Why You Shouldn’t Become a Startup Recruiter (And What You Should Know If You Want to Be One)

This is an experiment. 

As the Internal Recruiter within LevelUp, my job is mostly focused on trying to get interesting recruiting professionals to talk with me and possibly make them choose to work where I work (we’re hiring, BTW!).

This time I want to try the opposite: making whoever is reading say “Nope! I’m never going to work as a recruiter, even less so in a startup!”

Maybe you’re at the end of your studies and looking for an interesting career. Or maybe you’re an experienced professional and you are already participating in some recruiting processes due to your job. Either way, you’re thinking about making the big leap in the adventurous hunting for those purple unicorns, dolphins, quokkas and all those mythical creatures your company needs.

First, a piece of advice: DON’T!

But if you really must take into consideration this career (I mean, your funeral!), here are some tips and things any recruiter would’ve liked to know in advance. I know I would’ve.

shows six expectations of recruitment and recruiters

Culture (good luck with that!)

As a recruiter, you will directly impact your company’s culture even if you don’t care about it. You really won’t have a choice about this, for two reasons:

1. Because every person you hire will carry out its job while being an ambassador of values and mission, both outside and inside the organization. The magnitude of this is even greater within startups: due to the limited size of the company, their reputation is much more vulnerable to positive or negative actions of few.

2. Because of the previous point, you might realize that this is something recruiters especially need to be careful about because the way we work is very “public”. Throughout the whole recruitment process, we represent and show the way our company behaves on a very practical level.

Honestly, if the organization you’ll end up at truly cares about its culture, you won’t stop talking (or rather being told) about values, mission, diversity, since it’s through their few people that startups survive. Exciting, right? (Not really, I know, but my boss is reading this)

One of the most cliché concepts in recruitment: Candidates = Customers

Maybe something you’ve already heard about it, but it’s worth mentioning. If you really decide to become a recruiter, your survival in the company clearly depends on whether or not you get the hires; even more so in startups that have a huge need for new people to back up their initial growth.

Does a candidate, that everybody involved in the recruitment process liked, equal a hire? Nope! No, no, no. Not even close.

There’s a big deal of elements out of your control that could make you lose the candidate. For instance, excruciatingly long time to receive feedback about candidates from Hiring Managers. You will (very painfully!) learn with experience what they are and how to avoid them, when possible.

Still, there are also actions and initiatives that you can take in order to get closer to the hire – or at least avoid pushing away candidates. All these actions will help you create a positive candidate experience: an approach which focuses on pleasant and satisfactory interactions between candidate and company within the whole recruitment process. Through it, you’ll gain competitive advantages over other companies, like candidates referrals and improved brand visibility. This will allow you to attract even more talent (dear lord, I’m getting bored just writing about this!).

This doesn’t only concern the process as in the steps that lead to a hire, but the way you treat people as well. Just like with customers, be ready to talk with impatient candidates continuously contacting you for news. Or to call them after their final interview and explain a followup interview will be necessary because the team can’t make a decision. And try doing it while still keeping them engaged (seriously, good luck with that!). The way you deal with this on a daily basis will determine your effectiveness as a recruiter.

Meme with a dog smiling while the house is on fire

This is going to happen pretty much every week…

Hiring – freakin’- Managers (and whoever has a say in hiring your candidate)

Raise your hand if you know a recruiter that successfully went through a full working month (in their whole career) without any miscommunication or alignment issues with any of their hiring teams. 

Now, I’m talking to myself and obviously there’s no audience in front of me. But if I had one, I bet we’d see very few hands raised if any.

It’s a problem that always existed and you’ll inevitably face it someday. How to solve it?

You won’t be able to tell at first, but deep down Hiring Managers and all those that contribute to the recruitment process are still human beings. So, like with anybody else, a lot of times clear and honest communication is key.

My colleague Laura shared an awesome example of how digging into people motivations for preferring a candidate over another could lead to, if not a hire, at least more alignment, based on data, that will help you get the hire the next time.

Alignment is an ongoing thing, it will take you time, mind space, dedication and never involves hiring managers only.

Meme with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy

This is not going to happen every week, but still, more than you’d choose to…

No matter how passionate you are about it and how hard you try to explain the value of a well-oiled recruitment process, you will stumble upon people that truly can’t see it or simply don’t care (you’re gonna love them!).

The sooner you’ll make your peace with the fact that this will mess up with your work and impact the candidate experience negatively, the better. Meanwhile, take a look at this post from Aik, LevelUp founder and glorious leader, about how to talk with decision-makers.

AI and tooling

If you’re not exactly a techie and, like yours truly, you’re just waiting for Skynet to inevitably take over the world, I have bad news for you: prepare to hear about this more and more.

The recruitment industry, like many others, is inevitably moving in that direction (AI, not taking over the world. We’re not there. Yet!). There’s already plenty of tools and software that use (or claim to use) Artificial Intelligence to improve processes, erase biases and help recruiters, especially within the selection phase.

Are we at the point where machines can really do our job? No.

Will we get to the point where human recruiters will become entirely obsolete?

a cartoon pirate with his hand making a point

It’s true that some traditional recruiting’ tasks will be, within the next 10 years, completely trusted to machine learning. But not all of it. The new successful recruiters (and in part, this is already true) will be those with an actual understanding of both the tech industry and the potential of the tools they use.

Moreover, they will spend more time working on everything that happens before and after the recruitment process like employer branding, offer management, retention strategies. Also, they will have more space to specialise in things like AI tools training.

Therefore, new recruiters will need to be a mix of tech-savvy HR, Recruiting and Marketing professional. If you would like to hear more about this (still haven’t found anything better to do?), check out this presentation by Hung Lee. In it, he mentions how recruiters’ responsibilities will change, the more complex and complete recruiting technologies will become (and if you don’t know who Hung Lee is, do yourself a favour and look him up).

Is all this true for startups only? Of course not. But imagine how behind startup recruiters would be in attracting candidates if they weren’t able to adapt quickly to changes in tech while also not yet being able to leverage a great brand name to back them up, compared to more established and well-known companies that instead can.

Still here?

Well, I tried to spare you from making a big mistake, but apparently, you lack one of the basic skills any recruiter needs: the ability to listen! 

Jokes aside, this job isn’t half bad and I would suggest you ask yourself the following:

  • Do you enjoy talking with a lot of different people and truly know what makes them tick?
  • Would you like to influence some of them with your expertise and have a direct impact on candidates’ lives?
  • How does shaping companies in one of their most delicate phases sound like?

If the answer to this was “Hell yeah!!!”, then you might want to seriously consider being a startup recruiter.

By: Emanuele Grotta –  Internal Recruiter & Memes Overlord

P.S. If you read through all this only in the hope of finding out what a quokka is, here you are.
You’re welcome.