Is this a familiar situation?

You’re in charge of People, or Talent, or People and Talent at a fast-growing startup, and you spend a lot of time and energy on startup recruiting.  You just found out you need 10 more engineering hires than you were expecting - and ideally they should all be hired in the next quarter. Your CEO says this is business critical.

What do you do? Consider the options: 

  1. Keep things the same - add to your current team’s workload

  2. Hire another recruiter

  3. Consider 3rd party options


Option 1:  Just do more.

Unless you and your team have a lot of excess capacity, such as a whole person doing nothing, it’s really unlikely that option 1 will work for your organization. Something’s got to give, in order for option 1 to work, such as deprioritizing hiring for another area of the business, which is unlikely a viable plan during a time of fast growth. Your CEO has given you a mandate - you should be committing additional resources to ensure it’s successful. Asking everyone to work more, or taking on more yourself, may feel heroic in the moment, but it’s not sustainable, and it won’t work. Hope is not a plan.


So let’s consider options 2 and 3:

Option 2: Hire another recruiter.  

If you expect to have ongoing hiring at this new volume, you should definitely hire another recruiter. Good in-house resources are the best solution for long term hiring. However keep in mind that hiring good recruiters takes about as long as hiring a good engineer - which is a long time. Great recruiters are in high demand, and it's worthwhile hard work to hire them. Whoever you hire will not be in place for a quarter, and won't be making hires at volume until a quarter after starting. You might be tempted to lower your standard by hiring a readily available but unproven tech recruiter, but don't. You risk missing your targets, and more importantly, you risk damaging your employment brand. Your situation requires a more immediate solution that you can run in parallel with your search for a full time qualified recruiter.

Check out our blog: Scalable Hiring: Improving the Candidate Experience


Option 3: Consider third-party partners.

In parallel to hiring for your team, if you’ll have sustained need, now is a good time to consider your third-party options. Bringing in a third-party solution can be a daunting proposition for many heads of talent in start-ups.  You’re scrappy, ambitious and results-oriented, and you have a strong inclination to take everything on internally. However, knowing when to bring in third party help during workload spikes is not a sign of weakness, it is a reflection of strategic thinking about real solutions for challenging problems. Partner with other stakeholders in your company, the head of finance, the CTO - and present the facts and the available options and pros and cons.

There are three kinds of third parties to consider:

  1. Contract Recruiters

  2. Agencies

  3. Embedded Recruiting support


Aren’t contract recruiters an easy fix?

If only it were that easy. This sounds like a great answer, from a cost standpoint, since it’s a non-committed resource you can turn on and off as needed. But, if you haven’t yet learned this the hard way, talk to some of your peers that have: there aren’t many contractors out there, particularly in tech recruiting, that will give you the productivity you need. The hiring process takes about as long as hiring a full-time employee - and many contractors aren’t career-contractors, and would prefer a full time job - so you may as well just do that, and use other third party resources in the meantime. And, if you’re really not ready to hire a full time employee, and hire a contractor anyway, you run the risk of the contractor leaving for an internal role elsewhere.


Use an agency (or 2, or 3…) 

Contingent agencies have a place in the recruiting mix. Some agency recruiters have good experience and strong networks, and can provide you with some good candidates. They’re a useful way to supplement your sourcing channels.  

However - this is not a reliable solution, as they only do part of the job of hiring. Those good candidates they have presented to you are being shopped to 5 other companies to increase the agency’s odds of placement. 

Contingency recruiters have no real commitment to helping you versus helping any other company - their primary objective is getting their candidate hired fastest, but not necessarily by you. Basically, your interests and theirs are not aligned, and mutual success is almost random.  They might get you a couple of good hires - but not all or most of them. And, to increase your odds, you probably need to work with a few of them to get some success. Someone on your team will spend a fair amount of time just managing these relationships, which can become almost a full-time job in itself, further distracting from other internal hiring needs.


Have you tried (or even heard of?) embedded recruiting

The founders of Gray Scalable have been in your shoes multiple times. As HR/talent leaders, we knew the limitations of all the options. We ultimately succeeded in our roles by building great internal teams - but when we started Gray Scalable eight years ago, our mission was to figure out how to provide the same level, results, and value that great internal teams bring -  but immediately to our clients and without long-term commitment. In other words, what would a really good third party solution look like? 

Embedded recruiting means that our teams become an extension of yours, during the time of the engagement. We immerse in your culture, by working onsite, and by partnering directly with hiring managers, interviewers, and members of the People team. We’re a blend of an internal team and a third party. Essentially, when we started Gray Scalable, we gave ourselves a goal: can we really provide a best-of-both-worlds solution?

We think so! Our model includes:

A commitment to making the hires you need

We’re in it with you, managing roles holistically - not just providing top-of-funnel sourcing support. Unlike agencies, we won’t turn off the tap if things aren’t going well - we’ll work with you on all aspects of the recruiting process, to troubleshoot and advise on best practices, identify and solve your hiring obstacles, and commit to getting the job done.

A working partnership to build sustainable practices

We’re meant to be a short-term solution, but we build long-term practices. We partner with internal teams to build sustainable interviewing and hiring frameworks, and help create a culture of recruiting within your organization.  

Some of our clients bring us in when they haven’t yet selected their ATS, for example. We make it our business to know and understand the latest HR SaaS offerings, and will help with rollout of ATSes, like Greenhouse, to help drive adoption and use.  We also have a compensation practice at Gray Scalable and can provide market-based advice on competitive salaries in the fast-changing world of tech hiring.

Managing all channels of hiring

By managing the entire pipeline of a requisition, we give your organization the best chance at hiring the best people for your roles. Unlike agencies, we drive and manage your inbound candidate pool, your internal referral program, and engage in outbound sourcing. We help you hire the best candidate - not “our” candidate - removing unnecessary bias (and conflict) from the hiring process.     

While we do believe our model sets our clients up to make the best hires at scale, we also understand it is different and can take some getting used to. To be successful our model also requires true partnership and engagement from our clients - so, before taking on an engagement, we will encourage a mutual assessment of fit.

These successful partnerships are what motivate us every day, and we’ve been fortunate to work with many of the leading tech companies in NYC and elsewhere.  One example: Two years ago, we meet with Luke Vnenchak at BuzzFeed about growing their engineering team and ended up partnering in many ways with one of our all-time biggest clients.  Luke sent us this note about the team he’d been working with a year later: 

Gray Scalable has been a true partner for us as we've grown our engineering team. They have given great advice on process that is catered specifically to our strengths and challenges as an organization. The diversity on our teams has increased as we have worked with them, and I have a ton of confidence in how they communicate with candidates throughout the hiring experience. 

You can read other client testimonials here - and if you’d like to learn more about embedded recruiting, give us a shout anytime! Thanks for reading.