Originally Posted on Forbes.com
In a world that revolves around building financial capital, almost every conversation about startups begins with finances. How much initial funding does the company have? What is the potential for future rounds of investment?
However, talking only money omits a crucial element of startup success: the hiring and retention of human capital who can move the company forward.
The Software Startup Challenge
Software startups enter the world with a challenging and immediate problem. The company must build a team of capable employees to translate the vision of the organization into reality.
Due to lack of a dedicated internal recruiting team, a natural solution is to enlist contingent recruiting firms in the search for high-quality hires. These agencies charge a fee for every role they fill, making hiring expensive. It’s my observation that this also frequently focuses the recruiter on getting a quick hire instead of a quality hire. Having noticed the need for an alternative model that better serves software startups, our firm and a small number of others have begun to design recruiting models more suited to the unique needs of these early stage companies.
With a wide range of recruitment firms available, here is what you need to know as a software startup leader searching for a strategic recruiting partner.
Leave The Hiring To The Professionals
When getting a new company off the ground, founders and visionaries have to handle a swirl of daily chaos, always managing multiple projects at the same time. When one of those projects is hiring for the first round of leadership roles, getting it right can be exceptionally difficult. Working with a strategic recruiting partner takes the burden of sourcing and recruiting off the founder’s plate, enabling them to focus on other vital projects.
Once the management team is in place, recruiters can work with the same leaders they just hired to recruit the next round of employees. By already having a prior relationship with a startup’s management team, recruiters will be aligned with the vision and direction of the organization. Utilizing the knowledge of previous rounds of hiring on subsequent rounds, the process can move faster, and candidates will be better fits.
More Than Sourcing And Hiring
As startups get off the ground, a true partner in recruitment can help new companies design effective recruiting and hiring processes to guide personnel expansion — a critical element to rapid growth. This partner can assist in the development of infrastructures such as building job descriptions, setting compensation levels and choosing an applicant tracking system, plus the end-to-end recruiting process from scheduling interviews, driving hiring manager engagement, offer negotiation and even first-step onboarding. In this way, a strategic partner can go beyond sourcing and hiring by serving as a trusted advisor, ensuring that from their first hire on, organizations have well-designed and thoughtful hiring processes.
Recruiters are some of the most impactful marketers for a startup, providing prospective candidates with initial information about the organization while simultaneously working to fill positions. This outreach can establish a company within the software community and strengthen the brand with other industry professionals if done well. However, if done poorly by someone who does not have a vested interest in your company, this outreach can tarnish your company’s name before it is even off the ground.
A single strategic recruiter will have the necessary capabilities to support the full life cycle of the company from the initial hiring of developers to the onboarding of the sales team. For startups, nurturing one great partnership maximizes company time by enabling the recruitment partner to function as the internal hiring team.
Finding A Strategic Recruiting Partner
Building a thriving relationship between recruiters and startups requires finding a match between the vision of the startup and a recruiting firm’s expertise and structure. Before selecting a recruiting partner, investigating the following elements is critical:
Flexibility and scalability: The fluid nature of startups requires significant flexibility in hiring, but not every firm has a structure designed to meet those needs. Startups should seek out a strategic partner that displays patience by helping organizations refine their hiring profiles, rather than rushing to fill positions. The recruiter should display flexibility in adapting to quick changes in hiring requests, such as a change in necessary skills or a new desired location for a candidate. Finally, a strategic partner will utilize an adjustable model that can scale up or down the number of active positions being filled.
Breadth of expertise: An effective recruiting partner needs not just depth of experience, but breadth as well. Find a firm that can make the appropriate hires, from the initial leadership team to developers and go-to-market sales teams — this requires a familiarity with a wide range of positions not all recruiters have. While many firms specialize in a single area, a true partner will be able to fill a wide array of positions to support a rapidly growing software startup properly.
Process design: The first experience many prospective hires will have with a company will be via the outreach done by your recruiting partner. Take time to investigate their experience representing organizations to new hires by ensuring they have a great record of building new companies’ reputations. Additionally, dig into a firm’s expertise functioning in nonhiring support roles such as recruiting process design and setting up post-offer onboarding. These are critically important to lay the proper foundation for rapid growth. Above all, do your research to confirm that your potential partner provides a great candidate experience for your prospective hires. A positive interaction with your recruiting agency, even if they do not end up working for your organization, can have a far-reaching impact and even drive talent to your company.
Securing and retaining talent is an enduring challenge for all companies, but especially for startups early in their life cycle. By partnering with the right team, startups can shed hiring pressure and free up resources to focus on the many other critical areas that need attention to create success.