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Recruitment is about who you know

Written by Donna Kelly on Wednesday, 03 December 2014. Posted in People

Given its recent growth, Dressipi is on a recruitment drive. But for co-founder Donna Kelly, relationships and not recruiters should always be the first port of call for a business looking for new staff

Recruitment is about who you know

Dressipi is like most start-ups in that whenever we need to hire someone it’s exceptionally rare for us to engage a recruiter. This is because that with a tight-knit team like ours, finding someone who is aligned with our values and culture is just as important as finding a person with the right skills and experience. Consequently we tend to recruit within our own network. And for good reason. If you’re never more than six degrees away from actor Kevin Bacon, then you’re never more than two or three people away from a great Ruby on Rails developer or a star stylist. It’s just a matter of applying some lateral thought, especially when it comes to those people you’ve worked with at all levels throughout your career.

For example, one of our technical developers, Henry, is someone who came on board having previously worked with our CTO. Whilst he took a career break to do a master’s degree, we made sure to keep in touch with him and encouraged him to work for us during his holidays. He liked it so much here that when he completed his degree he came on board full time. Similarly, we met Pip, who manages our PR and marketing, through one of our previous interns. She came to us for work experience and, because we gelled and she had amazing potential, we asked her to stay. In fact, in four years we’ve only ever hired one person – Monique, our front-end designer – through a recruiter.

The reason we’re careful to cultivate this personal, connected approach to hiring is that it removes some of the uncertainty that can creep in when you do it the conventional way. The interviewing process can be very limiting; some people are good at it whilst others aren’t and it is difficult to get a real feel for the character or motivation from the individual – from either sides of the table. Hiring someone, after all, is a two-way process and the fit has to work both ways because the cost of getting it wrong is huge.

Finding someone, interviewing them, bringing them in and then getting them to the point where they can add real value to a business can take as long as six to nine months. The absolute last thing you want to happen is for someone to turn round after a short while and say: “you know what, I don’t think this is right for me”. In a previous company I recruited for a very senior role that was key to the growth of the business in the coming year. It took around seven months or so to go through the whole process before they could come onboard and within four weeks of starting they had resigned, clearly having accepted a new role before even walking through our door. This is wrong on so many levels and very costly to the business.

We tend to find that tapping our personal networks is a good way of taking some of the risk out of this process. If we’re introduced to someone by a contact then it’s reasonable to assume that we’re on the same wavelength. Many companies recruit by competency and that is important. But for us, we hire people because we want to enhance our culture and we believe that we have an environment in which they can achieve their goals.

Of course you can never take all the risk out of saying, “I do” to a new colleague. But when you find the right person, it’s awesome. 

About the Author

Donna Kelly

Donna Kelly

Kelly is one half of the talented team behind Dressipi, the enterprise at the heart of our all new Start-up diaries. Kelly and co-founder Sarah McVittie evenly balance each other out, with McVittie bringing the start-up skills, with her sales and shareholding expertise, and product- and detail-focused Kelly packing the corporate capability.

And it’s not only their passions in the workplace that complement each other –  McVittie prefers to let off steam by hopping on her motorbike, whilst Kelly prefers to spend her free time brushing up on her piano playing.

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