Cade Garett

super{set} Head of TA Cade Garrett

Cade GarrettHead of TA

Today on Talk Talent to Me, we are joined by the Head of Talent at super{set}, Cade Garrett. Cade talks about what his company does, how he ensures his clients make a big impact, where he believes early-stage companies should source their candidates, what he looks for in early-stage employees, and the pushback he gets from early-stage founders who refuse to prioritize hiring. You’ll learn how Cade assesses his recruiters, the potentially traumatic experience of moving between jobs, and forms of communication that alienate candidates from recruiters. To find out why transparency is so important and to learn how to build trust with a candidate, tune in now!

Episode Transcript


[0:00:06.1] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontline’s modern recruitment.

[0:00:12.8] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions, where are they willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

[0:00:22.7] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment, VPs of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.

[0:00:31.1] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

[0:00:39.7] MALE: Talent acquisition, it’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization, you get to work with the C-Suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me.


[0:00:59.4] RS: Here at talking talent with me today is the Head of Talent over at super{set} Cade Garrett. Cade, welcome to the show, how are you today?

[0:01:06.3] CG: I’m great, thanks Rob, good to be here.

[0:01:08.6] RS: Pleased to have you, what’s going on over there, are you awash with unfilled roles that you’re hiring for, what’s kind of taking up your time right now at super{set}?

[0:01:17.6] CG: Yeah, we’ve got about 15 companies in our portfolio right now so all of them are hiring and growing and lots of open roles.

[0:01:27.7] RS: Got it. So maybe it makes sense to share a little bit about super{set}. Are you all a VC firm or how would you kind of characterize what super{set} does?

[0:01:34.5] CG: We actually consider ourselves a startup studio, and so what that means is we go out and we raise a fund just like a venture capital firm might do, but rather than invest in other companies that are external, we go about building our own companies. We generally will come up with some ideas, we’ll go out, we’ll hire a cofounder and we will partner with them in the early days to build out these companies.

[0:02:00.3] RS: Got it. So you’re more like a wide combinator than a sequoia capital, I guess that’s a very Bay Area centric reference but the idea is that you’re helping companies get started as opposing to just writing them a check and then kind of letting them do their thing.

[0:02:12.3] CG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a little bit less formulaic than a Y combinator where we spend a lot of time going through defining the project roadmap, building out the teams, but yes, very hands on an early days.

[0:02:27.0] RS: So are you hiring now internally for super{set} or for the portfolio companies, for both?

[0:02:32.1] CG: I hired for both. So, here at super{set}, we do hire throughout the year. We’re a smaller team so we don’t hire a lot and then of course in the portfolio, when you’re talking about 15 companies ranging from seed stage startups to series-B startups, there’s a lot of hiring.

Now, eventually, these companies get big enough and they go get their own recruiter and their own talent team and I take a step back. But in the early days, I’m very hands on with hiring, whether it’s me actually getting in and being a recruiter for them or introducing them to contract recruiters or other talent sourcing firms or partners.

[0:03:09.9] RS: What do you think is the most high-leveraged thing these companies do with regard to hiring? Like sure, you could connect them to an agency or say, “Hey, let’s get you some help back stream making the hires” but are there other sort of long-term processes or things you’re advising them to do that can really make a big difference early on?

[0:03:26.1] CG: Yeah, that’s a great question. We actually just had a summit, we called it the super summit in Denver, and we invited all the engineering teams of these companies to come out for three days and of course, talk about a variety of different technical topics and have some great keynote speakers.

But one of the sessions was led by me and I talked about how you build a recruiting brand in your company in the early days, and how you go about hiring engineering talent, and one of the things that I talked about is that this is something that needs to be ingrained into your company from the very first day, and that is that you’re constantly going to be recruiting and bringing on talent and you need to have a brand around that.

You need to be very thoughtful about that brand. One of the things that I talked about is that perfection can actually be the enemy of hiring, where if you’re just waiting to have this perfect process and this perfect setup to start building and recruiting brand, you’re to actually miss out on just going out and talking to candidates and worrying about how we bring people on and so, you can’t wait for the perfect scenario and the perfect storm.

You just have to start talking to people, you have to start pitching, you have to start figuring out how to bring people on, and then you can start to incorporate everything that you learned as you go along, if that makes sense.

[0:04:48.2] RS: Yeah, it does. I’ve heard it repeated as, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Meaning like, get something to a point where it’s good enough and functional because if you are a perfectionist, then you will probably never ship or you will ship at the expense of other really important things too. So that makes sense to me.

[0:05:04.4] CG: Yeah, it becomes an iterative process, right? Just like maybe engineering.

[0:05:08.3] RS: Yeah. It’s so common with these early-stage companies to hire from referrals just because you need to trade on trust a little bit. You may not have a recruiting brand or any sort of brand and the people you know are maybe more likely to trust you and signup. Are you coaching early-stage companies to maybe move away from referrals or just supplemented or I guess what I’m asking is, how are you thinking of source of hire at these early stages?

[0:05:35.5] CG: I’m a big believer that you need to cast a really wide net. So referrals are great, they’re going to be a great source of strong candidates, people that you trust, people that you can work closely with. Look, in the early days of building a company, it’s stressful, it’s hard, there’s a lot of pivots and twists and turns and so, referrals are always going to be a strong source of hires that you can build around, but they’re only going to get you so far.

The other thing that I worry a little bit about sometimes is diversity. So when you just are consistently hiring in your own network, you can run not similar trains of thoughts or life experiences and so, I always suggest that you cast a wide net by of course, going after referrals, maybe throwing some job post out there. I think there’s always going to be an effort that is made around outreach.

So going out, finding people to have an interesting looking background for what you’re looking for, trying to get a hold of them and then of course, the way that I look at it is, the more that you get to that outreach, the further you are away from the hire. So referrals can happen quicker, applicants can happen quicker. That outreach, you got low response rates, you don’t know them.

You got to go through this process of selling them on the opportunity and learning how to trust them and if they’re going to be able to work together. So you have to prepare yourself that like, this is going to take some time and that’s why I say cast a wide net from the very beginning because then, you can fill your pipeline with different stages along the way.

[0:07:05.3] RS: So with this sourcing approach, sort of granting that it will take longer, as you say, you have to pitch them on the opportunity if you get to know them a little bit. Is there a particular background you need to look for when sourcing at this stage? I guess, what do you look for in early stage employees, knowing that they don’t know you and they probably never heard of your company before?

[0:07:22.9] CG: Yeah, it’s a great question and something that I think takes a lot of time and effort. At super{set}, we actually feel like that’s one of our strengths, is to have these people first approach. People are what makes the company turn and recently, that Super Summit that I was discussing are one of our main partners, Tom Chavez turned to us and said like, “People are the secret, people are what make this all work” and I agree with that wholeheartedly.

I really believe in that model and so when you’re getting to know people, you can’t just ask the same generic questions. You have to really get empathetic with them and understand a little bit more about what makes them tick. We look for some traits such as, we need someone who is very collaborative with us in the early days because there’s going to be a lot of back and forth, there’s going to be a lot of learnings, there’s going to be a lot of changes.

We need someone who is going to have the humility to be collaborative, to get some feedback, to make changes and to know that they’re not going to have every single answer and that’s okay. We also look for some traits such as these might be a little bit generic but grit, for example, you’ve got to be able to either go up with the rocket ship or go down with the ship as they say and, you’ve got to be able to get through those tough days.

There’s going to be ups and downs in a startup and so you’ve got to have the grit to be able to get through that. There’s a few other things but just really spending the time to get to know them. Now, engineering might be different than marketing which might be different than sales, so you got to understand which role you’re hiring for. I think generally speaking, those are some traits on the people side that might be a good indicator of if someone is going to do well in a small startup.

[0:09:05.2] RS: I’m glad to hear that one of your partners at Super Summit made the point that people make the whole thing turn, and that buy in is really crucial for any recruiting pro I think. Do you ever get pushback from early stage founders or just early stage leaders in the company because they have a million things to do and maybe they don’t want to prioritize hiring, or they want to farm it out. If so, what does that look like?

[0:09:30.1] CG: I’m glad you asked that question because I’ve been a big proponent that people will not join a company because of just me as a recruiter, they’re going to join because of the people they worked with day in and day out. So the engineering team or the product team or the sales team they join and so for me, when the hiring manager is pushing back on being too involved, I’m going to make sure that they prioritize this.

I’ve sat down with managers and had them actually join me in sourcing candidates, we have done team meetings where their entire team sits down for an hour and we have a competition of who can come up with the most profiles. There’s all sorts of things I’ve done to make sure and engage both managers and the team because I think it’s absolutely essential that people get some buy in on hiring.

They have to take ownership of it. As odd as this may sound, I actually don’t think it’s recruiting’s job to hire. It’s these managers and they’re the ones that are growing the team. I’m happy to partner with them and put in as much effort as we need to get the tools, to get the playbooks, to spend time sourcing, to collaborate and make sure interviews are going well and build a wonderful candid experience.

But these managers, if they don’t engage and if they don’t get really involved, hiring is going to get a lot harder from the onset.

[0:10:53.0] RS: So, in addition to scraping out the time to do interviews and pair with the recruiter on what it is that they actually need in the hires they want, what does that look like, what does that buy in look, sound? How did they get engaged as you say?

[0:11:07.1] CG: I’ve seen a variety of different things ranging from building out really clear job descriptions, meaning taking the time to really understand what they’re hiring for because by doing that, I don’t think a job description’s going to make anyone join either but it’s going to force a hiring manager to really understand what it is they need to hire for and then, we can build an interview questionnaire around that.

We can validate someone’s experience to ensure that they’re really solving what we need this person to solve. So building out job descriptions. I do think something like, a source-a-thon or something like that gets people involved because then, one, they realize that the talent pool, there’s lots of engineers or marketers or sales folks out there, when you’re looking for a specific domain experience or startup experience on top of that specific domain experience, those talent pools get a lot smaller.

So you just have to be really specific and so it becomes a numbers game in the sense that you have to reach out to a lot of people, but the numbers game is also you have to spend the time to really personalize each message, because if you look at each profile and spend the time to think about why they might be beneficial, that’s more and more buy in on your part to send out a good message.

Now, again, this could be a recruiter or this could be someone on the team but having that buying to just understand the rule and understand the persona of who we’re trying to recruit and hire, becomes really important, and then also I’m a big proponent of making sure we spend the time to really plan out an interview, and make sure people know which topics will be covered, who will be covering those topics, and also ensuring that we’re not interviewing 100% of the time.

It needs to be a really good split between interviewing and selling candidates, because if you spend all of your time interviewing, you’re going to get to the end of the interview and there’s going to be no connection. There’s going to be no desire for this person to join because they have no idea who they’re going to be working with. They might know what they would be doing but they don’t know who they will be working with. So just making that connection with people is an important part of that interview process as well.

[0:13:22.1] RS: Yeah, of course and that is also art of, I think, the talent pro’s role in coaching hiring managers. Like, you need to make sure they’re doing that. Like you say, they’re not going to join because of what the recruiter says, like, you help, you have the initial pitch down and you’re friendly and you’re great to work with but talent knows that once they start at the company, they’re probably not going to work with you as much, right? Maybe a little bit.

So it really is up to the hiring manager and the other people who would be their teammates to do that. Do you kind of probe for how people in interviews are chopping up assessment versus selling?

[0:13:58.9] CG: I do, we have Slack channels dedicated to feedback and I’ve seen mid-interview, us, take a change of approach because we’re maybe too heavy one way or the other. So I think having a little bit of agility in your interview process becomes really important in this. Now, as far as people joining a company, look, there’s going to be times where of course, in the recruiting process, understanding compensation, understanding benefits and understanding maybe some of the nitty-gritty details is really important for candidates.

So of course, I want to make sure and address some of that stuff although in the early days, there is a lot of talk out there that you need to talk about comp, you need to have it very well thought out and spelled out. Quite frankly in the early days, the differences in compensation can vary quite a bit as far as someone may want more equity or they may want more salary and so you can be a little bit flexible with more or less salary or more or less equity.

That is some of the stuff where as a recruiter, I need to understand those things very well and I need to understand how those discussions play a part in this recruiting process but during the actual interviews and when they’re engaging with the team, I just want to really make sure that we do a good job of helping candidates understand what they will be doing in a startup and why it is important that they understand the ups and downs of the early days of building a company, the twist and turns that come.

Tom Chavez, who I mentioned earlier and Vivek Lodhia, we joke around that you’ve got to be a little bit crazy to want to join a startup. It’s really hard, in fact, we have even said it’s soul sucking but we do it because we love it and we love building something, and we love the impact we can have and we love the team work and the collaboration that comes in those early days of creating something new, and so it is really important.

Each hire has such a big impact on these early stage startups that it is really important that you’d nail those aspects of the interview process so that one, you can understand who you’re hiring and make sure you hire the right people but two, they know what they are getting into and there is no surprises afterwards, because it is really painful to put all of that effort into hiring someone and then a few months later they leave.

[0:16:10.6] RS: Right, of course you’re back to square one. The selling component of the hire takes a couple of different shapes. Usually, you touch on this company is about to kill it, right? We are positioned for success, we’re in this great niche, we have these great customers and logos, et cetera, et cetera business case, right? For joining the company, then there’s the actual opportunity, what you the hire would be doing.

What you get to work on, who you will be working with, why this fits into your career and your goals that is compelling. That is another piece to this that I would like to discuss and it is kind of the more existential considerations of changing jobs, which is that changing jobs is a hugely stressful thing, maybe even traumatic because you might change locations, you might move, your whole routines are upset.

All of your work base relationships are now set back to zero, right? You start over like all of your work friends and all of that gets completely reset. So I want to just ask if that is something you think about personally, when you are speaking to someone and you know that they are going to have to uproot their life and experience a lot of change when they change companies, and have they considered that, how are they feeling about that, how they’re thinking, do you ever consider that more therapeutic approach to having that conversation?

[0:17:34.8] CG: Yeah, I have. I think that is such a great point to bring up Rob. This is actually one of the reasons why I got into recruiting. In fact, if you go do some research like you will find switching jobs is literally one of the top five most stressful things you can do in your life and there are so many things that are changed and uprooted, and so I think empathy plays such an important part of being a good recruiter.

If you think about my approach to recruiting, and this is essentially super{set}s approach, then it’s people first. The reason why people are going to join a job is because of the people and because of the product. They want to have an impact, they want to do something that is fulfilling to them. They want to feel emotionally and intellectually stimulated, and so as they’re going through this really stressful time, what I found is I actually don’t love being the type of recruiter who is trying to talk someone into something.

I actually am very much against that. I think it is really good to just start building your relationship, getting to know each other, being very transparent about what is involved, what does this company like, what does the culture like, what is the day-to-day look like because those things will start to work themselves out as far as if someone wants to do this or not and then if you start looking at –

So if you look at my career, I have actually worked with a lot of the same people for many, many years. I started working with Tom and Vivek way back in 2005, 2006 when they were building another company and I was a third-party recruiter, and this relationship eventually evolved into them hiring me as their first full-time recruiter at a company called Krux, which is eventually acquired by SalesForce and then after the SalesForce days, I spent some time at a couple of startups and Tom called me up and said let’s get the band back together again and here I am at super{set} over a year later.

So if you even look at my career journey, these relationships have mattered. In fact, they’ve mattered so much that I have consistently found myself returning to these relationships because we have been so successful and we start getting this really good connective tissue about how we think about the world and how we think about hiring, and it just works really well and so even going back to what we were talking about earlier, this is why referrals can be so powerful.

So as you go through this really stressful time period of changing jobs, you have to think about all of these types of things and so as a recruiter, I think it is really important to spend time, to get to know these candidates and understand the stresses they’re going through, and then just be a trusted adviser and be transparent about what the expectations are, so they can make their own decisions. Look, if it is going to work out, these things have a way of working themselves out.

I’ve seen people take pay cuts because they wanted a better work-life balance. I have seen people get huge raises because they finally had the courage to make a job switch. So I have seen a little bit of everything and really what I find in these situations is people just really want to work with good people. They really want to love their job and believe in what they’re doing, and you just have to find that throughout the process, you have to discover it with them.

[0:20:48.5] RS: Yeah, of course and that personal introspection one does about how their lives will change, that often happens outside of the conversation or outside of the interview process. Usually it happens after the offer. It is like, “Hey, we’re going to need a software.” “Oh great, you know, thank you so much. Let me take some time to think about it.” “Great, when can you come back to us?” “How about next week?” and then you just wait.

Then they’re at home speaking with their significant other or their friends or their roommate or their mom and dad, whomever and they’re rattling through all of these concerns and you have no opportunity to address any of those objections, and that as you said, you don’t want to talk to anyone out of something but you want to at least answer the reality of what that concern looks like at your company, right? Because they don’t have that information maybe.

So I just would urge recruiters to try and bring that part of the evaluation into the process. Maybe it’s at the call where you give someone the offer, right? Don’t just send over the offer and then email like you have to call and you say, “We’re giving this offer, here is the compensation, we’ll talk you through what that means” but I don’t really see anyone doing this more thoughtful psycho emotional run through with the candidate.

I’ve certainly never had it happen to me. To be fair, I haven’t been assessing an offer letter with a recruiter in some years but no one ever bothered to walk me through that.

[0:22:09.8] CG: Yeah. You know actually Rob, I would even challenge you a little bit there and say that call and that discussion and that trust starts the very first time you talk to them. So for recruiters out there, if you find yourself doing most of your communication through email, you are missing out on a lot of relationship building and once you finally get to talk to someone for the first time, if you don’t take a minute to get to know them, if you don’t take a minute to knock down those barriers of communication, when you get to the offer and you want to like start building that, honestly I think it’s too little too late.

So I think it is really important from the very first time you start interacting people, to help them understand that you are not going to try to twist their arm into anything, and you’re literally just trying to figure out if this is the best fit. If we are talking about how people make companies work, then no one should want to get into a company that isn’t going to be a fit for them and no recruiter should want to put someone who is not a fit into a company. So yeah, from the very first call and conversation, you should be building that relationship with trust.

[0:23:15.4] RS: That’s such a great point that you can’t swoop in at the one yard line there and be like, “Hey, now I need you to be vulnerable with me and I know that this has been a very robotic transactional experience but hey, how do you feel?” They’re going to be like, “Good, bye.”

[0:23:29.4] CG: Yes, it is so disingenuous, right? “Hey, I really care right now that I am about to close this deal” or whatever the case may be.

[0:23:38.1] RS: Yeah, exactly, totally transparent.

[0:23:40.3] CG: That’s a terrible approach.

[0:23:41.1] RS: Yeah, and so what is that like is it just making small talk or what do you do in the earlier stages so that you build enough trust so that you can come in the offer stage and then they’ll be open with you about how they’re truly feeling about something?

[0:23:55.7] CG: Well, I think it is more than just small talk. I think it’s literally just being authentic and genuine. In fact, I’ve had many instances in my career where I have been talking to someone that I had hired a decade ago and they’ll come out to me and they’ll be like, “Cade, I remember the very first time we got on a call together. You were excited, you were passionate, you cared about what I thought and little did I know how much my life was going to change after our conversation.”

In fact, just at that SuperSummit in Denver what super{set} portfolio companies that I was talking about, I was talking to a cofounder of one of our companies who I reached out to and hired at Krux almost a decade ago and she was saying, “Here I am” all this time later, I’ve started a company with super{set} all because of a single call that you made to me at Krux, and I have many instances where not only did I hire someone at one company but years later, they were hired at another company I was at.

So I think just realizing that this relationship you are embarking on with a candidate is more than just a deal or a hire, it is someone’s livelihood. It is someone’s career and that you may even be operating together down the road in another company. Just having that foresight and that level of impact on a conversation makes it much more than small talk. It makes it actually very impactful and it makes it something that builds a great relationship.

[0:25:32.1] RS: That is such a good point, to view it beyond the transaction about this one hire you were speaking about, it’s a long game, right? I mean, even I’m in a different field, right? I’m in marketing but a lot of my work now is from referrals and it is from people I’ve worked with before and I am not doing these cold sorts of deals anymore. It is like people who have seen what I have done and they’re like, “Okay, we can get past this interrogation part because we know” there’s trust.

They know that like I do this kind of work, right? It’s the same in recruiting like you have to look at this on like a – if you want to be in talent, right? For a long time, this first conversation could yield dividends for you in ten years and that I think is not just advice for, “Oh, a long-term investment” that may pay off for you down the line. This is just recognizing that the person you’re speaking with is on their own lifelong journey.

This one conversation you’re having in the grand scheme of that journey is going to be a tiny little drop, and you get that opportunity to be a part of their life in other ways, if you approach it with honesty and with genuine interest. So that I think is just the next level of kindness that you can apply to your talent career and it’s just all too tempting and all too efficient to want to treat it like a transaction like it is this one hire and if it doesn’t work out, “See you, have a nice life.”

That is not the reality I hear when I speak to people like you who have been around the block a couple of times.

[0:27:04.4] CG: Yeah, absolutely. I even have many instances where it didn’t work at one company and years later we connected again and it worked out at another company. So even this concept of, “Well, it’s not working right now so you’re dead to me” is not a great approach. So life, as long the world actually is a lot smaller even post-pandemic, it feels like it is even getting smaller.

So any kindness or authenticity or empathy that you can give in the moment I think is paid forward in spades every time.

[0:27:33.5] RS: I couldn’t agree with that more and I don’t think we’re going to find a better bookend in this episode than that Cade. Cade, thank you so much for being here and for being yourself and for showing me that honesty and vulnerability. I’d love chatting with you about all of this stuff, so at this point I would just say thank you for being here. This has been a really great episode.

[0:27:50.0] CG: Thank you Rob, it’s been great to be here. I appreciate your time as well.


[0:27:55.5] RS: Talk Talent to Me is brought to you by Hired. Hired empowers connections by matching the world’s most innovative companies with ambitious tech and sales candidates. With Hired, candidates and the companies have visibility into salary offers, competing opportunities and job details. Hired’s unique offering includes customized assessments and salary bias alerts to help remove unconscious bias when hiring. By combining technology and human touch, our goal is to provide transparency in the recruiting process and empower each of our partners to employ their potential and keep their talent pipeline full.

To learn more about how we can help you find your next great hire, head to