How to Hire a Unicorn: Recruiting Hard-To-Find Payments Specialists

17 March 2019 By Adam Hall

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It’s a well-known frustration experienced by hiring managers that demand for top payments talent far exceeds the supply. Sometimes, the requirement for very niche, advanced and specific payments skills creates ‘unicorns’ – very rare candidate profiles that businesses routinely fight over.

To try and win these ‘unicorns’ over, as well as hire the best talent across the board, many shrewd payments employers are putting increased focus on hiring strategy, both in terms of the recruitment process and developing a company brand and environment that will attract and retain people long-term.

Here’s some ideas to get you started if you’re hunting for that unicorn. 

01 Develop your company mission

In a candidate driven market, payments professionals can be picky about who they work for. A compelling company mission can be a powerful ‘pull factor’, so make sure mission and purpose is communicated effectively throughout the hiring process.  

02 Enhance your brand

Developing a sharp company brand takes time but should be a critical focus - you want to create a reputation as a business that nurtures and develops top talent. The payments community is small so if your firm gets a rep for being an undesirable place to work, your hiring will suffer as a result. 

03 Create an awesome environment to work in

High profile fintech and digital giants are renowned for their Silicon Valley campuses, with everything from barista coffee to volleyball courts. You might not have Google’s budget, but you can certainly create a cool office that unicorns will want to play in. Aside from physical environment, policies like flexible working policies or wellbeing initiatives will not only make your current staff happy but attract new talent as well. 

04 Nurture career skills

Payments professionals are always updating their skills.  Unicorns are top of the bunch - they love to learn, so be sure to encourage this with a positive L&D policy, time for personal projects and investment in the latest technologies to help them upskill. 

05 Pay a fair wage and benefits

Although far from the only consideration, salary and benefits are usually the first thought when assessing a new career opportunity. Benchmark market salaries carefully but be prepared to be flexible with pay if you want to sure a ‘unicorn’.

06 Networking

In the competitive space of payments, networking is key. Offer employee referral incentives, get involved in industry meet ups, or host events of your own. The more hiring managers, HR and employees alike network within the payments community, the more candidates you will expose yourself too. The unicorns will surely be amongst them! 

07 Keep an open mind

Be creative and a bit flexible when hunting for unicorns. Maybe you’ll find one in the current team, who just needs a bit of extra training, You might find a talented unicorn with the right skills in a different industry, who can apply their experience in a new environment. 

08 Invest in hiring

Finally, it’s critical to invest in the right hiring talent. Many start-ups, even small ones, have staff dedicated to talent strategy. Often specialist recruiters in your industry will be the quickest way to tap up sought after unicorns, as they have the network but also the know-how to speak to developers and sell them the benefits of your company.

Whether you rely on headhunters or internal staff, or more likely a mixture of both – make sure you’re speaking to the most talented recruiters to help you find those unicorns! 


Are you struggling to find ‘unicorn’ candidates to drive your payments or fintech venture? Get in touch with Headcount for a consultation and advice on strategies for reaching the best talent on the market