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A-Player, The Specialist In Startup Recruitment

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Grégory Herbé, founder of the French startup MyJobCompany – acquired by Kalicea in 2017 – and co-founder of the Luxembourgish startup nexten.io, is launching A-Player, a recruitment agency specialized in startup talents.
(Featured Image: Grégory Herbé / Image Credit © Silicon Luxembourg / Anna Katina)
What’s your story?

I’m an entrepreneur and recruiter. I created my first company in 2004, a recruitment agency for young graduates called Ecetera. For years, we helped big enterprises to recruit young people graduating from Grandes Écoles. In 2006, Ecetera was bought.

Then I decided to join the startup Moovement, a job aggregator comparable to Indeed, but also similar to business developer and board member. It was an enriching experience in a time in which startups were considered UFOs, where VC could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the startup community was composed by a heterogenous mix of artists, executives looking for new challenges and young graduates lesser and lesser interested by the existing job offers.

Drawing from this experience, I later joined a “classic” recruitment agency, Mac Allister, to support the recruitment of technical profiles for startups. In three years I advanced to the role of Partner, before creating MyJobCompany in 2011.

“I took the decision to create my own consultancy firm, A-Player, to advise firms on how to find the best talents, mostly in the digital sector.”

MyJobCompany is thus the synthesis of my experiences as a young entrepreneur in recruitment and as director of a recruitment agency. From the beginning, I wanted to create a community of recruiters to spread advertisements for our clients. In five years, we had gathered 100,000 recruiters, more than 600 clients, hundreds of recruitments, 30 passioned employees and an active participation in the HR universe through the creation of “Lab’RH”, a think tank that focused on innovation and “coopetition” (cooperation + competition). In 2017, MyJobCompany was acquired by the group Kalicea, owner of the HR consulting firm Abaka.

Afterwards, family-related reasons led me to move to Luxembourg. Here, I have been supporting the Luxembourgish startup nexten.io for one year, from the definition of its business model and the development of its community to the recruitment of a team.

Last September, I took the decision to create my own consultancy firm, A-Player, to advise firms on how to find the best talents, mostly in the digital sector.

Can you tell us more about this new adventure with A-Player?

What is “A Player”: someone you definitely want to work with again in any context. A-Player is a neo executive search boutique. Our goal is to deliver great entrepreneur minded “A” players to fast growing corporations through a proprietary sourcing & assessment methodology that offers insight into a candidate’s potential.

Gathering a wide range of tech solutions and working with the best experts,  A-Player is able to target a specific type of candidates, engage and introduce them to your company.

A-player is able to create wide but precise online campaigns to target specific groups of people in a specific places (ex : sales team in Berlin, developers team in Barcelona…)  but also executive professionals (CXO, Head of, Director, Board Member).

“Startups are no longer competing with the large groups, as it was the case 10 years ago. Today, their competitors in recruitment are other startups and service companies.”

Is recruiting for startups different from recruiting for big companies?

Startups, as the name says, have to be quick for several reasons. They are created by passioned people, and in order for everything to work, they need to get the best competences from the market. One cannot improvise being business leader, and forecasting is often very difficult. The managers of a startup need a person who knows their environment, their stress, their budget, the instability of the situation and, most of all, someone who can help them to define their recruitment needs. The recruitment is thus very complex, since generally there is no job description: only a few words to describe the ideal profile in an email or during a short conversation on the phone. Moreover, this profile changes from week to week, following the evolution of the business or the sales, and sometimes even after decision concerning technological choices!

Startups are no longer competing with the large groups, as it was the case 10 years ago. Today, their competitors in recruitment are other startups and service companies. It is very hard to seduce a profile, as the salary is not enough. You need a real and concrete engagement of the founders in meeting the candidates. The complexity has increased since the end of the regionalization of talents: startups are recruiting abroad and the competition has become European or even international.

“Startups need to nurture, network and meet any talent that looks similar to the description.”

What is an A-Player according to you?

An “A Player” is someone who is totally committed and focused, on every possible level, on delivering world-class results.

The A Player generally fulfils all of these conditions:

  1. Absolute integrity: transparency in success and failures
  2. Consistently effective: effective does not necessarily mean successful, but the A-Player is spending effective time working on real subjects.
  3. Thinks outside the box: is able to take distance from the problem
  4. Always takes the initiative: does not need to validate 100% before taking action
  5. Understands the big (and very big) picture
  6. Effective communicator in writing and verbally
  7. Calm personality at all times, no drama
  8. Complete reliability
  9. Grace under pressure
  10. Strong functional skills
  11. Strong personal work ethic
  12. Discretion
  13. Maturity
  14. Delivers on deadlines
  15. Wisdom and good judgment
  16. Accessibility when needed
  17. Willingness to mentor/be mentored
  18. Loyalty to the team/company
  19. Sense of humor
  20. Ability to just “get things done”

But remember, being an A Player is a matter of time.

  • An A-Player today is not necessary an A-Player tomorrow
  • A B-Player today might be an A-Player tomorrow
  • A-Players are rare

Startups need to nurture, network and meet any talent that looks similar to the description. I call that one-coffee-a-day: each day speak with someone you detect no matter their field or experience, just regarding soft skills.

“After several years working with and for startups, I have observed that the recruitment is often decided at the last moment and without methodology.”

What are the profiles currently searched for?

At the moment, the most wanted profiles are the specialists from the Lead Generation, with a seniority level of “Head of”, but also data specialists, DevOps and, as always, sales people!

You also need to take into consideration the profile of the startup:

  • Seed – These startups have little or no budget; they are creating a product and need acceleration to move forward to the second stage
  • Serie A – The startup is generating revenues, it has raised between 1 and 3 million euros and its Middle Management teams are structured at a market wage. Its management is still predominantly composed by its founders.
  • Serie B – the company has raised between 3 and 10 million euros and it is organizing its Junior Top Management.
  • Serie C – the company has developed very rapidly with relevant funds that allows it to recruit professional managers and directors coming from “disrupting” sectors (Fintech/Banking, AdTech/Communication agency, …).

The startups with large capitals usually propose good packages, often better than those of large groups. The only uncertainty is the durability of the startup, which could scare away the more prudent candidates.

After several years working with and for startups, I have observed that the recruitment is often decided at the last moment and without methodology.

Being supported allows to avoid making mistakes and facilitates the promotion of the startup among the best candidates.

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