When workforce giant, Humanforce, needed to increase their hiring and talent function fast they chose Lab17 as their Talent Acquisition Partner.


Humanforce recently acquired 3 news businesses and hit rapid growth. 


We’re talking, an increase in platform users to almost 700,000 workers-strong kind of growth.


We know that fast growth really tests a business, but instead of succumbing to whiplash, the team buckled in and got on with the job – with a little help from Lab17.


Chief People Officer for Humanforce, Holly Barnes told us why they chose to partner with Lab17.


Humanforce’s talent acquisition partner of choice

Holly said that, prior to the acquisition of the new businesses, Humanforce didn’t have a strong focus on HR or talent acquisition.

“Bringing 3 businesses together is very complex,” Holly told us. “We had a lot of BAU [(business as usual)] activity from the acquisitions, plus our general, organic growth. 

Humanforce needed help from the right partner to rapidly fill the key positions all this growth created.

“We’re in a scale-up phase. It’s a very growth-driven time for us that needs particular focus,” Holly reflects.

“Outsourcing and partnering with Lab17 helped us manage the influx of roles. It also created the capacity to move from reactive talent acquisition to a more proactive space.”

For Humanforce it was about finding a talent acquisition partner that could achieve success in two key areas:

Short term: Driving the rapid recruitment process and filling open roles

Long term: Building good talent acquisition systems for the future.

Enter Lab17.

The tipping point that made Humanforce leap

At the time Humanforce first partnered with Lab17, they were recruiting for 15 key roles that needed to be filled very quickly.

Their in-house talent acquisition team was also very limited at this stage.

“Our focus with Lab17 was twofold,” said Holly. “Not only from the tactical point in hiring, but also looking at how we can improve the way we operate talent acquisition within the organisation.”

For Holly, getting Lab17 embedded in their team was a game changer. 

“Having two super experienced people come on board who could dovetail into the current processes and just get things moving was really beneficial,” she reflected.

How it changed the game for Humanforce

As part of Lab17’s embedded model, two of our Labonauts joined the Humanforce team, in-house.

“The Lab17 came in and learned the business really quickly,” Holly told us. “They created strong relationships with key stakeholders and we saw action on our open headcount really quickly.”

Holly also made mention of the strategic lens our Labonauts brought to the table, taking care of things like:

  • – Recognising gaps in hiring manager capability
  • – Hiring manager training
  • – Sprint planning
  • – Levelling up employer branding

“Having Lab17 on board also gave us the opportunity to sit down and think about why someone would want to join Humanforce,” said Holly,

“And actually capture that in a solid pitch that we could use to show candidates how Humanforce is a great place to work.” 

Identifying opportunities for efficacy and efficiency

Holly also identified that having Lab17 as an embedded talent acquisition partner helped them identify significant opportunities they were missing. 

“Our approach was basically, we’d have a role that needed filling, we’d put up an advert, and we’d hoped the right people would apply.”

With Lab17’s help, Humanforce moved from being reactive, to being proactive and strategic with their talent planning. 

“We started using LinkedIn to do market mapping. We did lots of outreach. We really looked at where to put our focus in terms of the type of people that come into the organisation.”

The Labonauts also helped Humanforce refresh their job briefs and ask the critical questions about what the organisation actually needed, including:

What are Humanforce’s candidate personas?

What are the experiences and capabilities of the people the organisation needs?

How can we be better so that people from diverse backgrounds will want to join us?

This informed Humanforce’s strategic outreach moving forward.

A marathon made up of sprints

The other big piece of the puzzle Lab17 brought to the table was sprint planning.

“Humanforce went from five to 25 open roles at once… and the reality is that we are not going to have great traction if we’re out there taking a scattergun approach,” she told us.

“So prioritisation was key… Understanding the critical roles that are going to make an impact – and which ones can be parked for now.”

Reporting became really important alongside planning. 

“The Lab17 created WIP documents to give hiring managers an overview of what had been done and what was going to be happening each week. 

“So we were able to really unpack where we were doing well in terms of our efforts and were able to extrapolate that out as well.”

How having a talent acquisition partner changed Humanforce for good

As part of our post-partnership review, Holly told us how Humanforce has changed and progressed since having Lab17 on board.

She had a lot of nice things to say.

“Thinking back to October last year, we are miles ahead,” she said.

“It’s been really positive. The Lab17 filled our roles in budget and in time, and we were able to spin up these new teams really quickly.

“We’ve got really solid processes in place. We’ve been able to do a lot more work in terms of proactive recruitment and talent pipelining, as well as reporting.

“We’ve seen a real shift in hiring manager capability as well. Before, recruitment efforts were seen as secondary to BAU activity. Now they see the importance of spending time during the acquisition process to find the next great person. They understand that the investment in time now is going to be positive for them in the future. 

A Chief People Officer’s personal reflections

The experience got Holly to reflect on the concept of biases in talent acquisition.

“As a team we never actually discussed what that looks like and how our own personal views would play into it. 

“Now we reflect on the diversity of our talent pools. We consider how to fill the gaps rather than finding more of the same people. 

“We’re moving away from ‘cultural fit’ to ‘cultural contribution’. 

And for Holly, this has been nothing but positive.

“You don’t want everyone to fit. You want some diversity in thought and experience in order to evolve your team.”

Holly told us she also really enjoyed working with the Labonauts.

“I appreciated how flexible The Lab17 were, she reflects. “We worked really closely and we tweaked processes and ways of working.

“It wasn’t: ‘We’ve got this way of working at Lab17.’; it was, ‘This is what we see as best practice. Let’s see how we can amalgamate that with how you do things so that it fits with your organisation.’ 

“Working with Lab17 never felt like trying to push a square peg through a round hole. We were a really well-oiled machine by the end.”

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.

GE, Coca-Cola, Apple…think about what these companies have in common. Memorable marketing campaigns? Undoubtedly. Ex-CEOs who own super yachts? Highly likely.

But what makes these companies stand out is exceptional leadership.

We all know top-tier leaders are crucial to the success of an organisation. Nonetheless, recruiting those upper-deck hires isn’t always easy.

Just ask Nick Ingall, The Lab17’s co-founder. He’s the first to admit how complex this task can be.

Luckily, he has a passion for hiring executive leaders–and knows how to build, develop and inspire incredible teams.

Here are Nick’s 5 tips for locating (and luring) execs who can scale, innovate and drive progress in your organisation.

1. Clearly define what leadership looks like in your organisation

Defining and assessing leadership qualities is challenging, says Nick. This means you must build practices around precisely what leadership means – and how it’s measured in your organisation.

‘Make it objective and put clear goalposts in place, so leaders know where they’re going and how to get there,’ he says. ’You’re crafting the company culture through your leadership team – and their behaviours matter.

‘I’d say 90% of organisations of ~250 people don’t have this built out,’ Nick tells us. ‘That means leading people becomes their biggest challenge – and that’s annoying because then it’s not driven by customers, products or goals.’

2. Stop inflating job titles

It’s tempting to jack up a job title. And, sure – it can be just the tonic for making a great hire, retaining employees or rewarding performance.

But it’s a short-term win, according to Nick.

’If you have a ‘VP’ level team member on LinkedIn who doesn’t look like they’ve earned that title, it lowers the bar for others considering joining your team,’ he explains.

‘There’s no industry standard for a VP, for example, so you need to define this internally,’ Nick continues. ‘This is going to boost your employer brand – and therefore your ability to hire and retain top talent.’

3. Keep reassessing your leadership expectations

If you’re already doing this, Nick says you’re ahead of most 50-500 person organisations.

But setting these clear and objective executive leadership expectations is critical for every business – significantly growing ones.

‘Every 2-3 years, scaling companies should ask themselves whether they have the right leaders in place,’ Nick explains.

‘Most organisations end up giving subjective feedback and recognition to their leadership team, which can very quickly devalue performance, engagement and culture.’

‘All these elements are based on trust – and when that’s broken, it can take a lot of time and effort to rebuild it.’

So, where do you start?

Nick says it goes back to designing, defining and measuring leadership at your organisation.

‘When you take this into leadership hiring, it makes it far easier to evaluate candidates objectively,’ he emphasises. ‘Better yet, you can provide impartial feedback to those candidates around interview success or failure.’

4. Align candidate expectations with reality

Nick believes the best leadership hires happen when companies are upfront with candidates from the start.

‘When an organisation gives leaders clarity around what’s working well and, super importantly, what’s not working well, you’ve got the best chance of success,’ he says.

‘Of course, this all begins during the recruitment phase,’ he continues. ’Companies need to be transparent about the role and their expectations so candidates know exactly what they’re getting into.

‘Once again, it’s about taking the time to clearly define an objective interview process that genuinely aligns with the position you’re recruiting for. When you do this, you’re laying the foundations for your leaders to flourish over the next 2-3 years.’

5. Consider using an embedded recruiter

Plenty of organisations happily hire using in-house resources. And if that works for you – great!

If, on the other hand, you lack the expertise or employer branding to attract executives and upper deck leaders – an embedded recruiter could be the answer.

‘A mid-level in-house recruiter with no functional leader generally churns inside 6-9 months,’ Nick comments. ’In fact, that research led us to start The Lab17.

‘An embedded recruiter like The Lab17 not only provides extra help – it’s an effective resource which levels up your TA function, person or team and gives you that strategic viewpoint as well.’

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Get in touch with us here.

How The Lab17 built Shippit’s internal talent capabilities during an unprecedented stage of growth.

With a change in pace of growth like that, you need to quickly establish appropriate processes for the shift in tempo.’
Mat Lawrence, Chief Operating Officer – Shippit



The Problem


Amid the Covid-19 chaos and uncertainty of early 2020, Shippit decided to freeze recruitment. They also made a number of redundancies. 


Meanwhile, their 1-person TA team began focusing solely on looking after existing employees.


‘We were having a huge downturn in the economy that would seriously impact our customers.’


What no one expected, however, was the explosion in online shopping.


Of course, pundits had predicted a short-term rise in e-tailing. Just not the 5+ year acceleration we saw across the eCommerce industry!


This created an unexpected (yet welcome) scenario for Shippit: business running at 3x their normal volume.


However, capitalising on these unique circumstances needed considerable thought.


Not only were staff levels insufficient to manage the workload – their TA team had no capacity to hire anyone else.


The opportunity


‘What actually occurred was a new baseline for the industry – people began shopping online who had never done so before.’


Though uncertain, this unprecedented situation was also an incredible chance for Shippit to aggressively grow their business.


But, getting it right was crucial, says Mat.


‘If you’re growing faster than your internal capabilities, you’ll start experiencing things such as poor candidate experience, bad hires and bad onboarding,’ he explains. ’It will choke the existing team with the number of interviews and processes.


‘We wanted to avoid all those pain points.’


The solution


In August 2020, Shippit partnered with The Lab17 to solve the immediate staffing issues and lay the foundations for ongoing internal TA.


Together, they brainstormed ways to address both of these challenges, developing a list of goals which aimed to:


– Prioritise the hires that would help scale the business.

– Build, refine and optimise the interview process for scalability.

– Train the team in effective interviewing techniques.

– Partner with hiring managers and key stakeholders to clearly define job descriptions, improve interview skills and make informed recruiting decisions.

– Establish and build employer brand initiatives and collateral.

– Create a TA reporting system with supporting documentation for all activities and processes.

– Implement new Applicant Tracking Software to better document decision making.

– Establish scalable onboarding processes and job descriptions.


‘We built out a solid foundation better suited for the higher volumes of hiring, in terms of processes, systems, people and standards. We hired key players and strong leaders who had in-depth experience, helping us raise the bar and set high expectations.’
Cloë Stanbridge, Talent Director, The Lab17


The impact


Partnering with The Lab17 gave Shippit the capacity they needed to quickly design and define the roles they were recruiting for. They could also accurately assess candidates to ensure the right hire.


But, most importantly, they now had the tools, training and techniques they needed to manage their own recruiting.


‘Our internal recruiter was ready and able, but we knew we needed more capacity,’ recalls Mat. ‘Beyond this, when we increased pace, we wanted to make sure we were set up for long-term success.’


It wasn’t long before Shippit had recruited a number of quality hires, including:


– Head of People and Culture

– Head of Customer Experience

– Head of UX

– People Operations Manager

– People and Workplace Specialist

– Talent Acquisition Lead

– Talent Acquisition Manager

– Commercial Analyst

– Business Analyst

– Logistics Controller

– Logistics Coordinator


Business was booming – and Shippit had the capacity to harness it!


The Alignment


The partnership between Shippit and The Lab17 wasn’t just about getting through an aggressive phase of growth. It was about arming the Shippit team with the skills they needed to bring recruiting in-house.


‘We had to upskill our team to eventually be able to do this without The Lab17, and this type of partnership that we struck up worked incredibly well.’


Mat says one of the most important factors in the successful partnership was TheLab 17’s flexible way of working.


‘We were able to work with The Lab17 on designing an approach that was specific for Shippit’s needs,’ he says. ‘This wasn’t a one-size-fits-all line of action – instead, we made changes tailored to our values, our culture, and designed to extend our existing capabilities.’


Set up for success


Today, Shippit has a comprehensive, easily-scalable interview process.


The Lab17 has trained the team to effectively interview candidates – reducing the risk of bad hires.


They’ve also coached a Shippit team member to run training sessions on interview techniques. This is ensuring people across the Shippit team are gaining critical hiring skills and decreasing their need for external recruitment agencies.


‘I wanted and needed to instil the capabilities into our own team to sustain this hiring pace,’ explains Mat. ‘We wanted to train the team on how to do well, and set up the processes, practices and disciplines.’


The introduction of a Values Interview has further cemented Shippit’s internal hiring ability.


Now, instead of candidates meeting with one of the Shippit founders for their final interview, they sit down with someone in the Values Interview team.


This has sped up the recruiting process immensely, says Cloë, while still ensuring Shippit’s values and culture are clearly communicated to potential employees.


‘We curated questions and outcomes based on the founders’ values and company culture,’ she recalls. ’This ensures candidates are aligned with Shippit’s values and will thrive in their environment.


‘It’s also provided a great growth opportunity for the team.’

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Get in touch with us here.

Claudia Giugovaz outlines how a Lab17 partnership works, what it looks like for your organisation and where you’ll see the impact across talent acquisition 


The Lab17 doesn’t recruit in the traditional way. That’s why you won’t get costly, time-consuming hiring processes here.



Instead, you’ll get a recruitment partner who deeply embeds themselves within your business so you can scale up, eliminate bottlenecks and improve the candidate experience



So, how do we actually ‘embed’ ourselves in your business? What does the day-to-day look like? And what will it entail for you and your colleagues?



As one of The Lab17’s Senior Talent Managers, I’ve spent plenty of time recruiting inside organisations like yours. 


Here’s what to expect from your first 4 weeks and beyond:



Week 1: Researching your organisation


This is our time to absorb as much information as possible about your organisation. In other words, we’ll be everywhere, soaking in everything.


For example, you can expect us to:

  1. – Sit in on company town halls
  2. – Meet stakeholders
  3. – Listen to podcasts of your founders speaking
  4. – Read any articles that will give us insights into the way you do    things
  5. – Review your marketing materials and existing employer       brand resources (so we know what to use or build upon).

This is also the time to kick off your job brief processes. That means working closely with you to determine your priorities – and how to tackle the roles you’re recruiting for. 


Armed with data, we’ll sit down with your hiring managers so they know exactly what’s ahead and how we’ll support them along the way. 


Week 1 in a snapshot

> Introduction to management + core leadership team

> Outlining hiring needs + core objectives

> Auditing your employer brand

> Unpacking your vision + mission

> Sessions to scope out the roles you’re filling

> Prioritising roles

> Editing (if needed) job descriptions

> Connecting with your team

> Onboarding to your systems (e.g. email, comms channels)

> Designing candidate marketing materials

> Clarifying roles + prototyping candidates

Week 2: Building your strategy, resources and processes


By now, we know why we’re here, what your business problems are and why you want to scale your team


Your roles will be live and out to market and your Lab17 partner will have created resources around interview processes and tasks. 


They’ll also establish a weekly cadence to keep your hiring managers up-to-date and across their roles. 


With candidate applications now coming in, we’ll have the right information to design your sourcing strategy


Like product managers, we tend to work in 6 week sprints for this part – with the ultimate aim of making a hire by Week 6.


That means:

  • – Determining how much outreach is needed to attract     candidates (and make that hire by Week 6)
  • – Building InMail or email templates
  • – Getting your hiring managers involved in outreach (generally   for those tricky or senior roles you’re trying to fill).

– This is also when we’ll start screening candidates. This is a   chance for you to see whether we’ve truly understood your   team, culture and candidate pool. 


Rest assured: if we don’t nail the first screening and pitching call, we’ll refine it until we do. 


Week 2 in a snapshot

> Creating candidate identification + attraction strategy

> Articulating your EVP

> Beginning outbound sourcing

> Establishing weekly progress reporting

> Screening candidates

> Designing + delivering interview processes



Week 3: Gaining momentum


By this time, your Lab17 partner (like me!) is well and truly in the trenches. You can expect them to have:

  • – Spoken to a handful of candidates
  • – Presented profiles
  • – Hiring Manager interviews have started
  • – Some candidates will be progressing to the next interview stage

In other words, momentum is building. But don’t worry: your partner will continue sourcing candidates – no matter how busy they are with the screening process.


They will connect weekly with your hiring managers to:

  • – Summarise candidate profiles
  • – Share insights into candidate strengths and weaknesses
  • – Prepare them for upcoming interviews. This could include   supporting them to develop interview processes and questions,   as well as ways of probing candidates.

Week 3 in a snapshot

> Shortlisting candidates

> Introducing candidates to the hiring team

> Improving process + system evaluation

> Continuing to grow the candidate pipeline

> Analysing candidate / outreach data



Week 4: At (or nearing) the offer stage


With any luck, we’ll be close to making an offer. And if that’s the case, you can be sure of a well-earned celebration with your Lab17 partner!


If not, your Lab17 partner will consider:

  • – Refreshing the job posting
  • – Changing the job title or scope
  • Expanding the search beyond the current location
  • Adding other titles to the search
  • – Advertising on alternative sites or pages
  • Looking internally for the role
  • – Seeking input from the hiring manager

At this point, your partner may also start thinking about other ways to ingrain themselves even more deeply into your team


They’ll want to bolster your interviewing capabilities, which might mean:

  • – Booking in some interview training sessions
  • – Building out a Talent Playbook for your team to create more   consistency across processes
  • – Holding a session on how best to use the ATS system
  • – Providing high-level insights to your partner lead – including   how things are tracking and feedback on the partnership to date.
  • – Boosting your EVP and employer branding 
  • Strategic planning around organisational growth + structure

Week 4 in a snapshot

> Moving to offer

> Making hires

> Training on interviews, systems and processes



Life after 4 weeks


As you move beyond your initial month with Lab17 as your embedded recruitment partner, you’ll find yourself in a humming hiring rhythm. You will notice that the quality of candidates coming through the pipeline has improved, saving you and your hiring team a lot of time. 


Your capabilities are growing – along with your in-market brand.


But, no matter how long your Lab17 partner remains in your organisation, you’ll now have the skills, strategies and processes in place to confidently scale up – when and where you need to.

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.

The Lab17 has transformed Lyka's hiring journey, helping them to efficiently and cost-effectively expand their team to capitalise on the booming pet industry.

During the pandemic, countless people welcomed a pooch into their homes. 

In fact, dog ownership rose 25% between 2019 and 2022*.


This fondness for our furry friends (or ‘puppers’, as the Lyka team calls them) means giving them the best life possible. 


And quality of life starts with premium, human-grade food offered by companies such as Lyka.


As part of such a booming industry, it’s no surprise Lyka needed to drive rapid growth following a successful Series B raise in September 2022. 

And that’s what they did. 

In just 12 months, the company tripled their non-manufacturing employee base. This included recruiting 31 hires across areas including software engineering, service design and marketing in just 1 quarter!

Sound quick? It was.


That’s why Gabriel Guedes (aka GG), Lyka’s COO and CFO, turned to The Lab17 for support. He knew his busy team needed to swiftly scale up – while also establishing solid processes that would stand the test of time


Here’s how GG, together with his team and The Lab 17’s Claudia Giugovaz, did it. 


New chapter, new goals

In the wake of Lyka’s Series B funding, the pressure was on to meet new, ambitious business goals. Getting the right people on board – as quickly as possible – was crucial.


But, says GG, it wasn’t long before Lyka was getting behind on their hiring – and therefore putting their objectives in peril. 


‘We had to deploy promptly across different parts of the business to achieve our goals,’ he recalls. ‘[Before long], we realised we were getting behind on our hiring pace. We knew if we continued like that, we wouldn’t be able to fill all those roles in time.’


Fast growth calls for the right resources

With only 1 TA expert inside Lyka, the hiring challenges following their capital raise were immense. GG says it was unreasonable to put that pressure on his team.


‘We didn’t have the internal capabilities to grow as fast as we needed to’ he explains. ‘Nor did we have the time to hire that capability in-house and develop it.


The Lab17 helped us accelerate this ramp up – not only by having the right people, but also the right processes. In a way, it enabled us to ‘plug and play’ and seamlessly kick off our accelerated hiring.’


More than understanding talent

GG says although he had hiring experience under his belt, this new pace of recruiting was next-level. 


By bringing in The Lab17, Lyka immediately saw how the right processes from Day 1 can impact a company’s ability to make top-notch hires


‘I’ve had experience with hiring before Lyka and have also read a lot about the topic, so theoretically everything makes sense,’ he tells us. ‘But it’s good to see the conceptualisation of how a great TA process works. 


‘And seeing the execution, seeing the formalisation of our processes – like the training we did not have before – and how we use our tools and integrations is really satisfying. All these things I knew were possible, so it’s incredible to see them well executed.’


Looking back to September 2022, GG says it made complete sense to partner with The Lab17.


‘If we’d had to solve this by ourselves, I would probably have had to hire a talent team 3 months before the Series B raise even started,’ he explains. ‘I would have had to get the right people on board, put the processes in place, do the training, get the right tools and then deploy.’


Firm foundations for growth

GG says now having those processes ingrained across the organisation means Lyka is poised for further expansion.


We’ve just brought in another TA, and they’ve hit the ground running,’ he remarks. ’Not only do we have the right processes, but I think the hiring managers are more experienced.


‘We’ve gone on a journey where people know how to work with TA – and where we’re hiring not as a function but as a company.


‘The Lab17 is a big part of how we got here,’ GG concludes. ‘I think we’ve matured a lot over the past year and learned a lot.’


Writing your own scaling-up story

Want to accelerate your hiring? Get in touch with Claudia Giugovaz to chat about your needs. 


The results speak for themselves

Since 2022, The Lab17 has supported Lyka to:

> Recruit 31 employees across software engineering, product management, service design, product design + marketing

> Create rapid growth + scale in TA capability across the business

> Challenge existing processes to improve TA function

> Design a clear, scalable job brief process to ensure efficiency + speed in hiring

> Revamp JD templates to reposition Lyka’s employer brand

> Introduce Interview Training Foundations to support hiring managers improve their skills

> Save Lyka $300K+ in recruiting fees.

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.

Here’s how Athena bolstered their team, rapidly scaled up and improved their candidate experience to establish a firm foothold in the home lending industry.

Athena Home Loans operates in a market largely dominated by the Big 4 Aussie banks. 

And, while they are newer on the scene than other players, they are already shaking up the industry and are wholly committed to changing home loans for good. 

So, ramping up their business — while still staying lean — took a particular approach. . 

That’s when they called in The Lab17.

Cloë Stanbridge, Head of Talent at The Lab17, sat down with Liana Mawston, Athena’s Chief of People and Community. They discussed Athena’s journey from start-up to market challenger, how they manage talent acquisition in a tight market and where The Lab’s extensive experience comes to the fore.  

What was the main driver behind partnering with The Lab?

Firstly, it was the rate at which we needed to scale – we were an early stage startup. That meant we needed to be really lean from a corporate overhead perspective and invest everything into our engineers, designers and customer service teams. 

We wanted to keep those overhead functions – be they HR or finance – as small as possible. So, building out a big talent acquisition function was never something we were going to do.

Secondly, the end-to-end nature of our business meant we had to recruit for a hugely diverse mix of roles. We needed people for all facets of the organisation: designers, engineers, data people, customer service people, broker development managers (to name a few!)

So, even if I hired one TA expert, it’s unlikely they’d have enough connections to recruit such a varied set of roles. You simply can’t get that from one person. 

Partnering with Lab17 meant we could use your expertise and depth of talent to recruit for all of those very different roles. And we could also keep the people and culture function super tight.

We had a couple of the Lab17 crew work in-house with us, but we had access to your entire team. So I could say, ‘Hey, I need a data engineer! Or, hey, we’re looking for a business development person’, and you could find us one.

It gave us that diversity of expertise, without having to have 4 talent acquisition people in-house. 

What do you think the tipping point for you was in choosing The Lab? 

I think it was the pace at which we needed to find roles. We were moving fast. 

My philosophy has always been to stay lean in central functions and work closely with hiring managers during the acquisition process. 

But because we were growing so rapidly, it meant the hiring team was trying to onboard new people, while still delivering velocity in their day jobs. 


And, with a tiny central team, we just couldn’t deliver what we needed. 

That’s when I knew we needed to partner with The Lab17.

How was this problem impacting Athena?

To put it bluntly, we were not giving the candidates the Athena experience we wanted. 

We’d put a job up and then be inundated with job-seekers – a lot of whom weren’t suitable. But suitable or not, we still don’t want to give them a bad experience.

Unfortunately, hiring managers in a scaling business don’t have the time to give a clearly unsuitable applicant a positive experience through tailored experience and feedback. And the trouble with that is it impacts our ability to recruit down the track because you can gain a bad reputation for not getting back to candidates. 

How did we help you overcome that challenge?

You just solved all those problems for us!

For me, the difference is the deeply embedded nature of our partnership. It’s not only the breadth of experience you have across the Lab; the tight partnership we developed meant you genuinely understand our culture. 

It doesn’t feel like we’ve just farmed out the roles to an agency where you’re not sure what they’re promising the candidates – and whether we can even deliver on those promises. 

With The Lab17, we’ve got that trust. You understand us, so what you’re selling the candidate is truly ‘us’. And that means together, we can give candidates a far richer, more positive experience.

How has Athena changed and progressed since our partnership began? What has The Lab17 brought to the table?

It’s been a journey!

We started with a very narrow scope in [recruiting for] the tech and engineering space. Yet, whenever we’ve come to you and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this kind of left field type of role we need filling,’ you’ve delivered for us.

And that’s probably been surprising for us. 

I mean, I always felt incredibly confident early on that those very typical tech startup roles would be wholly and solely in your sweet spot. But I was pleasantly surprised just how extendable that was to then tap into the wider market. 

Once you knew us, our culture and the type of people we were looking for, you could problem-solve and find the right candidates. That ability to broaden the solution and partnership across the entire organisation has definitely surpassed my expectations.

Since partnering with you guys, we’ve learned a lot about the art of talent acquisition. 

Things like how we get the job spec right. Or how we deliver a great candidate experience. And how, as a challenger, we can reach talent in a competitive market without having to rely on agencies.

Working alongside The Lab17 has definitely been a growth factor in our business. 

We’ve been able to tap into your expertise to know exactly what’s happening for candidates in the market. That’s allowing us to be nimble enough to be relevant in the space.

It’s about having that external conversation and understanding what we need to do to stay competitive. It’s been incredibly helpful!

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.

  • Finding a Head of Engineering who fits your organisation like a glove is a challenge to say the least. But after recently placing 4 of these critical leadership roles, Lab17’s Head of Talent Cloë Stanbridge knows a thing or two.

  • Talking with Cloë, we learned more about her experience – and the lessons she’s learnt throughout the hiring process.

  • Which clients did you place these roles for?
  • Athena Home Loans: These disruptors in the finance industry empower Aussies with shortcuts to financial freedom.
  • Lyka: Australia’s freshed dog food, delivered.
  • Easy Agile: The world’s most loved agile apps for Jira.
  • SimConverse: Ai medical simulation platform.
  • Athena Home Loans and Lyka were replacement roles and Easy Agile and SimConverse were hiring their first Head of Engineering. 
  • What were your biggest takeaways from these hires?
  • Engineering leaders come in different shapes and sizes. 
  • These three companies varied in size from 250-150 people and candidates would be leading teams of 7-30. 
  • Importantly, these businesses are GROWING. So we needed to ensure these were hires who could scale their teams beyond those numbers. 
  • This could have been: 
  • – A CTO at a 150 person company
  • – A Head of Engineering at a 200 person company
  • – Or even a Director of Engineering at a 300 person company.
  • Responsibilities also varied from company to company. An engineering leader in consulting plays a very different role in a B2B SaaS company versus a fintech. It was important to establish the make-up needed for these roles early on. 
  • If you could speak to the Cloë of 2 years ago, what hiring advice would you give her?
  • Go in with a plan:
  • The time you spend up front deep-diving into what the hiring manager is looking for will pay off later. Big time. 
  • Play back their requirements or create a persona to ensure you’re all on the same page. 
  • Build out a 3-phase plan over a course of 6-12+ weeks for sourcing. This involves exhausting the pipeline for the ideal candidate.
  • Create a market map and agree on the candidates that you or the hiring manager will approach. Once this is exhausted, recalibrate with the hiring manager to open the pool, then do another targeted search and so on. 
  • This keeps both you and them accountable for making the hire. 
  • Build an interview process:
  • This might sound simple but it’s something a lot of companies miss.
  • Neglecting this creates uncertainty across the interview process, makes for a bad candidate experience, and wastes a lot of time. 
  • Here’s what you want to do:
  • – Use the job description to pinpoint the key skills and behaviours you’re looking for.
  • – Design an interview process to assess them
  • – Get folks in your business who are really good at that to do the interview
  • – Coach them on writing objective feedback. 
  • Bring the hiring team together
  • Once you have the Job Description and interview process built out, it’s time to bring the interview panel together. 
  • It’s essential everyone knows the key competencies being assessed and who is responsible for what. 
  • Reconnect at the end of the process to debrief on any yellow or red flags. This lets the hiring manager know the candidate’s growth areas to work on together if they hire them.
  • What are the common challenges of finding a Head of Engineering? And how did you overcome them?
  • 1. Finding candidates at the right stage in their career and willing to make the leap
  • The companies we partner with at the Lab17 are in a growth phase. This means their business is growing faster than their people can develop in their careers. 
  • It’s wise to bring leaders on board who have already been through growth, made mistakes and learnt from them. The challenge here is that these folks tend to be high performers and are looking for the next step in their career.  Finding someone at the right level who isn’t chasing a bigger title and is excited about this role is hard. 
  • To manage this, I invested time with candidates to really unpack this with them. Then, when I found strong prospects, I continually checked in with them throughout the process to ensure they were still aligned. 
  • 2. Learning what the company is really looking for during the interview process
  • It would be nice to always be 100% crystal clear on what the company is after before we go to market. But in reality we sometimes learn through interviewing candidates and assessing the market. 
  • At times this meant interviewing 10-15 candidates with none of them progressing to hire. In one company we called a retro to reflect on what was going well and… well… not so well.  That’s when we pinpointed what we really needed and what were ‘nice to haves’ – then put a new plan in place. 
  • Finding gender diverse candidates
  • A quick Linkedin search showed that diversity stats for Head of Engineering were terrifying.
  • We needed to demonstrate to potential candidates that diversity was important to us. We built collateral that candidates could read in their own time and provided plenty of opportunities to show this throughout the interview.
  • When each partner has a different approach to who they wanted and why, what’s your advice for the prototyping of a Head of Engineering role?
  • It’s wise to spend the time up front to build a persona. Stuff like:
  • – Years of leadership experience
  • – How technical they need to be
  • – Whether they need strong experience in a certain domain.
  • Check the persona with the hiring manager before you get started to ensure you’re focusing on the right profiles.
  • Any stand out moments from these hiring journeys? 
  • The 4 journeys were all very different. With one company we made the hire in less than 3 weeks, while another took 6 months! 
  • In one case, there was a long process after we already had a candidate at offer. A lot of emotional energy went in from everyone involved. So when the offer was rejected (for personal reasons) it was really tough. The candidate was really strong but we had to go back to the drawing board. 
  • I think we cried happy tears when we received that signed contract! The hiring team had been on a big learning journey together and everyone was over the moon.


Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.


Start-ups often need talent acquisition over recruitment. But how do the two processes differ, why is TA essential for scaling and where do you start?

  • Salutations, start-ups. 
  • Whether you’re the new kid on the block or have been around a few times already, you’ll always need people. Good ones.
  • Knowing this, you may well already have a recruitment agency on board. And that’s awesome for solving your immediate hiring needs (tech recruitment challenges, for example. They’re real).
  • But there’s more to it.
  • You see, recruitment is one thing; talent acquisition another (believe it or not, talent acquisition isn’t just a fancy word for recruitment).
  • Which begs the question: wtf is talent acquisition? 
  • More specifically, what can it do for your business? Why is it super important in the start-up world? And will it give you work/life balance?
  • Do say hello hello to Katy Johnstone, though. She’s one of our all-round terrific Talent Partners who knows this area like the back of her hardworking hand. 
  • Which is why we sat down with her and asked all the questions. And she’s given you allll the answers.
  • For those of us without a TA background, you’ll forgive us for thinking recruitment and talent acquisition are the same, right? 
  • Oh, absolutely. 
  • The terms are often used interchangeably – and understandably so. I mean, it’s all about recruiting talent, so why wouldn’t they be the same?
  • In fact, they’re actually quite different. 
  • Sure, both processes involve finding and hiring new people, but the approaches and business outcomes of each differ wildly.
  • I love supporting companies to understand these crucial differences. It gives me fuel in my rocket ship because it’s something I feel incredibly passionate about!
  • And honestly, when businesses can attract, recruit and retain top talent, they soar. 
  • Love the sound of that! So let’s start with recruitment – how do you define it?
  • First and foremost, recruitment is typically seen as a reactive process. It’s about filling a specific role within a company quickly and efficiently in response to a particular need – say a tech hire to expand into a new market.
  • The focus is on finding candidates who meet the necessary criteria (qualifications, skills, experience etc.) and who can start working as soon as possible. 
  • Recruitment is generally driven by job postings and resumes (hello, Seek and similar) and typically handled by HR departments or hiring managers. 
  • And…at the risk of getting a few backs up, these teams aren’t always the best at recruiting and interviewing (sorry!) 
  • Obviously, they know HR inside out, but these tasks are different beasts altogether and often outside their wheelhouse. Much like HR policy is outside mine. 
  • Anyway, should we move on?
  • Good idea. Do you have an easy-to-scan list of what recruitment looks like?
  • Of course. I love me a good list!
  • Typically recruitment is about:

– Reacting to an immediate need

  • – Outsourcing to an external agency
  • – Being quick (fill, fill, fill those empty roles – fast!)
  • – Assessing candidates to see whether their skills and experience fit the role you’re recruiting for
  • – Advertising through job websites and the like
  • – Reviewing resumes (sometimes a lot of them).
  • What about Talent Acquisition? That’s what we really want to talk about, right?
  • Yes. Yes, we do.
  • Talent acquisition is a little more new age, I guess. A bit more ‘of the now’. 
  • I’d go as far as saying we TA folk are a bit like conspiracy theorists (in a good way!). We’re not walking around in tinfoil hats, but we question everything and take nothing for granted. 
  • It’s not that recruitment doesn’t have its place. It absolutely does. 
  • It’s just that talent acquisition is more about the bigger picture. 
  • Sure, it’s still about finding great hires – but with a more proactive and strategic approach. It focuses on building a strong workforce who want to hang around because they actually believe in your values. 
  • That means building a pipeline of qualified candidates who may not be actively looking for a job at that very moment. 
  • But we target them anyway because their skills, experience and values align with an organisation’s long-term goals and culture.
  • And this is seriously important for start-ups, right? I mean, they can only deliver on their business strategy with the right people and capability.
  • So talent acquisition is really about taking the bull by its horns. At Lab17, we work closely with businesses to identify where those gaps are going to emerge in the future – so we can take the right steps now.
  • So again, if you were to pull it into a list…
  • Lists are the best!
  • Ok, so talent acquisition is generally about:
  • – Being proactive
  • – Embedding the process into an organisation
  • – Going deeper – like actually asking why there are empty spaces (a tight job market is understandable; being a rubbish place to work needs discussion)
  • – Looking at the bigger picture (i.e. assessing a candidates growth and development potential and clocking what you need to do to keep them engaged and interested in future opportunities)
  • – Lifting a company’s hiring and interview skills
  • – Giving candidates a standout experience (you want them to come back!)
  • – Creating a slick AF interview process which assesses whether people are aligned with your values
  • – Managing the entire interview process, so your teams have more time to, you know…do their jobs
  • – Advising on org charts, competency frameworks and career pathways
  • – Supporting you to deliver objective feedback (just ‘cos someone went to your school doesn’t make them the right fit at your organisation)
  • – Driving decisions with data and market insights
  • – Creating and developing your talent brand strategies and Employee Value Proposition.
  • It’s a lot, I know.
  • Finally…what’s your last piece of advice for start-ups navigating the dramas and delights of getting the right humans on board?
  • Seeing a start-up take flight is like nothing else! But yeah, it’s not always easy. 
  • Even if you’ve just had a hefty cash injection, funding doesn’t just keep flowing forever. Nor do the hours in your day. 
  • So, it’s really about looking at where you’re allocating resources. 
  • Are you focusing on the strategies that will help you attract and retain the best talent for your long-term goals? That’d be TA.
  • Or are you perpetually popping on a bandaid to fix today’s problem? More like recruiting. 
  • If you want to grow your business and really take off, you need the right people now and down the track. 
  • And when your rocket ship blasts off (it will!), you need the experts beside you.

Are you considering a recruitment partner like The Lab17? Follow us on LinkedIn or get in touch with us here.

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