All Episodes Black Crow AI Sr. Manager TA Kelsey Sorensen Kelsey Sorensen

Black Crow AI Sr. Manager TA Kelsey Sorensen


Black Crow AI Sr. Manager TA Kelsey Sorensen Kelsey Sorensen

Mastering Modern Recruitment Strategies

In this episode, Kelsey Sorensen, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Black Crow AI, shares her insights on the evolving landscape of recruitment. With over a decade of experience, Kelsey discusses her journey, the dynamics of recruiting in traditional vs. startup environments, and the importance of a relationship-centric approach. She explains why career stability is crucial for candidates, the advantages of working in startups, and the benefits of being a generalist. Kelsey also delves into how marketing enhances recruitment strategies and her methods for building a robust recruitment pipeline. Gain valuable advice and recommendations for fellow recruiters from a top performer in the field.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to Talk talent to Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Speaker 2 0:12
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

Rob Stevenson 0:22
No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment to VPs of global talent, CHROs, and everyone in between.

speaker 3 0:30
Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 2 0:39
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.

Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. And you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Welcome back, you wonderful rabble of darling recruiting munchkins out there in podcast land. It’s me, Rob, your humble host, here with another episode of your favorite recruiting podcast. I have a wonderful guest for you today. She is the Senior Manager of talent acquisition over at Black Crow AI. Kelsey Sorensen, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?

Kelsey Sorensen 1:19
I’m great. Thanks so much for having me. Rob.

Rob Stevenson 1:22
I’m really pleased to have you. And for a multitude of reasons, really, but not the least of which is that on this show? Most guests, when I asked them how they got into their current job, they tell me Well, if you told me 10 years ago that I was going to be a recruiter, I would have never believed or I would have had no idea that was even a job. Really common for people to kind of fall into this profession. You did not fall into this occupation. You fell for this occupation. And maybe it’s better, does it I’d love if you could just kind of share a bit about the story of how you wound up in the space. Yeah,

Kelsey Sorensen 1:56
I did not fall into this. It was not by accident. My junior year of college, I went on spring break. And the woman in front of me on the plane was talking to the passenger next to her and said, I’m a recruiter for Johnson and Johnson and I’m flying to an interview and I thought, wow, that is a glamorous job. I want to do that one day. And then I graduated and found a recruiting coordinator job at a agency worked agency life for about six years. You could call it many things, but no one would call it glamorous. And then move my way into corporate recruiting. And I’m here today at Black Crow.

Rob Stevenson 2:35
Not a lot of flying involved either typically in the profession.

Kelsey Sorensen 2:40
Yes, by the time I made it to corporate recruiting, it was right around when COVID hit so no travel whatsoever.

Rob Stevenson 2:47
Yeah, even if you do get to jetset for work again, it’s so unglamorous it’s like, you don’t get to go do the city you’re visiting. It’s like you’re in a hotel room, a conference hall. And if you’re lucky, like maybe one cool restaurant.

Kelsey Sorensen 3:02
Yep. Yeah, exactly. And you’re not wearing heels and suit jacket on an airplane anymore. It’s comfy clothes. Doesn’t look as glamorous as it did. 10 years ago, when I was in college.

Rob Stevenson 3:14
I have a pet peeve for folks who show up in the airport in pajamas. They’re like in their cookie monster pajama pants, but at the same time, I don’t blame them. Because it’s like airlines have taught us to that, like they’ve treated us like cattle. So people are like, oh, you know what, fine. If you’re gonna treat me like that. I’m going to dress like that, you know? Yeah, yeah. Do you remember anything else at the Johnson and Johnson recruiter shared? Or did you talk with a job at all? Or like, was it just the look, the title that kind of appealed to you?

Kelsey Sorensen 3:40
Yeah, it was just the look the title. She looked very professional. I loved that she was flying. I thought that jet set life was so exciting. So yes, as soon as I saw, I believe I saw an ad in the paper. Actually, when I first started out in recruiting, this is gonna age me, for recruiting coordinator. I was like, alright, like, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And I’m going to start out there and yeah, just really grinded it out in the agency recruitment for, like I said, six years focusing on health care, as well as some are for our recruiting.

Rob Stevenson 4:12
The agency approach to recruiting and the beginning of the recruiting career, I think is, is good, because it’s a little bit of a pressure cooker. It’s like it’s very high pressure situation, lots of different kinds of roles, lots of clients, and I feel like it’s kind of sink or swim, it’s like you will either be really good at it and stick around or you will probably burn out and so sounds like you were good at it. But do you remember like in those days, like what kind of kept you going because I know that agency life can be hard?

Kelsey Sorensen 4:39
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I was actually hired as a founding recruiter for the Minneapolis office. So I was the first recruiter I had never recruited before I went to the library to rent books on recruitment. I was like this will help me have an illusion that I’ll know what will happen before it does happen. I’ve kind of always felt that way. And I just The first day I was so nervous, so scared. By day three, I was on the phone. I just was like, who cares? Let’s see who I can get on the phone with me who will chat with me? I heard no. So many times, I developed a ton of grit. And I credit that time immensely to where I am today, I would not be here without that time in an agency recruitment.

Rob Stevenson 5:21
There are a lot of ways to perform agency recruiting shortly. But at that time, was it a volume game was like a numbers of like this many calls results in this many conversations, and we’re gonna back our way down the funnel that way?

Kelsey Sorensen 5:32
Yeah, yes, it was about 100 calls per day is what we were trying to aim I was in first I was in a two person office with four people. So making calls in that environment just allowed me to get a ton of instant feedback all of the time, that wasn’t a good call, you could have said this, you should have said this, here’s how you could have rebuttal that and then moving to a larger what an agency we call a pitch where you’re surrounded by other people, more people offering you feedback there. But yeah, just smile and dials what we used to say in the agency days,

Rob Stevenson 6:05
it’s funny that like those kind of early career moments, while in retrospect, they sound awful, you know, it’s sort of like, I feel the same way about my early career where it’s like, I would never want to go back to doing some of those things. But at the same time, I’m very thankful for it. I feel like it allowed me to kind of be where I am and then learn the business and even just become, like figured out how to be a professional you know how to speak in that way and like show up to work and in such a way smile and dial. I like that. But it’s like you got all the at bats, right? You learn to do this in like a like a lot of turnover, like you said instant feedback. And while it was maybe not fun to be in those cramped quarters, smiling and dialing, perhaps that brought you to where you are now.

Kelsey Sorensen 6:43
Yep, absolutely.

Rob Stevenson 6:45
Where are you now,

Kelsey Sorensen 6:46
I’m the Senior Manager of talent acquisition at Black Crow. I’m the founding recruiter here. I was hired to start up recruitment in house for the organization where 60 people seriously, SAS startup, it is amazing, wild ride. And I’m so glad I’m here today and being able to build something from the ground up has been extremely rewarding.

Rob Stevenson 7:08
You’re still smiling. I assume you’re also dialing but I’m guessing you’re not smiling and dialing. Is it a more low volume or relationship based approach you’re taking now?

Kelsey Sorensen 7:17
Yeah, currently, it has been so as a series, a startup, very mindful about how we’re hiring when we’re hiring, who we’re hiring. As we’ve seen the market over the past couple of years, not every company has done that. And so we’ve been really intentional about when and how we hire and who we’re bringing on and at the right time. So volume has been lower at times for sure.

Rob Stevenson 7:38
So what are you hearing from folks out there when you get on the phone? Like what is what is typical of candidates at this moment?

Kelsey Sorensen 7:44
Yeah, stability. I hear stability on nearly every single call. And to be honest, I’ve heard that since I started recruitment, this promise of is this job permanent? Letting people know

Rob Stevenson 7:56
if any job permanent.

Kelsey Sorensen 7:57
Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but that no job is permanent. And like I said, over the last few years, we’ve seen that more than more than ever, people without jobs were permanent. We’re not. And so that’s been a huge thing that’s been on people’s mind. Is this idea of of stability.

Rob Stevenson 8:12
Is that like an objection to working at a series a startup? Or are they just kind of expecting that maybe you can offer it like why? Why do you think they’re bringing it up to you specifically?

Kelsey Sorensen 8:26
Yeah, I think it’s both? And I think that’s a really great question. I think for a lot of people, stability is something we grew up hearing, we knew people that were in jobs for 30 years, and then they retired from that organization. And we’ve never really stopped to think What does stability look like? For me disability mean, doing the same thing every single day, where you’re not going to get that in a startup doesn’t mean staying in the same job for 15 years, most 10 years, under three years, that organization. So what does stability really mean to you as an individual? And then you can kind of address that the startup environment isn’t for everyone. I totally know that. But I don’t think stability means the same for every single person who brings it up in a conversation.

Rob Stevenson 9:07
Yeah, that makes sense and stability as like an objection to working for a startup that assumes like, Oh, if I go to a bigger, older, more established company, I will have stability. But guess what, those companies do layoffs, too. Like there’s, again, there’s no such thing as stability. And it’s well pointed out on your part that the average tenure at a company is like is around three years. And so when someone says I’m looking for stability, maybe what they’re really saying is like, am I gonna be able to work here for three years? And is it gonna help me get to the next thing in my career, which is sort of absolutely can do.

Kelsey Sorensen 9:42
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think stability can also be thought of as am I going to gain a ton of experience a new skill set that will help me land another job, that’s stability as well, right? If you’re more just successful in the market, you’re having a broader skill set. You’re developing new technical capabilities, whatever It might be these things will provide you stability as you continue throughout your career. I think it’s important to do your due diligence when you’re interviewing with any company, particularly a startup, what’s attainment? Like? What’s the runway, like? What’s hiring look like? Have you gone through a RIF? Have you gone through layoffs? These are important questions to ask, but really defining what disability means for me right now in my life, and then deciding if the payoff is there. If I join a startup,

Rob Stevenson 10:27
that approach you’re you’re describing, it’s like a mix of objection handling and career coaching, where you’re sort of pulling out of folks like, Okay, you’re saying this word stability, but let’s figure out what it actually means. And maybe we can still find something that works. Maybe just, there’s one, there’s one thing stability isn’t so much of like a non starter as you think it is?

Kelsey Sorensen 10:49
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think it’s important to get into that, because the last thing I want us to get to an offer stage and someone says, Well, you know, this isn’t stable enough. We really want to dive into what that looks like and be able to offer that. And also, if it’s not an opportunity for them that aligns with what stability means in their world, then that makes sense to not continue forward. But I think it’s important to, to dive deep into those questions in the beginning of the interview process to make sure that everyone’s aligned moving forward.

Rob Stevenson 11:16
Do you find that candidates are typically have typically been thoughtful about that? Or do they kind of figure it out by talking to you?

Kelsey Sorensen 11:25
I’ve found that candidates aren’t necessarily thoughtful about that prior to our conversation, I think, because it’s I’m talking to a lot of individuals who have been impacted by layoffs, maybe numerous layoffs within the last two years. So top of mind is just stability, stability, stability, and like not really digging into to what that looks like for them personally,

Rob Stevenson 11:48
you are the founding recruiter right over there at Black Crow AI. And I imagine that means you are doing stuff beyond getting on the phone with candidates and building pipeline, have you kind of been cast into that like, recruiter slash HR slash admin role that is typical in startups,

Kelsey Sorensen 12:07
yeah, I have been able to flex in many different ways that I wouldn’t have been able to do in a larger organization. If there are things that interests me, areas that I want to explore, I’m able to do that marketing, to me has always been a passion, social media, organic marketing, I think is a really big extension of talent acquisition, and they should partner together more closely. We’re trying to draw in customers, partners, and future employees. So I think that those two groups can work hand in hand more. So that’s been an area have been able to flex a little bit more and have been really enjoying it. What sort of marketing have you done? Yeah, so I’ve been able to work with our marketing team to kind of comb through gum recordings of partner calls, pull up quotes, testimonials, anything that would be good to put pretty much on our website and to have for marketing material

Rob Stevenson 12:57
was that like, in the interest of employer branding, you’re trying to figure out like, what experience people have with the product?

Kelsey Sorensen 13:04
Yeah, so from an employer branding standpoint, for sure. So being able to pull out some of those quotes from our partners that they’ve had a good experience with us been pulling ROI, just been seeing positive results, using our products in general to put on on to our website, I think that helps with attracting additional partners. But in addition to that, I think it’s great when you get on a call with a candidate. And, you know, I saw this wonderful review from XYZ on your website. I know product market fit is there. I know ROI is there. I know people enjoy working with black CRO. And that’s something I want to be a part of.

Rob Stevenson 13:38
Yeah, it’s an interesting approach. Typically, the employer branding takes the form of like, let’s spotlight someone who already works at this company, and what is their experience as an employee? It doesn’t usually involve like the, the customer brand, for lack of a better term, or like the buyer persona. But it should, because it’s like, hey, people are using this. And they really like it. You know, this is this is an important part of the pitch, right? The sale is like, here’s what the company is doing, particularly in AI, right? This is, this is going to be new and different for a lot of people. So it makes sense to be like, yeah, people like this product they’re using it like that is I mean, if you want to talk about stability, it’s like here’s our product people like Right,

Kelsey Sorensen 14:18
yeah, yeah. And from from wonderful partners, and we consider our partners an extension of black crow, right. So I think that’s really important. Even them saying they enjoy working with us gives you a good idea of what the culture is, like, hear who we are as people and gives those potential employees an idea of what it would be like to work here as well.

Rob Stevenson 14:36
Yeah, and you have to you have to really believe in the product right to take the job if you need to, and to be good at your job. You have to understand what it is you’re doing and like be proud of it right?

Kelsey Sorensen 14:46
Yeah, yeah. Oh, absolutely. Especially within talent acquisition. I find that if I’m not aligned with the product with the people if I don’t know what’s going on internally, I have a very hard time selling people into the organization, right? In some aspects, this is kind of like sales position, you’re, you’re trying to get people attracted to the company and get them signed up and have them join. And if you’re not really bought into what you’re building here, it can be really difficult to sell that vision to potential employees.

Rob Stevenson 15:17
Yeah, yeah, of course. So you are getting to try out marketing. You’re also sounds like you are doing the pipeline building. Is that typically like cold outreach sourcing? Where are these folks coming from for you?

Kelsey Sorensen 15:29
Yeah, cold outreach. I’m back to smiling and dialing. I love it. Right now. It’s been pretty heavy outbound, we don’t have, as you mentioned, like a really, a really well established employer branding. So for us, it’s really getting in front of people and telling them who black CRO is what we are, what we’re building can be a part of this. We’re not out there as much as some larger organizations. So it takes more outreach, getting people on the phone who are saying I’ve never heard of black CRO before, and really being the first person to tell them about who we are and what we do.

Rob Stevenson 16:04
recruiter, sorcerer, employer brand marketer, I mean, you kind of doing it all. But this is typical that startups right, you’re like the Swiss Army Knife approach. And inevitably, there’s going to be this like push to specialize. Maybe you’ve already heard that. It’s like, well, you know, Kelsey, you really should figure out what it is you want to work on and specialize just on that. Do you prescribe to that approach? Do you think you will narrow your focus? Or do you like kind of getting to work in a lot of different ways.

Kelsey Sorensen 16:29
I like getting to work in a lot of different ways. I love being in a startup environment where I can flex and learn different skills and work with different people, I feel like being able to do that I am so much more embedded in the company. I know what’s going on from the commercial side and the product side. And from the talent acquisition side, I kind of have my hands in all different areas of the organization, which allows me to paint a really clear picture about what we’re building and what we’re developing here to candidates. I don’t I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t know if I will ever can you go down one one specific lane and hone in on one specific area right now I’m loving kind of being a generalist and also flexing outside of that into new areas that I’ve never experienced before.

Rob Stevenson 17:19
I tend to agree with you. I definitely got the the advice that I would need to specialize. And I just agree with it. I don’t think you necessarily have to, particularly if you wanted to go into like leadership if you wanted to be like a head of director of surely you need experience in like basically everything that’s under your your directorial purview, right. And so it’s like if you specialize as a product marketer, and now you’re trying to use VP of Marketing, like how much can you speak to the paid search side? But if you’ve done it all, then you can speak to it. So I think it makes sense. It’s just being adaptable, right? It’s like showing that you can do lots of different things. Why would that ever be a bad thing?

Kelsey Sorensen 17:54
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, the best managers, the best directors, the best leaders I’ve ever had, or people that have been in my position before that have been sourcing and cold calling. And they’ve done that all before. And so if that’s an area where anyone wants to go, it’s good to have that broad expertise in several different areas, because you know, what your employees have have gone through and what they’re dealing with currently, and can speak to it from personal experience.

Rob Stevenson 18:20
Yeah, you’re right. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your direct supervisor doesn’t kind of understand what you do or doesn’t like, hasn’t walked in your shoes before. Yeah, I went through periods of time where like, I didn’t have a direct supervisor, I had to report directly to the CEO. And I didn’t mind it, because he got marketing. Like he understood content and paid search and the things that I was like really focusing on. So it was like, you know, at least we speak the same language. So sourcing, recruiting, smiling, dialing, some HR admin stuff, some recruiting marketing, you’re doing it all you are a true swiss army knife, as we’ve called out. Is that it? Is there another secret roll that you’re also doing that, that we should talk about here?

Kelsey Sorensen 18:59
Yeah, I’m doing customer success right now.

Rob Stevenson 19:03
Is that like, is that like, by necessity? Or is that by by choice? Like? Well, I was.

Kelsey Sorensen 19:08
We had a customer success manager opening. And as I was hiring for it, and trying to schedule interviews, I was like, whoa, this team has no capacity at all. Hiring volume is lower. So once we hired the new customer success manager to join the team, I also was like, all onboard with him. I’ll do onboarding next to him and help out. It’s been awesome to get to hear from our partners directly speak with our partners directly. I have so much more product knowledge than I did two months ago. And that’s been it’s been so helpful, so beneficial when I’m talking to candidates and being able to, you know, give me a high level overview. Tell me about this. Tell me about product insights. What does this look like? What’s the product roadmap look like? I have So much more knowledge than I did when I was just solely focused on talent acquisition. And it’s giving me a brand new skill set I have never had before.

Rob Stevenson 20:10
So you’re doing it all? I mean, you can’t you are it sounds like

Kelsey Sorensen 20:15
I was like Up next is engineering, I guess. But to go back to school for that,

Rob Stevenson 20:20
it also probably makes it like when you go out to recruit these folks, it’s like you can like, Hey, I’ve kind of done this job already. So I do know exactly what it is you’re getting into.

Kelsey Sorensen 20:29
Oh, yeah. Yeah. All the time. It’s yeah, great to be able to have those conversations too. Like I get it. I know what it’s like.

Rob Stevenson 20:35
So like, how much customer success are you doing? Or do you have like, your own sort of file of accounts now that you’re responsible for? Are you just like, helping out with overflow? What what is the? What is the extent of it?

Kelsey Sorensen 20:47
Yeah, I think good handful. Oh, I have about 10 accounts. Currently eight to 10. Right now that I’m managing.

Rob Stevenson 20:55
Wow. I mean, I think you need to raise?

Kelsey Sorensen 21:01
Yeah, it’s been. Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s a beauty of a startup. Like, I had no idea what I was walking into. And like I said earlier, I’ve always been a person that’s like, How can I figure out how something will turn out before I do it? And I got this opportunity. And I just knew there was no way I could say, No, the people were incredible. I believed in what they’re building, I believe in what we’re doing right now. And it’s afforded me the opportunity to really raise my hand at anything that piques my interest in the release somebody’s like, give it a try.

Rob Stevenson 21:38
Yeah, that only happens in really small startups, right?

Kelsey Sorensen 21:41
Yeah. Yeah. You know, in bigger organizations, I’ve been in bigger organizations, and they have a lot of wonderful attributes to them. I’ve gained so much experience at them, but you’re also a bit siloed. At times, you kind of stay in your lane, if you want to make new processes, I should say, for change things. It’s kind of like this is how we’ve always done it. I remember early on in my career, there was a company, we were still faxing in timesheets, and I was like, this is really archaic. There has to be a better way to do this. And they’re like, this is how we’ve always done it. But it was just a huge organization. So it was like you can’t change it. Right? And in a startup environment, if something isn’t working generally you’re like, Alright, let’s try something different. Yeah, of course,

Rob Stevenson 22:24
this is how he’s always done it right. Like they said that about horses and buggies too.

Kelsey Sorensen 22:29

Rob Stevenson 22:31
Well, Kelsey, I mean, sorcerer, recruiter, product marketer, customer success. I mean, like, Forget Director of Talent, like, I feel like you are being groomed for CEO at this point.

Kelsey Sorensen 22:42
Yeah, yeah. I don’t know if I can handle that. But I am always willing to raise my hand and try something new.

Rob Stevenson 22:48
It is an exciting thing about working at startups. And like you said at the beginning, it’s not for everyone. But I don’t know if that sounds exciting to you. If you want to try out lots of different things, then. I think people particularly earlier in their career, it’s a great way to get your feet wet and really figure out what it is you like Kelsey, this has been a delight having you on the podcast. I’ve really loved hearing about your experience. So thank you so much for being here. And for your candor and for sharing all of it with me. I’ve loved hearing about it.

Kelsey Sorensen 23:12
Yeah, thanks so much, Rob. This has been wonderful.

Rob Stevenson 23:16
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