority houses. Today, Hype and Vice creates branded bandeaus, tees, and hoodies that are officially licensed by 60 universities across the country.

Hype and Vice makes college apparel that the founders say women actually want to wear.

Hype and Vice

Last month, the company's founders raised $1.5 million in seed funding with the goal of hiring their first recruits. To start, they posted four openings: a sales director, an operations director, a marketing director, and a graphics director. More than 900 job applications hit their inboxes. After interviews with 120 candidates for each position, the founders narrowed in on their favorites.

The founders believe the offer decks helped them close their offers. It signaled their interest because they took the time to write them. And it described the influence they could have as an early employee at an ambitious startup. Some of the new hires took pay cuts to work at Hype and Vice.

The slide deck promises shares of the company, unlimited paid time off, and free coffee and snacks, as well as flexible scheduling and the chance to “create and conquer” an exciting new market.

An excerpt from Hype and Vice's offer deck.

Hype and Vice

One of the company's investors, Delian Asparouhov, a principal at Founders Fund, said in a tweet that the offer decks showed “how much the founders care about building their early team.”

Others have tried this strategy. At Carta, a San Francisco startup, candidates get an offer letter that's formatted as a slide deck. It largely explains the equity portion of the offer, helping candidates understand their option vesting schedule and their equity's potential value. Carta's blog has an offer letter template that has inspired employers.

As their team grows, Hype and Vice's founders said they won't be able to make slide decks for every hire. But they say it's a necessary effort for early employees, who go on to hire their own teams and shape company culture.

Those are the hires they need to get right.