Like life, your first recruiter comes at you fast. When you are small, but doubling in size within a year or a quarter, it can seem relatively easy. Your network is paying dividends. The VC talent partners are sending you the occasional lay-up. Maybe you had a favorable press hit and a few folks that share your excitement for the industry come through. Things are manageable.
And then they aren’t. Hiring 10 people in a year is different than hiring 50 people. You go from being an all-star in the sand lot to being a no-star in the big leagues. That’s when you hire your first recruiter.
But who should your first recruiter be? Do you need a head of talent? Can a coordinator hold you over for now?
It’s a good question, and some of it depends on how fast you plan to grow, but my general recommendation is to over-hire your first recruiter to hold-off on hiring your Head of Talent.
A Head of Talent is necessary when you already have a team in place. HoTs are a mix of manager and operations person with general executive search skillsets. They aren’t the profile that rolls up their sleeves and sources for 8 hours a day and then coordinates on-sites after hours, which is probably what you need.
And likewise, your company doesn’t have any other recruiter on staff yet. Do not hire a junior person without prior experience in a effectives recruitment organization. Your first recruiter is a function unto themselves. They need to be a self-contained unit and you’re only going to find that in someone who has at least a few years of experience working in a great recruiting team under an effective Head of Talent.
There are two good profiles for your first recruiter hire:
1. Talent Business Partner
2. Agency Recruiter
Talent Business Partners come from large recruitment teams (think Series C+) and are focused on owning a portfolio of roles, usually in a specific discipline. TBPs are client facing and strategic but are accustomed to rolling up their sleeves, managing process and reporting progress up. Typically, a TBP is going to be weaker on sourcing, but they are going to be effective at vendor management. If you hire a TBP with growth mindset, this is a person that could very well become your first Head of Talent.
If you need someone scrappier, likely due to budget, then an agency recruiter will be a better fit. Like a TBP, an agency recruiter will have client facing experience and they are accustomed to owning their requisitions end to end. An agency recruiter will typically come in with a strong sourcing skill-set, however, they will be less experienced in employer brand and management practices and thus their upward mobility may be more limited.
An agency recruiter may also be more accessible for a startup as there is a clear benefit to moving from the agency-world to in-house, which will be muddier for a TBP who is likely already well-compensated in a high functioning team.
Your first recruiter is a high leveraged role. They will make hiring your first executive team and key specialists easier, which has huge implications down the road. Make sure you are comping the role to be competitive, including performance bonus and strong equity stake. You are going to want this person to be committed in the early days when it is just them, and, ideally, they will be able to step into a leadership when the time is right.