This is a follow up to the "How to Hire your First Recruiter" blog post. What should you be looking for in terms of experience? Is it important to hire a technical recruiter if you are hiring mostly engineering roles?
Since writing the above blog post, I'm even more convinced that the right first hire for any growing startup (vs cash flow or slower growth company) is a Talent Business Partner. To recap, a TBP isn't a full cycle recruiter. They are focused on process and stakeholder management vs sourcing candidates. At the early stage where you are growing fast but you don't yet have the internal resources to meet your recruiting demands you need a quarterback. That's what you get with a Talent Business Partner; someone that can leverage tools, outside resources, inside resources and manage stakeholders. That's critical in a team of one with growing demands.
The key distinction of the TBP model is that you are really hiring a "business facing" individual. This person could practically fit as well in your Sales team as they do on your Recruiting team. That's the person you want. They can solve problems, work as a peer to senior stakeholders and they can sell the opportunity to candidates.
If you do hire a TBP, you are getting a sales skillset not necessarily a recruitment domain. At this level, it's all about selling to candidates and clearing internal roadblocks which is universal regardless of domain. Great sales people can work with a lot of different personality types and dial it up and down to get that person in the door if they are a right fit.
If you ignore my advice, and are hiring a different profile; either out of an agency or a supposed "full cycle recruiter", the recruitment domain absolutely matters. Here you are getting both a recruiter and a sourcer in one package.
It's the sourcing piece that really requires domain expertise. It takes 3-6 months for someone doing sourcing in a new domain to ramp up and be doing a competent job. That's a lot of time. Time you don't have as a startup.
So if you are hiring the "full stack" profile and you want them to do their own sourcing for budget or philosophical reasons, make sure they have deep experience in the most important domains that they are recruiting for. That will ensure their and your success.
This advice is also relevant for when you are no longer at the under-resourced stage and you start building a full scale recruiting team including both TBPs and Sourcers. In this world, you want to align the TBPs to specific businesses so that they are able to build context and relationships with stakeholders (more so than for domain reasons). Sourcers should then be divided out into business and technical sourcing teams with the intention to hire individuals with deep expertise in the domain they are sourcing for.
Overall, domain matters for sourcing work. It doesn't matter for Talent Business Partners. When you are hiring someone to do sourcing, make sure they know their domain inside and out. If you are hiring a TBP, ignore their domain and focus on a proven ability to close candidates and manage stakeholders (and likewise hiring process).