Mid-level management and individual contributors are the lifeblood of an early to mid-stage startup. These employees are critical resources because they are the most hands on in developing the product. It is essential that they be in place as quickly as possible. If they aren’t, they are not creating, they are not doing, and your startup is not moving forward.
Avoid Subpar Recruiting
The case has been made for the value of a recruiter to a startup. The challenge is to hire the right recruiter to bring the best talent through your doors. It is not uncommon for me to be tasked with the role of “The Cleaner” by prospective clients who already have a recruiter or a variety of recruiters in place working on a search. They are coming to me because they are frustrated with the lack of quality candidates who do not fit the job’s profile. They look to me to clean up the mess, start fresh and get the role filled yesterday because time has been wasted. How can a startup avoid such an enormous waste of time and precious resources by selecting a higher caliber recruiter from the beginning?
You Get What You Pay For, If You Even Get It
There are recruiting firms out there playing in the startup space who focus on price point, which allows them to keep their fees low in an effort to do volume. When the focus is on volume, the quality suffers because volume generally requires the low hanging fruit approach. The job gets posted in a few places and there may be time for some superficial sourcing, but most results come from job boards. This means that primarily, they are left to sift through candidates who are likely out of a job or trying to make a move; Not normally the crème de la crème. Exceptional candidates can be found this way, but not normally. Quality really comes from how the candidates are recruited.
It requires superb sourcing skills to be effective, and knowing how to source is not effective unless the candidate can then be engaged. When you pay a low fee for recruiting results, it can feel as if the recruiter is throwing resumes against the wall to see if they stick. To meet their volume approach, they send a lot of resumes to you so that you will feel they are actively working on your search to get it filled. But if they are not good resumes and they are not good candidates, then you are wasting that fee payment, as cheap as it may be, by spinning your wheels as time passes you by. That is time that your startup cannot afford to miss.
Source Your Recruiter
Although getting a referral to a recruiter is always a good start, you still need to do your homework before entering into any agreement with them. Find out about their results. This tells you the most important information. What clients they have worked with? Talk to some of them to gauge their experience. Look at the recruiter’s recommendations. Check out their web presence. Are they an active thought leader? How big is their network? What is their background? Are they a seasoned executive or seasoned professional who has been doing recruiting for quite a long time? Do they have experience within your industry? Your research will help you evaluate their quality as a recruiter. Then, the only way that you can actually experience it is to give it a shot with an agreement that allows them to prove their value and for you to receive a great return on your investment.
What a Quality Recruiter Will Deliver
If you are actively engaged with your recruiter and provide them with a detailed profile for the role, you should expect them to deliver quality with swiftness. If you hire the right recruiter, they will be capable of honing in on the right profile once they get the attributes from you. They can then do the deep sourcing to find passive candidates and engage them as quickly as possible. They will then filter and deliver a short list to you in a very quick period of time. If you don’t have candidates to speak with within two to three weeks of starting a search who aren’t resonating with you relative to the profile, something is wrong with your recruiter’s process, experience, and abilities.
The Bottom Line
Startups are focused on the bottom line. It is vital for you to preserve cash, but if the several thousand dollars you save on a fee ultimately leaves you with sub-par candidates months into the process, the work isn’t getting done. Is it worth it? It is easy to take that chance initially, to rush into an agreement with the recruiting firm offering the best rate, and skip diligent research. Sadly, startup after startup seems to require a failed recruiting experience before learning these lessons. In my experience, once a startup experiences quality recruiting, they recognize the true value that fee provides.
Put the right recruiting team in place from the start. You can’t afford not to.
Sandy Bleich is Senior Partner at Millennium Search. She has seen success in both large corporate and startup environments, with over 25 years of experience as a technology executive. As a recruiter, clients and candidates have consistently recognized her as an excellent communicator and valued partner.