The Top 10 Reasons Why Recruiters are Useless for Start Ups

I recently attended a dinner with friends in Melbourne. Some of the guys at the dinner table were Start Up professionals. We started sharing our most recent experiences in the Start Up world and talked about ‘how to properly hire Start Up employees’, a topic that rekindled our dislike for recruiters and their general uselessness.

Initially our dinner chat revolved around the mindset that Start Up founders should be the ones responsible for the hiring. No one else. Period. It was an insightful dinner as we created a list of the top reasons why you should never hire a recruiter if you are a Start Up business owner. I promised to publish it on Monday – so here it is.

The top 10 reasons why recruiters are useless for Start Up businesses

#1 You can’t outsource identifying the right staff for a Start Up — because you need to spend enough time identifying your ‘foundation staff’, the potential candidates who want to work at your company, and meeting every person that comes in for an interview. Recruiters can’t do that. They have sales targets, they are time poor and too often, they just don’t get it. I personally believe that Start Up founders should interview every candidate until the company is at least 50+ employees, and maybe even beyond if you want to ensure that you build a great business.

#2 No one can sell the company’s mission better than the founder(s)Start Ups have a vision and they are on a mission.  You want candidates who really want to work in a great team and to do that they need to believe in your mission. Recruiters are not suited to discover the true believers and that’s why they aren’t suitable. Recruiters are essentially paid contractors with generally very little understanding of a Start Up’s corporate culture or its mission. No matter how hard recruiters might try, at the end of the day, they represent dozens of companies. Founders are the heart and soul of any Start Up, and they understand their company’s vision and mission inside and out. So, why would any founder in their right frame of mind hand over one of the most important aspects of a successful Start Up to a commission hungry recruiter who doesn’t understand the importance of the mission? It’s absolutely crazy when you think about it.

#3 There are too many rookie recruiters who act like car salesmen. Don’t get me wrong. The recruiting industry was once a very honourable trade that added real value, but that was yesterday. It’s incredibly silly to hire recruiters because they end up sounding like used car salesmen, pitching the ‘perfect’ model for you whilst actually putting forward much less that you thought. Hiring a choreographed mouthpiece makes your Start Up look and sound dodgy—the last thing you want when trying to hire quality talent.

#4 You have to like the people who work in your Start Up to create the right kind of company culture. Smart Start Up founders only hire people they get on well with; yet another compelling reason why recruiters are useless. Simply put, recruiters don’t actually work within the company.  They are external contractors who are disconnected with the day-to-day running of your Start Up. As a founder, I want to create a great team – a bit like a family – out of my future employees. I want to be able to do more than just have a beer with them after work. I might want them to become a partner or offer them shares in the business.  Your team is, after all, fundamental to your success – particularly in the Start Up world.

#5 Too many recruiters (especially the rookies) have lost touch Recruiters can only make educated guesses regarding the suitability of a candidate, but they will always fail to determine whether or not they are the “right fit” for the Start Up.

#6  Most recruiters don’t understand the role and have little or no time and so they tend to focus on generalities and miss out on discovering truly great candidates, or the much needed B talent. Here are just two examples:

  • 10 seconds to skim over resumes; and
  • the obsession and addiction to ATS driven processes vs. the human aspect and intuition.

#7 Recruiters have too many time issues and fail to learn the role.  A recruiter should spend time learning about a role before starting to recruit for it.  If you don’t understand it, it’s very hard to find the right person. This is another key point. It’s nearly impossible for a recruiter to learn a certain role, let alone dozens of them. So why would you hire a recruiter for your Start Up to find employees for roles that they don’t have a single clue about? The general lack of industry knowledge in the Start Up industry quickly becomes a serious detriment. Your most important asset is your people. Why would you give the selection of that asset away? Most recruiters focus their interviews on broad skills and credentials: Which school did you go to? What kind of degree do you have? What companies did you work for in the past? Most Start Ups, however, tend to look past those qualifications. Most Start Ups want to hire ‘B talent’ and the vast majority of recruiters wouldn’t have a clue how to find them. Start Ups want developers who can demonstrate their abilities on the spot. They want thinkers and doers who can come up with cool ideas even before the interview starts.

#8 Recruiters obsess about interviews instead of auditions for great roles.  This is the most important piece of advice I took away from our dinner discussion.  It is very hard for a Start Up to know what it’ll be like working with someone after a few interviews (even more so if a recruiter has conducted them).  But, it’s quite easy to know what it’ll be like after working with them. So, run an audition. Recruiters rely on traditional interviewing instead of letting the candidates demonstrate their talents, thus making it impossible to come to the best hiring decision.

#9 Recruiters don’t like to focus on networking.  By at least a 10-fold, the best candidate sources I’ve ever seen are through quality referrals. This is the secret sauce most recruiters don’t want you to know about. Most recruiters are hooked on LinkedIn via their premium accounts. We all agreed during our dinner chat that personal and professional referrals have always led to sourcing the best candidates. Recruiters just can’t replicate these results.

#10 Technical recruiters are shockingly bad. When tech recruiters are calling you it is the one definitive sign that the job market is hot.  On the other hand, the bad news is when the job market heats up, recruiting companies start hiring more recruiters, and we all know that the standards for hiring new recruiters are not terribly high for most companies. I just don’t want to deal with rookies any longer. Need I say more?

 So if you are a Start Up founder and you want to make your business a success with the right kind of people on the right kind of mission and contributing to the right kind of culture, then stay clear of recruiters.  If you are a switched on, hungry, gutsy job hunter who wants to work for a Start Up, apply via jobsites that offer alternatives to recruiters and always remember to hunt wisely.