Thursday, August 8, 2019

Interview Prep Advice For Candidates Who Don't Want It

I've been in the people business for 20 years. That's a REALLY LONG TIME to do one thing. I've done it a lot of different places, but they all have something in common - interviews are hard.

I don't care how long you've been working in your chosen profession. I don't care what your degrees are in. I don't care if you are the world's foremost expert in basket weaving - someone, who has the authority to recommend you for a job, is coming to judge your basket.

Don't you want to know what they're hoping to see?

Candidates who dismiss interview preparation or recruiter advice from the start are doing themselves a tremendous disservice. Don't believe me? Let's meet Cliff (not his real name, but he looks like the guy from Cheers. Uncanny, actually - since he also KNOWS EVERYTHING).

Many moons ago I was a starving agency recruiter searching for a CFO for a solar start up. Our client specifically wanted someone from a utility background, and was willing to train up on the intricacies of solar AND start up world. The role was a tremendous opportunity for someone to come in to the C-suite with a fast track to CEO, as our client was a serial founder and wanted to turn over the reins to his new hire. After much searching, I found Cliff - his background had been primarily in public utilities in the right geographic area - he knew the players and was itching to get into something "new". Win Win!

I talked to the client about Cliff's background and concerns around not having previous start up experience, and the client explained why that didn't matter. What he REALLY wanted to see was energy and confidence that the person could learn. As long as Cliff could deliver THAT, he was IN! His background could not have aligned any better.

I'm STOKED, and can't wait to give Cliff the good news plus share some interview prep. We had some standard prep we sent everyone, but we also targeted certain things we learned / knew about the organizations we were retained with, to help our candidates put their best foot forward. I schedule the call with Cliff, letting him know what we were going to cover. When I called him, I barely get a sentence out when he says -

"No offense, Amy - but I've been interviewing since you were in diapers. I don't need any help."

Now my dumb ass, being a young recruiter kinda new to this exec search stuff, backed down. Big mistake. HUGE. I left Cliff to his own devices, where he promptly went into the interview and shit the bed. When debriefing with the client, he was sad. Cliff had a great background, exactly what he was looking for, but repeated several times "but I haven't worked in solar/start up before". Over. And over. Maybe it was nerves, maybe he thought the client didn't already know that. What I know FOR SURE, was that I could have TOLD Cliff we'd talked about that, vetted it, and how to discuss (be confident in what you DO know and focus on how you'll ramp up!). But unfortunately, Cliff already knew everything and cost me a massive fee.

Sigh. I had to call Cliff, and let him know. Guess what Cliff said. NO REALLY GUESS.

"Gee Amy, I wish you had told me that."


Well Cliff, I tell you what. You've RUINED everyone else's chances of escaping my prep calls! EVERYONE GETS A PREP CALL!

I have never forgotten Cliff. These days, if a candidate tries to squirm out of my excessive prep, I tell them Cliff's story. I tell them MY story - I'm a professional recruiter who interviews people ALL THE TIME, but being on the "other side" of the desk is different! And scary! And hard! Y'all know I'm a recruiter who does this every single day - when it was my turn to be the interviewee - I realized just how little I knew about my now employer's expectations and how they were going to "grade" me. I'm so grateful I listened to my recruiter and soaked up the many prep documents she sent me ahead of time. I also work exclusively with managers, so I get to remind them how THEY are vetting candidates. When you're interviewing someone for your team, don't you want them to have taken advantage of EVERY opportunity to be ready? The answer is a resounding YES.

So for candidates who still think I'm full of shit, here's what I want you to consider before your next interview:

  • You're probably interviewing once every few years at best. You are not a "professional" interviewer. You're a professional something else and probably amazing at it. Please - let us help you with this part.
  • Interviewing is a TEST. I tell my engineering leaders all the time - "you're probably REALLY GOOD at math. You do math every day. Math is your thing, you can do math in your sleep. Now you have to prove it. Remember the SATs? Did you study for those? SAME CONCEPT."
  • With some exceptions, your recruiter wants this as badly (if not more so) than you do. We are literally in the business of delivering offers. We can't do that if you don't pass the interview. Trust us, we don't want to mess this up. We have NOTHING to gain by giving you bad advice or steering you wrong.
  • You CAN ignore us. Maybe the prep doesn't make sense, or you have an inside track (friends at the company, whatever) that completely runs contrary to what your recruiter is telling you. That's OK! You can't ignore what you don't have in hand. Give us a chance. Take what works. Unless the recruiter is a total idiot, they probably have at least one or two helpful nuggets. It's worth your time to take the call.
I am EXCEPTIONALLY lucky that I work with some of the smartest people on the planet. My company has a very high bar, and we offer lots of advice on how to navigate our challenging hiring process. I love when my candidates not only embrace my help, but ask lots of really great questions and take the time (weeks!) to really study up and make sure they're putting their absolute best self in front of the interviewers. If you're going to take the time to meet with interviewers, do yourself a favor and take any and all opportunity to knock it out of the park!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Metrics That Matter

Pull up a chair and grab a beverage kids, we're diving in to METRICS!! Everyone's FAVE subject especially if you suck at Excel and data makes your eyes glaze over (just me? oh, carry on then).

Waaaaay back in my agency days I was taught to dial the phone 100 times a day. That's right. Pick up the handset, dial 100 different phone numbers in an effort to connect with at least 10 people. Out of those 10, you could hopefully find one qualified, interested candidate for your open role(s). Good times.

Fast forward to the internet where everyone's a marketer. Lord save me from girls I went to high school with trying to sell me pink drinks and essential oils. Now it's all about connects, retweets, and page likes. We still somehow / some way have to get CANDIDATES connected to HIRING MANAGERS, but there are still some die hard phone enthusiasts out there, God love them.

People are easier than ever to find, yet harder to engage. We have to rise above the noise and whatnot. This post though, isn't about THAT. If you want more about how connect with prospects (or at least not send shitty inmails) check out this post. If you don't believe me, hear straight from the source on this post. But come back because this is important, y'all.

Ok so METRICS! YAY! What should I REALLY be thinking about and measuring? How do I know I'm doing a good job? What the hell is a funnel anyway?

Here are the key measures of talent acquisition success, plus a true story to back it up - I'll lay out definitions and rough process based on my completely biased yet accurate experience at multiple tech companies.

Pass Through Rates (PTRs) That Matter -

  • Submittals : Tech Screens
  • Tech Screens : Onsite Interview
  • Onsite Interview : Offer Extended
  • Offer Extend : Offer Accept

For our purposes, the candidate process looks like this -

  • Submittals - prospect has been fully vetted for interest / fit by a sourcer or recruiter
  • Tech screen - conversation between hiring manager or other qualified person and candidate
  • Onsite interview - you should know this one
  • Offer extend - I am giving you a letter with numbers on it
  • Offer accept - you like my letter and numbers
Here's an example of what that might look like. For my visual people - 

I know what you're thinking...  AMY! That's a 50% DECLINE RATE! What the WHAT?

Yep. I thought so too. 

Once upon a time a young tech recruiter worked for a really cool team doing big important things at a giant company. Let's call her Amy. She was invited to a VP level meeting where she was told the team needed to see MORE RESUMES. Amy panicked, thinking "but I'm so BUSY... I'm sending TONS of resumes... what the hell are they talking about?" 

Luckily Amy was SMART and Amy had DATA. Amy was able to prove that over the last 3 months resume submittals had actually INCREASED. 
(some data slightly changed to protect the innocent, but the percentages are ACCURATE)

Tech Screens34506615088.24%
2nd Tech Screens2730369362.00%
Offer Extend3581633.33%
Offer Accept134850.00%

Now Amy had a story to tell. 

Here's what we learned - 
  • We were seeing lots AND LOTS of resumes. In fact, the pipeline is increasing month over month. We liked most of them enough to talk to them.
  • Our ratios were relatively strong, considering the expectations of the roles (variety of engineering/PM/data science roles across levels)
  • We actually had an extra step in the form of a 2nd tech screen - potentially a factor in timing, interview fatigue, or part of why we were trending above OS:OE PTRs
  • We were extending a decent # of offers and trending above company norms of 20-25%
  • CLOSING was our pain point
***Bonus Point - people were leaving US at various steps as well! That was explored further in later reporting***

Armed with this kind of information, you get to drive the narrative. In this case, we had a lengthy discussion around our accept rate, and decided we could live with it based on a number of factors. More on that in a future post. 

Bottom line is this - I went into a meeting where the expectation was I was going to rain more resumes into a leaky funnel without any real understanding of the metrics. I LEFT the meeting a strategic advisor who was able to create a clear, actionable plan based on market realities. I had a GREAT story.

What's YOUR story?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Actually, You DON'T Want To Hire "The Best"

Of all the lies recruiters tell themselves this might be one of my faves. We only hire "the best". We only engage with "the best" talent on behalf of our clients. We won't consider less than "the best" for our open roles. In fact, someone looking to hire a recruiter recently told me "decent is a bad word to me", as he only hires "the best".

As I'm thinking about this post, I'm wracking my brain trying to remember a time a hiring manager said those words to me. "ONLY BRING ME THE BEST! NOTHING ELSE WILL DO!" I gotta tell you guys, I'm drawing a blank here. This is not to say leaders get it right all the time - but generally they know to caveat their requests with some specifics. In all my years of tech recruiting, we are usually looking for someone who -

  • writes clean code
  • has been part of or possibly led a team
  • solved large scale problems
  • has a relatively provable track record of success

Can I with any confidence say I'm going to find "the best" developer and convince them to take this role? Or "the best" manager to lead that team? What the hell does it even mean? Is it all just meaningless buzzwords we use to feel superior? If I let myself fall too far down the rabbit hole I have to wonder just who is holding the measuring stick for all this best-i-ness!! HOW CAN I KNOW???

Fun Fact - I can't. And neither can you. There are certain things we can and should vet as part of the recruiting process. Can the person accomplish this thing? Check. Are they interested in doing said thing for my client? Check. Will they actually leave the current place they're doing the thing and come do the thing here for the amount of money I can pay them? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you might have yourself a hire! Now congratulate yourself on being a master of the recruiting universe and stop wondering if someone "better" is out there. Because they are. You will drive yourself absolutely bat shit crazy if you focus on only "the best" however you choose to define it.  I guarantee someone else involved in the process will have a whole 'nother way to measure "best".

How about we look at this a little differently, hmm? Start asking yourselves these questions -

  • is my prospect QUALIFIED (they can do the thing)
  • are they INTERESTED (willing to talk about doing the thing here)
  • can I AFFORD them (I can pay what it will cost for them to do the thing)
This is obviously the BARE MINIMUM of what we should be thinking about / discussing - but how differently does our recruiting approach look when we stop caring about subjective, silly qualifiers like "best" and focus on things we can actually measure? A simple change in mindset is so freeing. All of a sudden I can start focusing on what MATTERS and forget about pipeline that won't fit my criteria, no matter how great. This is often a discussion when it comes to remote work - you can't really say you want "the best" when you're not willing to let people work from home. Or bring their cats to work. Or wear yoga pants. Someone, somewhere, is doing an AMAZING job at the thing, and you won't hire them because you have this or that rule. You can have those rules. Within reason and the law, you can have just about any old rule you want. So throw out "the best" and focus on what works for the team AND the candidate. In other words, "the best for this specific role, at this specific time, under these specific circumstances".

You can have a high bar. You can expect BIG THINGS from people (even more so if you give them something juicy in return - be it money, culture, growth, whatever). Just keep it real. Your clients and candidates will love you for it.


Not the best - but definitely sometimes really great :)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pick Your Thing. Then Never Shut Up - Part 2

I posted earlier this week about why I talk so much about work and yoga pants. Check it out here. If you're already familiar or maybe haven't read it yet, the TL:DR is it's not really about yoga pants.

It's about a child who grew up brutally poor in the middle of the country.

It's about a girl who didn't know college was an option (I didn't even know student loans were a thing - college was something "rich kids" did).

It's about a mother of girls who knows she can't 100% protect her daughters from harassment. Also, a mother of boys who worries about her sons.

It's about a baby recruiter who, before accepting a job she knew nothing about, had to scramble to buy a cheap polyester suit in order to impress her new boss.

It's about a tired, crabby OG Tech Recruiter, well past 40, and working for one of the most well-known brands on the planet. Also, sick of everyone's shit.

In a rare moment of vulnerability,  in a Facebook recruiting group, I shared a few stories that had "shut me up" in the past. Why I never spoke up in meetings, why I changed jobs every three years, why I second guessed myself and my profession constantly. Here are just a few examples of my why -

  • The boss that pulled me aside and spent 10 minutes talking about how distracting my cleavage was. I had to go home and change.
  • The VP that told me in a staff meeting to leave a very complex, formula filled Excel report to "the fellas" because women aren't good at math. "The fellas" all laughed.
  • The transfer I didn't get because I was "too emotional to be that far from corporate". Never mind that I had started my career with said company "far from corporate" and was promised the transfer to a new location if I launched that location well. First office launch in company history with zero Day 1 issues. It took me 3 weeks to get my boss to admit why a mediocre white man someone else was selected for the job over me, all while blaming the higher-ups who stopped taking my calls. I trained the guy who got the job I wanted. I flew back to corporate and quit.
  • The manager who, after I shared the shocking (to me) news that I was pregnant, told me repeatedly I should have an abortion or my career would suffer. As if that wasn't enough, a co-worker kept trying to introduce me to her friends that were looking to adopt. I never asked for this kind of help, nor was I the one to tell the co-worker I was pregnant. 

Here's the thing - we don't talk about this stuff. Maybe to our closest friends and family, and only after extracting promises to NEVER TELL A SOUL. It's embarrassing, we think of all the things we "should" have said. The nagging voice that wonders if somehow, we did something to deserve it.

Now here we are - I run my mouth like it powers the electrical grid and take all kinds of heat over silly chats about yoga pants. I DO wear yoga pants to work, I DO like being comfortable, but most of all I embrace the feeling of being able to brush off the haters and call out someone when they cross the line. It's a liberating, empowering feeling. I don't need anyone rushing to my defense, but certainly appreciate when it happens.

Here's my request of you cranky old chicks like me. Whenever you hear about harassment - regardless of age, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, gender (or anything else) - instead of just shrugging and reminding us all how "no one would talk to me like that - I'M A STRONG WOMAN" why don't you use that power to help a sister out? It might look like changing the topic of the conversation. It could be a smile and hand squeeze to the woman who CAN handle her business, but will be eternally grateful for your encouragement. It could be telling the dumb ass offender to pipe the f*ck down and think about the consequences of their bullshit - up to and including a throat punch maybe (she says only somewhat jokingly). It is MOST DEFINITELY saying "hey - I used to be terrified to stand up for myself - this feels like something that would have silenced me 10 years ago. Can I do anything to support you?"

I see you. I hear you. I want to be brave enough to stand up for you and talk about things that matter. Now maybe you better understand why I "practice" on yoga pants.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pick Your Thing. Then Never Shut Up.

Way back in the day I had what my team affectionately called my "Branch Manager Suit". It was a beautiful dark blue pantsuit I probably bought somewhere like Charlotte Russe or maybe Marshall's (what, it was the 90s and I was poor). All I know is when I wore this suit I turned heads, got complimented, and was treated like a dang professional!! Dress for the job you want, or something. I desperately wanted to be a Branch Manager for my staffing agency, and though it took some convincing, I GOT IT.

Fast forward a little bit - I wanted a bigger challenge, so volunteered to move to California to run a BIGGER office. I was leading two tiny branches out of Seattle and Portland, and was ready for the big time! Oh if I'd only known... I was about to be thrown to the wolves disguised as the Good Old Boys Club. I spent my last year at said agency being shushed, having my ass grabbed, and generally patted on the head and/or ignored. (being ignored was usually better)

Fast forward to present time - I've spent the last 20ish years in staffing/recruiting of some sort, and have seen some pretty great and pretty awful things in that time. Especially around giving women a voice. In an industry that is female dominated (how many female recruiters do you know vs male?) there sure are a lot of men in charge. In fact, even in cases where my direct boss was a woman, the leaders above her have been predominately male.  (I've had some AMAZING male bosses - present leaders especially. Don't miss the point.)

Recently, a question was posed in a Facebook discussion asking if women recruiters struggled with being heard. It referenced a tweet where a woman expressed gratitude for the men on her team who made sure to include her / give her room to speak up and a manager who values feedback and diversity. Which is great, right? Allies are allies. BUT - a lot of the comments in this discussion were from women who've never had a problem being heard, or learned to speak up for themselves and don't tolerate such foolishness.

Good for you, but that's not been my reality.

See, all the way back to my Branch Manager Suit and my Boys Club Staffing Agency days, I was silenced. Silenced by my own fears and insecurities. Silenced by the very real possibility that I'd get "in trouble". Silenced by the knowledge that someone who had more clout/street cred/confidence/lack of self-awareness would push back, laugh at me, or worse.

No ma'am - I had to find my voice. Now don't get me wrong, I was getting a bit louder, a bit tougher, with every professional success. At any rate, I started writing. All the way back in maybe 2011ish? I started blogging and people started listening. A few people liked what I had to say. Some didn't, and I had my share of keyboard warriors coming at me. Every time I took a stand and STAYED STANDING, I got a little stronger. A little bolder. A little less likely to back down.

These days I'm a big champion of recruiting in yoga pants (surely you saw that coming ;) ). I still get into heated debates over it, which if you think about it - borders on ridiculous. Does it really even matter in most cases, especially for tech recruiters? But I digress. The point is, I found my voice. I found that thing that I'm willing to take a stand on, push back on, and defend. It's a silly little thing, really. But over the years I've been hollering about this, I've developed a (even thicker) thick skin. I don't care so much if someone doesn't like me. It's just freaking yoga pants. And if I can take a stand over yoga pants, dammit I can take a stand on shit that matters too.

For the first time probably ever, I commented on a friend's Facebook page about something political. I don't do politics on Facebook, just a personal choice I made. Stand by it, but this particular situation had me so worked up I had to share my thoughts. It wasn't well received by everyone (no opinion ever will be, trust me on this) but it felt good to speak my mind. It felt good to be HEARD.  I didn't die. Didn't lose my job, wasn't shunned by society, no animals were harmed in the making of my commentary. Just little old me, small town girl from Kansas, having a voice. And using it.

I realize a lot of people will read this, maybe scratch their heads or even laugh at it. All good, my friends. I hope somewhere some young woman who's tired of being spoken over finds a thing. Maybe it's yoga pants. Maybe it's being vegan. Maybe it's smashing the f*cking patriarchy. Find your thing. I'll be here to listen.

Looking for more? Check out Part 2 HERE

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Beware the Idiot Lights

Y'all I'm still geeking out over the Talent42 Fireside Chat last week. For those who don't know what the heck I'm talking about, check out the live stream (thank you Ninh!) HERE.

Long story short (hahahahaha as if) I had the privilege of hosting a group of talented Google engineers (including 2 who lead teams) and ask them anything about recruiters. And boy did we hear it. I learned a few things, had a myth or two busted, and found myself amazed at the "yeah buts" we got. There were a few takeaways I found particularly interesting -

- On average, my panelists aren't getting hit on THAT MUCH. I think we agreed it was roughly 1-2 times a week. Some days you'd get 10 contacts, then radio silence for 2 weeks. There is literally no rhyme or reason that I can see. Just.... random.

- Approximately 1 in 10 outreaches are worth responding to. Now this is not license to fire off 10 shit messages and say "OK NOW YOU HAVE TO RESPOND TO ONE OF THEM!" No, in a sea of mediocrity, ONE IN TEN (again, averages) is worth a acknowledging.

(side note - if you're looking for 10 connections a week, and say to yourself "great, I need to email 100 people to hit my number!" you're doing it so wrong that I could throw up right now)

- Interruption communication is the WORST. Phone calls in the middle of the day, that kind of thing. Emails / inmails (inmauls) are "meh", but better than startling someone or causing them to momentarily think something horrible has happened because really who even uses the phone anymore. Oh pipe down agency/retained/gazillion dollar billers. I know you're all K I L L I N G it by smiling and dialing. Why are you reading this anyway? Point is, scheduled communication is key. And appreciated.

So what's a recruiter to do? There are a seemingly infinite number of ways to source someone, so instead of leaving an exhaustive list, how about this -


Ask your damn targets what they want to hear from you. Ask what kind of opportunity they want to hear about. Ask how often they want to be contacted and how. Pay attention to bread crumbs they're leaving you on their social real estate. If someone blatantly calls out I'm never ever EVER going to leave Seattle, why are you pitching a role in NYC? If someone has been leading a team for the last 10 years, why would they answer your call for a junior engineer? (yes this has happened, REPEATEDLY, to one of my panelists)

In other words, stop tripping the idiot lights.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Text Recruiting Done Okay-ish

My husband HATES texting. Really, any form of electronic communication is beyond him. Or beneath him. Thank goodness we've been friends since high school (read: pre-internet) or Lord knows we'd never have gotten together.

Recruiting, on the other hand, LOVES this shit. We can't get enough of emails, inmails (INMAULS), tweets and Facebook messages. There's a lot of noise being made about texting candidates as well. For, against, you name it.

Just today, in fact, I was treated to a text recruiting message of my very own!

There you have it, kids. The entire exchange took 2 minutes. Perfectly pleasant conversation, we QUICKLY ruled me out (y'all know my list of demands for contract work) and it highlighted an email I would have otherwise missed.

If I'm being really honest, I wouldn't have replied to the email. It was a copy/paste of the job description with no real hook. Plus, that whole contract thing... but at least he was up front about it.

I've never used TextUs. I hadn't even heard of it until today. Is it really a game changer? Maybe. Was this one of the more reasonable and pleasant recruiting conversations I've had in a while? Yup. 

I'm not sure that says a lot... no knock at all on the agency recruiter who sent this - like I said totally pleasant and I'd be open to hearing from him again if he had something relevant / up my alley. Of course I can't claim he did any real research on me... but keeping it short and sweet is ok in my book. Maybe it's the novelty of it. If I start getting 10-15 random texts a day I suppose I'd bitch about that like I do shitty inmails.

Interview Prep Advice For Candidates Who Don't Want It

I've been in the people business for 20 years. That's a REALLY LONG TIME to do one thing. I've done it a lot of different places...