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Finding A Startup Recruiter. A Valuable Guide for Founders

Feb 20, 2023
9 min read

Recruiting for a startup requires a very different skillset and mindset than recruiting for big tech companies. At a startup, the founders should look for a recruiter who has the drive and ambition to help build the company from scratch. The ideal recruiter should be invested in the company and interested in knowing everything that’s going on, from the product roadmap to employee history. This kind of enthusiasm will be conveyed to potential candidates and attract the right talent. At a startup, a recruiter must be passionate about building the company, just as the product and engineering teams are. It’s an all-encompassing sales mission, not just a processing of resumes. And this manifests itself often in culture fit – feel free to read more about Why Startup Culture Fit Matters.

When a startup reaches a point where it needs to hire more people, it’s time for the founders to consider hiring a dedicated recruiter to manage the recruitment process. However, the founders should still be actively involved in the recruitment process, spending at least 30% of their time recruiting. This is necessary to build a great team.

Below is a list of the key traits to look for in a startup recruiter


It’s essential to find someone with the drive to build a company. This person should have the ambition to learn everything about the business, from the product roadmap to the sales metrics and employee history. As a recruiter, they must dive into all parts of the company to be as invested as possible. That enthusiasm is crucial when it comes to messaging potential candidates.

Startup Mindset 

Finding someone who is agile, adaptable and flexible, able to recruit for all sorts of positions (eg. Office Manager, Data Analyst, Engineer, Marketer, CSM) all at the same time is crucial. The recruiter must be open to change, curious and willing to grind. 

Knowing When to Make Changes

When a startup reaches a point where they’re looking to hire 8-10 employees in the next few months, it’s time for the founders to step back and consider a dedicated recruiter. That doesn’t mean the founders should stop recruiting, but it’s a chance to get more leverage and scale through a dedicated resource. Even at this stage, the founding team should spend at least 30% to 40% of their time recruiting.

Building a Talent Pipeline

Press can be a great tool for driving both customer adoption and recruiting. Before the press launch, it’s crucial to build up an outbound list of star candidates. This way, you have a talent pipeline ready to go right as the press hits.

How to Identify a Startup Recruiter

Evaluating a startup recruiter’s potential isn’t simple, however, here are some essential questions to ask to ensure you’re hiring the right person. 

Can They Tell the Story?

Ask the potential recruiter to pitch their current company and then ask them to pitch your company. A great startup recruiter should be able to pitch your company in a genuine way and share the vision of the company.

Are They Team Builders?

A recruiter at a startup should be passionate about building the company and scaling the team. Look for someone with experience in building entirely new teams, not just recruiting for one role at a big company. Ask questions about building the team, creating a great candidate experience, and attracting talent.


Ask the potential recruiter about their close rates for candidates and funnel numbers. A reasonable goal is to make an offer to one out of every three to five candidates that make it through the entire process.

Domain Expertise

Domain experience in certain areas that the startup needs is often helpful. The recruiter should be able to speak the same language as the recruits and ask relevant questions about the discipline they’re hiring for.

Interests and Background

Recruiters who are members of sports teams and other community organizations tend to be viewed positively, as it suggests they possess characteristics such as competitiveness, drive, social awareness, team spirit, and constructive social skills.

Interview questions to consider when hiring a startup recruiter

When interviewing a potential recruiter, the founders should assess the recruiter’s ability to tell the story of the company and build the team. They should look for a recruiter who has experience building new teams, not just hiring for a single role at a big company. It’s also important to understand the recruiter’s metrics, such as close rates and funnel numbers. The recruiter should be able to assess talent for the specific domain the startup needs. However, before you start, you should become acquainted with the following 14 types of bias in your hiring.

Here is a list of interview questions for a startup recruiter candidate: 

  1. How would you communicate our company’s brand to candidates? What kind of support from marketing would you need to spread that message effectively?
  2. How would you sell our company to different types of candidates? Can you give an example of a successful pitch you’ve made in the past?
  3. When do you typically start the closing process with a candidate? Remember, you should always be closing!
  4. How do you go about closing a candidate and what techniques do you use to overcome any objections they may have?
  5. How do you create a great experience for candidates during the hiring process, and what steps do you take to ensure that they feel valued and respected throughout the process?
  6. What kind of programs have you built in the past to attract top talent, and what programs would you recommend for our company?
  7. If you’re coming from a large company, what groups did you recruit for at your previous employers, and what challenges did you face in that role?
  8. What’s a realistic hiring plan for our company, and how would you go about creating one?
  9. What’s your opinion on using external recruiting agencies, and have you worked with them in the past? If so, how successful were your results?
  10. How do you follow up with candidates throughout the recruiting process, and what methods have you found to be most effective?
  11. How many positions have you filled over the last year, and what was your close rate for those positions?
  12. On average, how long did it take for a candidate to make it through your recruiting process?
  13. What metrics did you use to assess candidate quality post-hire, and how did you go about measuring those metrics?
  14. Can you walk me through your hiring funnel metrics, including the number of candidates that made it to the first call, second call, onsite interview, and so on?
  15. What’s your definition of top talent, and how do you go about discovering it?
  16. What kinds of backgrounds did the teams you recruited for have in the past, and how did you tailor your recruiting approach to those backgrounds?
  17. What kind of network do you have in place to build a pipeline of candidates immediately, and how would you use that network to find the right candidates for our company?

By asking these questions, you can get a better sense of a candidate’s recruiting skills and experience, as well as their ability to build strong relationships with candidates and sell your company’s brand. You should – besides interviewing – also leverage screening tools that can help you identify company culture preferences in your candidates, in order to hire for culture fit and culture add in your candidate(s). Remember to focus on finding a recruiter who is driven, passionate about building teams, and capable of telling your company’s story in a genuine and compelling way.

Robert, Co-Founder @ Gyfted

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