Stop Throwing Recruiting Under the Bus!

There are thousands of startups in Silicon Valley who all aspire to be the next Google. Unlike Google, they don’t pro-actively invest in the resources to succeed or partner with recruiting to achieve this success. Instead they expect recruiters to work miracles in attracting top tier talent to their tiny ventures that are “disruptive.”

We’ve heard it repeatedly: they only hire the “best” and they want people from Google, Apple, and Facebook who only attend XYZ schools and are simultaneously leaders and coders with the perfect track record. Yadda yadda. Tell us something we haven’t heard a million times.

Let’s face it: LinkedIn Recruiter is saturated, but it’s still the favorite go-to. Realistically, how many times can you barrage people with InMails, especially when engineers complain or brag about how many recruiters approach them regularly? There is Github, Entelo, Hired, and Gild, but we’re so crunched to meet metrics to prove our value that there isn’t time to deeply research new tools and court passive talent. We’re all chasing the same talent and startups conveniently beat up recruiting for the lack of response from their target candidates.

Hey, startups, how about if the technical leaders partner with recruiting by branding their company? Go talk about your company and its exciting challenges at conferences and meet-ups. Host events at your offices. Don’t just leave it up to recruiting. While I know you thrive on a nimble environment that is ambiguous, flat, and volatile, there needs to be consistent best practices in interviewing and feedback loops because a bad candidate experience is a chronic problem among startups. Has anyone heard of Karma?

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Ten years ago when I was at Google, I was stunned by the resources that Google incorporated into its recruiting strategy. Google established a recruiting process in its infancy that was ironclad. Moreover, Google invested in a ton of resources to create the Google brand universally, therefore making it a company of choice for everyone from college students to CTOs. So, startups, if you aspire to be Google, put your money where your mouth is. And if you don’t have Google’s deep pockets, the market will force you to adjust your expectations.

Startups aren’t the only offenders in this situation. Larger organizations that have “startups” incubated internally have similar expectations and problems, so the same applies to them. I would like to use this as a forum to hear from others about their experiences with recruiting being thrown under the bus with unrealistic expectations and impossible metrics and how they have handled or overcome those challenges.

Melinda White is accustomed to delivering strategic and tactical success in entrepreneurial and challenging environments. She is a talent acquisition and university relations specialist who has paid her dues at Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Sun Microsystems, and Idealab. Since having a baby girl in 2011, she has transitioned into a talent advisor/partner role, collaborating with early and late stage ventures as well as Fortune 500 companies. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Scripps College and her claim to fame is being classmates with Gabby Giffords before the Internet was commercially available.


7 Comments on “Stop Throwing Recruiting Under the Bus!

  1. AMEN for this article! It always cracks me up, both from my corporate and current consultant experiences, how some companies put the entire process of finding candidates and promoting their company as a great employer strictly to the recruiter, then throw the recruiter under the bus when they’re not finding top talent quickly and effectively.

    The employers I’ve worked with who are successful are the ones who truly partner with the recruiter – they come with me to the networking events (Software developers would rather talk to a fellow developer, y’all! If you were looking to hire a recruiter, would you send an accountant to go attract me to work there?), they work with me to create a hiring process that is respectful of the candidate’s time and also has interviewers who can use their time with the candidates effectively and efficiently (give them the tools they need to be successful!), they have quick turnaround on resumes I send them and after they’ve completed an interview, and they follow through on what our agreed upon strategy, process, and realistic expectations are for the position.

    LinkedIn Recruiter has been a great tool for me, and I’ve hired a lot of folks found through this where nearly all other sourcing services have failed (I rarely even do paid ads anymore), but it goes hand-in-hand with knowing HOW to communicate with prospective candidates (some recruiters use a used-car-salesman approach which gives us all a bad name), and having a strong reputation as a recruiter who understands the market and won’t BS their candidates.

    I have a time to fill of 26 days with my clients on all but 3 positions I’ve filled – and those 3 were because of hiring teams showing pure chaos in their process, making inconsistent and delayed assessments/decisions about candidates, and being unable to decide from start to finish what they wanted in the role (not to mention having unrealistic expectations about candidates and compensation, despite what I communicated at the onset of the process).

    All of this being said, there are great employers and great recruiters, and vice versa. I wrote some suggestions in a blog post last year that addresses the same type of topic, in a way that is helpful for both sides:

  2. @ Melinda: Thank you. Recruiters will be largely thrown under busses as long as we have hordes of wannabe and has-been companies run by deluded and spoiled near-children or arrogant and clueless near-geezers who hire perky and enthusiastic low-cost order-taking “Sr. Recruiters” with 3 years of agency experience spouting buzz words, to get the “Fab 5%” or better for their crappy, underpaid, poorly-benefitted jobs.



  3. Maybe the said recruiters should quit whining and realize that their inbox/e-mail trolling through resume response administrative lives aren’t actual recruiting. No where in this article is it mentioned that a recruiter ‘picks up the phone’ and sells someone on a start-up, or meets with potential talent face-to-face. I think these start-ups that need talent need to shelve the admins, and hire sales professionals, and listen to their consultative advice. Just my $.02.

  4. @ Robert: You make a very good point: getting highest-quality candidates to consider and subsequently accept crappy jobs from wannabe and has-been companies when they could do much better elsewhere is an invaluable service that most of us CAN’T do (and I include myself here), and is well worth a 30% or more fee.



  5. I think there is definitely something to be said for organizational self-awareness and overall participation in the recruiting process:

    Self-awareness – I always ask my clients / hiring managers WHY someone would want to accept the position they are looking to fill. You want “the best?” Awesome. Now tell me why that “best” person will want to work in your group. Really (no, really) great team? Bleeding edge technology? Flexible work environment? Changing the world? Super benefits and pay? … none of those? We need to talk.

    Participation – As Aimee mentioned, developers like to talk to developers. Getting line staff engaged in recruiting is often critical to hiring success (especially in high tech). At one of my past employers we hired 40% of our high level technical consultants through referrals, despite hiring in 10+ remote locations around the country. We taught our existing employees how to evangelize our brand, and they were more than happy to do it. That doesn’t mean I expect an Accounting Manager to fill their own accountant position. But teaching them to think beyond the ledger sheet? All time-to-fill long!

    By the way, Robert has a valid point: InMail isn’t ever the answer. Recruiting is, has been, and always shall be about talking to people.

  6. @ Greg: Well said.
    Awareness: If clients were “self-aware” they’d probably be a lot humbler and more realistic in their hiring expectations.
    “Recruiting is, has been, and always shall be about talking to people.” If by “talking” you mean “communicating”: most definitely.
    If by “talking” you mean “speaking”: not necessarily-
    1) I email candidates to get the important information when I can (open to text, too, but am slow).
    2) I talk on the phone when I’m asked to assess comm skills.
    3) I meet them when they’re here for a F2F interview with the team.
    After 19 years as a contract recruiter, this approach seem to be working for my clients and me so far…


  7. Keith, a question when you have time:

    “…and is well worth a 30% or more fee…”

    How much more?

    I’ve only seen 33.3% exceeded by some aerospace recruiters who were charging more because they could but I’ve otherwise never heard of recruiting fees exceeding the standard of 33.3%.

    Thanks for clearing this up for me; as a rule I get 30% on contingency and 33.3% on retained.


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