Building Your Talent Strategy
When, Why, and How to Bring in a Recruiter
Companies that are the most successful at consistently landing high-quality talent are those that place as much importance on recruiting as they do any other essential business tactic: as a foundational part of everyday operations.
From developing a repeatable, strategic process and continuously working to identify ways to improve it, founders can take a number of steps to build a culture of recruiting. Sometimes, that means hiring a dedicated talent-sourcing and recruiting team.
“Having a recruiter to own and drive all the pieces involved in sourcing, interviewing, and hiring talent can be really helpful so that you have a central person to own it,” says Greylock’s Talent Partner Glen Evans, who works with portfolio companies as they build their core teams. “Then everyone else can focus on building the product and company.”
However, working with a recruiter in a way that best leverages the company’s existing strengths while providing additional benefit isn’t simple. From working with an outside agency to hiring in-house, founders and hiring managers must carefully consider their needs – including company stage, open roles, and growth trajectory – and be just as selective about the recruiter they bring in as they do with any other hire. Moreover, founders must still stay closely connected to the recruiting process.
Evans and fellow member of the Greylock talent team Dwane Hamilton sat down with Greymatter to discuss the role of a recruiter, how startups should approach working with one, and how they can continue to build a culture of recruiting into their organization. This conversation is part of our Brain Trust series, where you can find candid advice from experts in their field.
You can listen to the interview at the link below, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Greymatter, the podcast from Greylock, where we share stories from company builders and business leaders. I’m Heather Mack, head of editorial at Greylock.
Today I’m joined once again by my colleague Glen Evans, who heads core talent here at Greylock. I’m also pleased to have Dwane Hamilton here with us today. Dwane works with Glen on the talent team where he focuses primarily on finding and recruiting engineering talent.
As we’re all familiar, finding and retaining high quality talent is a constant concern. Never an easy task, the past two years have changed the process dramatically, from the hiring freezes in early 2020 to the labor shortages of 2021, and to today, halfway into ’22, when we’re all trying to wrap our heads around the impact of the many global and local geopolitical and economic challenges on the hiring environment.
So today we’re going to do a deep dive into one aspect of the talent search process: working with a recruiter. Glen and Dwane will walk us through best practices and provide some case study examples from their own experience.
Glen, Dwane, thanks so much for talking with me today.
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Great to be here. Thanks for having me as well.
Awesome. So, we’ve talked about talent several times on Greymatter and have gone deep into a few different aspects of the practice. Each time, even though these conversations haven’t been that long apart, we’re operating in a different world. And so, before we talk specifically about working with recruiters, let’s set the stage a little bit. At a high level how would you characterize the hiring landscape today? Glen, why don’t you start us out?
I’d say the hiring landscape today has shifted to an uncertain place. The largest tech companies who seem to be on a nonstop hiring trajectory are either freezing hiring or implementing layoffs. Hopefully this doesn’t continue, but I do not think we’ve seen the end of this yet.
These cycles do help companies and candidates slow down and be a little bit more thoughtful. And over the past 10 years or so, we’ve been in a world where hiring demand has been so much higher than the overall supply of talent, that it’s created a very reactive and competitive environment. I think we could see more balance in the demand and supply in some cases.
Candidates and employees have had a lot of leverage as well over the past decade, and top talent will likely continue to have that demand regardless of market conditions. I’d suspect people won’t have as many options or as much leverage as they did in the past, or perhaps they’ll be less willing to make a move.
In general though, companies will need to be extra thoughtful when hiring and it is still a very good time to join a startup. I think a lot of people we talk to and recruit for our companies continue to view well funded and premier VC backed-startups as a great place to be during this time to grow their career, learn a ton, and have the overall upside that can come with it versus being at a much larger public company that has all the challenges that we probably can assume.
Right. And Dwane, what does this look like for you in these specific roles you’re working with?
Yeah, I think we’re in a very unique time. COVID, exponential growth, to now; this correction. However, COVID also gave people a lot of time to reflect and think about where they want to spend their time and what they want to work on, which has been good for startups. I think perks and stability are nice, but I think people are really seeking more meaning from their work.
As Glen mentioned. I think that people have opportunities (and the last couple years they’ve had a lot of opportunities), and I think now it’s slowing down a bit where we might see somebody who used to have five to seven offers, might see one to three offers.
Great. And as we’ve discussed before, recruiting is an area where startups absolutely should never skimp in terms of the time and attention spent on it. And of course we’re talking about companies that may just have a couple of founding members who are doing multiple jobs at the same time and they’re trying to build their core teams and that’s where people like you come in – or don’t. How do startups know when to bring in a recruiter for help?
I’d start by saying it’s not one-size-fits-all. Some of the considerations that the team and I talk a lot about here: there’s the time factor. Are founders and early teams spending too much time recruiting where they can’t even focus on the product or building the company, et cetera? Or are they spending zero time as a result of all that focus on building the company? Then there’s the number of open priority roles you’re trying to fill. If it’s dozens of roles and you don’t have in-house support, and the agencies aren’t producing, or whatever you’re doing, that’s a factor, right? Just bandwidth and filling all these key positions to help you scale.
The growth rate of the company is also important to consider. Some of this relates to stage, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but I think the growth rate of revenue, product market fit, what stage they’re in, all of those things play a factor. And I think companies and founders almost need to look 12 to 18 months down the line and bet on themselves a bit and decide if things are going to continue on this trajectory, and if so, we may want to bring in a recruiter now to be ahead of this continued growth. There’s a lot of pros and cons to doing that.
Yeah. I think a good talent person could increase your capacity to win. There’s a lot of different factors where a talent person plays in to help augment the time of a founder. So if you have somebody working on recruiting a hundred percent of the time, they could be building out processes, and being a liaison between the candidate, the hiring manager, and the founders themselves. They can manage all talent-related tools, systems, job descriptions, career pages, et cetera. So, it’s just all about this trade-off between time and money.
And I would add one piece there, that having an in-house recruiter doesn’t mean your hands are washed and clean from ever having to be involved with recruiting again. Now founders and hiring managers and key people in the company can focus on having very impactful and meaningful interactions with candidates to help close, to help sell, to interview, and that kind of work is huge in getting candidates in the door. But having an in-house recruiter to kind of own and drive all the pieces that Dwane was talking about can be really helpful so that you have a central person to own it, and then everyone else can focus on building the product and company.