- Startup recruiters step into the C suite.
- This year, software company Gem hired Facebook’s first employee, Richard Cho, to lead recruiting.
- In an interview, Cho explained why companies need a “hiring manager”.
Richard Cho was destined to become an engineer, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him.
In college, he discovered that he was the wrong person. But he learned something else about himself. He loved talking to his friends and classmates about what they wanted to do in life and giving advice on how to achieve their career goals, Cho said.
“I wanted nothing more than to help people find the job they were meant to be,” he said. Cho found his calling and pursued a career in recruiting.
Today, Cho’s job title – “hiring director” at software startup and tech unicorn Gem – is not common in the startup world. But the 22-year industry veteran believes the role will become the norm as one of the worst labor shortages in history drags on.
Over the past few years, the executive suite has expanded to accommodate people focused on different aspects of the job. There’s the remote director, the impact director, the future of work director, and even the joy director. The list continues. These job titles respond to tectonic shifts in the workplace.
That way, the recruiting manager may be late. The record number of workers leaving their jobs in the past two years means that startups have a large number of vacancies. Competition for engineers remains fierce, with tech salaries entering the stratosphere as unicorn startups raise more money to spend on employees. This hiring drive has increased demand for recruiters as talent shepherds, Insider reported.
A search on LinkedIn found hundreds of people with the title of hiring manager at software startups like Facet and Positioning Universal, as well as corporate law firms like Gibson Dunn, Taft, and King & Spalding.
Soon, more startups could add “CROs” to force their executive ranks to pay greater attention to recruiting as the war for talent continues for engineers and other competitive tech roles.
Cho said that without a talent acquisition practitioner in the executive suite, “it’s too easy to think of recruiting as a numbers game.” Managers ask if the company has met its hiring goals. Too often they overlook the strategy that helps them make good hires.
“We’re starting to see that candidates are absolutely committed to joining companies that align with their mission and values,” Cho said. Winning companies are clear about their missions and values and show candidates how these things align with their own goals. The employer’s success often hinges on the candidate’s experience, he added.
“Recruitment seems so simple at first glance,” he said. “It’s really not for someone who is a practitioner.”
From one rocket startup to another
Cho has prepared for his current role in 22 years of working in the field.
He joined a recruiting agency a few years out of college. There, he learned how to relate to people, whether or not they were looking for a job. He met them for coffee every few months to ask them what they liked and disliked, how their holidays were going or what turned them on at work.
“That’s where I was able to build some credibility,” Cho said, recalling a product manager he knew for more than a year before putting him in a leadership position at Facebook.
Cho went to Cisco, then eBay under contract, before joining Facebook as an early recruiter. During his tenure, he built the company’s first recruitment team focused on product management and design, and helped release job applicant tracking software on Facebook. His efforts helped the company grow from 500 employees to more than 6,000 in five years.
His turn on Facebook and Dropbox then gave Cho a ticket to any rocket start, and he went to Robinhood as a hiring manager in 2019. The stock trading app couldn’t hire fairly quickly during its hypergrowth phase, Cho said. . But a clear and articulated mission to “democratize finance for all” – and the company’s leadership’s willingness to dedicate resources to its recruiting staff – enabled Robinhood to hire more than 3,500 people in less than three years.
Cho left in January for Gem, whose software he used at Robinhood.
Founded in 2017, the company makes software that helps recruiters find candidates and track them through the interview process. It has raised $148 million in funding to date and has 235 employees in San Francisco and remotely.
In his new role, Cho is responsible for developing the startup’s internal recruiting staff, setting strategy, and sharing best practices with hiring managers at Gem and its clients. The company prides itself on having talent experts.
“We don’t want to bottle it,” he said. “We want to share it with the world.”