Episode 5: Recruiting
I don't know if you've heard yet... but hiring is super competitive right now. 🤫
It seems like every startup out there has a dozen open roles and even more complaints about how hard they are to fill. 😅 And yet, I still hear horror stories from friends who are being strung along through +7 interviews and cumbersome test projects, only to be ghosted in the end. It's ridiculous!
Now more than ever, there's a huge opportunity to rethink your hiring process and invest in a better candidate experience that really helps you stand out.
What does a good candidate experience look like in this market? How do you balance inclusive hiring practices with speed and urgency? And how can hiring managers be the best partners to their recruiters?
I've invited one of my favorite recruiters to answer all of these questions and more in the latest episode of the Opsy podcast.
About Our Guest
Our guest is Sean Page, Senior Technical Recruiter at Propel, a startup building financial products & services for low income Americans.
Sean started his career in operations and juggled a lot of different responsibilities before ultimately deciding to focus on recruiting. He brings a level of operational excellence to the role that I think we can all appreciate and learn from.
About this Episode
In this episode, we chat about:
- How Sean started his career in general operations roles & pivoted to recruiting
- All the different specialties within recruiting, and what his day-to-day as a Senior Technical Recruiter looks like
- How people ops & recruiting teams should work together at growing startups—and when they need to be split into separate teams
- Best practices for up-skilling your hiring managers to make sure you're providing a consistent candidate experience
- How you can foster a more inclusive culture by making explicit the implicit
... and so much more!
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If you are an operations pro working in tech, or just want to learn more about operations, we'd love to meet you.
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Stay in Touch
- Amy Wood and her take on holistic contexts
(Editor's note: Caro mistakenly referred to this as a holistic manifesto in the episode)
- Greenhouse, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
- Loom, a tool for making short videos
Caro Griffin 0:30
I'm here today with Sean Page, a Senior Technical Recruiter at Propel, a startup building financial products and services for low income Americans.
I first came across Sean, like I do a lot of my guests - on Twitter. He was always dropping thoughtful nuggets about the recruiting and interviewing process. And I really appreciated how intentional and inclusive he seemed to approach every step of the hiring process.
I've learned a lot from him just by reading his tweets and chatting with him. So I'm excited to have him on the podcast today so that we can dig a little deeper than 240 characters allows.
Caro Griffin 0:58
So why don't we start from the beginning. Tell us a little bit about your career path so far, and how you got into recruiting specifically.
Sean Page 1:04
First of all, just thank you so much for having me on the show today.
Caro Griffin 1:07
I should have started with that, probably. [Laughs] Thank you so much for being here, Sean! I got too excited.
Sean Page 1:14
[Laughs] Yeah, no, no, it's okay. It's okay. So just to tell you a little bit more about my sort of background. I actually did start off in a more traditional ops role.
My first job that I had right out of college was actually for a union—one of the largest unions in the US. I started off in marketing, doing operations. And so I was not only helping to support the operations of our like social media page, and helping to produce articles and other things for our magazine, but also as well, I was helping to just manage overall communications across our company.
I was helping to just organize like email templates like that we would send out to our membership, helping to support our local leaders in terms of writing up communication, so when they like had to present to different audiences that they would have that information available and ready for them so that they can be able to, you know, deliver their speeches and things like that. And so I was doing a lot of ops work in that sense.
Then I moved on to public health. And so I worked for a public health nonprofit that was the arm of CDC or the Centers for Disease Control Prevention.
Caro Griffin 2:22
I feel like we've all learned that acronym a little too well, in the last couple of years.
Sean Page 2:27
Oh, yes, yes. No, we definitely have, unfortunately.
And so yeah, and so I was working at the, at this nonprofit as a project manager. And again, I was putting on my ops hat, I was doing a number of different roles from like, recruiting, helping to find public health laboratories for our various lab staff, across different public health departments, to helping to deliver trainings and developments around like leadership qualities and communication. Also, you know, helping to put things on our website, to helping with like legal documents, so actually, like, helping to draft like contracts and get that to legal, as well. So I was kind of still in that, like, you know, all-hands ops role.
So then, after that, I kind of moved into sort of my first taste into like, true recruitment. I joined my friends startup called Let's Eat, Grandma.
Caro Griffin 3:16
Which, best name ever, by the way. When I saw that, I was like, okay, immediately intrigued, clicking all the links. Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Sean Page 3:20
I always think it's a funny joke because, you know, most people are like, "Well, why would you come up with that name?" And it's like, that comma, like really matters. Because if you don't have that comma, it really does sound like you're trying to eat your grandma.
Caro Griffin 3:30
It really does.
Sean Page 3:39
But anyway, I started working at Let's Eat, Grandma and I started off as a resume writer. It was just supposed to be a part time gig, just to help me get extra money, because, you know, nonprofits aren't necessarily the best for pay. So I was working there and they just saw a lot of my ops talent. He just saw how well I was like delivering my resumes back to clients in a very speedy way.
One time, I showed the CEO my process of how I was doing it. And he was like, "Wow, I want you to replicate that and rain our other writers on that." And so I did that training and everyone loved it. And they were like, "Well, do you want to just own own onboarding?" And I was just like, "Sure, I can own that." And so I did.
Eventually, they were like, "Do you want to just be a manager and manage some resume writers and just do that?" And I said, "Sure, I can do that." And so I started managing them, and then, eventually, there became a need... because we had, you know, over 40 different writers that were contract.... And, you know, we had a lot of people onboarding, offboarding, and all those things.
And so they were like, "Do you want to just like own HR and start, you know, helping us out like creating our processes, like going into compliance and things like that? It seems like you're really good at organizing all of the all of these different pieces for us." And so I said, "Yeah, I can do that." And so that was sort of my first taste.
And so then I was just running everything for HR. I was doing recruitment, I was doing onboarding, I was doing onboarding, I was doing employee lifecycle work. And so I was really getting a lot of just involvement in all these different areas. And so eventually, I realized my most favorite part is actually recruitment. Like, I love having the conversation with candidates and it was just a really great thing for me. And so I decided this was actually the career path that I want to pivot into. And so from there actually pivoted into tech.
I started at another first startup company, one of the largest no-code startups. And so I was working there, I started off as like the second recruitment hire. And so I was working a lot on the operations. So I was really building us from the ground up, you know, working in Greenhouse, and setting those things up to, you know, actually helping to schedule all the different meetings and things that we had going on.
Eventually, I came up with the idea of like, we need to expand on our brand, like, we need to expand our reach. So then I became the go-to sourcer for my team. And so I was like helping to like source and get candidates in the pipeline. Then we started to notice there was an uptick in not only our quality of candidates, but also the diversity of our pipeline was increasing at a very fast rate. And so they were like, "Well, do you want to just manage our branding and and do all these things?" And I said, "Yes, I'll do it." And so that's how I kind of like got my foot into the door when it came to like branding and operations.
Then from there, I actually now moved on to where I'm at today, which is Propel. I'm a senior technical recruiter. I'm still doing some of those ops pieces as well, while also supporting the hiring of engineers, product and design professionals, as well. So helping to kind of be the bridge between that. And so, long story short, my whole career has been someone who's been wearing multiple different hats, but really centered in operations.
Because, for me, in order to do any of these other jobs well, you have to start with operational excellence.
Caro Griffin 6:58
Absolutely. There's the pull quote right there. And yeah, I mean, I love that you wore all these hats—such an opsy thing—and that you like found the thing that you liked the best. And then like really like drilled in on that and focused on that as a recruiter. So excited to dig more into that.
You said your title at Propel is Senior Technical Recruiter. But I've heard you talk about being a Program Manager, too. And I think you kind of spoke to that a little bit in your answer. So I'd love to talk more about that. What does that look like in a recruiting context? And what kind of programs are you managing?
Sean Page 7:26
Yeah, no, that's a really great question. So like, for a program manager, oftentimes, you're, again, wearing multiple different hats. And so, in my different roles, program manager really looks like someone who's really owning like talent operations, specifically.
Talent operations can fall under a number of different book of buckets—the first being actual pure operations, so like scheduling, scheduling, efficiency, and things of that nature. And then the second bucket is data, so actually looking at like the data reports that you can pull from your applicant tracking system. Looking at it to see, you know, at top of funnel, what your rates of diversity are for different groups that you have pre selected within your system, to understanding how candidates are moving through, and at what percentage are candidates like falling off within your process. And so you can also dive in a little bit deeper to understand sort of, you know, why are people not passing like, say, for instance, a technical assessment. You can kind of look at those numbers and dive a little bit deeper. Or, looking at the end of the funnel, where you're looking at your offer acceptance. So someone like that is also like managing that data.
And then another piece is like that branding piece that I was talking about, as well. So someone is actually thinking about the very top of funnel branding of like, how are you presenting your company page? How are you partnering with other outside organizations to track and bring in candidates? How are you working with recruiting agencies as partners in bringing in candidates as well? So really thinking about that, like top of funnel ecosystem and how you're making sure that they're all speaking to each other, and that you're presenting your brand in a very consistent way.
And then, finally, the fourth pillar I would say is learning development. So how are you coming together and thinking about like DEI. And thinking about, you know, how are you training your interviewers up when it comes to interview bias? How are you thinking about like your hiring managers and their understanding of what diversity, equity, and inclusion means and how are they presenting that to their teams? To like understanding, you know, sourcing. When you're sending out messages to candidates, how are your messages consistent? Are you actually thinking about the inclusive experiences of the candidates that you're trying to attract into your pipeline? So really thinking about that learning and development piece of not only just training your hiring managers with training of your interviewers and then also to how can you also train up your your candidates themselves like by providing, you know, resources and documents so that they can understand how to be the most successful in their interviews.
Caro Griffin 9:45
I love that! You know, my hiring manager/recruiting background has always been in smaller teams so it's really interesting to hear you talk about this dedicated work of like the data and the programs and I love... you know we've talked on Twitter a little bit about like, you know, hosting trainings for interviewers and things like that. And it's just it's such an important and overlooked piece of the whole puzzle.
So, you know, Propel is a growing startup at I think around 70 people—correct me, if I'm wrong?
Sean Page 10:10
Yes. We actually just hit 71 today.
Caro Griffin 10:12
Oh, well, congrats, as the senior recruiter.
How are you structuring the recruiting team to accommodate your company's growth? And like, how are you thinking about that?
Sean Page 10:20
Yeah, that's a really great question. So, for us, right now, we sort of have that traditional model of... we have a Director of People who's kind of overseeing this function as of now. And then, right now, we have myself who's a Senior Technical Recruiter. We have People Operations Coordinator, who's really supporting those like day to day people operation pieces, like office management, employee lifecycle management, onboarding—she's spent a lot of time in onboarding as well. And so really, you know, owning those pieces, and benefits, too. And then we also have a part time sourcer who's supporting me and helping to bring in candidates, because I can't be in all these places, all those buckets that I just mentioned earlier, and do them all well. And so I have that part time sorcerer. And then we also just hired a second technical recruiter, part time, to come in and to also help with more of that top of funnel work, helping to identify candidates from diverse groups and communities. And so we're really like using that as a leverage for me as recruiting right now.
And then, finally, we actually just hired another recruiter full time, who's going to be supporting more of the business side of things. So she's going to be helping to support all of our areas that are non EPD, or non engineering, product, and design.
Caro Griffin 11:30
Wow. Okay. So your team is definitely growing. I love that you're bringing in that part-time support, especially in this market. I can't imagine doing that job solo at a growing company. So I imagine you're still wearing a lot of hats. And, you know, you spoke about that a little bit already. So how does that shape your role? What is your day to day look like? Especially, yeah, in this market.
Sean Page 11:48
Yeah. So I would just say like, you know, the best recruiters today in this market aren't the ones who are sitting around or waiting for candidates to go into their pipeline. You have to be very proactive in the communities that you're looking to not only hire from but also to serve, right?
The way that my philosophy is, as a recruiter is, I'm giving someone not just a life changing opportunity but this is something this is going to be something that defines a part of their life. Work is such a heavy part of what we do every day. And so it's just so important that we're making sure that we're not just promising things to our candidates, but we're actually living up to those expectations.
And so, one of the things that I like to do, is I like to source from communities that I'm actually an active partner and an active participant. And so really building those relationships. So, oftentimes, my day to day can look like you know, going into those Slack groups or to Twitter or to LinkedIn, or wherever I am at that time, and like actually conversating with candidates and like, you know, not only sharing materials about what Propel is but just also to just having day to day conversations about what we talk about on Twitter. You know, annoying things like recruiters who just reach out to you and like, don't add a salary band, or don't talk about like, what company they're looking to hire for, and things like that. And so really just like having those candid conversation with them, to let them know that, hey, I am a recruiter, but I'm also to a worker, as well. So I know these experiences firsthand, I experienced them, we all experienced them. And so really building that relationship that way.
Then the second piece is what I really do is having a lot of coaching with my hiring managers. So, right now, I primarily serve like, again, like engineering, product design. So really having those weekly one-on-ones with my different partners, really understanding sort of where their roles are today, where their needs are, and also just coaching them on the best practices in the market today when it comes to candidate attraction... to thinking more deeply about our processes themselves to also thinking about, you know, why are you candidates falling out at this stage, like looking at the data points there and like really trying to dig deeper into why that's happening, and not just assume that, "Oh, it's just a candidate top of funnel problem. Like, we just need to have more candidates." That's always everyone's solution.
Caro Griffin 13:59
Of course! It has nothing to do with the seven interviews and the ridiculously long unpaid test project. And, you know, like the interviewer who wasn't prepared or any of those things. It's always a top of the funnel problem. I'm glad we agree on this, Sean... Insert sarcasm, just for anyone who's not clear. I'm being very sarcastic. [Laughs]
Sean Page 14:17
[Laughs] Yes, yes. No, exactly. And so, for me, it's like... that can always be one reason. But is it the reason? Oftentimes, no. The reasons, just like you stated, sometimes it's, are we not communicating? What are the expectations going into that technical assessment? Are we not thinking or training our interviewers on best practices when it comes to capturing interviewers behaviors and actions within those interviews? You know, are our interviewers actually giving those questions and saying them in a way that's valuable to our candidates, so they understand what the question is asking of them.
So there's a lot of things that it's not just on candidates to do better, but it's things that we have to do better in terms of our system. And so if our expectation is that, "Oh, these candidates should come in and just know who we are. And they should just present themselves in the way that our culture presents...," then you're never going to find the talent that you're looking for.
You have to teach people what your culture is at the beginning and be consistent with teaching that culture throughout your process in order to bring people along in that story. Because, when you bring people along in the story, then they can see themselves in your company. They can see yourself being a part of that culture.
And some people might see themselves and realize that's not the culture they want to be a part of. And that's fine, too. But they can come back and say, "Hey, this is not for me. But I really enjoyed this experience." And this has happened to me plenty of times where someone says, "This is a no for me now, but you really set the bar for what my experience should be like in a process." And even when you have that, that's someone you know, you know, maybe a year or two from now it's going to come back and maybe want to be part of your process again. So, it's like building those long term relationships through really just strong organizational and operational practices.
Caro Griffin 15:55
Absolutely. I feel like that's like the biggest compliment I've ever gotten as a recruiter. I actually hired someone's husband once. You know, [the role] wasn't the right fit for her but she like referred him for a role down the line, because she'd been following us... because she was like, "Yeah, you know, your interview process was great. I just felt like the culture, you know, and got a really good sense of it."
And so it's like, when people who weren't hired for whatever reason, either because they dropped out or they they weren't the right fit, you know, when they are sending new people later... I mean how much of a strong signal for your brand that can be! That's... you're doing something right, you know, so gotta love to see that.
You speak to this training piece for interviewers, and I feel like this is something that I see a lot of people struggle with because they're like, where do I start? Like, just send everyone to unconscious bias training... is that sufficient? What's happening? And so I'm curious how you approach that and if you have any, you know, resources that you really recommend, or... yeah, I would just love to hear your insights on this one.
Sean Page 16:48
Yeah, no, that's a really great question. So, from my perspective, oftentimes, the way I see DEI handled at a lot of companies... is we often look for external validation from, like, consultants, from firms, from all these different places, for people to tell us exactly what your employees internally already know. And so, what I see is, you know, oh, we don't think people are experts in this space within their own experience. So we're gonna go and bring it outside experts to come in to basically regurgitate what people are already saying within your culture. And so I think there's just this lack of connection between management and individual contributors in the sense.
They don't understand what each other's experiences are because there's no real honesty and transparency in the culture itself. And, so, when you don't have that, you're already starting from a pillar of people not really understanding what their roles are, they're not understanding the scope of what they're supposed to be doing. They don't understand the why behind what they're doing. And so it trickles down, even in your interview process.
I've seen this experience on both sides, where you go into an interview and you can tell right away, the interviewer is stressed, they don't know what's going on, they don't know what interview questions they're asking, they're trying to buy time by asking you about yourself, while they're scrambling to look for the scorecard in Greenhouse and all those different behaviors... and every one of those behaviors, we give grace, but people do make judgments based off of that. You know, even like showing up late to a call, like, sometimes things happen, but when you don't send out an email a few minutes before letting someone know that you're late as an interviewer, or you don't, you know, check in when someone, you know, shows up 10 minutes late, and you just decide, oh, they just didn't show up, and you never follow up. Those are all signals that you're sending to a person that you don't care about who they are, you don't care about their application. And, so, I think there's a lot of just like lack of connection that we have often in the work that we're doing because, you know, we're trying to see this as a system and we forget that there's individuals within the system. And, for us to be effective, we have to start with the individuals.
We have to start with training those behaviors and making sure that everyone has a mutual agreement of what behaviors and actions are we going to promote in this process. If we don't have a social contract and agreement of that, then you're always going to have disagreement in sort of how we're going to deliver the interviews. You're always going to have a candidate that might say, "Yes, I love interviewing for the engineering team. It's so great. They have everything clear." And then they go to, I don't know, like the customer support team. And they're like, "This process is awful. Like, no one knows what they're doing."
You can even have that within you can have that within your own system because there's no consistency. And, so, I think that's where operations comes in is to really bridge that that consistency across your company. When you have different players talking who are in the same space but talking two different languages, it sends different signals to the people.
And, so, I know this kind of is like the long way to get to your answer... but to answer your question, from my perspective, the way that I try to set up my teams for success with interview training it starting with the basics. So really understanding - what is our social contract that we're having as interviewers? How are we approaching our interviews together? How do we address writing interview questions? What standards are we using for those? What are the standards that we're using to capture our scorecard? Are we consistent in how we're scoring people? Do we all understand what this rubric even means?
Caro Griffin 20:22
[Laughs] Great question.
Sean Page 20:24
Exactly. And, so, really starting there. And, like, in terms of resources, I love Greenhouse because greenhouse creates a lot of great resources on like, the basics of how to do these things. And, oftentimes, the problem is people don't like reading documents. [Laughs] And so you have to be very creative of how you deliver.
One of the things that I like to do is quick Looms. I'll do like a quick, two minute Loom on like, something that like is a hot topic that everyone in the team wants to learn when it comes to interviewing. Even, you know, doing like a picture or more diagrams, or even just creative slides, like something that's more visual that might have videos included, or some type of photo. And, also, I love using emojis and GIFs. I know that's like the millennial thing to do.... but I feel like, you know, people sometimes discredit that because they feel like it's not professional or whatever else that they have on top of their mind. But, for me, like I find it creates the greatest connection. Because, even if there's like cultural differences in how GIFs are used, there's also like that that bond that you can create when you're sending someone something that makes them feel like you're being direct and targeted who they are as a person.
Caro Griffin 21:40
Absolutely. And especially when you're working remotely or, you know, communicating via text, like you said, I love this idea of making it more visual and showing your culture and your personality and making it a little more... friendly, I guess. Like, this is a this is an exchange, right? You can ask questions, I can ask questions. We're here to be better together. And I love the idea of those two minute looms. Oh, man, that's great.
I feel like you also just gave me like the perfect transition to my next question, which is kind of about operations more generally. You said something I really liked about how that operational excellence is where [ops] really comes into recruiting and it seems like that is a really important bridge. And I think, you know, you have described yourself as an ops person in this conversation. And you know, you started in ops. I would consider talent acquisition and recruiting and, you know, that part of the the org to be ops... but I don't know that everyone would.
So I guess... I think I know the answer the question but, like, do you consider yourself an opsy person? How do you think those things fit in?
Sean Page 22:40
Yeah, so I do consider myself an opsy person. Like you mentioned, there's so many different elements within recruitment. So, the way that I always like to break down recruitment is, like, there are operational pieces, there are sales pieces, and then there's marketing pieces, right? The operational pieces are like the day to day things that I was mentioning earlier—when you're going into like your ATS system, where you're communicating with candidates, when you're scheduling, and when you're getting offers out. Those are all operational pieces.
Then you have marketing. So the marketing is more so that branding—how are you branding yourself as a recruiter? How are you branding the process that you're trying to communicate to candidates? So how you're branding your actual company, on your company page, and how you're broadcasting that out to the world. And then, finally, sales. Sales is actually trying to close candidates and bring them into your pipeline. So actually selling the culture, knowing, you know, for instance, what your product is, and why should a candidate get excited, knowing how much revenue your company's bringing in, knowing how much you've raised if you're at a startup, how much series you have raised... Knowing the day to day things.
Sometimes I like to drop gems about... like, in my first call, I'll remember the smallest detail about team members. One of our team members recently got married and she's she loves dogs, and she actually had her dog in her wedding. And so I mentioned that to a candidate because she was also mentioning to me that she was doing the same thing. She was getting married, and her dog was gonna be the ring bearer. And I was like, "Oh, like, we had someone on our team do that." And like, that's a selling technique, right? Like, you're creating that connection with the candidate and saying, "Hey, like, you can be seen at this. There's someone already who has that sort of similar behaviors and believes in our company. Don't you want to meet them? Like, don't you want to be part of that culture?
Caro Griffin 24:28
Yeah, do you want to learn their best practices for having a dog in your wedding? [Laughs]
No, I love that. I did not realize that's where you were going with that anecdote. I thought you were gonna talk about the surprise and delight, kind of like learning about candidates and like bringing it back. No, but I love the idea of like, connecting them to team members before they even have a reason to meet them, you know, and being like, "yeah, look how cool we are, look at how much stuff you have in common." I think that also really speaks to like showing off your culture, whether that's a selling point for them or not, right? Like, maybe they don't want to work at a place where you know about your coworkers dog and her wedding. But I think it's like... for the people who who want that kind of culture, that's such a great thing.
I think so much of also what we're saying and what we keep coming back to is like... interviews in the hiring process should be a two way street, right? Like, they should be making sure it's a good fit for them, which is going to benefit us as hiring managers and recruiters in the long run anyway. Because we want them to stay. We want them to be engaged, we want them to be the right fit for our company. And I will stop myself before I go on a whole tangent on that. [Laughs]
Sean Page 25:30
No, no, no, I totally agree with that. I think you have to be even more intentional, because my companies that I've worked for our remote firsts. And so, for us, it's like you have to be intentional about those stories, because you're not going to get the traditional office culture where you can just show up on day one and make those assumptions yourself and meet people in the office and things like that. Like, the practices are so different when you're shifting into that remote culture. And, so, I think knowing that, like that information is really sometimes is a good thing in remote culture. Because, oftentimes, you can feel so isolated. You might not know what your fellow co workers are doing in this space. And maybe people don't reach out to you. Maybe people... you don't have like the the connections that you may have if you're coming from that office environment.
And, so, I think, it's also good to have those intentional stories as a recruiter. Because, oftentimes, people will ask you like, well, "What's your remote culture like? How do y'all connect with each other? Like, how do you grow together." And, so, I think it's so important to know those stories, and to really be, as a recruiter, is not only being that external face, but it's being the internal face as well, and really understanding who you're bringing into the culture.
Sometimes it's very easy for us to be like, "Okay, I got the offer out, they showed up on day one. I'm done with a relationship like that, that's HR's problem now, right?" Like, oftentimes, we're still part of that lifecycle, as much as people operations people are.
And so, like, oftentimes, you might not be there to be in like the HR business meetings or in the comp discussions or anything like that, but we're still there in terms of like... We are your first connection within this organization, and so really, we're the one that brought you in here. And so, even though we might not have that same relationship that you might have with your HR business partner, we still are that person that can be your go-to person to talk to, to give you more perspective on things that are going on in organization, because we have to be abreast on what are going what's going on as well. And so I think having that sort of that continuous relationship is so important for recruiters and to keep always thinking about the long game.
Caro Griffin 27:30
Yeah, absolutely. And to build that relationship. And, you know, like you said, you're the first contact. You're the friendly face that they probably know the best by the time that they join and, and yeah, playing the long game there. And building those relationships is such a crucial part.
I also like what you said, too, about how kind of within recruiting, there's like a whole organization, right? Like there's marketing, there's sales, there's operations. And you know, you specifically talked about HR business partners and HR. And, you know, a few years ago, HR experienced a bit of a rebrand. And a lot of more forward-thinking teams are building people ops teams now, which I think is also the term that Propel is using. And I think my understanding of that... I've always preferred people ops since I learned what it was because it does feel less reactive, more strategic, you have a real seat at the table. And I feel like the same thing is happening with recruiting and talent acquisition. And so I'm curious how you would define these, and if you think that there's a real difference, or if this is all branding?
Sean Page 28:20
Yeah. So, I think, from my perspective, I think there is some difference, but I think it's more of a rebranding than an actual true shift into a new perspective. And the reason why I say this is because it comes down to the philosophy of the leaders within those teams. So, a lot of times, people will say, "Oh, I want to rebrand to people operations or talent acquisition, because I really care about the candidate experience. And I really care about the employee experience." But, then, when you come down to and you look on the inside, you're saying, "Well, why are your employees like complaining about like, pay disparities, and you have no information or transparency around that? Why are your candidates dropping off saying that you're not communicative... that you don't tell them the next steps until, you know, three or four weeks later. Or, you might not even send out a rejection email, right?"
And so there's these operational fumbles that happen a lot. And, so, when I think about these philosophies—and I'm not saying that they're things that have to be perfect—but, oftentimes, it's like... We have to think deeper than the actual terms that were saying and actually think about our philosophy, and what are we actually bringing to the table when we're saying these things?
If we don't want to be order takers, oftentimes, you know, what I've seen is people in these roles sometimes burn themselves out because they want to be something for everybody. They want to be the people pleasers, they want to be the people to always be in every single conversation. And, in order for us to also be our own strategic leaders, sometimes we have to step back and say, "Hey, we need to work this out and I need to more be centered on this specific goal we have as a team." And, so, I see a lot of times where there's this, like, you know, clash because we want to believe that we believe in all these great things. And we don't want to be like traditional HR, we don't want to just be about compliance or talent acquisition, we're not about just giving people the lowest pay possible so that we're supporting a base business. And those are great things to move away from, but what are we moving towards is what I always say. Moving away from is a different mindset than actually think about what you're moving towards. And, so, that's what I would challenge people. If you're going to adopt these new terms, actually have a vision and philosophy in mind. Otherwise, you're just rebranding and pandering, and people can read through it really quickly.
Caro Griffin 30:41
Absolutely. Knowing what you're moving towards. I love that. And that's something that's gonna resonate, and like reverberate in my head for years to come. And, yeah, and I think also like buy in, right? Like, if you don't have buy in from the people who are giving you orders that you're more than an order taker, then you're only going to get so far, right? And so I think that those are those crucial pieces. And it makes me think too, about kind of like company values and how, so often, they're just like words on a wall. They're aspirational, you know? They don't actually reflect anything that like really represents the company. And we actually had someone do a lightning talk at an Opsy meet up recently. She talked about holistic manifestos and about how it's like about, you know, her argument, I think... I'm paraphrasing, so sorry... Her name is Amy Wood. Find her on Twitter, I'll put her in the show notes. She runs Shine Bootcamp, also great. Plug, plug, plug. [Laughs}
And she didn't invent this, you know, but she like kind of rediscovered it and is using it for her organization. And it was just a really interesting idea of like, you know, these shouldn't be aspirational, we should be reflecting on who we actually are and how we want to improve. And it's really interesting to think about in this way, too, right? Like, you can't just like call something different and rebrand it and hope that like... because, if anything, that's only gonna buy you some time, right? Like maybe you'll have a couple candidates be like, "Oh, people ops, interesting." But, like, you're gonna see through that real quick if... it's like all the things we were talking about before, right... when the interviewer is late and doesn't acknowledge it, when they never send you a rejection email, all of those things that don't speak to the org that you're trying to build and put this label on, right?
Sean Page 32:10
Yeah, exactly. And the other thing, too... what you just popped in my mind is one of my phrases that I love using now is, "make the implicit explicit."
I think, oftentimes, when we think about like traditional HR, traditional recruitment. People like the gray area because it gives them the ability to not have to own mistakes, or to be accountable, right? Because compliance is a very gray role. I mean, there are some black and white things, but, oftentimes, like laws can be more gray than they are. And, so, I think it's always comes down to interpretation of how that presents itself. And people's appetite for risk is always going to be different. If you ask the director of finance at your company, what level of risk are they willing to set, it's going to be a lot higher than the level of risk of say, someone in sales is willing to take because their goals are very different from the goals of finance director. And, so, I think it's always important to remember that like, yes, we want to be able to have room for error. But when you create too much room for error, that's when bias comes in. And that's when harm also follows.
And, so, a lot of times when people are saying like things like, "I really want to champion D&I." D&I is not just representation of your company. It's actually thinking about your operations, your processes, your procedures, and actually making the that gray area a little bit more explicit so people understand that there's a gray area that exists, there's no clear black and white answer... but we have these processes in place that we're willing to put in place to know that, "Hey, these are our guardrails to make sure that we're not going towards the harm that we know can be created because of this gray area. And we also recognize that we are not perfect, and that these processes will change and evolve."
Everyone's been part of a start up, we all know that those environments are very chaotic. And, so, we already know that they're going to change and evolve. But letting people know that... and letting people be able to be a little bit more in and knowing that, like, "Hey, like we are already thinking intentionally about this..." You already clear up 99% of people's like issues that they have when it comes to these processes. Because all they're looking for is transparency.
Oftentimes, people don't expect you to be perfect right off the bat.
Caro Griffin 34:22
No, they really don't. People are so much more understanding then I think we give them credit for when you when you are transparent and you ask for a little grace.
I feel like people should be taking notes everything you just said because I wanted to like be, like, snapping and like... Yeah, cuz I'm just like, yes! I think that kind of the tone you're talking about the striking like, "Look, we get that this is a gray area. There's not a black and white answer. Here's some general guidelines that we like to keep in mind." You know, I think that's the tone I take every time I try to I have to write a policy for something. And I am constantly writing policies because... I think sometimes that policies get a bad rap, okay? People are like, ugh, you don't always need a policy, like, it's overly bureaucratic and stuff, right? But, I'm like...
Sean Page 34:55
I like a good policy.
Caro Griffin 34:57
Right? Like, do you know how many Slack questions [a policy] avoids? And, for every one person who slacks a question that you had to take time to answer, you know how many were kind of afraid to send you the slack question or like... you know, weren't sure if it was okay to ask that question or like didn't know to ask it or whatever. I love too that you really tied the line between like making the implicit... explicit as an important part of inclusion, right? Because we read things differently, we think about things differently. We're different people, and like, we have different experiences and backgrounds. People may not know that they can expense a certain thing because they've never worked at a company that had expenses, you know, or like, whatever the case may be, and like, this is how we build better companies with that with that diversity of experience. But, like, that means you also have to... like support those experiences? We could do a whole episode on this!
But, while we're on this topic, a lot of people ops folks are expected to do recruiting, especially on smaller teams. And, even when they're not, these teams work closely together until you said that people ops and recruiting at Propel are kind of the same team. And so I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on the relationship between those two?
Sean Page 36:00
Yeah, no, definitely. So I definitely think it's necessary, especially when you're in a small team to have these teams together. Because, oftentimes, you have to be really short with your decision making. You have to be really quick. Because you're fighting for talent in this market today, and so, I think it's really important because they do influence each other in very intimate ways. And, oftentimes, because there's so many quick decisions that are happening, that you kind of have to sit on the same team be able to understand sort of why things are moving in the direction that they're going into. Like, why did this executive or manager decide to do this certain action? And how is that going to impact how we're viewing this policy moving forward? And, so, I think it's so important for us to, to in a small team to do this.
Now, I think at a certain point, there is a size or scale that it starts to break down between like people ops and recruitment because then, intrinsically, their motivations are completely different in some ways.
People ops is really focused on, again, that compliance and, like, fundamentally, they're protecting the business. And, you know, they're trying to make sure that they're finding a balance between making sure that employees are happy, that they're enjoying and they feel fruitful, and they feel successful as possible within their roles. But, from the recruiting standpoint, our our job is to get people in the door as quickly as possible, making sure that we're being equitable in our process, making sure that we're bringing in, you know, the types of candidates that our hiring managers are asking for, making sure that we're not making missteps in terms of like, you know, small compliance things like around like, you know, making sure we're not discriminating people based off of their race, their gender, their religion, all the protected classes that are out there. And, so, there's like those little client compliance components but, mostly, our job is to really get people through this process as quickly as possible and get someone hired as quickly as possible. And, so, our modes of speed are very different.
I would say, people ops have a larger window of opportunity to get their work done. They're able to sit and go through and look at documents and redo documents, and, you know, be able to work with all these different partners versus recruitment. It's like, you have a very short window, oftentimes, people need their roles yesterday. It's not like, "Oh, my God, I'm opening this role and you have three months to find this person." It's like, "I just opened up this role because there's been a team member that left, there's a team member that's going on maternity leave, or there's, you know, something going on in our team, and we need someone immediately." And, so, because of that pressure, that means you have to get through that process as quickly as possible. So, we don't have necessary always have the time and the bandwidth to be able to do that like rethinking, reshifting. Oftentimes, we do those retros after the fact.
And so it's like the differences and just the workstyle in terms of like what's motivating us and what our goals are, it can start to split off, especially in a scaling environment. And, so, again, I would say on a small team, very intrinsic, you very much so need to work together. But, at a certain point, that starts to break down, especially when you have so many people that you have to hire, onboard, train develop. Then it starts to become, "Okay, do we really need to be in the same department?"
Caro Griffin 39:25
Yeah, do we really need to be in each other's meetings and Slack channels? Do we need to know about each other's work to the level of detail that we do right no, when there's seven people instead of two?
So, when you're thinking about recruiting teams... I always think about kind of like, as ops people, and as dedicated recruiters even more so, like... when you're interviewing for a job, so much of what you're looking for too is to kind of judge them on their process and like, see what you can improve, what you can fix and what the opportunities are, but also like, you know, there are some things where I'm just like, "That's a hard no for me, you know?" Like, I know, what those red flags are for me. And so, as someone who changed jobs recently, especially in this market, I'm interested to hear, what are some things that you yourself would look for when kind of vetting a startups recruiting process? Or, some "don't do's" for anyone building their early stage recruiting team, maybe?
Sean Page 40:10
[Laughs] Yes, no, this is probably one of my favorite questions that you've asked so far.
Caro Griffin 40:12
I thought maybe so. [Laughs] Given our Twitter accounts, I thought maybe this would hit a nerve...
Sean Page 40:19
Yes, yes. You know, you know... [Laughs]
From my perspective, some of the things that I have experienced—and I've listened to my audience of followers on Twitter, as well—and, oftentimes, some of the things that it comes down to is just being unresponsive, or communication overall. So like, not following up within a certain amount of time, saying you're gonna follow up in the next two days, and then it becomes the next two weeks, and not even letting people know that's what's happening.
Or, it comes down to, like, having someone come into an interview and you miscommunicate what that interview is gonna be like. So, they go in and walk into the interview thinking, "Oh, this is gonna be a brief conversation, just to get to know the hiring manager." And you walk into the meeting and the hiring manager's, like, "Welcome to this technical assessment. Are you prepared?" Like, do you want to go in Figma and like, start working and drawing and doing all these things?" You know, all those like experiences that— I know you probably feel this, as well— that lack of communication.
The second piece is forcing people to time box their offers. So, you're like, I want to make sure I get this offer out to this candidate really quickly, but I don't want them to be able to sit on anyone else's offer. And so I'm gonna timebox this offer at like something ridiculous, like 48 hours or 72 hour. And, to me, it's a signal into your culture, right? Like, if you're forcing me to make this quick decision—that's a life decision... This is not just, "Oh, I'm just like, deciding to jump on to a new project and I can pivot and..." No, this is someone's livelihood. We're talking about people with families. So, this is like something that it's not just their like decision. It's their family's decision. It's their life partner's decision. It's other people they take care of in their life's decision, as well.
And, so, when you think about the scope of what this offer actually represents, I really do not like when people time box offers. There's a certain level in which it goes too long. I wouldn't say, for instance, "Oh, like, give someone two weeks to sit on an offer." That's a little bit different. But giving them at least a courtesy week to be able to sort of sit there and talk to the people that are reporting to them, make them allow them to mull over the decision a little bit more, gives so much more grace and shows so much more about your culture than someone who's trying to quickly get so into the offer. Because, if you're trying to quickly do this, then like how are you going to treat me when I'm employee? Are you going to expect the same quickness when you give me an impossible task and tell me get it done in 12 hours? Like, you know, all those famous [job descriptions] with 'fast paced environment?'
Caro Griffin 42:55
Yeah, we all know what that coded language is for under-resourced and stretched too thin.
Sean Page 43:00
Exactly. So, another thing that I really just don't like from a recruiter standpoint... I really don't like recruiters who don't talk about their own personal opinion, or don't have any anecdotes about the organization itself. So, like, if you ask some questions like, "How do you feel about the culture?: Or like, "What's your favorite part?" And they have nothing or just give you a generic answer, like, "Oh, yeah, it's great. Or, I really love like this part of thing of my job that every recruiter does..."
To me, it's just like, "Oh, so you don't have a clear answer." So, that makes me start to get more questions, because it's, like, you're the lifeblood of the company. If you don't have an opinion about it, that makes me worry that there's something hidden that I'm not seeing in the process. And, so, that's a signal to me that maybe that's not the place for me.
And then, also, I look at like tenure of people at a company. I go on LinkedIn and I stalk and I do my research a lot before I say yes to an initial call. I look into the team that I'm going to join. I like to see how long has people have been on the team. What's the tenure of the person who's going to be leading our team? What is their experience and background of doing this work? And have they mentored or managed before on this function? And, really trying to look deeper into those things. Because, oftentimes, when you're in these environments, especially in startups, it's so easy for you to start to realize that some people, when they get into certain positions, they might not necessarily have that same viewpoint as you when it comes to how you want to do your work. And that's often influenced by how long they've been in the function, where they have worked at in the past, how they have worked out in the past. And, so, there's like sort of little signals you can kind of see through their resume and through how they present themselves on their LinkedIn profile or other social media platforms. And, so, I like to dig in and like learn more the leaders motivations' to make sure that I can actually align with these motivations. Because, if I can't align with this, then it's just gonna be a waste of my time. So, I want to do that research, as well.
Caro Griffin 45:10
Yeah, no, I love that and definitely do some similar things, but... not exactly like that, so, I'm, like... noted for next time. [Laughs]
That gives you so much more information to ask better questions during the interviews when you know that, like, they haven't had a recruiter for over a year or they've had four directors of sales in the last three years, or whatever the case may be. You know, what to tactfully and politely ask to help you make the decision. Because, again, that's what [an interview] is about. It's for both sides to make sure it's the right fit.
So, shifting gears a little bit, both you and Propel. have openly talked about the importance of JEDI or justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in your work. And a lot of our listeners are probably unfamiliar with this exact framework, or way of putting it so I'd love to talk a little bit more about it. And, you know, why JEDI and not DEI?
Sean Page 45:55
Yeah, so I would say, for us, like DEI does represent our company culture. The way that we separate it out is like, JEDI includes our product, as well. So, justice is the lens of our product. And DEI is the lens of our company.
Because our product is focused on serving low income communities and families, we have to be really cognizant of the product that we're producing. Not only are we, you know, creating this more traditional tech product but, because our focus is centered in communities that are not often being centered by other tech companies and don't often have access to this level of like technology for a variety of reasons, we have to be cognizant of all these experiences. And, so, the reason why we center justice is to address that economic inequality that is currently being experienced by low income communities in the US. This is our way of being able to measure... And, you know, one of the hardest things about justice—and I will say this, is that it is really hard to measure, right? There are so many different ways and so many different opinions of what justice actually means.
So, for us, we're actually in the journey of finding out what does that exactly mean? How do we measure metrics against justice within our product? How do we think about accessibility? How do we think about language barriers within our app? How do we think about overall knowledge set? Because you know, people from low income communities often aren't coming from college backgrounds. And, so, you know, thinking about the diversity of education within our app, as well, and thinking about all these different factors, and making sure that we're not only centering those perspectives, but we're also making sure that our product is actually helping to improve those livelihoods, and that we're actually capturing that unique experiences that they have. And, so, I think that makes our product a little bit more robust, but also more challenging, because there's so many different perspectives that we have to weigh.
One of the things that we really do and how we center justice is through our user research. So we're a user research-heavy product. We do use the research reports every month and we actually produce those on our sites, as well. You can actually go to our blog on our site and see all the different user research studies that we have done in the past. We really do tests our users, and we do live sessions where we ask them questions about how to use our apps.
One of the saddest calls that I actually heard and experienced was just the effects inflation, and the fact that the child tax credit is being diminished, it has impacted our users in such a profound way. And it's just really sad to have to, like, you know, hear those experiences. But it empowers us, right? It reminds us that this is what we're centering our work on. And so that justice piece is about making sure we're going back to that user voice and that we really are trying to build responsible technology for those for those folks.
Caro Griffin 48:59
Yeah, because, you know, what's such a little inconvenience for someone not in that position can be such a huge hardship for someone else. And, you know, I think sometimes in tech, when we're building tech products, we like, get in our little tech bubbles with, you know... I feel like I'm gonna cause controversy no matter how I describe our salaries... [Laughs] But yeah, so I think it's so, so important to remember that in all products, but especially when your product is centering that user.
And, so, I would love to spend kind of the rest of our interview, I guess, more directly picking your brain even more than I already have...
I saw you have a background in resume writing. So, combined with your years of recruiting, I feel like I have to ask you about resumes. I'm sure you have some strong feelings about them. And I know there are people listening who either hate writing a resume or are currently working on a resume... so would love to hear your general tips and bone pics, whatever you got.
Sean Page 49:55
Yeah, no, definitely. Resume writing is so interesting, because I think, over the years, especially in the last five years, it has shifted in so many different ways. Before, with resume writing, people would always say that you have to be so formal, you have to make sure that you call out and have your references on there, you have to make sure you have an objective section on there...
Caro Griffin 50:18
Ugh, objectives... My resume has a taco on it for the record, like it has a little taco icon. So... I'm not formal. [Laughs]
Sean Page 50:26
Oh, wow, I love that. But, see, those are eye catching things that you can get away with now and especially in technology companies, right? And, so, I think it's so important for folks.... And it's going to vary based off your industry. Like, for instance, the legal and finance industries are still going to be more traditional, but we're lucky! We get to be in the technology sector where we get to play around. We get to have fun. We get to be a little bit more creative in what we do.
No matter what environment you're in, what I always tell people is you have to first start with your accomplishments. Like, what have you actually done within your role that you will be proud to say within your resume. And, if you don't even know that, then you need to start by going back to your original JD, pull that out, pull out every single bullet point that they have, and go through each bullet point and actually map out what accomplishments that you have done—currently or in the past that route back to that bullet point. And, if you start from there, you can start to really piece together your career and sort of like, you know, understand what you have done.
And, then, the way that you talk about impact is through data. It's through numbers. So, actually pulling out and saying... and like, no data number is too big or too small. Because you don't know what another company's environment is. You might think for yourself, "Oh, like, all I did was decrease the number of, I don't know, inefficiencies within a process or something by 20%." That might seem small to you, but that might be huge to an organization. You never know what you're communicating when you're pulling out those numbers. I think a lot of times, like, half the battle is your own confidence, your own sense of self.
I always remind people to keep a brag log, like, actually do this as an active practice of like writing down what you have done that you're really proud of. Really writing out the things that your managers have said, the positive feedback that they've said about you, that really makes you feel like you're doing a good job, and like having that brag blog will really help you with your resume writing.
Caro Griffin 52:25
Yeah, absolutely. I keep one of those, too. Because, yeah, it's so hard to remember in the moment, what have those victories been? You know, three months ago, six months ago, a year ago... and like, God forbid, you try to find the data associated with those victories that far away, or after you've left the company, right?
I think some people are like, "I don't have data. I don't have data." And I'm like, you know, that's fine. Like, put data in where you have it and, otherwise, still own it. There's no like, "worked with," "assisted with," like.... Girl, come on! You did the damn thing!
I like started to hesitate cursing. I'm like, "It's my own damn podcast." I can say damn if I want to say damn. [Both laugh]
But you did the damn thing! Take out all this hedging language.
Sean Page 53:05
Exactly. And the other thing that I will also say, as well, as ops people, have a cadence. Actually have a cadence when you go back and like, look at your LinkedIn profile, or your resume, whatever one you prefer, and actually update them actively so that you are constantly adding those things. Because you never know who's looking at your profile. You never know who's going to come back and look for these public-facing things. And so it's always great to have those like cadences because you're already doing the pre-work for you. It's so much better, it feels so much more positive when someone is reaching out to you and saying, "I came across your LinkedIn profile, and it looks amazing, you said all these things, and I want to go on a call..." Versus you having to sit there and go on and clicking company pages and having to, you know, manually upload things, having to type...
Caro Griffin 53:52
All the things that are in your resume, already? [Laughs]
Sean Page 53:55
Yes! Do that pre-work for yourself so that you don't have to do the work. Like, work smarter, and do that pre-work so that you don't have to worry about people having to find you. People are going to be actively looking for you because they know that you're already presenting that information in a great and palpable way.
Caro Griffin 54:19
Yeah, yeah, great point that those like small investments of time of in updating your LinkedIn every couple of months is, like, planting the seeds for the future you, right? And, hopefully, getting that LinkedIn mail about job opportunities that you actually want and helping people, you know, know... As I say, for like jobs, but also for other things too, right? Like, I stalked you on LinkedIn before I invited you on the podcast, you know!
If you put stuff out there that you want to be known for and that you want to talk about, it makes it easier for people to find you and talk about it, whether that's your job or other opportunities to advance your careers. And, actually, on that note, what advice would you give to someone who wants to do the kind of work that you do?
Sean Page 54:54
Yeah, so I would definitely tell people that there are many roles into recruitment. I kind of touched upon this a little bit, but there's so many different sub functions within recruitment.
First, you can think about like functional recruitment. So, the actual roles that you recruit for. So, like, you can be a tech recruiter, you could be a business recruiter, you can be an even as sub specialization within those two larger things like a design recruiter, or a sales recruiter and things of that nature. And then the other pieces like you can also be based off of the actual like roles themselves. For instance, you could be like an executive recruiter that specializes in finding VP or director level talent for organizations. You can do operation things like branding, program management, analytics, learning and development, things of that nature. There are so many different avenues that you can go down with in recruitment, which makes it such a special function.
One of the disservices that some organizations do is make recruiting feel as though it's a support-only organization. We're not a support-only organization, we are a cross functional organization. We touch every single part of the business from start to finish. And so we need to own that. We need to remind ourselves that we are driving the culture of this organization. We are driving business outcomes because we're bringing folks in who are then accomplishing the work so that we can continue to grow as an organization. And, so, I think it's so important for people just to do research. Like, look into all these different things, follow people like myself and others on Twitter who are recruiters. Follow the hashtag #recruiter on Twitter and you'll find an array of different recruiters out there who have a variety of different experiences, and really listening to those voices. Really hearing about the pros and cons of being recruiters because, you know, ultimately it is not always sunshine and roses. There's always, like any role, there's always a downside to our roles, as well. And so really understanding that.
And then, finally, I would say, understand the other parts of HR. The reason why I have become a strong recruiter is not just because I know recruitment. It's also because I understand operations, I understand HR. I actually have a HR certification through the HRC. So I actually have done training and learned more about benefits, about learning and development, about business development, and other areas. I take courses in understanding technical concepts. I've done so many other things to really enrich my experience as a recruiter. And, so, one of the best parts about a recruiter is you have to be someone who enjoys learning, because you're going to be learning every single day, like there's always something new, you're going to learn. So, I think it's so important for you, if you're interested in this career path, to really just pursue and like, look into all the different aspects of recruitment, and really do your own research and find the things that motivate you to do this work.
Caro Griffin 57:58
Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the reasons I love operations so much - it's an excuse to learn new things, right? It's an excuse to solve problems, to go down a little rabbit hole. And, yeah, so I'm right there with you—I'm totally that nerd taking all the classes, reading all the books, doing the certifications. When you find joy in that, it's such a natural fit, right? Because you're getting better at your job but I think it's also important to enjoy that aspect of it.
So, Opsy is all about sharing resources and learning from each other and so, you know, you've given us so much advice in this episode... I want to ask you, what are you working on this year that you'd like advice on? What are you trying to learn or get better at?
Sean Page 58:25
Yeah, that's a really great question. I think, for me, as the first true technical recruiter at my organization, one of the things that I'm learning is really how to build out the foundation of a strong talent team. How do you balance all the roles of like doing IC? But, also, I'm stepping more into a more managerial function, as well. And so like learning to balance those two things, and really trying to set up my team for success so that I can eventually go into that managerial role and be able to do that. And, so, I think, for me, that's what I'm learning is like, how to transition and how to go from being a strong IC to a strong manager, because those are two different career paths. That's what I'm kind of like focusing in on and really thinking about influencing executives, too. So I'm really thinking more deeply about how do I coach executives to do the behaviors and actions that I want them to do... which I think everyone out here wants to get better at.
And then too, also just thinking about the market itself. I know a lot of people are, like, you know, bringing down this market, they say, "Oh, it's so hard to find recruiters and engineers and all this," but I love it because it makes you have to be so creative. And you have to think of so many different creative ways. And so I'm just open to like learning even more creative ways to attract people, to bring them in, to get them excited about our culture, to get them wanting to be here. And, so, I think, for me, those are the probably the three areas that I'm trying to invest in.
Caro Griffin 59:52
I love that. I feel like you're speaking like a real recruiter. You're like, "I love this. It's not too hard. It's great." That just really goes to show that you're in the right role, I think.
And yeah, well, we're gonna put Sean's contact info in the show notes. So, if you can help with these things—if you have articles, advice, resources, please reach out to him, or within Opsy, so we can all learn from each other!
And, you know, last, but certainly not least, one of my favorite parts of the episode is that I like to end with a little brag book. It can be hard to show off your work as an operations person so this is time for us to dig into an Opsy win you've recently had, or a project you're really proud of that you, as we talked about earlier, will be naming in your LinkedIn and your resume and that you'd like to talk about.
So, I would love to dig into this and have you set the stage to start. What was the problem you were trying to solve? How did you approach it?
Sean Page 1:00:40
Yeah, definitely. One of the projects that I would love to highlight is, at my last company, which was a no code startup, I did a huge rebrand of our website. And, so, I know oftentimes people think of their website as the lifeblood of their business, but it's so funny because people create a careers page, oftentimes, and they just leave it there. They don't touch it for years. And it doesn't really communicate the current culture. his actually started because we announced a series B early last year.
I was looking through Greenhouse one day, and I said, "Hmm, this is interesting." I was pulling out some data, and I was looking at our conversion rate of candidates from our [careers page] and it was around 11%. And I was like, "That seems a little low." And so I looked at that and compared it to other sources that we had, and it was kind of in the middle of the road in terms of quality. It wasn't our worst, but it wasn't our best either. And I said, "That doesn't make sense to me. We have this strong like customer brand. We have a lot of people who are using our product. Why is our careers page numbers at 11%?"
There's not a lot of research out there. Not a lot of people publicly talk about what their conversion rate is and things like that, which makes sense. Because, oftentimes, you know, that's the things that people don't publicly talk about. But what I did was I kind of looked through and I saw like, "Okay, let me go back into Google Analytics and actually see what's going on on the webpage. What are people's behaviors? How are people clicking into our site? Where are they clicking after that? Like, where does the buck stop?"
After doing that, I really realized, "Okay, people are clicking into our page. They're looking at our page, but they're not applying. So, there's some disconnect there. We're not telling a strong enough story to convince them to actually go and apply to something." And so I said, "Okay, now that I understand and have kind of diagnosed the problem a little bit, let me actually think about this and bring in a task force of people." Because I can't do this alone, there's a lot of information that needs to be updated. There's a lot of assumptions that I have about which should be updated. And so let me bring all these players to the table. And so I brought people from our design team, folks from engineering... I had someone from our content marketing team, also our representative from our D&I team, to come in.
We all got into a room and I kind of already had a set plan. And I said, "Hey, these are all my assumptions. These are the things that I think that we should have on our page. What are your thoughts about this? How should we move forward?" And so we work together on that first MVP. We kind of looked through and said, "Okay, yeah, some of these assumptions seem sound, some of these things we might need to do a little bit more research on. Let's actually poll our employees and see what their thoughts are about how we communicate our company behaviors or values, how we are, presenting our department information and things like that."
And, so, we did that data collection piece, we got all that information from our employees, and then we realized, "Okay, great. We actually have a lot of great quotes from this. Why not put these on our site, and actually display them?" And so we kind of worked together.
And, basically, long story short, by having this cross-functional task force, we were able to then create a roadmap. We broke it down into phases, because we realized that this was a huge undertaking, everything we wanted to do from, you know, changing our company behaviors and values and how they represented on our page to showcasing our departments and understanding the different cultures within our departments to displaying our actual job pages because, before, it was actually just showing you the Greenhouse display, which is not pretty. So yeah, showing that display. And then also so well like thinking about our blogs, thinking about our awards, thinking about our D&I data that we also had.
We had to think about all these things that were kind of in separate places throughout our site, and how can we bring them together and marry them into one site? And, so, basically, long story short, we created this roadmap.
We did the smallest pieces first. Our first phase was like a 2-3 month phase where we actually went through, redid our copyright, got approval on our new company culture, our beliefs, things like that. And then, from there, we actually pivoted into the second phase, which was more focused on how we were displaying our department roles, going through and like standardizing our [job descriptions], making sure that we have the proper information there. And then, also, to our visuals on our actual site. What kind of feel do we want people to have when they come into our site? And that's when the designers came in and brainstormed and really created these really funky little, like hand-drawn drawings that they put on there, and all that stuff, which is really great. And so we worked on that.
Basically, I left before the third phase, but the third phase of that project was supposed to be actually getting like department-specific pages and actually going deeper into their cultures, actually talking about employee stories, having more live videos, and things like that. And, so, that was supposed to be the third phase. But, unfortunately, I left that company by then. But, overall, by the time we finished the second phase, we already saw an amazing result.
Our percentage of candidate conversion went from 11% to 41% within that quarter. And so that was an amazing result. Because we were able to communicate our culture better, in a more stronger way. We were able to provide examples of how our culture is represented not only through our employees' quotes, but also through our awards, through our blog posts that we had already pre-made from the previous two quarters, and having that all in one place. And then, also, the other thing was just making it much easier. Because they didn't have to click into multiple links to get to our career page, it was so much easier for someone to just be able to click once and go in and apply. And so that also made it so the usability of the page also made it so much easier for people to access those roles.
Caro Griffin 01:07:10
Yeah, I mean 11 to 40% is a huge increase and an investment, right? Because that's something you're gonna see over time, right? And, hopefully, even more after the third phase is done. That's something that... it's not a win for one month, it's a win in perpetuity. And so that's great to great to hear about.
I think the employer branding piece, because it is such an investment, it's hard sometimes to get buy in on it. So, it's great to have such a clear, "This is the win, this is what we did. And look, it had an effect!" Because, especially on your employer branding page, on your careers page, those are people who already predisposed to like you and be interested in the company and your mission. They're customer, they know about you, or they've heard about your funding, whatever it is, they're there for a reason. They're not just stumbling across you on a job board. So I love that.
Sean Page 01:07:53
Exactly. And I think the beauty of it as well was that it kind of snowballed from the fact that one of the projects that I did prior to this was our blog posts. So, I actually encouraged our team to start doing blogs, and I was pushing people to start talking about our culture. And, so, even from those small pressure testing, we would throw out a blog and seeing that we would get hundreds of views on LinkedIn or on Twitter and a bunch of likes, people re-sharing and things like that. And, so, we've seen that momentum and seeing that things then convert within our Greenhouse and seeing people convert from the blogs by asking them, how do they find out about us and things like that.
I think by having that first step of having a blog to pressure test and to showcase that Employer Branding is a thing. This is something that people want. And, so, I think it's also validating your assumptions by like trying smaller things that makes it a little bit more palatable before you start tackling the bigger task of actually trying to do a full rebrand.
And, I think, also, too, being okay with pivoting, right? I think, oftentimes, people are nervous and scared that "Oh, people don't want to know our stories. People don't want to hear. TMI!" And I think it's just remembering that like, hey, there's a reason that people are going to want to apply to our companies and, if we're not able to describe what that reason is, and why you should be excited about us, I think we're doing a poor job of like, you know, really communicating that then and translating that within our process.
So, you're already doing that pre-work again by already communicating that ahead of time so that people can go into this process knowing that "Hmm, I really have a pretty like solid understanding of what I least imagine what this culture can be like. And now I just need to validate that assumption through this actual process."
Caro Griffin 1:09:49
Ugh, speaking my languag, Sean. Validating, I love it.
Well, thank you so much for sharing that. And for coming on the podcast and sharing all this great wisdom with us. It's been great to get to know you a little bit better and learn more about your story.
Sean Page 1:10:00
Yes! I'm so glad that we were able to connect. Thank you so much for reaching out to me on Twitter. I just really enjoyed this whole conversation and love the questions. So, yeah, I just really appreciate this. I hope the listeners out here continues to listen to this podcast because I think there's just a number of different lessons that you can learn not only about recruitment, but about other areas within operations, as well. So I definitely encourage you to continue to listen and to stay tuned.
Caro Griffin 01:10:28
Well, thanks so much.
So, we'll put your contact info and and your links in the show notes, everyone. Make sure to follow Sen on Twitter or LinkedIn, I guess, if that's more your thing. And let's all get better at recruiting and build more equitable processes, please and thank you. :)
Thanks for listening to Opsy. You can find resources and links from this episode in the show notes at Opsy.work. And, while you're there, I hope you'll take a second to join our free community where we share resources and opportunities that help us all level up in our ops careers. Until next time, stay opsy, friends.
Check out our interview with Jennifer Kim to hear how she built out the people ops functional at a growing startup... and created the leading bootcamp for recruiters. 👀