When Should We Hire a Head of Talent?

We’re finding ourselves in this discussion a lot. What used to be a Series A conversation is now a seed-stage consideration. The fight for startup talent is more competitive than ever. It requires a new level of strategy, time commitment and social consciousness. Relying only on network taps, job boards and recruiting agencies isn’t cutting it. Founders need someone to own their company’s talent function, so the scaling process is efficient, effective and EEOC compliant. Looking back at our six years of recruiting intel, we've outlined five key indicators that signal it's likely time to invest in a full-time Head of Talent:

1. Aggressive headcount goals (10+ hires per year)

Talent  is the lifeblood of any startup, and the founder needs to be spending  at least 50% of his/her time on hiring, but when 50% turns into 80%,  founder-exclusive responsibilities (e.g. investor management, product  vision, customer acquisition, etc.) start getting neglected. It becomes pertinent to offload recruiting operations, so the founder is no longer full-cycle owner, but strategic participant.

2. Desire to compete against the "big dogs" for top talent

If a startup wants the market’s very best talent, it means they’ll be  competing against larger companies with greater brand recognition, robust talent acquisition teams and larger budgets. It’s going to take a  lot of creativity, strategy, hustle and time to punch above one's weight class.

3. Inability to meet the demands of the new candidate scorecard

The candidate scorecard has changed significantly over the past year due  to COVID. What do candidates want from startup employers in 2021?

  • Empathy and flexibility - I’m a father, husband, sister, caretaker, single mother. Life can be messy and unpredictable. If I join your startup, will taking my sick daughter to the doctor at the end of the quarter make you question my commitment to being a top performer?
  • Runway - Tell me about your finances. COVID showed me too many startups burn cash at an unsustainable rate. What about you? Do I trust and respect how you manage money?
  • Salary - In theory, equity is great, but during COVID, that unrealized equity couldn’t pay my rent. What’s your philosophy on compensation?
  • Candidate experience - I’m interviewing with three other companies right now. Do I feel special and valued or more like a number in your pipeline?
  • Mission and values - What are you doing to change the world? Do I believe in what you’re building and how you approach running a business?

4. New hires aren’t staying

Whether voluntary or involuntary, if new hires aren’t staying for at least one year, something is broken, and there's a strong chance it's the onboarding process (or lack thereof). Candidates aren't smoothly transitioning to full-time employees. Research shows new employees who go through a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.

5. No one is owning digital reputation/employer brand

According to LinkedIn, companies that invest in their employer brand reduce the cost-per-hire by 50%, improve the number of qualified applicants by 50% and make hires 1-2x faster.

Want us to find your Head of Talent?

Let's Talk!


March 20, 2021

Back to insights