10 Things I’ve Learned In My First Year As An Executive Recruiter

on 03 | 02 | 2011

Posted by Iain Grant

1. No one reads a whole resume – skip writing the paragraphs of “I increased sales from 112% to 142%” and long-winded introductions of “team player, results driven, blah blah blah” which frankly, all reads the same. No one reads it and no one believes it. We’re really looking at where you’ve worked, how long you worked there, the schools you went to and who you know. We review hundreds of resumes a day and will easily talk to over a hundred selected people for each VP job search (i.e. time is our most precious commodity – as it is yours).

2. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Everyone uses it, particularly recruiters. While we do have our own proprietary database where we track data about you (if we know you), but it will never be as up to date as the premier crowd-sourced database – LinkedIn. So, the perfect job may be waiting to contact you, but if you’re not searchable on LinkedIn, it won’t find you!

3. “A-Players refer A-Players and B’s refer C’s” – this pearl of wisdom is courtesy of Andy Grosso – Partner at Riviera Partners, and is sooo true.

4. The market is red-hot for Engineering and Product talent right now. If you’re hiring, unless you focus on the recruiting process and have a very compelling story for both your company and the role you’re recruiting for, you won’t land the “A-Players.”

5. Yes, we do look at age. We’re trying to assess cultural fit including appetite to work the long and crazy hours that all start-ups require. If you are over 40, have family etc., you may not be cut out for a start-up and the breakneck pace – that’s a fact. If you’ve got stellar credentials in your experience, then exceptions might be made. If you’ve got gray hair and still want to work with start-ups, be a recruiter like me (or VC if you have the money)!

6. There is a correlation between VC’s who participate in weekly search status calls and the success of the search (and I would argue their success as a VC). Industry leaders such as Peter Fenton and Doug Leone actively participate in every weekly status call and help drive success of the process – there’s a reason they and their portfolio companies are so successful. It comes with coordinated hard work – across the board.

7. Clients rarely know exactly what they want at the beginning of a search – they think they do, but they don’t. They meet candidates and perceptions change. This is perfectly ok, and natural.

8. VP-level searches in the Bay Area for hot tech start-ups such as Groupon, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., take on average 3 months and can take longer. The single biggest cause for taking longer is the clients decision-making process, particularly if anyone and everyone gets a say in the hire and worsened if many people (i.e. all the engineering team!) have veto-power. CEO’s need to take charge of a streamlined and effective decision-making process (while also ensuring buy-in from key team members) – for more on this, refer back to Ali’s previous post.

9. Kids in school today who want to make a lot of money (full disclosure, I have 3 teenage kids), should seriously rethink being a super star athlete, famous singer, or well-known actor. Their chance of making it is extremely slim – at best. They should really be looking toward engineering or product management as a career. We placed one VP candidate 6 months ago with 1% equity at a company with a $1B valuation at the time. 6 months later, the company was valued at just under over $5B. Now for sure, not all companies experience this kind of rapid growth in valuation, but this individual went from $10M worth to ~$50M in 6 months. Sure, it vests over 4 years and who knows what it will be worth 4 years from now. But do kids today know how much easier it would be to make serious money, if they went down this a career path?? I think not. Plus as an added bonus, they get to work with young, fun and very smart people in some of the greatest office set-ups ever known to man/woman!

10. The recruiting market is still extremely inefficient and ripe for automation and innovation. Old online resume posting services such as Monster, Hotjobs ,etc. don’t cut it – we all know that. The facts are: A. Candidates don’t know (or even come remotely close to knowing) all of the opportunities out there that may be a fit for them. B. Hiring companies don’t have access to all the potential candidates (particularly those who are not actively looking, which at the end of the day, are probably the folks they want!). Much like the travel space (e.g. Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, etc.) and the real estate space (e.g. Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, etc.), the Internet will [soon] radically change the field of recruiting. And like those afore-mentioned businesses, the companies that provide a compelling, value-added service that meets the market demand, will not only survive, but thrive.

11. We are changing lives – for the candidate who gets the job – and the company who hires a great person – and frankly, that’s a great feeling.

Ok, that was 11 things, not 10, but I’m still learning every day.