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My hypothesis on why startup recruiting is so challenging

Your best chance of winning talent is to truly position yourself as different. Therefore, it comes down to this: whom I get to collaborate with, what I get to build, and how I’ll grow as a result of betting on you. That's the story you tell—at scale.

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A startup raises money so they can hire people to build and sell their product.

After reaching certain milestones, this cycle restarts.

As the startup raises more money, the need to hire in these areas increases—both in volume and in speed.

Repeat, again.

As the startup raises even more money, volume and speed in product and revenue centers increase even more.

And on it goes.

There is no time for patience in the race to a billion.

Notice where hiring isn’t happening?

As a result, this scenario is all too common:

A Head of Talent with a recruiting team of 1-5 people is responsible for meeting the hiring goals that require a team of 10-20.

It’s no wonder that recruiting teams are stuck in reactive gear with no end in sight.

Startups aren’t slowing down. And VCs don’t care.

"Fuck branding. Screw candidate experience. Butts in seats—yesterday!"

"Plus, we have fancy investors backing us and our product is so cutting edge that the best and brightest will line up to work for us. Recruiting should be a piece of cake. Just tell candidates what we’re doing and who’s funding us. Deals closed!"

I’m not saying that I have a solution to the source of the problem. Startups aren’t going to slow down because VCs will never stop optimizing for speed and scale.

IMO, the only solution is to work within the existing model. Or, go work for founders who actually value recruiting and talent marketing. (Harder, but doable if you care enough. There are like 5 of them.)

I’m empathetic to the problem. Recruiters, you’re fighting an uphill battle every day.

(I won’t even get into the entitlement of the candidates you’re working so hard to recruit.  I’ll save that rant for another post.)

Here’s the harsh reality for most high-growth startups:

The senior-level people they’re trying to recruit are highly skeptical and often jaded. They can’t compete on comp and candidates don’t care about their funding because they’ve already been burned by terrible founders and shallow VCs. They can sniff out a bullshit product or a lagging market a mile away.

A startup's best chance of winning talent is to truly position itself as different.

It comes down to this: whom I get to collaborate with, what I get to build, and how I’ll grow as a result of betting on you.

That's the story you tell—at scale.

1/10 of you will believe this. Which is about the same number of you who will make it.

P.S. This post started as a note to self.


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