Accel Partners Recruiting Podcast

Pete Clarke

Investing In Talent

Accel Talent Partner Peter Clarke discusses how talent teams can get organizational buy-in early and often, and also how they can position themselves as strategic business partners.


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Rob Stevenson: Welcome back, talent acquisition friends. Rob Stevenson here again at the helm of your favorite recruiting podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in and joining us on our neverending journey to inch ever closer to recruiting Nirvana. If this is your first time joining us, here's what's happening. Every week, I'm going to be bringing in my favorite people in the talent acquisition space. You name the title really and at some point, I'll have them in here and they're gonna do one thing and one thing only.


RS: Talk talent to me. Helping me to just squeeze every last ounce of sweet, sweet, pulp-free, organic recruiting juice out of these guests will be various colleagues of mine from the higher talent team. Today, it's someone you're getting to know well. He is our head of talent, fearless purveyor of open roles, father to an Australian Shepherd Rottweiler mix, leader to an elite squad of sorcerers and recruiters, podcast panelist extraordinaire, and aspiring vessel to the recruitment Gods, Matt Hughes. What's up buddy?

Matt Hughes: Man, that intro gets better every time, every single time.

RS: One of these days I won't even need a script, I'll just rattle it off.


MH: Alright. I'm good. How are you doing? Haven't caught up with you in a while.

RS: Thank you for asking.

MH: Yeah.

RS: No one ever asked that on the podcast.

MH: Oh, sure.

RS: I'm great. Just marketing, just trying to get leads, trying to help people get better at their jobs, recruiting, it's hard work but...

MH: I feel yeah.

RS: So far, so good. But this isn't the, "How did Rob Stevenson spend his day" podcast. That's another one you can tune into [laughter] if you want. But I'm curious, it's been a few weeks, Matt, what's the update on your side of things in the talent side?

MH: Yeah, things are insane. It kinda cooled down for maybe two weeks, and then a bunch of new roles opened up as we're starting to get ready for 2018, and I feel like everything is a priority. Usually, we talk about what my highest priority role is, what's keeping me up at night, it's everything right now.

RS: Right.

MH: And it's because we're approaching that dead zone, from a candid availability standpoint. People are traveling for the holidays, they're trying to finish out Q4, they're not really interviewing, it's not top of mind for them. So, we're running into a lot of roadblocks on that front, so we're trying to get everybody in as fast as we can and hope for the best.

RS: Is talent a victim of that same trope you hear that's like, nothing happens after December 17th? You gotta get all of it done or else you're not hitting your goals and that's basically the end of the year?

MH: I would argue it sooner than that. I think once you hit Thanksgiving, people are checked out.

RS: Checked out.

MH: They're either like, they've got something lined up for the next year or they're traveling for the rest of the year, or they need to just really focus on ending their year strong in their current opportunity, and so they're not really interviewing.

RS: You said everything's keeping you up at night, are there specific new roles or one that's particularly ramping up?

MH: Yeah, there is. We're hiring a director of analytics and strategy, all of you analytical folks out there; leading teams, please introduce yourself. It's a really hard role to fill, I think it's super niche. We're looking for someone that's not only super technical and can help coach and develop a team from a analytic standpoint, but also someone who is living in a leadership role and managing the strategy and the overall data vision for an organization, which typically in a company our size, you see on both sides of that spectrum. People that are either super analytical and not as much of a strategic leader, or the opposite of that really, really high level leaders that are amazing with the strategic pieces of it and then when you ask them to get in the weeds, it's not really where they are in their career. So, it's been super tough. We've got some good people in the mix, but again, I'm just racing to the end of the year before we can hopefully get this in.

RS: How many hires left do you have to make?

MH: 24 before the end of the year.

RS: Is that all?

MH: Yeah.

RS: Before Thanksgiving according to you.


MH: And that's totally unrealistic, I just wanna set that expectation for all of my hiring managers that may be tuning in, that's not gonna happen.

RS: Yeah.

MH: But we'll get a lot of them in before January.

RS: Well, you know what, if you're hitting your goals all the time, that means you're not setting aggressive enough goals.

MH: Couldn't agree more.

RS: You can feel good about coming short this year, Matt Hughes.


MH: Great.

RS: Means you're challenging yourself. But anyway, it's not just Matt and I. We also have a wonderful guest joining us. Previously, he was the vice president of executive talent at Grey Lock. Currently, he is a talent partner at Accel Partners, and he is just an unstoppable force blasting recruiting wisdom into the ether, Pete Clarke. Welcome in, how are we?

Pete Clarke: I'm well, thank you. That's also a great intro that I didn't see coming. I will try to blast some things into the ether today.


RS: I'm sure you'll live up to it. Whenever I have talent partners on, I like to start out with just asking them how they define their role because in my experience they all do something a little different. So, I guess, can I just lob that soft ball up? How would you explain what it is you do?

PC: Got it. Absolutely, yeah. No, we're all snowflakes, so everybody has something different, but probably not. I think fundamentally, as we look at the talent function at Accel, we focus primarily on how we think about more people as a long term sort of network building operation, where if we can build those right long term relationships, I think they service very well in the short term and being able to make connections with great resources, great executives, great people into our companies where they need help. Especially since you think about our portfolio tends to exist or consist primarily of very early stage companies from three or four people and really early product and really maybe customers, no revenue, those types of things up through growth stage businesses, where they may have real revenue and real business model maturity, but still need quite a bit of help around the executive team and just again, the resources that they have available and access to people and ideas and concepts that they might not have otherwise had.

PC: So we think about it in terms of, I spend a good chunk of my time just meeting people, making sure that we're connected to great folks. Our network tends to generate all kinds of other great connections, and then we try to be very creative in terms of connecting those folks into our portfolio. And then spend a good chunk of time working with the CEOs and founders of our companies as they think about things related to the strategy for building their teams. So probably, split, maybe somewhat equally and that maybe it's a 100% of one, 100% of the other... [chuckle] Like everybody shops around here.

RS: Exactly.

PC: Not enough hours in the day, but a lot of network building and then a lot on the strategic side and helping them get that stuff figured out.

RS: Yeah, yeah. It strikes me that there is a common element among brand new companies and that they don't get bought into talent early enough, seriously enough and while some of that is unique to where they are. You need to have a recruiter in place or at least invest a certain amount of your time into adding people. That mentality doesn't necessarily go away even once there is an installed talent team, right? So I guess, how do you help see the idea that there needs to be an investment in talent early and perpetually, I suppose.

PC: Yeah. No, I think and when we have the opportunity to come in early in that situation. And those are fun conversations where it may be is team of seven, eight, nine, 10 people, the CEOs trying to figure out how they go from 10 to 20. Yeah, I think usually in those situations, they ask the question of when should we hire the first recruiter and I say, "Now."

RS: Yeah, yesterday.

PC: [chuckle] The head count plan. A lot of that's just... If you truly believe that people are the best investment we can make in these growing businesses again, and in a knowledge businesses or... Yeah, everything we do today is really knowledge work. At least when you think about technology companies in Silicon Valley or technology companies globally, we're investing in people and there's a lot of lip service paid to that for sure. A lot of folks do back it up. I think it's not a well understood problem because of the complexity of human relationships, bottom line, a lot of that drives this reluctance to really invest in that because it seems like it's really hard, really messy and the reality of that is true. It is, it's really hard. It takes patience and patience is also in short supply here. So we do try to catch folks early though, and just talk about the best investment you can make as a founder and a CEO is to get really good people helping you build the company. And this is anyone listening who's heard me speak before about this stuff is my... Maybe a rant.

PC: I'm not sure if that's what it is yet, but [chuckle] it's just a theory I have around I think as you're building the company, you really should think no differently about building your company from a people perspective as you do in terms of building your product. A really easy question to ask is would you attempt to build your product the way you're building your company or attempting to build your company, and the answer's usually no. I would [chuckle] obviously put a lot more thought and effort into that. So this is the conversation that we like to have in terms of just setting the stage for recruiting, building the company from a people perspective is incredibly hard. We can make it a whole lot harder on ourselves, and then there's a lot of things you can do to actually make sure you can succeed at it. And so that comes back to your question, just investing and upfront, finding really smart people that see that as an interesting business challenge too. There's generally speaking, the recruiting industry does itself no favors a lot of times in terms of how that industry presents itself.

PC: There's really no barriers to entry. A lot of times the recruiting business and a lot of that's predicated on the fact that honestly people aren't asking the right questions on the other side. A simple example of would you hire a product manager the same way you just hired that recruiter? Another good question, most people like, "Well, no." [chuckle]

RS: Right, right.

PC: I have a much higher bar for product. Have the same high expectations across the board, and you'll be amazed at what you can do.

RS: How else should recruiting be presenting themselves?

PC: There's a tendency coming into it, recruiting's almost always coming from behind, even as you get started. And there's a tendency, if you have an established credibility, if you haven't gained trust and respect up front, you end up just suddenly becoming the target for, "here's a bunch of open rec's. I'll give you very little input other than this piece of paper I just sent you and go find me amazing people to fill these roles. I won't give you timely feedback, I don't really respect your opinion," and just a lot of things where... It just becomes a downward cycle. And rather than pushing back on a lot of that too, the tendency is just to go heads down and try to see if I can respond to that or react and then suddenly you're very quickly into this environment of, "I sent you rec's, You sent me crappy resumes or people," and it's not like, "How do we fix this? How do we understand what we're trying to hire for?" It's just, "Let me blame the recruiter for not doing the right job," and, "hey, let's hire another one." Right?

RS: Yeah, some of the recruiters need to take a little bit of honesto and push back on hiring managers, and be like this, "Hey, this job description is not gonna cut it, or you haven't thought about what you actually need from this role, or it's needlessly limited in its scope. Have you run into that Matt? If you had to push back in hiring managers and say, "This isn't gonna get you what you want."

MH: Yeah it's 80% of my job.


MH: No, I think I talk about this a lot. I don't wanna sound like a broken record, but we're at a little bit of an advantage here because all of my hiring managers are in the recruiting space, and so they understood the value of a solid talent team from day one. I kinda walked into that. But I have seen it where you are seen as an administrative partner and not a business partner. And if you don't exert yourself as a business partner when you first get started, it's like you said, a really slippery slope downward. When you're hiring talent, one of my favorite questions to ask a recruiter that's related to this point is, "When do you push back on a hiring manager and tell me about a situation when you had to." "When did you disagree with someone that you were supporting in your recruiting organization and what was the outcome?" I think that will tell you some really, really valuable little tidbits about how they're gonna perform in that role.

RS: How do you exert yourself?

MH: Me personally or as a recruiter?

RS: I know we go to the same gym, so...


RS: We don't have to go into that, but...

MH: Yeah. I've never had a problem exerting myself. I'm just a loud person by nature.


MH: And I like to let people know I'm here, everywhere I go. But in all seriousness, I think that you have to spend ample time as a new recruiter in a new organization, or a new talent leader spending quality time one-on-one with your hiring managers. It may feel like there's nothing to talk about, but there's always something to talk about. And that's what's gonna build that rapport up front to where when you do push back, they're not gonna be going to your manager and saying, "Hey. Well Matt's kind of an asshole. He's pushing back on everything." But they're gonna, like you said, take your opinion seriously and help them help you, I suppose.

RS: Right, right. Have you seen that Pete? Have you had to... I guess, maybe this isn't the scope of your role, but I guess, coach talent teams internally once the company is big enough to be like, you have to fight for your right to recruit here?

PC: No, definitely. I manage two parts to that. I think Matt's in a position where folks working for Matt have that advantage of, "there's credibility in the function". And then I think about, back to my example of the ten person start-up or the CEOs hiring the first recruiter. Similar, you gotta create I think, an opportunity and a culture, and just around the culture and the people and the company you're trying to build, and make sure that there's credibility for that person coming in. But yeah, I think without that ability to have that established trust and be able to push back in the right way to your point, it's not coming across as saying "You're pushing back, and all you do is push back, and you're an asshole." But more... If you can build that trust, no one should be coming back and saying that because they understand what you're coming from. And it's about solving the problem at hand, and it's not about, again, not listening to the hiring manager. I think generally speaking, just the complexity of this challenge, it's one of the most ambiguous things, hiring people in terms of "I can't just write a few lines of code, test it, and see if it works." I'm literally trying a bunch of things and I have no idea what the outcome might be because people make decisions that I can't predict.

PC: So I think we as a species, we tend to be like, "Well, I like to just somehow de-risk a lot of this or take out the complexity. I just wanna give it to somebody else." And I think that's the right approach again, but just making sure that there's just clarity around what a great partner can do or business partner from a recruiting standpoint and getting that established upfront. So those are conversations more that I have in talking to... If we know there's issues around. And I do get, obviously folks coming to me saying, "Hey, I'm struggling with trying to present this to my CEO." And yeah, I think that's where we can weigh in a little bit and try to help them understand that. But I think the right thing is I think, a recruiter is someone leading the talent function, being able to establish that credibility, being able to demonstrate the fact that you can be a strategic thinker and a business partner, and you really gotta get that figured out on your own. Yeah, but we can definitely help a little bit on that. So we do push back, but just try to present those things as I've already talked about and just try to bring some rational thinking to it.

RS: Right. What does that look like? Is it bringing... Is it like having your data? Is it having examples of people who are maybe a really good fit that the hiring manger concedes they'd wanna talk to, but isn't a match to the job description? I'm just ripping here. How do you... Matt, you mentioned building a rapport of course, but when it comes down to being a strategic partner, I guess what does that mean from an actual executing level?

MH: Yeah, it means something different I think, hiring manger, to hiring manager, everybody operates with their talent partner a little bit differently. I will say a caveat to what we were just discussing, and this is a lesson that I had to learn in a very hard way and I fell very hard, very fast is that, that relationship building isn't done after that first couple months on the job and it's a never-ending cycle. You've gotta continue building that rapport and being in front of them. I think I was really quick in ramping here to saying, "Oh, we're in a good spot. They understand recruiting." All of my hiring managers are... We're jelling. Things are good. There's nothing to fix." And pushing off the one-on-ones and not pushing back as much as I was in the beginning. And that quickly turned into, "Well, where did the strategy go? Where did the strategy Matt go, that joined the company all these months ago?" So a lesson to maybe new talent leaders or recruiters that are learning how to push back on their hiring managers and build that credibility from day one, it doesn't stop in the first ramp period of your time at that company.

PC: I think to continue that, actually it is that constant ongoing building of trust, but also maybe what you end up having to do is immediately try to demonstrate some short term value. And I think about that as I'm sitting here talking to founders who's hair's on fire, "I just need to get this done." And you're preaching patience and it'll happen, and build relationships, and like, "I don't have time for that." And I think coming into a situation and saying, "Well, what are the short term wins that we can get?" But that's where I think, just any great person and talent's gotta step back and look at, themselves, at the organization and say, "What are the creative things we can be doing, where I can address some of the short term needs or solve maybe some pick some of the lower-hanging fruit.

PC: As well as then, give some just sense of security to the hiring manager that I understand where we're trying to go with this. And I can demonstrate the longer term value as well and it requires managing both of those pieces is how can we address the burning fire, but then how can I also show that I'm thinking strategically about the business and we can start to think about some of the longer term things. And back to my whole product analogy, it's just looking at that the company building no different than you think about building a product even to things like road map and what are the things that are coming up, what are the unexpected use cases, if you will, to develop. I think anyone on the talent function that can start to demonstrate... Just a good understanding, of the business. You can only be a business partner if you decide if you can demonstrate that you understand what your business is, and then map that back to the functional expertise that you have.

RS: I really like the metaphor of comparing building your company, I.e. Recruiting and talent to building the product. When you put it in terms like that, it's almost like glass shattering moment for people. Why is that such a harsh realization? Why are people lagging behind on talent? Why is it viewed as administrative and not a business partner? Forget how to fix it and forget waking people up to it. Why does it exist in the first place?

MH: That's a really tough question.


MH: That's deep, that's heavy stuff.

PC: Yeah. This is not typical talk talent to me. I'm just curious. I don't wanna just beat up recruiters, but if we're gonna admit that this mentality exists, why? I guess every job function has a reputation that's gotten from bad people in that. There's terrible marketers who give me a bad name. There's used car salesmen that give other... There's the sleazy lawyers, but there's sleazy insurance agents, and in every one of those cases, there's someone on the other side of that coin, who is an upstanding, really knowledgeable, caring person in that function. So does recruiting suffer from the same thing, maybe?

PC: I think... I'll refine it a bit. I think about it a lot, which definitely the industry as a whole, the function as whole, I think suffered from a lot of history and not to go wax philosophical here. But I'd argue that I think traditional HR, it starts there. And I don't believe that Human Resources is a function, as I put it, has sort made the leap from the industrial revolution. We still think about people as human resources. No one wants to be considered a human resource.

RS: Just the term is archaic, yeah.

PC: Are we gonna be mining people out of the ground?


PC: I don't know. But you can get a resource mentality. There's, I think, some of the other challenges... The terminology is broken. You see me trying to shift terminology and you can call it talent and people and culture and everything else. I think it needs to change because even recruiting, similar you mentioned used car salesmen. But recruiting as a terminology too, it's something that people can grasp. I understand what that means but on the flip side of it no one wants to be recruited. It feels like you're selling me something. And no one wants to be sold something, and so I think there's just a lot of entrenched behavior, a lot of historical exposure. But it's also one of the... It is the major inward facing thing. Building products, selling product marketing product, doing all that stuff externally to other people. I think you feel like that's more tangible. The notion of the internal aspects of building, I think that starts to throw people right? Because even as the beginning stages of starting a company we view that a lot with our founders.

PC: Sometimes a lot of early hires are like, "Well they'll work here." Chuckle] Like I don't even know who I should talk to about this but some of the early hires are just folks that you came across. You always hear that right, is I work at a company that wouldn't hire me today if I applied. Yeah, I got hired when I was employee five. But generally speaking too we look at it as it's complicated, it's messy. And it seems on the other side of it, it should be easy. So back to the recruiting aspect of it, is the function's not done itself any favors in terms of how they present themselves. They tend to sort of go right to process and procedure versus again, the culture and relationship piece. And no fault. I think it is just inherently baked into it from the hundreds of years of how businesses have run prior to what we think about today with businesses that are in, I guess I call it intellectual property or knowledge or the fact you're hiring people for their smarts and their creativity. Not because they can bolt something on to something else.

PC: So there's a lot to overcome. I do wanna caveat all of this with... I'm definitely excited about a lot of the companies that we work with, where you've got truly people oriented founders and CEOs who think about it. They know this, that people are the most valuable thing and they invest in it. And then I think that's a great example but it is a long way to go. But I think it's just a lot of entrenched behavior, a lot of, again an industry filled with folks that got more concerned around initials after their name and going to conferences and trying to think about people, again as resources and not relationships. My two cents.

RS: How do we change that perception?

MH: I think you hit a really good point there and telling them what they may not be able to see. Being able to expect the unexpected and getting that in front of your hiring managers. They see it as pretty black and white most times. I feel like at least that's in my experience, there's either candidates in the pipeline, or there's not. But if you're not sharing the insights that you have as a business partner to them and what you're seeing out in the field, then they have no way of really knowing if you're doing your job or if you're doing it well or not. And then you mentioned data. I think that's another way that speaks to every hiring manager at least that I work with. If you can have the data that shows something important and tells an actual story, those are the things that are gonna position you as a business partner versus somebody who's just throwing a bunch of messages out on LinkedIn and hoping that you get responses.

RS: Right, right. It's about pride too, taking pride in your role, listening to awesome podcasts is a great start to position yourselves as a thoughtful strategic business partner. Peter, I'm sorry, Pete, so what we talked about yesterday a little bit, like what is a strategic business partner even mean? Outside of recruiting? Can you speak to that again, 'cause that was really interesting how you were explaining that to me?

PC: Yeah, no, it's actually sort of what is a strategic business partner in general, comes up a lot. I think most people... And I think that makes it into just about every job spec you can think of, of course people want someone who's strategic. I don't think anybody ever writes a spec that doesn't include that. But then most don't have an understanding...

MH: Strategic business partners need not apply. It doesn't happen. [chuckle]

PC: Yeah, we love someone who's completely uncreative, who doesn't have an original thought. [chuckle] I think I point back to, there's as a CEO I worked with, early on... That had come up and I was actually relatively new into the executive recruiting business and it was intriguing to me, 'cause I'd come into it from a technical field. I was doing engineering before that and so I was trying to pick that apart and I was like, "What is strategic mean to you?" And I think when you listen to the answer it's not rocket science, but he said, "Basically to me a strategic executive, so let's call it," and this happened to be a head of Human Resources, he needed a vice president of Human Resources and that person needed to be strategic. And I said "Well what does that mean, especially in this case?" And I guess to riff on Human Resources again. He said, "In particular... " And that's what I loved about John, was like this role was incredibly hard for him to hire for because to him, this was a person who understood the business as well as anyone else in the executive team; which should be table stakes.

PC: Whether you're in HR, Marketing, Sales, Finance; you gotta understand the business. And so he said "I want a person who sits on our executive team, so that every peer on the executive team looks at them and says... I'm if I've got a question if we're expanding into Europe, I'm going to ask everyone else at the table their opinion on, how do we think about this? Or what should we do here?" Not relegate it to "Oh, well you're the HR person. I'll you know come to you with people questions later." He said, "It's just the fact that they've built credibility because the understanding of the business and they're able to articulate that. While they think about the business first and sort of the functional expertise they have, is secondary." So it's table stakes that they're great at the function you hired them for, the thing, the X Factor, if you will, for this person's going to be the fact that they've done so in the past, they've demonstrated their business acumen and they can quickly understand our business. And then how the functional expertise they have applies to the business that we have.

PC: And so, kind of a longer winded example of what he said, even, which was just, "You're a business person first and foremost and you bring functional expertise to the table." Then we'd say no different, even then in marketing. I think the challenge with people is that there tends to be an art and a science to it. Back to, you mentioned the data piece and I think in Marketing too. There's always the art and the science to Marketing, there's brand and sort of intangible aspects and then there's the performance aspects, the data driven. And no different with people. Yeah, there's a lot of incredibly wild variables in people. And then, I think, having a grasp of the data an understanding of the data related to your function goes back to then demonstrating the fact that you've got business acumen and you can understand what you're... It's amazing to me how many people are in the recruiting talent HR function; who have no idea what their company does.

PC: I'm not even sure how they're pitching it to people, anyways. But, yeah, I think that was back to John, again the CEO, I mentioned... He would pass on candidates, he would drill into people's understanding of, what were your revenues in the third quarter of 2008?" And most HR execs were like, "Why is he asking me about revenue? I'm in HR." [chuckle] It's your business. You're here to run the business. You're not here to put in HR practices and policies and procedures, and so... And I think that the strategic piece of it; just understand what business you're in. And the fact that the only reason you're here hiring people into the company is because it's a business growing on some product or service or something else that you're selling. And if you don't really truly understand where the business is trying to go you're never gonna hire the right people anyways.

RS: Right. And again, independent of recruiting is just general career counseling advice. If you want to stick in your field where do you see yourself? That growth doesn't just look like a mastery of your trade and the ability to manage people. There is another tier there, which is contributing to business level decisions.

MH: Yeah, absolutely. That's what gets me really excited about when I talk to recruiters that, when I turn over the mic and ask them what questions they have for me, when they start asking things like "Well what's your year of your revenue growth? What does your founding team look like? What's your valuation?" It could be the most junior recruiter, but if they ask me those questions I'm gonna be far more excited than talking to somebody who's super tenured and just asking me like "What's culture like at Hired?" And I think that's the evolution we're seeing. I think people are starting to realize that if they want to stand out in an industry, that's frankly pretty crowded, they're gonna have to start asking those questions and showing that they do have the strategic chops.

RS: What are some other great questions recruiters ask you on phone screens?

MH: Oh my gosh, I've heard it all. [chuckle] Off the top of my head. I get a lot of questions around culture, but if you're looking deeper I get a lot of questions around how respected is recruiting within the organization. Obviously here I answer that question with colours and stripes and all of the good things because we have such amazing higher managers we work with, but they do ask that. Do you have a seat at the table? Are you making decisions? Are you just a scheduler? Are you just a sourcer? Love when people ask me those questions. I love when they ask me about data and they're like, what data are you tracking? Where are you housing it? What are you doing with it? Who are you reporting it to? That, to me is next level recruiting and what kind of gets me excited about building a team.

RS: That question is also really because it doesn't just show a curiosity and what are you optimizing on, but to even pull that off you have to have a foundation in your ATS or wherever, and have been taking it seriously for awhile. There's a huge amount of technical data that takes place with not mechanizing your tools to speak to you early on and then once you do, then you lost like a year and a half, two years more of insight and so if you can answer that and say, "This way, this way, this way," they go, "Okay not only are they thinking about it right now they were thinking about it a long time ago."

MH: Yeah absolutely. That really resonates with me because when I came into Hired, I think I didn't ask the right questions. I was just so excited and kind of glamored by the fact that I was joining a brand that I was really excited about and I came in to a non-existent data infrastructure. They weren't tracking anything. They were, "quote unquote," pulling reports, but they were not helpful at all and when I actually dug in and asked what we were doing with that data, they're just like, "We're just reporting on it and answering questions about it," and they weren't actually using it to make data informed decisions. And it wasn't like a light switch where I came in and was all of a sudden we have useful insights from this data. It took a year of gathering that and cleaning things up, talking to stakeholders to figure out what data they wanted to see, until I really felt confident that we had a good data set and now we have this master dashboard that will tell you everything from how our sourcing messages are performing all the way down to the seasonality of our business and when you can expect pipelines to be higher, when you can expect it to be lower, closed rates. It's a pretty all encompassing dashboard, but it took a very, very long time and a lot of brain power to get there.

RS: Yeah. Well done man.

MH: Yeah. I'll toot my own horn a bit. Toot, toot.

PC: I'll pile on that a couple questions, I guess. What are some of the things in that past year looking at the data and then the recruiting metrics are always brought up and I think there's a wide variety of those things and many of them don't really make any sense at all. But I guess as you've looked at it, at Higher, the data you've seen, what are some of the key things that you think are really valuable metrics that actually really do drive optimization around the team and where you're spending time?

MH: Yeah for Hired specifically, the biggest thing I wanted to fix when I came in from a data perspective was all of the confusion and overemphasis on Time to Fill. It was very much used...

PC: Thank you.

MH: As like your team is not doing their job. Your roles are open for 60 days. To me, I talk about this a lot. I feel like I've said it on almost every podcast where data is mentioned. Speed to Hire, meaning when that candidate is introduced to your organization to when you close them is much more indicative of a team success. Whereas the other one is more of a business planning metric and it took a lot of conversation with the hiring managers before they really understood that. I do think there's value in both. I don't wanna over play Speed to Hire over the other one. It is great for being able to predict when you need to open roles and when you can have them filled, but that was a big one. I think that tells a really good story. If you can say, "I have an engineer who came from Google and he's interviewing at Facebook, Airbnb, Uber," insert any sexy brand and you're like, "I got him in and out of process with a closed offer in eight days," that to me says much more success. Even if that role was open for 75 days, we hired somebody in eight days from an amazing company that did amazing and that's an actual story FYI.

MH: Eight days is kind of our... Not our benchmark, that's obviously unrealistic, but it's our top stat that we hit in the two years that I've been here. Apart from that we're looking at conversion rates when you're talking about optimizing process, specifically around diversity. Where is diversity falling out of the process in certain stages? And just overall how people are converting, where the biggest drop offs are and if we see a trend. If we see people are dropping off at a staggering rate at one stage of the funnel, we're gonna zoom in on that, talk to the hiring managers and see what we can change and track the progress and see if that number starts to go up a little bit.

PC: Yeah, got it. I mean the time to fill is just kind of a loaded question, but to me it just always seemed to incentivize bad behaviour or the potential to destroy your culture. If we focus entirely on how quickly are we getting people on board from, again, not to how quickly once we engage with them and know we like them and we can close them, but more when we open the role, how quickly can we shove somebody into it. A lot of stories in the valley in the past of companies that overbuilt because of that and hiring was just a complete disaster, but just curious of, I'd be fine if Time to Fill never came up again, but you mentioned it. Is still a valuable one. I'm just curious what your take is on how that motivates people.

MH: Yeah, no I could not agree more. I think that almost ties to the bad reputation that you were talking about in HR is that when you're goaling around things that don't really matter, I feel like there's much more of a motivation for them to just reach out to thousands of people with no filter, get in whoever they can and force a fit when it might not actually be there just because they want to hit a number. Which again is a very slippery slope, kind of like you mentioned. I don't know if I want to see Time to Fill go away, it's really helpful. My finance team would kill me if I was like, "We're not gonna forecast anymore," and I can't forecast without that Time to Fill. I could say, "We're gonna spend this much this year," but the finance team needs to know how much we're gonna spend each month from a new head count perspective. But I do think it should not be something you goal your team around.

PC: That's what I'd focus on. I think it's a good, sort of backward looking metric on also saying, "Hey, how long does a role like this take to fill?" Because I think there's this focus... Yeah I'd talk about that with our companies as well. When you have multiple open roles, I think there's a tendency to try to do them either sequentially or even concurrently, but think they can all be filled in the same time with not a lot of attention paid to how complex that might be. In terms of the skill set required or the rarity of the skill set you're looking for, and then being able to orient the team or on well let's continue to say, hire the roles where we have much faster success or more success around this knowing that this sort of machine learning guru is going to take us six months to find versus a JavaScript engineer that may take 30 days. So that one's again, just using Time to Fill as a way to say, "How do we think about the more challenging roles?" But not going the team I think is probably wise.

RS: Beyond that, if we really wanna rabbit hole on some data, I think there's really interesting things that are underutilized at the sourcing level of your team's performance. Like, "How are their messages performing?" I like to make the little analogy or comparison rather to an SEO team. How are their messages performing when they're requiring new users to their product? How much money are they spending against that? We talk a lot about how recruiters should act more like marketers.

PC: They should.

MH: And marketers track a lot of data when they are trying to require a new user so we do a lot of sourcing analysis to make sure we're spending our calories in the right place, the right time and not overspending in one area versus the other.

PC: I like to continue on the marketing track. At the end of the day, your recruiting team is effectively your external point of contact, or your point of contact to a bunch people that will interact with your company. They're not buying your product but they may work there. And back to that, I don't know how you guys think about recruiting brand but absolutely critical. The candidate experience or recruiting brand, those are the things that companies really need to pay attention to and back to in getting smart people on your team to help you do that as a CEO, when you think about building the company. Can it? Contact is important, like how people feel coming out of that is incredibly important. And a lot of companies build bad reputations and you have to deal with Glass Door and everything associated with that.


PC: Just because you didn't put the time and effort into thinking about how your company's represented to a bunch of people that are coming through your doors. So I don't know, again with Hired, how you guys think about recruiting brand but how much of an emphasis... Now I'm interviewing you.


MH: This is great.

PC: How much of an emphasis do you put on that?

MH: Not a lot until recently. We've always kind of talked about it, candidate brand and recruiter brand or employment brand and then all of that good stuff. But kind of like you said earlier, a lot of lip service around it. We knew we had to talk about it. So people knew that we were paying attention to a "quote unquote." But this is the first time and I'm actually knee-deep in this analysis now, of looking at everywhere where we spent money on branding throughout the entire year of 2017 and kind of doing a cross-comparison of like "Okay, I spent the most money in, on this job board," for example. It returned this many candidates which may at the surface, look like a really great metric, but if you look at where you spent less money and see that the candidates that were coming from that were actually higher quality. There's so many nuances but in that analysis, that's why it's taking me a little bit of time. But yeah, we're thinking about that really heftily right now because we need to get more intelligent with the way how we spend our money next year. It's been very much like, "Well let's just go to to most reputable job boards, or the most reputable places," to say, "Hey, look at us, you wanna work here?" And spend as much as money as we possibly can get approved from finance, which is obviously not scalable. So, TBD, I'll report back on how that analysis goes.

PC: Ah, interesting.

RS: More on that later. Well, gentlemen, we are inching ever so slowly to optimal podcast length. This was a good one, we covered a lot of ground here. We covered metrics, we got into employer brand, right at the buzzer there, we beat up recruiters and then send them the ambulance a little bit.


RS: Please don't take it to heart. I simply adore recruiters but again, this mentality persists so we're trying to figure out what's going on out there. This was really, really fun. Pete, easiest thing in the world talking to you and listening to you talk about talent was really fascinating. Thank you so much for coming in, this was a blast.

PC: No, thanks for having me and thanks for listening so I usually judge my sort of a... These conversations when I should get invited to another podcast, so we'll see what happens there but...

RS: Well you're certainly invited to this one.


RS: For whatever that counts for.

PC: Usually I never get invited back, just so you know.


RS: You know you did a really bad job if I'm like "Oh no, the computer crashed. I lost it" That's usually just like...


PC: Where did that go? We'll release it some time, next year.

RS: Yeah, I'm really ahead on my content calendar for the first time ever.


RS: No, but this one is great. My computer's not gonna crash, it's gonna go live. Pete, you're awesome, thank you so much for being here.

PC: Yeah, thank you guys.

RS: Matt Hughes, thank you for hustling it back from dropping back from dropping off your puppy and getting in here right in time for the podcast.

MH: I'll be here again.

RS: One more thing, I almost forgot to mention it. I would love for there to be a little more give and take in this podcast so if you're listening right now and there's a topic you would like us to talk about or maybe you heard us say something and you're like, "That ain't true, that's not how it is at all. Here's how it is." Let us know. We would love to have like a mailbag of Q and A's [chuckle] and that's not a small thing. It is now... We would love to have like a mail bag, Q and A segment of this at the end so if there's anything you like us to talk about, tweet it at me, Robstersays, or email me, and we'll read it on the air and we'll have a little fun with all of you out there. So that's that, I think that'll wrap us up, thank you all so much once more, have a great week and happy hunting.

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