startup hiring: Startup recruiters find few takers amid overall hiring slowdown

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Scores of recruitment professionals, who joined recruitment teams of startups at astronomical hikes to drive the post-pandemic hiring frenzy, are now struggling to find jobs for themselves.

Many of these talent acquisition folks are now finding themselves priced out of the market as opportunities dry up and several find themselves without jobs, some for months on end, industry insiders said.

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In a harsh funding environment, where hiring has plummeted as startups focus on profitability, many recruiters/talent acquisition professionals have either been let go as part of cost-cutting exercises or are looking out for options.

Some are reaching out to previous employers including recruitment/search firms; others are even willing to take hefty salary cuts. But in a market where overall hiring has fallen, there are not many takers.

“When startups are not growing and reducing headcount, the first place that gets impacted is TA and marketing,” said Anuj Roy, managing partner of executive search firm Fidius Advisory. “If companies are not hiring, what will TA folks do?”

He cites the examples of several startups and ecommerce firms that built up over 100-member strong recruitment teams when hiring was at its peak. Salaries paid ranged between Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore plus ESOPs – a far cry from what the market is offering now.

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Now, some of those startups are struggling; others are aggressively cutting costs to boost profitability or in the run-up to an initial public offering (IPO).According to recruiters, troubled edtech firm Byju’s, ecommerce firm Meesho, and B2B trade platform Udaan were among those that had set up big recruitment teams.

All the three startups have resorted to significant layoffs in recent months for various reasons.

Companies that are hiring for TA roles now say they are inundated with applications.

For example, at proptech unicorn NoBroker, which has opened up a TA role, the number of applications till now is nearly double that in the past. “Applicants are from diverse backgrounds including startup unicorns. Some of them from edtech startup backgrounds are ready for paycuts,” said NoBroker CEO Amit Agarwal. “Many of the applications are from senior profiles.”

“Don’t disclose salaries upfront”

Some talent acquisition professionals are requesting search firms that their last pay packages not be disclosed upfront.

In the case of a TA head search commissioned by a global ecommerce company looking to set up shop in India, three of the candidates presented to the prospective employer by the search firm were without jobs. They’d worked as TA heads in startup unicorns at salaries well above the market and requested not to disclose their packages, so they weren’t written off immediately, said the head of the search firm, who requested not to be named.

“TA managers who were getting Rs 30-35 lakh jumped to Rs 50-55 lakh. At the top end, TA professionals got paid as much as Rs 2 crore,” said Anshuman Das, CEO of Careernet and Longhouse Consulting. “Salaries were bloated to crazy levels. Now, many are reaching out to me, but with hiring down, there’s no place to accommodate them.”

Shiv Agrawal, managing director of executive search and talent advisory firm ABC, too, said he had lost a number of recruiters to the startup hiring boom. Some, at Rs 40-45 lakh compensation levels, moved at Rs 70-75 lakh plus stock. Now, they have been left high and dry.

“Even tech companies have laid off recruitment professionals but things are worse in the startup ecosystem,” Agrawal said. “Even there, those from HR backgrounds will have it relatively easier; it’s the pure recruitment professionals who will really struggle.”

Some, he said, have gone back to previous employers, some to more stable sectors; some have set up on their own.

And some are still job-hunting.

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