Running a startup with big growth plans this year? Worried you’ll run out of LinkedIn connections to hire?

It might be time to find your first HR or Recruitment rep — congratulations!

Yes, you might have been getting by so far hiring ex-colleagues, team referrals and people you met at events but, if you’re ready to grow, it’s time to consider how you can reach a broader market to find new talent, fresh ideas and ensure a more diverse workforce.

Option 1: Recruitment agencies. Yes, they have a bad rep, but there are some great consultants out there who know their market well and have strong connections to get you going. However, they are expensive and if you, like the majority of startups who haven’t cracked the millions in seed funding yet, are working with a minimal budget, this may not work. Look at your predicted growth for the next 12 months. The numbers will be clear.

Example: Say you are hiring 10 people. Let’s assume they are non-exec and salaries range from £25–45k. Agency fees can vary hugely but for the purposes of this, we’ll use an average of 18% per hire.

So, if you take 10 hires on an average salary of £35k and pay an agency 18% for each one, you’ve hit £63,000 pretty quickly.

Option 2: Take part of that money to hire someone to join your team & you will get so much more than just 10 new starters. If you hire right, and this is the first HR person for your company, you can find yourself with someone who can help with way more than recruitment. You could let them take a whole bunch of work off your hands: policy creation or updates, assessing/designing culture & values proposition, building & promoting an employer brand, role design and HR system set up to name a few. These things are easy to ignore if no one is focused on them, but setting the foundations now will make managing your team and attracting new candidate’s so much easier!

In addition, you will have someone who will be immersed in your company, understand your culture, be the company cheerleader and hire the best talent for your team. Side benefits: a better employer brand, reduction in attrition and overall lower cost per hire.

Disclaimer (so those you potentially hire don’t hate me): hiring someone in house does not mean they will never need external resources (agencies). The London tech market is one of the most competitive I’ve seen so, if that is your space, finding hot tech/dev folk is not always a one-man job!

Your next step: weigh up the cost/benefits of bringing someone into the team (even including potential agency use) vs. multiple agency fees. The average I used in the example above will obviously vary widely dependent on your needs. If all the planned growth for your business is tech and senior hires, the cost of an agency will increase dramatically but the salary of the in house person doesn’t have to. The answer should be clear.

If you are a founder of a startup/scale up and would like some free advice on this and other hiring/HR issues, please get in touch with me at

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