What’s in a role: Kendall Kelleher, Internal Recruitment Manager at Vangst
By: Amanda Mulay, Senior Talent Manager
There are vast employment opportunities in the cannabis industry, with many roles that go beyond simply growing and harvesting the plant. Marketers, developers, recruiters and accountants are all needed to sustain business operations in the growing sector. Someone needs to sell candidates on the huge market opportunity and bring top talent into companies in the space. That’s where our portfolio company Vangst comes in.
Next up in Lerer Hippeau’s talent series, “What’s in a role,” is Kendall Kelleher, Internal Recruitment Manager at Vangst. From how she got into recruiting to how she hires talent in a highly regulated sector, here’s a look at her life at Vangst, the world’s largest talent network for jobs in the cannabis industry.
Amanda Mulay: Where did you start your career and how did you end up in your current role at Vangst?
Kendall Kelleher: I graduated with a business marketing degree from Colorado State University because I figured a business degree would be a good way to segue into the real world. Recruiting fell into my lap after graduating college. I think that happens with a lot of recruiters, you don’t go into college knowing that you want to go into recruiting.
I landed my first job at Insight Global as a Technical Recruiter and spent the next nine months learning the ins and outs of agency recruiting. After Insight Global, I decided to try my hand at sales and ended up getting a Sales Executive role at HomeAdvisor. I spent the next few months attempting (and failing) to hit the weekly sales quota, at which point the VP of Sales asked if I’d be interested in recruiting. Over the next eight months, I ended up bringing on over 50 sales executives for HomeAdvisor.
Karson Humiston reached out to me in October 2016, asking if I’d be interested in recruiting for her company Vangst, a talent network for jobs in cannabis. After researching the company, I realized the potential Vangst and the industry had and immediately wanted to jump onboard. I was the fifth employee and was hired to focus specifically on recruiting for our clients. After 10 months of recruiting for a wide variety of our clients, I was asked to sit onsite with Baker Technologies for a four-month period to help facilitate more than 20 hires.
At this point, I realized I wanted to move into internal recruiting for Vangst because it was the area I excelled in and most enjoyed. At the end of April 2018, I transitioned into my current role. I’ve hired 33 new employees for Vangst, an 83% increase of our team, and have an additional nine roles I’m currently working on.
Mulay: What does your role entail and how do you typically explain it?
Kelleher: I’m responsible for all internal recruiting at Vangst in all departments across the country (sales/business development, recruiters, marketing, technology, finance, administrative, and executive). I work with five hiring managers to nail down job functions/expectations, hiring timelines, salary requirements, and lots more.
On top of this, I help facilitate the entire interview process, starting from posting jobs and sourcing candidates, to scheduling interviews, providing feedback, checking references, and extending offers. I’ve also helped put together our new hire onboarding SOPs (standard operating procedures) to ensure candidates are set up for success when joining Vangst and remain excited about the opportunity at hand.
Mulay: Any learnings from being a recruiter who hires other recruiters?
Kelleher: In the cannabis industry, it’s extremely important that you thrive in ever-changing environments and situations. This is due to ongoing changes to industry rules and regulations, but also because clients and candidates are prone to changing their minds about what they want. Recruiters must be able to adapt quickly and diagnose and consult on the company’s hiring needs and expectations. Attention to detail and transparency are other key qualities I look for when hiring recruiters — there’s always a lot happening so it’s imperative to not let anything fall through the cracks.
Mulay: What are some qualities that have helped you be successful as a recruiter? Do you look for those traits in your hires?
Kelleher: My attention to detail and transparency with both employees and candidates are two soft skills that are critical for success as a recruiter. I tend to focus on the big picture and view Vangst as a company of 200 people, rather than the 60 we have now. In potential new hires, I’m always looking for those who are a fit for the next phase of Vangst (not just where we’re currently at) and are excited about the prospect of the opportunity at hand.
Mulay: What are the most common areas of confusion when you’re describing Vangst’s objective?
Kelleher: Those who haven’t been following the industry aren’t necessarily aware of the operations going on behind the scenes. People don’t think about the positions outside of dispensaries/retail that include roles as developers, product managers, and marketers. Upon learning about other verticals and ancillary companies, they tend to get really excited. You don’t need a marijuana handling certification (MED badge) to gain employment in the industry. You only need it if you’re touching the plant directly.
Questions about legal concerns and working in cannabis have definitely declined as the industry continues to grow and more people begin to view it as a legitimate sector. That said, I have had candidates who are concerned that working in the cannabis industry will tarnish their reputation or prevent them from working in other industries if the job doesn’t work out. To them, I say that you get to wear many hats and learn skills applicable across industries. Also, those who worry too much about that probably aren’t the right fit for the industry anyway.
Mulay: How does your past work experience correlate with what you’re doing now at Vangst?
Kelleher: My former roles helped me understand the fundamentals of recruiting and how imperative culture fit is when it comes to candidates. I’ve learned that if you believe in your company’s vision (as I do with Vangst), it’s easy to convey that message to potential recruits.
Mulay: What do you find the most challenging about your role and responsibilities?
Kelleher: The constant ambiguity and ever-changing environment of working both in the cannabis industry and at a rapidly growing company. However, this is also one of my favorite parts about working at Vangst, as it’s allowed me to challenge myself and learn in ways I never thought was possible. It’s also inevitable that mistakes will happen — not only is this a startup company, but also a startup industry — so it’s critical to be comfortable conquering the unknown, asking for help when you need it, and learning from any mistakes that do happen to ensure they don’t happen again.
Mulay: What do you find the most rewarding about your position?
Kelleher: How much influence I have on our company culture and being able to hire those with the same vision I have. Every person I’ve hired understands the opportunity and is excited to grow with Vangst. It’s also been exciting to watch the transition of those who come from super corporate, metrics-driven environments to Vangst, where we truly focus on working together as a team, all while having fun, to hit company goals and continue driving revenue.
Mulay: How you communicate or get potential new hires excited about Vangst’s mission?
Kelleher: I place a very heavy emphasis on Vangst’s growth and reiterate how collaborative and transparent the company is as a whole. I also make sure to hone in on how much opportunity there is, not just from an internal perspective, but also with how much business there is on both a national and international level — to think we’ve only engaged with a small portion of how many cannabis companies are out there is very enticing to future hires. Many of the industries candidates come from are over-saturated and they’re excited for something fresh, where you can come in and truly affect the bottom line.
Mulay: How do you see your role and professional skills growing from here?
Kelleher: Down the line, I see myself managing a team of internal recruiters all around the country (as we continue to open up new offices) who exude the same vision and values I have to continue hiring top talent for Vangst. In the interim, I see myself being very hands on in hiring talent in these new markets to help us capture market share and increase our brand presence. I’m also looking forward to implementing hiring processes and procedures that will be used for years to come as Vangst grows.
Mulay: Any advice for founders looking to hire a great internal recruiter?
Kelleher: My greatest success has come from my innate drive to help build upon Karson’s vision for Vangst, so it’s critical to find an internal recruiter that holds the same values as you and who can help build upon the vision for your company.
If you’re in the beginning stages of building your company, it’s important to find someone who’s entrepreneurial and doesn’t mind working the long hours necessary to help the company succeed and doesn’t view failure as an option. At the end of the day, internal recruiters are the first touch point for your company as a whole, so it’s important to find one who genuinely cares and believes in it.
Interested in a role at Vangst? Check out current job openings here.
Check out past posts in our “What’s in a role?” series: