So you wanna be a…Start-up Recruiter

Looking for a TA career change but not too sure how to get there? Our ‘So you wanna be a…‘ series takes a look at some of the more niche TA roles and digs deep into the who, how, and why behind them. We chat with some of your favourite TA leaders in that space to find out how they got started, what their role really looks like, and what tips and tricks they have for other TA superstars looking to get a foot in the door.

Caitlin Fairchild, Xplor

In this issue, we sat down with Caitlin Fairchild, Global Head of Talent Acquisition @ Xplor to find out what really goes on in the life of a Start-up Recruiter.

So how did you get into the start-up recruitment space?

I was working as a tech recruiter and was approached to join a small start-up. At the time I was also interviewing at a large corporation that felt like a very “safe” choice, but decided to check out the start-up opportunity too. I’m so glad I did! The energy, vision, and values really drew me in, and I loved the idea of being part of building something totally new. I’ve now worked at two start-ups, with my current company having gone through significant growth over the past 18 months.

Many people think that start-ups are just tech companies. How does being a start-up recruiter differ from being a tech recruiter?

There are a lot of similarities, primarily in how both need to be creative in finding candidates and highly relationship focused when engaging with candidates. However, as a start-up recruiter you’ll find yourself recruiting a much wider variety of roles and at all levels within the organisation. Often a recruiter will be hired after a start-up has raised a new round of funding to scale the existing team, so you’ll likely be tasked with quickly bringing in specific capability and key leadership. I’ve also found that as a start-up recruiter you’re more closely involved in the organisational design of the company and able to help shape the roles to be recruited.

Start-ups are known for growing at a rapid rate. What kind of impact does this exponential growth have on your role in the business?

Your role will change as the business changes, as there really is no such thing as “BAU” in start-ups.  The business’ growth brings huge opportunities to team members, and start-ups are great companies to try your hand at new projects, learn new skills, and accelerate your career. There’s always something new to be done, and if you’re up for trying it, you’ll have the ability to shape your role to take on what is needed for the business. In 3.5 years at Xplor I’ve now had 4(!) different roles, and been able to expand my responsibility outside of recruitment to so many things including establishing new benefits and policies, implementing HRIS and ATS systems, creating a performance review process, and being a part of building cultural traditions and recognition initiatives to name a few.

I can imagine that start-ups have pretty specific ideas in mind for their talent strategies. What type of candidates do you look for, and where do you find them?

I think there is a certain type of person that thrives in a start-up, as you need to be happy to work in extreme ambiguity and be comfortable with a certain amount of risk. When assessing candidates we also look for key attributes of having a growth mindset, being proactive, driven and goal oriented, and being really great at collaborating. Even more important than anything else, however, is finding candidates that align to the company’s values and are “infected with a love of your product”. You need to have a team that is truly passionate about what the company is trying to achieve, as you’re building a company that’s rallying around turning a totally new vision into a reality.

Where do you find these type of candidates? Early days you’ll likely just be happy for anyone to speak to you because no one will know who the company is or what you do. Tapping into the start-up community is key, as well as being relentless about getting the whole team to help you build awareness in the market and refer candidates. Focusing on interviewing on our values and the key transferable skills for each role also helped open up our talent pool, and we’ve been able to hire team members from non-traditional backgrounds who have now flourished here.

What do you enjoy most about working as a start-up recruiter?

I really enjoy being so close to the impact that I make in the business. At one point I could look around the office and I had personally recruited almost every person! It’s incredibly fulfilling to see the business succeed and team members grow in their careers and knowing you played a part in it all. I also love the endless learning opportunities available and being exposed to so many parts of the business.

Any tips for success you can share with aspiring start-up recruiters?

Always stay curious, learn to be super resourceful, and get comfortable with being a beginner. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but instead find a starting point to adapt from. Go and leverage the free resources out there and use the many wonderful recruitment community members we have in Australia (and globally!) to help you along the way.

Caitlin’s Cheat Sheet for Aspiring Talent Leaders

What are some of the actionable things you can do if you want to be a Start-up Recruiter? Here are some suggestions from Caitlin of who to follow, what to use, and where to seek out your info.

Industry experts and influencers to follow

I have a huge crush on Jennifer Kim – she writes about recruiting and D&I in start-ups and is gifted at distilling the complex into simple, great advice.

Everything Nate Guggia says is gold – employer branding tips for anyone to use and implement.

I’ve also found the following books have helped me during my start-up journey so far: Powerful by Patty McCord, Mindset by Carol Dweck, Measure What Matters by John Doerr, and the High Growth Handbook.

Absolute must-use productivity and tech tools to make your life so much easier

My day is run according to what my Todoist app tells me to do!

I save everything interesting to read into my Pocket account.

I’m learning to balance my busy day job and just “being” instead of always “doing”, so using the Downtime setting on my iPhone and taking up mediation using the Balance app have both helped me tremendously.

Newsletter and event recommendations to keep the brain ticking over and your network fresh?

We have an amazing start-up community in Australia so I try stay up to date with what’s going on via organisations like Startup Victoria, the VCs AirTree & Blackbird, and Startmate (just to name a few!).

Then there’s always everything that Hung Lee does with Recruiting Brainfood. More locally the ATC and Talent Table teams are great and I can’t answer this question without also plugging the group I help run, Melbourne Recruitment Meetup, too!

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