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How recruiters can work with founders

Many of us think that founders know it all. But I can tell you, that’s not always the case. More often than not, they can use guidance and someone who will ask them the right questions. They need someone who can translate their vision into a workable and cost-efficient org chart. Most importantly, they need someone who won’t always agree with them and may even contradict them to come with the right solution. 

Scenario #1

Founder: I want to hire a COO. 

Me: Do you have a Head of Operations?

Founder: No.

Me: Let’s start with that.

Once a company gets a bit of traction, the founders usually look to grow their business and their team. In this phase, the founder usually realizes that they can’t do it all. 

Founders will need to split their roles and responsibilities and hire colleagues who are better than them in certain specialisms like sales, finance, or operations. They need seniority, go-getters, and a truly engaged team. Quickly, they realize that they want to hire a c-level to take over these new responsibilities. 

My advice is: don’t do it. A c-level title is really hard to downgrade. Once they’re in, they’re in. The c-level you think you need now is rarely the c-level you need in three years. And then, you can’t have two COO’s or CTO’s.

My advice to founders

Don’t just think about your current needs, but also think about what you might need in two or three years. What do you need now and for the next two years? How much will it cost?

Recruiters, remember, you are the specialist when it comes to hiring, not the founders. Make sure that they're thinking ahead and don't just hire to get someone in. Ask the right questions and push your founders to think. Advise them to first hire 'senior' employees or a 'Head of.' Make sure you have the data and the information needed to support your goals here.

My advice to recruiters 

Act as an advisor or as an expert in your field. Take ownership and embrace the responsibility to help them and protect them from making mistakes. Remember, you are the specialist on this topic, not the founder. Make sure that they’re thinking ahead and don’t just hire to get someone in. 

Ask the right questions and push your founder to think. Advise them to first hire ‘senior’ employees or a ‘Head of.’ Make sure you have the data and the information needed to support your goals here. Explain the risk of hiring a c-level person in the early stages of the company and help them understand what may be needed in a few years, not just now.

Scenario #2

Founder: We already have a clear culture.

Me: Can everyone in your company describe it the same way?

Founder: I think so.

Me: Let’s start with that.

When a founder starts a company, they usually build it around their thoughts and values. Quickly they’ve gathered individuals who think and act the same; the same drive, work ethic, and personalities. Company culture is born. 

Before they know it, the team is getting bigger, and not everyone works directly with them anymore. That’s when founders need to act and define the company culture. Culture is way more than a few words on the wall. It will guide them in their recruitment, performance, HR policies, and even when promoting or firing someone. 

My advice to founders

Invest in your company culture and values. It’s not enough to just have them or for you to carry them out single-handedly. Every team member, especially when you are a start-up and still rather small, should be involved in defining the values and how to act upon them. When your values and company culture are clear to everyone, that’s when the real work starts. Now it’s important to incorporate it into your goal setting, performance cycles, company, and recruitment. 

The "what" of the job is only one part of our job. Getting the "who" right is the real challenge. Use your company's values in your recruitment process. Start with defining the needs of the team, especially on a cultural fit level.

My advice to recruiters 

The “what” of the job is only one part of our job. Getting the “who” right is the real challenge. Use your company’s values in your recruitment process. Start with defining the needs of the team, especially on a cultural fit level. 

As a recruiter, it’s key to get the “who” right. When you start recruiting, open your eyes, look around, and understand the company you are recruiting for. Ask all the questions you need to get this right. Only once those are answered, should you start recruiting. Then make sure your vacancy is writing in a way it will attract the right people. 

When you conduct outreach, don’t use your own tone of voice, but the companies one. During the phone interview, make sure you ask questions that are related to the shared values and company culture. Last but not least, guide the hiring manager during the recruitment process. Ensure they hire for the long-term( culture) and not only for the here and now (to get the job done). 

Scenario #3

Founder: We need this person tomorrow.

Me: Should I open my cookie jar and just grab one?

Founder: No, not just anyone. I need the one

Me: Let’s start with that.

This one, we all know too well. My advice to a founder and a recruiter is the same. Take time at the beginning of the process, and it will save you time in the end. Before you put an ad online or start hunting for a new colleague, ensure you are both aligned. Define what the person should do. What will be their main KPI’s / OKR’s for the first six months? What do they need to bring to the company right now, and what would they need to bring in the next six to 24 months? When you have defined the “who” and the “what” together, nothing will stop you from selecting and hiring the right person for the job. 

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