Recruiting for talent is always challenging. It’s time-consuming, exhausting, and hugely gratifying when you find the right person. Despite having been involved in hiring for over two decades I’m still amazed at how the networking part of the process is still largely manual and highly inefficient. The whole process is ready for disruption.
While recruiting is hard at any company, doing so when you’re in hypergrowth mode, the process becomes all-consuming. I’ve had the honor, and challenge, of personally working at three different companies in hypergrowth mode - Salesforce.com, Anaplan, and Facebook. And, while these jobs spanned well over a decade, I was shocked to find the process had not become easier or more automated. How is that possible?
Let’s start with a couple of alarming statistics. Everyone knows that organizations rely on their talent to remain functional and competitive. At rapidly growing companies this is only intensified.
Research has shown that 40 percent of human capital leaders report that talent scarcity has negatively impacted their organization – the highest total in the past five years. In addition, a company, on average, will experience 18% turnover in its workforce annually.
The only solution right now is to throw my resources at this problem. Of course, that’s verging on irony. First you need to hire the team to handle the rest of your recruiting needs.
While working for the world’s largest social network company we were constantly hiring. In my area of expertise - User Experience Design and Research - it’s well known the educational system isn’t capable of churning out an adequate number of new professionals to fill all the available roles. This makes the competition for talent fierce. How do you stand out in the crowd? Believe it or not, this is extremely difficult even when your company has a massive global presence.
What then is the primary challenge and what could be a potential solution? In a nutshell, the hardest part of the process is finding the right person to talk to and having that initial conversation. Recruiters are tired of trying to make connections through cold outreach. It’s an onerous, time-consuming process that results in a ridiculously low response rate - and, it’s demoralizing. It’s no mystery, what recruiters want is to leverage their coworkers’ personal connections (coworkers, former coworkers, friends, family, etc.) and have them both provide a personalized introduction and an endorsement for a potential candidate.
While at Facebook, the Recruiting team tried to make this process easier for hiring managers by leveraging our teammates LinkedIn networks. This is how that process worked:
Step 1: A UX employee and Recruiter would pair up
Step 2: The UX employee would then sit with the Recruiter and go one by one through their network of UX connections on LinkedIn
Step 3: If someone looked interesting they would be added to a spreadsheet so the Recruiter (or employee) could follow-up later with an introductory message.
This resulted in a few hires, but the whole experience left me underwhelmed and planted a seed in the back of my mind - there has got to be a better way. Here are a few of the problems we encountered:
The list of connections was a minor subset of all the qualified people an employee knew. No one (well, very few) connects with all of their co-workers on LinkedIn. It is by no means a comprehensive list of former coworkers.
Many, if not most, of the connections were “weak.” Sure, they were connected on LinkedIn but when pressed for details the UX employees frequently couldn’t even remember how they knew someone. Anecdotally, the answer is usually, “I met them at an event/conference and chatted with them but know nothing about their work or skills.”
Curating an accurate and comprehensive list of people by title and seniority to target specific jobs is difficult on LinkedIn. For example, “Find all the Senior Designers I’ve worked with and know well.” The title match might work, the company association usually does, but that last point is impossible.
The whole process took a huge amount of time and yielded disappointing results.
"...the whole experience left me underwhelmed and planted a seed in the back of my mind - there has got to be a better way."
We don’t let people build arbitrary connections. Everyone in your network is someone you’ve emailed in the past. We don’t just show whether you’re connected or not in a simple binary way, we show you how well you’re connected with each person. We don’t make it hard to find current and former co-workers at specific companies. That’s literally how we structure our data.
And, to top it all off, if your recruiter wants to see who you know they just have to visit your page and we lay it out for them, by company, title, and strength of relationship. In the Facebook example above, that whole process would have been eliminated. There’s no need to sit down for hours combing through your patchy network of connections on LinkedIn. Your recruiter can do that on their own time and simply reach out with perfectly targeted requests.