Awesome People - Ep 70

recruiting, salaries, reference checks, FT hires

Hi fellow founders and VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

This episode is super jam-packed so time to make some magic 👇

Related side note: How might we make these emails better? They’re starting to get pretty long and have A LOT of awesome people and I’m wondering if it’s better to make them shorter again. All feedback welcome. Thoughts?


Please meet Tatiana Becker, your part-time recruiter 🥳

Tatiana was referred to me by another awesome person and exec coach, Heather Jassy. They worked together in the early days at Etsy. Over the course of her career, Tatiana has served as the sole technical recruiter at places like Etsy (IPO-ed) and AppNexus (acquired by AT&T, she was employee 50), as well as her own recruiting agency. Most recently, she has filled 14 roles at Thinx in the first 7 months of an embedded assignment. Fun fact about Tatiana: she did a polar plunge in below-freezing waters off the coast of Antarctica! 🥶

You can hire her and her agency to help with your technical and non-technical hiring needs, from junior to the executive level.

Want an intro to Tatiana? Lmk and I’ll connect you!


She was gracious enough to share some pro-tips with us here 🚀

Hire based on ROI, not salary

A client once called to ask if he needed a COO or if he could hire a less experienced Director of Operations. His company was making $10MM a year. They were about to start fundraising. He had never fundraised. I reminded him of two important considerations:

  1. COOs often make $100-150k more than a Director-level hire. If the COO can produce $300k more in sales (assuming a 50% profit margin), they pay for their salary. Given the company’s current $10MM in revenue, that’s a 3% increase in sales. Any good COO would increase sales by that margin and more. Paying an extra $100k is well worth that ROI. 

  2. A lot can go wrong with fundraising - from running a poor process to signing an unfavorable term sheet. You can minimize the risks with a COO with fundraising experience. That’s worth well more than an additional $100k in salary.

You can apply this same model to any role. Let’s say the salary for a new engineering hire is $150k. Then you interview the perfect candidate for the role, and they want $200k. Can they produce 33% more work? If they can, they may well justify that higher salary.

Tease out the truth with reference checks

Last week, a hiring manager asked me, “What’s the point of reference checks? Won’t candidates pick people that will only say nice things about them?” That’s what every candidate hopes! Nobody is perfect, though, always ask for references to share some areas for improvement. Only then is the reference check complete.

Here are some tips for teasing out the truth from your reference calls:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people (thank you, How to Win Friends and Influence People). Build rapport.

  2. Be honest about expectations, ask the right questions, and get the reference to tell stories:

    1. In what context did they work with the candidate? 

    2. What are the candidate’s strengths? Weaknesses?

    3. What advice would they give as the candidate’s future manager? 

    4. Where do they excel? Where do they need the most help? 

    5. Would they hire the candidate again? (I particularly love this one. “I would, but not for my team,” can often be code for, “they are not a team player.”)

Don’t be dazzled by shiny resumes

Recently, a first-time CEO at a seed-stage company asked me to find several VP-level candidates: Heads of Growth, Marketing, Sales, and Product. He wanted folks from Uber, Facebook, and other big-name brands. His startup was 10-people.

Through our interviews, it became clear that these candidates didn’t want to be hands-on, didn’t know how to be hands-on, or both. They wanted to be strategic and delegate tasks to junior employees. Imagine what that CEO would have paid for these people, only to find out they weren’t the right fits!

Find the right talent for your roles. Here are some tips for finding good, pragmatic hires:

  1. Figure out what seniority makes the most sense given the tasks at hand for the next 6 months to a year.

  2. Be open-minded! Look at the potential and what an employee has done with the opportunities they’ve been given. Sometimes the best lessons can come from failure.

  3. Commit to considering a diverse set of candidates, in terms of ethnicity, gender, orientation, and education. There’s a lot of competition for “shiny” candidates. You may find you’re better served by hiring someone who is itching to prove themselves.

Need some help to find your next hire? Lmk I’ll connect you to Tatiana! 


As always, let me know if you have any questions and if you want an intro to any of the folks in this email (including the PS section 🎉). 

Stay awesome,

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People Talent and Ventures (join the syndicate here

If you liked this, ❤️ it below. If someone forwarded this to you, sign up here 💌


Awesome People continued 🙏

Most recent features

Corey - Brand expert and wordsmith. Corey is behind Pepsi’s “billion-dollar” sparkling water, bub, and designed the brand voice for entrepreneur Sean Parker’s cancer research non-profit. She’s also worked on household brands like Shopify and Nike.

Alex - Biz dev extraordinaire. I met Alex at Quixey, where he was the third biz dev hire. He’s trusted by brands like Xamarin (acquired by Microsoft), AlgoliaGoogle Cloud, and Census (Series A co that’s raised $20M+ from a16z and angels). Most recently, Alex built the partnership strategy for Algolia (Series C co that’s raised $180M+ from Accel, Salesforce Ventures, and more). 

Juani - Creative director. Juani has worked on multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for Adobe, Sephora, Adidas, Pinterest, Google, and more. She recently won multiple awards for her advertising work for Tinder! 

Want intros to anyone here? Lmk and I’ll connect you!

Full-time hires 😍

Powered by Talent Drops

Looking for some full-time talent? My friend Vedika from Weekend Fund just launched a new newsletter called Talent Drops and it’s 🔥. 

Talent Drops anonymously features top talent looking for their next thing.

  • A customer success leader at a high-growth SaaS company, who built out core customer engagement and expansion playbooks, is looking for leadership customer success or ops generalist roles. 

  • A rising star investor analyst at a top boutique investment bank is looking for investing or chief of staff roles in VC. 

  • A senior manager at a top-tier consulting firm, who worked on growth and GTM with tech startups, is looking for biz-ops, strategy, or chief of staff roles at a Series A+ startup.

  • A co-founder at a startup backed by top-tier VCs is looking for chief of staff, operations, or strategy roles in the climate space.

  • A senior GM at a transportation unicorn, with experience managing significant P&L, is looking for director, VP of ops/biz-ops, or GM roles.

Want an intro to one of these rockstars we’ve highlighted below? Hit up the Talent Drops team here.

Part-time opportunities 👀

Want to make some extra $$$ and work on interesting projects? The Awesome People job board is filled with awesome flexible advising and consulting roles. They’re perfect for fun-employed folks, self-employed folks, and moonlighters!

Friends, FT jobs, and funding 🤗

Announcing: Lenny’s Job Board

We all know that Lenny Rachitsky is the best. The absolute best. From his portfolio, to his newsletter, to his course… he just nails it. Check out his latest drop, his job board. If you’re looking for your next great career-changing gig in Product, Growth, Engineering, or Design (or hiring for any of these roles), this job board is for you.

Fundraising masterclass with Jason Yeh + a promo code!

Ok, so Lenny is the best. AND Jason is best! I co-invest with both of them often and consider them both dear friends.

Jason Yeh, is an executive fundraising coach I've featured in the past, is hosting a free 3-part webinar next week called Essential Fundraising Prep. He'll cover the keys to avoiding common fundraise killers, increasing investor leads, and saving time through elite preparation. Sign up here

Also, Jason was nice enough to offer Awesome People subscribers 20% off his upcoming bootcamp Fundraise with Confidence - just use the code AWESOMEPEOPLE 😊

❤️ ❤️ ❤️