Ashlyn discussesthe process of poaching, negotiation and salary expectations, and Ashlyn’s ‘everybody wins’ approach, as well as how Altruist’s onboarding and training philosophy provides a safe space for new hires to say “I don’t know.”
[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent To Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontlines of modern recruitment.
[00:00:12] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions, where are they willing to take risks, and what it looks like when they fail.
[00:00:22] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment, VPs of global talent, CHROs, and everyone in between.
[00:00:31] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.
[00:00:39] MALE: Talent acquisition, it’s a fantastic career. You are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C-Suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between, and everybody knows you.
[00:00:52] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent To Me.
[00:01:00] RS: Joining me today on this latest installment of Talk Talent To Me is Senior Talent Partner, general delight, icon, Ashlyn McIntosh. Ashlyn, welcome to the podcast. How are you?
[00:01:13] AM: I’m good. Thanks for having me. This is really exciting. How are you doing?
[00:01:17] RS: I’m so great. Thank you for asking. Just podcasting my little heart out. A little bit sick but I hope you can’t tell. I hope it’s not too obvious but I’m powering through it, you know.
[00:01:26] AM: No. I couldn’t tell at all. How are you feeling?
[00:01:29] RS: Not great. Just like sore throat, lethargy, but just powering through. I work from home now, so you can’t really get sick day.
[00:01:37] AM: I feel like everyone I know has gotten a cold now that we’re like slightly back in the world. Everyone’s just getting minor colds and allergies and things like that and just being generally uncomfortable. It does not seem fun.
[00:01:53] RS: That’s been my experience too. Maybe we need to start wearing masks again, like regardless of what our local governments say. I didn’t get sick for a year and a half. Like maybe I just need to be a mask person now.
[00:02:01] AM: Yeah. No. I think that’s kind of what we’re realizing is that maybe we would have eradicated the common cold if we had just been wearing masks. When I used to take the train to work and stuff, I feel like I was sick all the time. Now, I’m just, “Oh, I haven’t been sick in 18 months. This is amazing.”
[00:02:20] RS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s amazing what not touching that metal pole on the subway can do for a person.
[00:02:27] AM: And being like crammed in between 30 people with a 10-person capacity limit. It’s insane.
[00:02:34] RS: Yeah, recycled air. Yeah. It’s not ideal. Also, all those times I didn’t wash my hands. Now, when I get in the house, if I don’t wash my hands right away, I’m like conscious of it because I’m just like spreading filth throughout my whole home.
[00:02:46] AM: Yes. I can’t look at my phone the same way anymore. I just need to wipe it down with alcohol at all times. I’m disgusted by myself at this point. I just need to scrub myself with bleach at any given time. God, I hope that makes it into the podcast.
[00:03:03] RS: I mean, forget making it into the podcast. I did those 30 second audiograms. I think that’s going to be pulled out. I am disgusted with myself at all moments. Click, subscribe.
[00:03:19] AM: Click, subscribe, followed. Oh, my god. Amazing.
[00:03:23] RS: We could talk about personal hygiene or lack thereof for the next 35 minutes. But I think at some point, we’re supposed to deliver what’s on the side of the truck here.
[00:03:31] AM: That’s right.
[00:03:31] RS: I would like to talk to you about your role and kind of how you got to where you are now. Ashlyn, for the folks at home, would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and kind of how you came to your current role and then the company and all that?
[00:03:42] AM: Yeah. I have no idea how I got here. It’s been a 12-year blackout. Now, I’m just here during things. So I actually dropped out of high school when I was about 16. I got really lucky and had someone take a chance on me, doing really basic data entry work at a financial firm and quickly rose through the ranks there and ended up getting my GED. I went back to college and stayed there for about six and a half years. Love them very much. Eventually, I kind of decided I think I might want to get into the HR side of things like, “What do I really want to do. I want to help people. How can I do that?”
Google at the time had like a relatively new model of how they’re retrieving employees and everything else. I knew that I wanted the stability of corporate. Both of my parents were music industry folks for a long time, so I really craved stability and not going to work at all hours of the night to see shows and things like that, as fun as that was. So I ended up going back to Loyola Marymount University, and I did their HR program and got really lucky. I made the transition over to my next firm, Abacus Wealth Partners, where I was their head of people for almost three years. I had a great experience there, really good people.
But eventually, I just decided I really want to get into tech and I realized that I had fallen in love with recruiting much more than traditional people operations. I started looking around within the tech world and seeing where I could get in as a recruiter and eventually found a tech firm in Santa Monica called PatientPop, where I became a recruiter there, and then was quickly poached by TeleSign. Then I, again, was not really actively looking and got approached by my current manager who is the Director of Talent over here at Altruist and decided to make that move because we had such a wonderful group of people and really wanted to build something special. So, here I am now and absolutely loving it.
[00:06:04] RS: Can I ask you about the process of getting poached?
[00:06:07] AM: Yeah. For my current role, I actually had a coordinator in common with my now director. So, my coordinator when I was at PatientPop was my director’s coordinator at her last company. I’m not going to divulge too much of her information, but she – Our mutual coordinator put us in touch and said, “You guys need to talk.” Because I trusted that person so much, I decided to have the conversation, even though I wasn’t really actively looking. Yeah, it just felt right. I think that before that, when I had been poached, it was kind of a similar experience where my manager reached out to me, and we just really hit it off, and it became hard to say no. It just felt like a really good fit.
[00:06:58] RS: The reason I ask is because there’s a lot of poaching going on in this particular moment for recruiters. Right now is a great time to be looking for a job in recruitment. Everyone is hiring recruiters. So, if I have a full-time job as a recruiter and I’m looking at a bunch of LinkedIn DMs and cold outreach and whatever, people are trying to do that poaching, you might consider it. So, I’m just curious. Where were you in your career where you were like, “Okay, I’ll indulge this conversation.” Were you just kind of like it’d be logical to cultivate many options, or were you dissatisfied at your present role? Why did you decide to indulge that poachery?
[00:07:36] AM: That’s a tricky one because I don’t want to say anything negative. At my first role that I was poached from, I definitely felt like – I don’t know if I can say this on the record. I felt like layoffs were coming, and it turned out that they were. I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I didn’t have any confirmation that that was going to happen, and I had kept pressing my manager and some other people about, “Do you know of anything? What’s happening?” Then, I gave notice, and two days later they laid off nearly my entire team.
I think also part of it really has just been following my gut personally, and my intuition has always been pretty good. It was more about right place, right time. I had already turned down a lot of recruiter InMails and things like that. I think when people hit you in the right moment, even if it’s on – you’re just having an off day or something like that. We’ve talked about that within my current team, where it’s basically like we need to be giving the best employee experience possible because all it takes is one bad day, and suddenly somebody is responding to a recruiter InMail. You have to be really careful about the kind of employee experience that you’re providing people or else they do have options. We all have options right now. It’s a really hot market. So being more intentional about keeping people, being more intentional about hiring people, I think all of that is a really big deal.
[00:09:12] RS: That’s such a good point that it only takes one bad day. That’s exactly how I wound up at Hired back in the day. Matt Hughes, who was just on this podcast, was then running talent at Hired, and we were just catching up as friends, like getting a drink or something. Just by happenstance, that day was the day that the CMO at my then company left, and I was like, “We can’t seem to keep someone in this role. I don’t want to be bossless and directionless and not having a real boss for the next however long.” It was just great timing. So, then, when he was like, “We have this role,” I was like, “Okay, yeah. I’ll check that out.” Because if it had been a week earlier that he had said that, then who knows, right? I might not have been in the mood to say yes.
I like what you said about how just reiterating how important your candid experience, keeping all of those interactions positive, and even like checking in with your people to be like, “If someone comes along, are you going to indulge that? Am I going to maybe be having to backfill you because someone just came along at the right moment?”
[00:10:08] AM: Right. I think it’s also important, especially in the startup world, to be really cognizant of what your candidates are looking for in terms of is this person solely money motivated or are they mission motivated? Because people who are money motivated – and that’s fine. I’m not knocking that. Get your bag. I’m all for it. But ultimately, those are the people who are going to be more likely to respond to another recruiter and find out if they can go make more elsewhere, which is a risky hire, honestly.
[00:10:42] RS: Yeah, exactly. You expect to pay people competitively. But if someone’s kind of like a mercenary, then it’s like, “Okay. If that’s their only lever, then someone else is going to pull that lever,” right?
[00:10:52] AM: Right, exactly. We’re seeing more of that after, not that we’re out of the pandemic, but post-COVID hitting and affecting the job market and everything else. We’ve seen a lot more of that. People want more time to spend with their families, to spend on their creative side, whatever it might be. Now, they’re really viewing their job as just a job and more of a paycheck than anything else, which, again, all power to that. But my opinion is that you still spend so much of your time at your job, even if it is from home, that hopefully you’re putting a little bit more thought into that and being careful about who you want to spend your time with and what you want to be associated with and everything else.
[00:11:41] RS: Yup, exactly. So, you are senior talent partner. There’s also director of talent at your company. What is the difference? How are your roles sort of separated?
[00:11:51] AM: She’s fancier than me. She is my manager, and I love her. She’s an amazing mentor. She basically is running the vast majority of strategy for our talent team and working on the metrics that we use and really building everything out from the ground up.
I think part of the reason that I love working with her so much is that she recognizes that all of us have different strengths in different areas. So she comes to me for feedback on things, and it’s not just one of those situations where a manager is very much like, “Oh, it’s my way or the highway. I’m just going to implement whatever I want, and you’re going to have to deal with it.” It’s very collaborative and it’s very much a partnership.
We’re still small enough that she is still actively working on her own roles too, which it is kind of nice to have somebody in the trenches with you also and going through that. But, ultimately, the goal is for her to spend more time working on the more strategic aspects and overall oversight of the department versus just being kind of boots on the ground.
[00:13:01] RS: Got it. What’s the rest of team look like? Are you also in this cadre of people who are desperately trying to fill talent roles?
[00:13:08] AM: Yes. I am definitely that person. We just hired. He started today. We just hired a senior person on the tech side of things, so kind of my counterpart but working on tech while I work on business and operational roles. I also just got assigned offer from a talent acquisition associate, so working on probably some more junior levels with her and really just creating an experience where she can learn and grow and do all of that good stuff. Then, in addition to that, we have a talent coordinator. We’re also still in a spot where we’re working with a couple of agencies and retained recruiters just to have that extra help since we are so busy.
[00:13:54] RS: Got it. So, those two hires you just made, what was their job search like? Were they looking at a bunch of different companies? Did you have to get competitive with folks to land them?
[00:14:03] AM: Yeah. It was definitely competitive, especially on the tech side. Tech recruiting right now is such an insanely hot job market, so that one got very competitive very fast. But I just knew that he was right for our team and everything. I think, for me, when it comes down to being competitive, I still always want the candidate to make the right decision for themselves and their long term. I don’t get very pushy. I just try and be a sounding board for my candidates and make sure that they feel good about the decisions that they’re making. I’m really just here to provide feedback and try and be malleable if they have asked for more or anything like that.
But we also have the philosophy of kind of coming in with our best offer and not forcing people to negotiate because I think that that automatically puts people in a weird spot. I know it’s really traditional for our industry but, at the end of the day, it gives people a weird feeling to have to come in on the foot of I’m fighting for my paycheck. I just don’t think we need to do that to people. I think we should pay people what they’re worth and call it a day, hopefully.
[00:15:21] RS: Yeah. I’m hearing more and more of just the removal of negotiation, right? In terms of base pay anyway, like there’s other stuff that you can find we’ll negotiate. But I think just like the rates for someone’s compensation are being more leveled, I guess, more just expected. Because, as we know, like certain individuals are more likely to ask for more, and then you’ve just propagated paying inequity.
[00:15:48] AM: Yeah. Well, let’s be very real about this. Forcing people to negotiate is inherently sexist and racist. There are going to be far less women who are comfortable negotiating. There are far less people of color who are comfortable with negotiating. Unfortunately, our society has really propagated this ‘you get what you get and you don’t get upset’ mentality around certain groups and only certain groups. Then, as you said, it just continues pay inequity. It’s a cycle that never stops, and people really need to be better about putting salary bands together, being transparent with them, and hiring people for what they’re worth. That’s just that. It’s very simple to me.
[00:16:33] RS: Yes. We can get into the systemic reasons why that is or maybe someone should just read a history book, right? Read the right kind of history book, if you’re uncertain why that is. But there’s all sorts of data that supports this, that certain individuals from various demographics are less likely to ask for more. Thus, they don’t get more. Even within privileged groups.
I’ve had other white male friends react to me being like, “Oh, yeah. Just ask for more. Just like ask for it. Worse they say is no.” I’m like, “What, you can do that? You’re supposed to do that?” But that is still an elite. I have access to that information, that you should ask for it. It’s still like limited to someone like me who has access to it. No matter which way you slice it, it’s just – you’re encouraging pay inequity because who knows whether you’re supposed to ask for it and then, of course, the bias of whether they get it, right? Like the person who’s giving the offer, whether they concede that negotiation as well is another half of it.
It’s interesting when we start talking about things like removing the negotiation. Then also, do we remove the whole ‘what are your expectations for pay?’ when you’re on the phone screen, for example?
[00:17:41] AM: That’s a tricky one. I still tend to lead with that because, especially working in a startup environment, some of our bands are probably more flexible. When we get into the conversation of should we all be listing salary bands on job descriptions? Well, yeah, I definitely see the benefit within that, but then, at the same time, we might be able to flex that number for the right candidate. Not everyone is qualified for the top level band, but everyone sees the top level number and thinks they can or should get it. So, that gets to be tricky too.
I still personally like to lead with, “What are you looking to make?” Then I or the hiring manager or whomever can ultimately make the call of ‘we can do that’ or ‘we can’t do that’ or ‘that doesn’t really make sense for their level of experience,’ whatever it might be. But I think that giving bands directly can be really challenging for especially people in a startup environment, where you do have a lot more flexibility.
[00:18:51] RS: I guess the asking their compensation expectation is really only problematic when they are way underselling themselves or when they’re selling themselves short because that’s like, “Okay, you expect to make this, but this is what we have budgeted. So, you’re going to be at this at the minimum.” Is that your approach? Are you having to coach people and advocate for like, “Okay, you’re asking for 30k below what we think you should be making here. So, rather than just get you at like 70k instead of 100, for example, like we’re going to hold your hand a little bit so that you know what you’re worth.”
[00:19:26] AM: Yes. 100 percent. It is something that I see much more commonly with women and specifically women of color. It is way more common to get these really incredibly low asks for people who, I look at their experience, and I think they might be too expensive for me. I think that letting people know ‘you can do better’ is really important. I think that we have had such a mentality within our society because of capitalism that, if one person wins, it means you can’t win when, in reality, there’s room for all have us to win. Why would I hold somebody back from that?
Also, the other thing that’s been happening is people are asking for quite literally legally low amounts. We do all, in every state, I believe, have white collar minimum salary requirements. If someone is getting paid on salary, they need to make above a certain amount, and I won’t get into numbers because that’s so state-to-state dependent. But, ultimately, I get on calls all the time where I’m just like, “Wait, they’re paying you what? That’s literally not legal.” Then that turns into a whole other conversation of “I legally cannot pay you that little. So, you’re going to be making 10, 15, 20 more than you asked for because I can’t even get close to that with a 10-foot pole. Or else we’re in legal red zones.”
[00:20:54] RS: Yeah. Yeah. I’m trying to put myself in the mind of someone who would try and get someone like a knockdown rate, right? I don’t understand what the compulsion is. It’s not your money. What do you care? Is it about like feeling they say everyone in a negotiation needs to feel like they won something? But again, what’s the point? What do you take away from that as a recruiter if someone comes in at like the top of your comp band or even just something that represents a step-up for them?
[00:21:22] AM: I think that there are companies that reward their recruiters for costing the company less money. I don’t necessarily think those are smart companies. I think that smart companies hire the ideal talent for whatever their company is for what they’re worth. Then they can retain people because the other thing is when you – Let’s say you’re an accountant, and you probably came out of school with a bunch of other accountants. Now, you find out that all of your other accountant friends are making $20,000 more than you. You immediately know you can probably go make the same thing, so why would you not? Then you don’t retain talent.
People talk. People find out. It’s also, at least in the State of California. I don’t know about countrywide, but no one can legally withhold you from talking about your salary with your coworkers. I think that we all should be talking about salary with our coworkers to make sure that we’re paid fairly and that there aren’t these massive discrepancies because we’ve created such a taboo around asking what you make, and money is really sensitive for many reasons. But I think, ultimately, we’re holding ourselves back from getting paid fairly in a lot of these circumstances.
[00:22:48] RS: Yeah, exactly. Keeping your salary to yourself really just allows organizations to pay people unequally, right?
[00:22:54] AM: Exactly. None of us need to be benefiting companies in this way. We should all be looking out for each other and making sure that we’re all – Again, there’s room for all of us to win. Why wouldn’t we do that?
[00:23:11] RS: Yeah, yeah, exactly. The utility then when you are soliciting from someone, what their expectations are, which is a different question from like what are you making. Can you speak a little bit more about what the utility of learning that is in a world where you don’t negotiate?
[00:23:26] AM: Yeah. I just want to make sure that I’m coming in where they want to be. When we do get to the point of I’m making you an offer, I want you to accept the first time. So I’m going off the number that you gave me originally. If I can’t meet that number, I’m going to talk through it with you and just say, “Hey, here’s why our actual band was X amount lower than this, but we’re trying to make it up in this way. Is this okay with you? Are you comfortable with this?” versus trying to get them to negotiate. I would rather have a safer space and an open conversation, open dialogue, versus an argument, ultimately.
I think that that’s a lot different. Asking “what do you want to make?” is significantly different than “what do you make?” The “what do you make?” question is also, again, illegal in the State of California, so can’t do that. But also, there’re a lot of people who know that they’re vastly underpaid, and I would rather know where they would like to be than where they are.
[00:24:31] RS: Gotcha. So, you’ve extended the offer. You’ve had a couple of people signed up in the last couple weeks it sounds like. How are you thinking about onboarding and spinning up your new town hires?
[00:24:43] AM: I’m so excited about this. So, last week, me and my current team spent a ton of time putting together a bunch of onboarding documents. I really think that the easiest way when you’re building out a new team to prepare for that is to take bits and pieces from old companies that you’ve been at. I know that I’ve had a really good onboarding experience at a couple of my old companies. I chopped and screwed some of their documentation to fit us a little bit better. Nothing proprietary, no secret information, just some outlines and things like that.
But I think, ultimately, knowing that you’ve come from a really structured company and moving into a company where you’re trying to create structure, you do need to borrow a little bit and get guidance from places that have done it right in the past. That’s always making it easier and I think ultimately creating a much better onboarding experience for our new hires, who we’re just so excited about. We, of course, want them to have the best experience from day one and to really be set up for success, ultimately.
[00:25:58] RS: Is that just sort of like here’s how to get fired up at this company? Or are you preventing actual like skills-based training? Is there some spinning up that has to happen there?
[00:26:08] AM: It’s skills-based training, so it’s a little bit of both, and we actually have a dedicated onboarding person on our team. He’s amazing. He handles a lot of the more general employee onboarding. We’re more focused on skills-based training, training on our systems, and things like that. I use Greenhouse as our ATS. So we have a whole section on Greenhouse, which, if somebody has already used it, they probably don’t need it but, if it’s new to them, that could be really helpful.
Just trying to build everything out in as much detail as possible so that people can refer to that and obviously come to us if they have questions. But it can also be pretty self-guided at that point, which is kind of better for everybody. Of course, we’re always around. If someone learns differently and needs to hear it in a different way, that’s totally fine. But I find that, especially with virtual onboarding, most people would rather take some time to themselves because onboarding can be so overwhelming in general.
[00:27:10] RS: Yeah. Now that you mentioned it, I don’t think I’ve ever been offered documentation or training on a company’s stack when I got there. It’s like, “Okay, here are all the various tools we use. Here are your logins.” Maybe I like sit down with someone for like an hour max to walk me through, “Here’s how you use HubSpot or something.” But I was never like actually trained. I think it’s more common than people realize.
[00:27:36] AM: It is more common than people realize. I think it’s much more common. I mean, shout out to Greenhouse. They have a ton of their own amazing onboarding material. So, we just kind of link back to their site a lot of the times to show how do you use this. Or they even have some really great YouTube videos, things like that, and we just throw the link into our own training. People can utilize it if they want. If they don’t need it, totally fine, but at least it’s there, and you don’t have to search for yourself like, “Oh, my god. I’ve never used Greenhouse before. How do I do this? I don’t want to ask anyone in case they think I should know already.”
Especially for more junior employees, that’s a nerve-racking thing. They get really caught up on, “Do they think I already know this? I don’t want to look stupid. They’re going to lose faith in me.” So, they end up trying to do all these things on their own because they don’t want to make a fool of themselves. I think companies need to be more cognizant of that too in creating a welcome space for people to say “I don’t know” so that they don’t flounder. Ultimately, that’s setting people up to fail, and then they wonder why they fail.
[00:28:48] RS: Yes, yes, exactly. What is it beyond the stack? Is there anything about like, “Here’s how we interview. Here’s the Altruist way of doing things.” Is there anything in that regard?
[00:28:58] AM: Yeah. My director actually wrote up a whole official Altruist pitch so that they can refer back to that and obviously restate it in ways that are more comfortable for them. But essentially, here is what we’re all about. Here is what we’re trying to sell people on. Beyond that, I’ve created a basic structure for phone interviews and included a little scorecard that I made myself and the one that I typically use on my initial calls with people. I hope that our new hires like it.
Yeah, just really the basics there and the way that we go about things that walks them all the way through, “Here’s how you do your recruiter screen. Here’s how to move people through the process. Here’s the way that we handle offers. This is our philosophy. This is our compensation philosophy. This is our offer philosophy,” all of those different things. So they really have an end-to-end oversight of what they’re getting into.
[00:29:59] RS: Gotcha. Well, Ashlyn, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length here. Just the last 30 minutes has flown by. At this point, I would just say thank you so much for being yourself, for your candor, for dialing in, and sharing all of your awesome experience and expertise with us. I really loved chatting with you and learning from you today.
[00:30:17] AM: Happy to. It’s always great talking to you, and I hope that we get to again. Maybe not recorded and I can say less appropriate things.
[00:30:27] RS: We can do Talk Talent To Me Nights, after hours.
[00:30:32] AM: After hours, where Ashlyn just yells about social justice and pay and equity.
[00:30:38] RS: A lot of people don’t know this about me. I have a third podcast where I monologue about my fears surrounding late stage capitalism, but my therapist is my only subscriber and I pay him to tune in.
[00:30:50] AM: Oh, my god. Oh, my god. I would go on that. I would listen to it. I would pay a Patreon for that.
[00:30:57] RS: I was going to say, if I have the Patreon for cyber recording – Yeah, I’ve never said to my therapist, “Should we be recording this?” But maybe I should try that this next session.
[00:31:08] AM: I feel like that could be a total podcast, just me talking to my therapist. Actually, mine would get too dark. Nobody needs to hear what I say to my therapist. I pay my therapist, so they can go to therapy and at the end of the day.
[00:31:21] RS: Yeah, exactly. It’s just a big pyramid scheme.
[00:31:24] AM: Exactly.
[00:31:28] RS: All right, Ashlyn, this has been a delight. Thank you again, and I will have you back on anytime. It’s been a blast.
[00:31:33] AM: Always good to talk to you. I’ll talk to you soon.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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