May 18, 2021

Maximizing your Candidate Experience

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Episode Highlights

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Hirewell partner James Hornick talks with Amy Wolcott, who is the Talent Acquisition Manager at Yello, a Chicago-based software development company focused in the recruitment technology space. Amy has spent her career building high-performing talent acquisition organizations with a process-driven approach.

Amy and James discuss how to maximize the candidate experience by optimizing the interview process and effective partnering with hiring managers and other internal stakeholders.

Episode Transcript

All right, everybody. Welcome to the Hirewell recruiting insights podcast. I’m your host James Hornick partner at hire. Well, I’d like to welcome a special guest. This is someone that we had hired well worked very closely with for the past year. Please welcome to the program, the manager of talent acquisition at Yello, Amy Wolcott. Hello, good to be with ya’ll. So I think to kind of give everyone some context and what we’d like to talk about and a lot of our kind of live shows and live podcast are things relevant to people, whether it comes to hiring or HR or talent acquisition, kind of the whole gamut but first some context. So tell us a little about yourself, as well as about yellow.

So I want to make sure everyone has some context and kind of what you’ve built there, what your function is, and kind of what yellow does. I’ll start with Yello. So Yello is an early talent software company. So we provide tools that will help enterprise-level businesses with their early talent recruiting.

So a lot of times that’s like a campus or conference recruiting and our bread and butter is really that area, the campus recruiting space and the recruiting operations around that. So we like to say we’re a complement to an applicant tracking system offering anything from sourcing, scheduling, hiring

help. A lot of those solutions can also be good for the professional recruiting space. And then as far as our background we’ve been around a little over 11 years. We’re pretty well-established startup here in Chicago, headquartered here in Chicago and I joined about a year and a half ago. First within the technical recruiting realm and then shortly after kind of taking over the talent acquisition team as a whole, which is a team of one at this point as well as a recruiting coordinator that is coming on from our office management team.

So I’m excited about that. Okay. Yeah. So what I found interesting is that when you and I have kind of talked about this before you guys are in the talent acquisition space as a company so you function in that area. You’re not a recruiting firm, you’re more of a services firm at the same time, too.

You have to really live and breathe it when it comes to what you guys do internally. And that’s why I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about candidate experience because I think it’s something that gets thrown around and everyone talks about candidate experience needs to be better and all these things and it gets thrown around very loosely, but yeah.

I like it when people have actionable plans, like actual executable deliveries like a process they put in place and I’ve come to know you’re a very process-oriented individual is what my colleagues here who work with Amy closely tell me. I guess let’s talk about that a little bit. How do you-

what’s candidate experience to you. How do you set things up? How do you establish the processes you need to have a good experience? Yeah, I think candidate experience is when everyone involved is well-informed and feeling comfortable with the process, that itself will help the candidate feel like they’re in a good place and a place they want to be.

I think a lot of people forget that, especially in this day and age, a candidate is interviewing us just as much as we are interviewing them. And while we want to move quickly we also need to think about the steps in the process to make sure that we have all the inputs that we need to be making a decision and they have all the inputs they need to be making a decision.

Okay. I’ve always found that the companies that do this best are the ones who like your talent team- you’re a team of one, but really your talent team in the eyes of anybody interviewing with you is everybody they talk to. The hiring managers with people on the team. How do you get buy-in from everyone else in the organization that this is important? That this is something they need to focus on that the candidates experience needs to be good. Sure. I mean, well, I have it a little bit easier than some, and then I can make the argument that we’re in the talent acquisition space so we need to be on top of our game. That’s just kind of table stakes, but on top of that I think really sharing what a miss hire can look like

not only in cost, but I think morale in the team and then really making sure that you care about what they do and what the company is trying to do. So yes I am looking for X, Y, Z person, they need XYZ skills. But understanding the projects that they’re going to be working on, the goals of the business and talking through those letting my hiring manager know that

I’m thinking bigger picture, right. And I’m telling a story and I’m excited about what we’re doing and that’s going to show to the candidate. That’s one thing I’ve found and I want to talk about this maybe a little bit later. What’s interesting is that organizations that are smaller they might be at that position where they’re hiring their first talent acquisition person.

And it might be someone who might be more junior in their career that all they’ve really known is just sourcing, or they might just have that. Whereas when you really want to do a can experience you’re challenging that person, but also you need whoever’s running the recruiting to really understand the business objectives, the business deliverables, and what’s gonna make the hiring managers successful and whatnot.

So, yeah. What are there any aspects in terms of best practices around things you would do? I know you had talked about kind of feedback and over communication, but anything else, like what are the key things you’re always hitting on when you’re talking to people internally that like, these are the pillars for what good can experience is going to look like? For sure.

I think making sure that they’re leaving space for the candidate, a lot of times in a conversation you’re trying to hit many points and understand many different aspects of a candidate’s background. We practice structured interviews so that’s something that I hope to train and help individuals feel comfortable inside the company both with the hiring manager’s role in that is with the interviewer’s role in that is there are many times the interviewers are a piece of the puzzle.

There’s no way you know 15, 20 competencies that you’re usually looking for from an individual and there’s no way a hiring manager can assess all of those properly. So each step in the process and each individual in the process needs to be aware of what they’re responsible for so they’re able to give I think the best feedback possible and the inputs that they know the most about.

So we have a lot around just understanding you know what competencies you’re responsible for. We have pre-interview huddles. We have post-interview huddles. We make it clear that the hiring manager is going to be the one making the decision, but those individuals are able to give input on what’s important to them and where they feel this person is falling short or where they’re hitting

the ball out the park. Okay. I’ve always thought of this in terms of like if you’re someone in sales, you always have your key pillars. Okay. What’s going to make your month? For you it’s more internally like what are the key pillars of what is going to get people interested in what’s going to build things successfully?

So if you broke out kind of the top areas where on a daily basis, you’re hitting how have you done at Yello? What do you think are your kind of key pillars of- what are your old moneymakers to get positions filled? I think one big thing is always pipelining there are positions that will be filled all day long or have large turnover.

So I think making sure that you’re always having conversations with good people about that. I think you also have to understand that hiring plans change and so you need to be nimble and always talking to the business. So having regular checkpoints or check-ins with your managers. I’m trying to think of other things that we do

as far as the team is concerned. I have quarterly check-ins with the engineering leadership team to understand projects and things that are coming up that might affect hiring that we haven’t necessarily thought about or may change the hiring plan. Is employer brand something you guys look at?

Is that an area that you focus in? Yeah, 100% I think, especially in the tech startup space Employment branding is what’s really gonna make the difference. Benefits are a big thing, money’s a big thing, but at the end of the day if you’re paying fairly well or within market and you have great benefits, what else is going to make the difference?

And it’s how someone’s going to feel about your company when they see that company name. And that’s something that lives and breathes everywhere. Right? So it’s your career site, it’s the partnerships that you’re engaging in, the conversations you’re having making sure that individuals understand what it means to work at Yello not just what Yello is or what we do.

So that’s definitely, that’s something that we started to focus on a little bit more last year, and that will put a lot of thought and time behind this year as well. Okay. You don’t have a dedicated employment brand person, right? It’s just, is it so, because this is something I find interesting. It’s an interesting area where-

I spoke with someone a few weeks ago who was focused on employer brand. But, a lot of organizations are realizing this is something they need to do except you might not be at the size where you can justify the budget to actually have a dedicated person towards it.

So how do you- how much of is you? Are, there are people that are kind of have a vested interest in it? Like how are the responsibilities broken down in a small organization where you don’t have one dedicated person? Sure. I mean, I think it’s just finding a partnership with the marketing team that’s the individuals that our marketing team I’ve relied on heavily, they were also going through branding initiatives this year.

So it was trying to kind of piggyback in parallel. But I also see the recruiting function very much like the marketing function, in how you operate, how you’re engaging with leads, how you’re bringing those leads in. And so, I tried to learn as much as I can from them, and then also leverage some of their skillsets in being able to.

Strengthen our employment brand and then leverage kind of some of what they’re doing for what week we can do. Okay. You’ve had an interesting background too, cause you’ve worked in a few different types of environments. So I’m curious this is kind of maybe more, what I had mentioned before, if you’re the sole person there

now you’ve worked with other teams and people previously, if you’re looking to build out an org, you’re the first hire, right? You’re the first TA hire maybe an organization’s ever had or you’re the sole person. What advice I guess, would you give somebody who’s trying to build out this organization beyond just being a source or like they want to start getting the buy-in.

They want to start building that good, like experience. Like what I guess are the key things you think that kind of person should know or someone who’s hiring that person should know. Sure, sure. I mean first and foremost, I think you need to find your allies. Usually, there is someone else in the company that cares quite a bit about hiring, hopefully, a few more people or even around the onboarding process or how we’re having conversations or partnering externally.

I usually find those people pretty quickly in an organization because they can really help you kind of accomplish certain projects that you might have that are outside of just the day-to-day recruiting. Currently, I’m going to be working on building a Guild, which comes from the Spotify engineering model, but it basically just means a subject area that.

Individuals from different skillsets are interested in, so for me it will be hiring and so anyone in the organization that has thoughts around hiring and different practices and things that we can be doing that we’re getting together and meeting monthly. So I’m getting input outside of just myself or my team.

I think another thing is to be nimble, things change quickly. Yes, very much in the startup tech world, but, in general business can change pretty quickly. And so you have to know that you need to change direction and you need to understand how to prioritize your work. I think another big thing is, I’ve lost my train of thought, but I would say just finding your allies and being able to work with and through people.

Okay. So, the thing you’re talking about, building a Guild, I thought it was interesting. So you’re getting people who are not involved in, I always find it interesting to challenge people to get into new areas that aren’t necessarily their wheelhouse, because I think that, I think it’s interesting when you get people who are like, I work in recruiting office.

When you get people here who are interested in content creation or interested in doing things completely outside, kind of their normal responsibilities. Is that something you’ve seen? I don’t know if you have any stories there or anything of that, but I know some people from our team mentioned that you find it important that people kind of also stretch themselves at times.

Yeah, for sure. I mean kind of going back to the last question, I feel like if you’re, if you’re a business looking for your first TA person, your first recruiter, I think you need to find someone who has multiple interest areas, because I think that’s one of the ways you’re going to be able to grow that function over a long period of time.

As a recruiter you’re not just an order taker, you’re a storyteller, you’re a negotiator. I mean, you are the face of the company. A lot of times, you know more about the company than many of the individuals working there. So I think you need someone who’s willing to be that advocate. And then if we’re looking at moving forward, that person, if you think about what type of person that is, they won’t necessarily stay in a soul contributor role for a long period of time.

So I think you also need to understand what the next step in building that team would be and something I talk about a lot. I think Hirewell, probably understands while a lot of agencies really understand well is you need the BDR in the process, you need the business development person, or basically the sourcer.

You need someone going out and finding the talent. That’s where a lot of the time is taken, but that’s how you’re going to kind of be ahead of the game. And you can’t always assume that your recruiter is going to have time or your recruiter is necessarily going to be the good researcher.

They may be great on the phone and talking to people and selling, but they may not have that sourcing mindset. Okay. What about from a hiring manager’s perspective? Because I know a lot of hiring managers, they have a vested interest in getting positions filled. But maybe they’re a dev manager, maybe they’re marketing manager hire isn’t something they’ve they grew up in recruiting

isn’t something I grew up in. Andwhat advice? So let’s say you have somebody who’s very good at what they do, wants to get their hires made and knows it’s important, but doesn’t have the experience doing it. What experience or what advice would you give someone in that situation? What advice

do you give your hiring managers a yellow, I guess? Yeah. To use me as a true partner. I think a lot of times they, they also see as an order taker no fault of their own, right? It’s like, here’s the position work it let me know how it’s going, but I want to be a true partner with you in that. I’m going to let you know what I’m seeing?

Why I’m seeing it? What I think the market looks like? Where I think we could maybe find a little bit more success in a role if I think it’s going to be hard to fill. I mean, there’s a lot of information that we can share with each other. That’ll make the process easier and maybe move quicker. I think what they, what managers always have to realize, what we all have to realize is the to-do list is never going to get smaller.

You are going to need to focus on that hiring because the more you focus on that hiring the quicker you can get to the things that need to get done, and hopefully you have a teammate and then now that can help you get those things done as well. I think also we all need to have the mentality I said this earlier, a candidate is interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them.

So if we’re not putting our best foot forward or rushing the process, or we’re not thinking through our process, you may lose your best case for reasons that could have very much been controlled on our end. Yeah. And you mentioned when we were talking before that hiring manager training is something you do a ton of.

So I’m like, how structured is that? I do. I mean, I do have like a little presentation to sit through and it’s something, it happens in the onboarding process. Yeah. It’s going to get lost and we can revisit it, but at least it’s something that someone can reference later on down the road, but it’s basically setting the expectation early on how we work together as a hiring team.

So what my role is, what their role is. At least setting up the boundaries or the expectations, so they know what they can come to me with. They know when I’m going to be doing for them. I think people might ask you for that, a copy of it. After this, this cast, hopefully I’m not too process-oriented. I can definitely get too far into the process.

You need to be flexible as well. I mean, there are times where you have to veer from it. So, oh, great. Anything else you want to talk about today? I’m kind of curious if there are, any topics we missed or anything else you wanted to hit that was. No, not really. I mean, I’m gonna hone in on the sourcing side of things.

Again, when a company grows, they feel like they need to hire another recruiter, which I think would be wonderful if it’s within the budget. But I think companies need to start investing a little bit more in the sourcing side of things, understanding what a researcher could really do for them. And then also thinking about a hybrid role where you’re bringing on a marketer to the recruiting team and what that can really do as far as traction is concerned.

So the recruiter can be on the phone more so they can be out more and really be that face of your company.

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