The following is an interview with Lynda Liner, Senior Executive Recruiter with Victoria James Executive Search, for my Entrepreneurial Planning graduate course. Lynda and I have known each other since 2015 when she recruited me for a position in a small business. We discuss entrepreneurial recruitment for A-Players.
Q. Please share with me a little about your background and experience recruiting.
A. Thank you, David, for the invitation to share insights into the recruiting industry.
My early introduction to recruiting was joining a well-known international retained executive search firm as Assistant to the Administrative group that allowed me to learn the industry literally from the bottom up and benefitting from support from mentors while advancing and working each layer of recruiting: research, strategy, candidate development, interviewing, client management – total experience and education in Best Practices and Values I continue to apply today.
The CEO of the recruiting firm gave me advice I’ve never forgotten, “Always remember, recruiting is a contact sport. Things happen when you engage with people.” And this has influenced my dedication to the best possible experience and service to our clients and our candidate professionals.
Q. Your areas of expertise, as I understand it, are in the sales and marketing disciplines. In your experience, how important is it that entrepreneurs find the right talent for roles in these disciplines in a startup? Why do you believe this to be true?
A. The “right” sales and marketing talent will ultimately be responsible for the forward success of an organization. A start-up would initially focus on sales and marketing as the backbone and frontline of an organization and primary management partnership to establish a solid foundation on which to build the organization’s mission, philosophy, culture and simultaneously developing a strategy and action plan for their product or service.
To confirm the importance of identifying the right talent for sales and marketing, in my experience, having placed numerous marketing professionals in middle to senior management roles, I’ve observed large and small companies, from start-up and established, realize positive outcomes, e.g., increased revenue, brand awareness, acquisition, other - as a result of successful key position placements.
Most recently, we placed a Vice President of Marketing with an online business service company that has enjoyed moderate success for ten years without any dedicated sales or marketing presence. We worked with the CEO/Founder in a consultative capacity to translate his thoughts and ideas into a position overview/job description incorporating long and short-term goals, objectives, expectations, experience/skills/attributes for their highly critical hire who will be responsible for tripling revenue, analyzing product, website and brand, budget, and every marketing touch point. After a select number of candidates, numerous one-on-one meetings, within three months we found their ideal Vice President. All parties are pleased and looking forward to an amazing future.
Q. What is your process for finding those A-Players that entrepreneurs need to build and grow their business?
A. Relentless, hard work! Not kidding.
Although in today’s technology environment, everything is possible and the information is immediately available. Staying current with resourcing tools, applications, and platforms is critical. We also manage a growing in-house community of marketing professionals. We have an open registry and approximately 20,000 profiles that are regularly updated so we are in constant communication with our sales/marketing population by email, blog, social media, website postings. In addition to internal resources, we use outside resources where applicable such as LinkedIn. Our firm specializes in all things under the marketing umbrella from traditional to digital and all things about to be new. When a client seeks our recruiting experience, it requires the knowledge of all aspects of marketing functions to better serve both client and candidate.
In general, recruiting relies on those skills at the core of experience: sourcing, relationships, influence, resilience. In an evolving world, recruiters must be social media savvy and technically proficient as the hiring process becomes more and more complex.
Q. What are the top things an entrepreneur or startup founder should look for when hiring a recruiter?
A. Trite but true, great recruiters have a passion for their craft.
They have a Consultant Approach. Great recruiters take a consultant and partner approach to supporting a client and filling an important position whether a manager or CEO. The more a recruiter asks for information and details the more they bond with a client and know the position, the better prepared he/she will be to represent your company to the target audience and act as your brand ambassador.
They are outstanding communicators. Working in the “human resource” business requires a recruiter to be a great communicator, no matter whether face to face, on the phone or via email.
Listening is a skill. A great recruiter is an excellent listener who is respectful, diplomatic, empathetic, professional. Listening for what isn’t communicated is also a skill and is acquired through experience.
Q. In your opinion, what are a few of the bigger mistakes entrepreneurs or startup founders make in recruiting?
A. In advance of hiring, failing to take quality time to thoroughly evaluate: company vision, company direction, company goals, and objectives.
Communicate exactly what is expected of the position and how the position will interact with the management team and or senior management.
Communicate the position’s authority and decision-making.
Communicate how the position interacts with the founder(s), if applicable.
Q. What’s the best advice would you give an entrepreneur about finding and hiring an A-Player for his or her business?
A. First employees are critical. Don’t rush the process.
Allow plenty of time to recruit the best possible talent that fulfills your requirements and expectations.
Avoid disorganized hiring practices. Establish a reliable process for sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding.
Look for previous startup experience or comparable business growth experience.
Identify marketing strengths depending on the position:
analytics, marketing automation, strategy, etc.
Measure previous career accomplishments. Do they align with
David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.
He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.
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