Roles in Recruiting: Startup Recruiter

We catch up with Startup Recruiter Karina Sandoval and have a conversation around being the sole recruiter at a startup.
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Karina Sandoval is the sole recruiter at Nova Credit where she leads all things talent to deliver on our mission to build a world beyond borders

Video Transcript

[00:00:00] Janet: Do you just want to introduce yourself for the group?

Karina: My name is Karina. I am the sole recruiter at Nova credit. Great. And to start, can you tell me a little bit about you and your career progression?

Janet: So how did you get started in recruiting and then briefly what led you to your current role?

Karina: So I think like most people that I’ve met recruiting sort of falls on someone’s lap. And the way that it worked for me is when I was in college and looking for my next opportunity and internship with Genentech actually opened up within the university recruiting team. And I decided to take that , and it was a bit of project management and doing a lot of the
fun, like summer events that interns will experience. And then I slowly made my way over into. I’m actually doing some of the recruiting for the
research and development functions. , from there, I was definitely curious to go beyond university recruiting and so decided to take an opportunity with a startup what was most exciting was really around.

[00:01:00] They let me know that it was going to be very much a blank canvas. So I get to build the recruiting process. I get to run. Fruiting how I see fit. And I think that was a great opportunity for me to just get creative and really kind of understand the strategic side of a recruiting. That’s great. And tell me a little bit more about your role.

Janet: So like, what are your core responsibilities? I’m sure it, like, I know in a startup things change like every couple of weeks even, but I’m curious to get a sense of what your role looks like.

Karina: So a big chunk of it is the actual recruiting. And obviously folks will learn like there’s different things. So like there’s the recruiting coordination, the sourcing, and then the actual recruiting. So being the sole person within the recruiting function, I kit to cover all of that. And a big, depending on the quarter, there’s usually like a theme to it. So there’s a quarter while I can
be very much focused on hiring engineering talent, a quarter where it’s more non-tech [00:02:00] talent.
So that’s a big focus. I would say the second piece is really around the actual, like operations and building up the process. So, really understanding we have what we call a recruiting cookbook, which is like the guidelines for how we approach recruiting. So getting, yeah, getting to build that out, understanding and helping managers or helping hiring managers understand how to best actually like.Search for a certain candidate. So building out templates that allow them to think about, okay, what type of candidate do I actually really need? Like, and really kind of hatching out
those details. And then the last piece, for me specifically, and because our company is still fairly small and we do want to, do a huge push on diversity
it’s also leading some of the diversity components and understanding, okay, how can we go beyond. The more traditional places of sourcing and really continue to, to foster relationships with diverse talent and being able to attract them and bring [00:03:00] them in. Great.

Janet: And, how many people are at your company?
Karina: Currently we were at 60 people.

Janet: And what do you think are the core competencies that make somebody successful in
a role like yours? And I’m curious about both hard skills and soft skills.

Karina: I’ll start with soft skills. There’s definitely, I’m an introvert. And so my actual first assumption was that you had to be an extrovert to be able to recruit and have high energy. But I found that. For me, the introverted piece had to work really around like building connections in one-on-one. So usually talking with one candidate at a time and really being able to connect with them. And so having that genuine care for each person that you mean and approaching them with curiosity and, and understanding that this is. Potentially like a big piece of their life that you can impact. So that passion for that space. And then, yeah, second one communication is
extremely important. I’m continuing to learn that as I evolve in my role. So, you know how often [00:04:00] you communicate with your hiring managers, even with your own candidates or how you communicate with the rest of the company to ensure that everyone feels like they have a
hand in recruiting. In. Yeah, I would say I am not sure where the time management falls into the more hard skills or soft skills, but I being the sole recruiter, that one is definitely really important and understanding really how to prioritize your roles and your time to ensure that you’re not necessarily dropping the ball on candidates. And that you’re also kind of meeting the. For me really building all like the foundations of recruiting at the company and ensuring that all of that can easily be placed on the back
burner, that it’s not. So that everyone’s up to date on understanding how to best interview and ensure that they’re empowered, from within the company, as interview, that’s really helpful and that’s.

Janet: Such great insight around. It’s like you’re wearing so many hats at the [00:05:00] startups. So I can imagine that like throughout the day you have to almost change what role you’re in. Yes. Success measured for you in this role. Like what metrics are you tracking by week or by month or even by quarter?

Karina: For me specifically, the, the biggest one is really tied to, are you meeting your, your goals in terms of like the hires that you need to make?
So we’re still fairly small. We don’t necessarily open like tons of roles per quarter. But a big piece is really around, like, did you make the five hires or out of the five or 10 hires that you had to make for the quarter? Did you at least make the most critical hires? That could really impact the company?
So that’s one piece. I think what’s been really neat because we’re still fairly small. We really get to, you know, between as, and we, between my manager and I get to set what those goals and what success looks like every quarter. So it could be really that this quarter, what we’re seeing is incredibly important is.

[00:06:00] Let’s say we have a third of the workforce is new and none of them have trained, done any interview training. So the goal of this quarter is very much being able to ensure that everyone feels trained and empowered to interview. And so then the goals are set on a, on a quarterly basis and really measured out that way.

Janet: That makes sense. And who’s your manager? What role are they in that?

Karina: So as of today changed, but I was reporting directly to the co-founder and chief operating officer. And as of today we hired a head of people. So as we’re growing and maturing, thank you. We’re bringing in leadership. So now I will report directly to the head of people.
Great. And are there any other roles at the company that you work really closely with? Besides your interviewers and hiring managers, obviously I will say, those are the people I can think of the most. And I will say what’s really cool [00:07:00] about starting at a, at a smaller company, is that really a lot of my hiring managers are leadership. And so I’ve been incredibly lucky to, to really. Like work with our head of engineering, our head of product, like our head of credit risk and really just work and kind of better
understand how to, how to work with leadership and learn from them because they’re, they’re incredibly talented individuals.

Janet: Cool. What do you like most about your role and what do you find to be the most challenging about it?

Karina: I think what I like most there’s there’s two. I would say there’s two things. One I think, and this is something, anyone, I think once they make their first hire they’ll experience that rush of like you did it, like somehow you convince, obviously not by yourself, but like you, you got someone to change the trajectory of their career. Right. And I think that one’s just always a fun, one of like chasing someone and being able to close a candidate.

[00:08:00] The second piece for me is being a first generation Latina. The giving back piece has always been huge. And it’s always a question that I make to myself. Like, am I, am I doing the, the most that I can be doing to really give back to the community or to, to give back in some sort of way? And what I found with recruiting, especially in the role that I’m in is I am. Really get to decide, you know, who we partner with and how we approach, um, the larger talent pool. And so big piece for me is, okay, I understand that these are there are these underserved communities and I’m able to leverage resources to ensure that they are, you know, that we’re meeting with them and that we’re giving them opportunities. So really being at the table where the decisions happen, um, or made, um, to be able to bring an open the doors for underrepresented talent, that’s really rewarding.
Janet: That’s so cool. Is there anything [00:09:00] you find really challenging about it or that you think you’re still learning how to do? That’s hard.

Karina: Well there’s a few, but like similar on the kind of flip side of when you do close someone, when you lose someone, or, you know, a candidate decides not to go with you, I’ve still continued to take away personal. And it’s hard not to sometimes just because you invest a lot of your time and energy in getting to know a person.

But I would say beyond that kind of the emotional piece is really there are certain lessons that you will learn with like mistakes. And so for me, it’s, it’s challenging sometimes to try to like, really, I guess it’s not necessarily challenging, but I sometimes regret, like when I’m further in my career, I was like, Oh, I wish I would’ve known this with X candidate, like [00:10:00] zero ago.

And so obviously like being patient with myself, but understanding that like mistakes will happen. And, and you just have to take the learnings and move forward.

Janet: Yeah, absolutely. On my old team, we used to have a saying that was, DGA, don’t get attached to the candidates. So like, even if you really want this candidate to join, like don’t get too attached because like they haven’t made their decision yet. To your second point, I’m curious, like, so for our students, they could be. Recent graduates or they could have had a bunch of career experience, but their career changing. do you have any advice for people who are just starting out their careers and recruiting things that you
wish you had known maybe when you were starting out? Some of those lessons learned?

Karina: Yeah, I think the biggest one and I just had a conversation actually with like this amazing recruiter. And she remem like reminded me of it again, which is over-communicate. And I tend [00:11:00] to be the person, if you give me a task, I’ll just run with it. And like, we’ll remember to check in once there’s the final product.

And I don’t think people are necessarily a fan of that, right? Like people like to know what’s happening at every stage. Both your candidates. And your hiring manager. Right. And so, I think it’s a nerve racking process, I think for everyone involved, for the candidate, obviously, because it’s a new job that they’re trying to find and for the hiring managers, because you
know, this is a piece that. This, this person that joined will really help them take the company to the next level. And so being able to over-communicate and always let everyone know what’s happening at each point of the process and being very transparent. I think it’s like the biggest piece of advice that even, I wish I would have known earlier in my career to just, even if it’s like a weekly update email to your hiring manager, like send it over, even if they know the information just to ensure they have it in writing.

So over-communicate for sure. [00:12:00] Great. That’s great advice. I feel like I’m constantly reminding myself of that every like every role I’m in every step of the way. Okay. I think those are my main questions.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you wish I had or anything else that you want to share with students going through the program?

Yeah, I think the last piece I would share, especially with us as folks entering like very junior roles, I have found this happening to myself. I can easily get intimidated either by like the actual role itself, which is when I first started, there was, it was an engineering role and I had no idea like no engineering background, no idea on what half of the things people were
saying. And so I remember easily getting intimidating and not wanting to look dumb. And from the, in front of the engineers, or say something, that was maybe not correct. And [00:13:00] then also sometimes when you’re on candidate calls, for some reason, like a VP of X company wanting to join and you’re interviewing them and.

Again, it’s sometimes nerve wracking. , when you’re early in your career, like having to deal with a lot more senior people. And I would say at the end of the day, like they’re just people, it’s, it’s just a conversation, but I think sometimes the, the titles and the like complexity of a rule can get in the way, But either way, if it’s with a hiring manager, with your actual team, like ask the questions, like it’ll save you a lot of time.

And like in case you’re trying to like, learn it on your own. Like your team is there to help. They want you to be successful because your success is definitely their success. And, and with candidates, honestly, like if someone is mean, because there’ll be pee and they feel like they shouldn’t be talking to you, like that’s a clear decision for you. Like. No one, who you talked to [00:14:00] regardless of their like status or experience should ever be rude to you. so just being open to, to having a conversation with them.

Janet: That’s great advice. Do you have any other tips for working with engineers? If you’re going to be a technical recruiter or working closely with engineers, like anything, any other advice you have about how you figured out how to do that?

Karina: Well, Really like be friend one or two engineers to the point where like you can ask them absolutely anything. And you feel like this is your go-to like person or like people, and that will make your life so much easier because I think sometimes. Having kind of an in, within like the engineering team, whether it’s understanding projects or challenges, or just like getting to know the language they speak is incredibly hard That is great. Perfect.