How to Hire for HR: Lessons from 18 USV People Ops Leaders

Within our USV portfolio network, we are continuously looking for opportunities to “level up” the collective knowledge across the companies that we work with every day. As these businesses evolve and grow their customers and user communities, we also have the unique opportunity to observe how these companies build out their organizations from the inside — which often falls to the role of the HR and People Operations team.

Today, more than 200 people leaders think about culture building every day across our 70 active portfolio companies. At our most recent HR summit in New York City, we learned that there is no consistent path to a career in People Ops, nor is there a consistent approach taken to when to think about first hiring for this individual. So we surveyed HR and People Ops leaders across our portfolio network to find out when they were hired, what projects they initially took on, and what advice they have to founders and CEO who may be looking for their first HR or People Ops leader.

Several trends emerged when asked about ideal characteristics needed in an HR hire — including a need for empathy, resourcefulness, and adaptability. We also noticed several patterns among projects taken on based on company size. At earlier stages, we noticed increased focus on recruiting and new employee onboarding. At later stages, this is less of a focus, and HR leaders tend to spend more time evaluating and cultivating cross-team alignment and coaching (particularly among the leadership team). But no matter what stage your company is in today, one thing is clear: The HR function touches many different aspects of business operations.

Trends by Company Size

0-50 employees: Prototyping

  • Designing hiring and onboarding processes
  • Installing applicant tracking systems (ATS) or human resource information systems (HRIS)
  • Compliance with employment laws and creating employee handbooks
  • Managing office operations
  • Creating performance reviews
  • Serving as a communications channel between employees and management

50-150: Operationalizing

  • Compensation philosophy / leveling of salary bands
  • Conducting a culture audit
  • Streamlining recruiting and onboarding processes
  • Hiring senior leadership

150+: Aligning

  • Understanding company culture, engagement, and employee experience
  • Creating or iterating on company values
  • Conducting a market-pay analysis company-wide
  • Improving alignment and effectiveness among teams and senior management
  • Launching annual reviews process
  • Building out leadership development programs
  • Launching diversity & inclusion initiatives
  • Iterating on systems to scale

Below, see how 18 HR and People Ops leaders from across our USV portfolio network took on their roles and their advice for startups and founders. 

Updated: You can also view the original slide deck of this Google Slides presentation here.