By Clare Mullen

You never forget your first...

...Talent Leader.

In January, I found myself becoming the candidate instead of the candidate hunter. It’s not a position anyone likes to be in, least of all those of us who are used to being in control of the interview process. Having been in start-up for a few year's however, I quickly found myself being referred to some awesome businesses. Thanks to that and job applications, I entered a few intense weeks of interviews and coffees. This is what I discovered.

Good Talent Leaders are in short supply!

Get it right, and your first talent hire will help you scale your business dramatically. They will cut the cost of using external agencies, embed processes for attraction, onboarding and retention, as well as take the helm in shaping your culture. Get it wrong and you will have a team of unsure, unsupported, and unhappy staff.

I am often asked by founders about the right time to hire an in-house People or Talent function. The first thing to consider is which of the two you’d like: People or Talent? They are not always the same person. In fact, more often or not they are two people. I like to think I'm pretty rare in that respect *insert the nail-painting emoji*.

But for argument’s sake, let’s consider Talent. As soon as you look to scale your team (normally in line with securing funding), you should look to bring someone in-house. It’s simple maths: agency fees can come to 20% per hire, so an in-house recruiter may save you money straight away.

So what do you want this talent leader to do? I know you are reading this and answering, "Well, Clare, I want them to recruit." But if that’s the sum of your expectations, you’re getting it wrong from the start. Your first talent hire needs to be able to create a recruitment brand from nothing, build pipelines, hire at speed, onboard, and retain.

In sum, your first talent hire needs to be f****** awesome at what they do, and you need to be able to hire the right one first time round.

Apart from learning that there are very few proven talent leaders for hire, I also learned that many founders and business leaders aren't very sure how to identify the right one. So here are my tips.

  1. Get your budget right! You can't hire a Head of Talent on a junior recruiter’s salary. There are plenty of useful tools out there for salary benchmarking. But you also have at your disposal a wealth of fellow founders, investors and business leaders who will have access to those already in HoT roles. Get an intro and pick their brains on where to pitch your budget. If you are very nice to us, we will also help you write your job description.
  2. Sell the reality, not the dream. The bottom line is that your Talent Leader needs to know where the bodies are hidden. They need access to all areas of your business, and you need to trust them with that information. It’s a hard thing to do as a founder, and may feel like you are losing some control. But trust them to want to help you build the company you want, even if that means pointing out the existing flaws.
  3. Spend time with your HoT. Seriously, buy us lunch! Get to know your Talent Leader - which roles get them excited, what they look for in a hire. Tell them about what you look for. We’re not mind-readers! Talk to us!
  4. Reward the successes! Recruitment is a thankless task. As teams grow, you’ll often forget about the people who brought that great team in, and you probably won't even realise how many bad interviews happened to get that team. Acknowledge your Head of Talent’s role, and don't forget about their own development needs. HoTs sacrifice a lot of their one-to-one time talking about the business’s needs instead of their own. Recognise their desire for progression and use your experience to help them get there.

It’s pretty simple. But getting hiring and retention wrong will be to the detriment of your product.

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