Dropbox Director of Technical Staffing Mike Moriarty

Mike MoriartyDirector of Technical Staffing, Dropbox

Mike Moriarty explains how he distributes sourcing bandwidth, how his team sells candidates beyond compensation, and how assessing for company values ensures higher retention rates.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Rob Stevenson: Hello again, you wonderful rabble of talent acquisition pros. Rob Stevenson here at the helm of your favorite recruiting podcast, and I am tucked away in my cozy recording studio here at Hired HQ, and I could not be more happy to be broadcasting more recruitment content into infinity for all of you. I have a great episode lined up for you with a wonderful guest; I can’t wait for you to hear it. But before I do that, I probably should give a little background on what it is I’m doing here for those of you who may be joining us for the first time.

00:32 RS: Here’s all you really need to know if this is your first Talk Talent To Me episode. Every week I bring in my favorite people in the recruitment space, directors of recruitment, heads of talent, VPs of HR, all manner of talent titles, really. And they join me in the studio, we flip on the microphones, shoot the recruiting breeze, hope for the best, and cover all sorts of campaigns, and metrics, and diversity initiatives, and you name it. All in all, they do one thing in particular…


01:02 RS: Talk Talent To Me. And this week on the podcast I have for you Dropbox’s Director of Technical Staffing, Mike Moriarty. And Mike is working on some really interesting things over at Dropbox. They are building out processes that will serve the talent organization over the next few years, as opposed to focusing just on filling all their immediate needs, which tends to take up a lot of the focus when you’re growing as fast as Dropbox has lately. He’s also put into place some really interesting division of responsibility among his sourcers and recruiters. For example, only the evergreen roles, the always-on roles that we’ll always be recruiting for, receive a dedicated sourcer. Why is that? Mike will tell you. This was an interesting one to record and I hope it’ll be just as interesting to listen to. So let’s get down to it, shall we? Please give a warm TT2M welcome to Dropbox’s Director of Technical Staffing, Mike Moriarty.


02:12 RS: Mike Moriarty, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for calling in.

02:15 Mike Moriarty: I appreciate you having me, Rob, I’m really excited to be here.

02:17 RS: Yeah, me as well. And I’m especially excited because since the last time we spoke a few weeks ago, you’ve been promoted, is that right?

02:25 MM: That’s correct, yes.

02:26 RS: Congrats.

02:27 MM: Thank you very much, I’m really excited and honored to take the position.

02:31 RS: What’s the new role?

02:32 MM: I was promoted to a director role. So previously I oversaw all of international engineering hiring solely, and now have since inherited all IT services domestically. So I’ve added a couple resources to my team and we oversee all of that side plus engineering, so we are rebranded as a Director of Technical Staffing is my new title.

02:57 RS: Got it. So then are you responsible for a whole slew of new recruiters also, since there is that consolidation happening?

03:02 MM: A slew is a bit much, it’s a pretty small team. But yes, I’ve inherited some folks over there that we’re trying to incorporate amongst our culture. We have some different processes and things like that that were looping the business, as well as the staffing side, too, so it’s quite the challenge. But so far it’s gone really well, and there’s excitement on both sides of the fence.

03:22 RS: Great. So where do you start when that happens? Do you need to go understand what are the hiring processes of those other teams, what their needs are? How do you make sure that you’re best set up to serve them as their director?

03:33 MM: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. For me, my default’s data. So I dug into the past, I looked over the past probably six quarters, and just saw what they did, did meaning how many hires they had, decline rate, pass rate, where they got their hires from I think is something that I needed to know: Are people applying online, are they referring other people, are we sourcing passive talent, where’s the challenges there? So I grabbed it and obviously just gave a view of what I saw, then I got… We had someone else previously owning that, so I got a download from her. And then I sat with the client and just went and heard her side, and we aligned on some good things and some opportunities that we both saw. The data validated most of her challenges and opportunities, and it’s really set us off to a pretty clean start so far of where and how we’re trying to grow for our ATS over the next two years.

04:30 RS: Where in Dropbox is your data managed and interpreted? Because I’ve heard all different things from different organizations. For recruitment specifically, is it coming out of your ATS, are you building spreadsheets, do you have CRM? What are you… How are you managing all this?

04:45 MM: Yes, all our data is managed through our own data… Basically through our CRM as well as our ATS. We use Greenhouse currently, which we’re happy with, and then we use a tool called Gem, which formerly [05:00] ____ some out for ZenSourcer. All of that data sits on our platform back in San Francisco, and we have a people analytics team that reports into our people function that work with us to make sure we have reporting and capabilities there.

05:16 RS: Got it, makes sense. Yeah, just curious about that, because I hear all kinds of different things about, well, it’s mostly in our ATS, but then also our sourcers are updating their own personal spreadsheets, or we have this Gmail, or this Google Sheet or whatever, just to track it from all these different places, and that can be hectic, so just curious about that.

05:34 MM: No, it’s a good question. So I think it’s a common challenge amongst all staffing companies, and once you hit a certain scale it becomes different, there’s different solutions. I would say from a Greenhouse, using a third-party tool, we’re about… I think we’re their largest client, largest amount of users and amount of data in there. I know Uber moved away from them in the last year and a half just because they were so big it made sense for them to make their own and manage it. But from our side, we did use our own spreadsheets; we did do those things initially when I was here about a little over two years ago. We’ve since been able to partner with companies like Gem to automate a lot of the passive side of our reporting that previously wasn’t being captured. And then we work with, obviously, Greenhouse and their API to pull that information out, and then we use mainly Tableau to visually represent that information, sometimes Google Sheets if we can’t figure it out in Tableau. But that’s usually how we house and manage and visualize all our data.

06:33 RS: Got it. Okay, well, I am curious about Dropbox, specifically outside of your individual tools, because Dropbox has gone through this immense growth as you geared up for the IPO, this period of hyper-growth where it was probably just dozens of open roles, or maybe even hundreds. And now I suppose there’s a point where that kind of growth… It doesn’t slow but it levels off a little bit, it’s not as hectic and explosive. So are you looking at a longer-term road map to build out processes as opposed to hyper-growth now?

07:04 MM: Yeah, I think it’s a great question, Rob, because I think the big thing about my job, why I’m in this seat, is ’cause I work really well with the EPD leaders to forecast, but we’re not solving for today, we’re solving for 2021 when, if we’ve grown at 15%-25% every year, what the attrition might look like then, what our processes need to be then, and what the sheer end count needs to be to deliver a high-quality product… My product is people, at that point. So we always have roles open, and then it’s my job to make sure we’re resourced is obviously the number one challenge and making sure I have enough talented, wonderful, warm bodies that are good at their job. But then we have processes in place so that productivity per resource manages the expectations that we need to go as we grow. So it’s not just a sheer throw more people at the problem, which I think you can get into in this game, it’s sometimes how do I get more out of my people by the process to making sure I’m not just spending money to put more… I’m not putting people to just solve the inefficiencies of my process to hire at scale.

08:11 MM: And so, that’s the dance we look at, honestly, like I said, my job every quarter. I probably do it every month, just ’cause that’s how my brain works. But I’m always trying to figure out productivity per resource is the metric that I live and die by, and making sure that I’m scaling that so my ROI of what I spend on my staffing team is essentially in the positive is my goal, and going in the right direction. So I look at it very much like my own business within Dropbox.

08:41 RS: Sure. So what are some of those processes you’re setting up?

08:43 MM: So the big thing for us is, where we’re starting to debate about, and I think smaller companies can appreciate this, is you’re trying to get the perfect candidate for the perfect role. And that perfect candidate needs to have coded in COBOL back in the ’90s, and these other things that are just kind of… Sometimes it might make sense for that specific role, but it doesn’t really scale. So what we’re trying to look at is how do we hire more holistically across a level based on years of experience and background as well as a general skill set? So if you’re an SRE, a Site Reliability Engineer, what are 60%-70% baseline knowledge technical stuff that you need to have for you to be successful here? And then what is the other stuff that we look for? Problem-solving, collaboration, partnership, those types of attributes paired with that. As opposed to those being nice to haves, we’re looking at them from more need to haves, but taking away some of the technical demands that we have for every role being different.

09:44 MM: So I wanna be able to hire four SREs that can perform at that level, and they can really go to any SRE team, versus each one of those four being a different snowflake. It’s really hard for us to find that person at the right time at scale. And so those are the conversations and things that we’re moving towards to hire at a more efficient click and making sure that people can fill in the gaps of what that COBOL experience that they’re lacking. But they know problem-solving, they’ve know how to collaborate, and they can figure it out. That’s where we’re trying to grow towards.

10:16 RS: It seems like level-setting for those roles for which you’re going to be hiring many of would not just help the efficiency of your own team, but it would allow you to set salary expectations across the board and eliminate some kinds of biases that would crop up when you have these one-off, oh, well, we do need an SRE, but we need one of them to do this specifically, and there’s just… If it’s the same role, do you really need that unique specialization? It sounds like at Dropbox the answer might be no?

10:48 MM: Well, and it’s now a conversation, at least. So what we have is… It helps my productivity per resource to where I can be more predictable and what I can hire and resource the team appropriately. So if I have this one-off role, and a bunch people are focused on it, and we get it filled quickly but I have 15 on-sites sitting behind it of a role I don’t have anymore, that’s really an inefficient use of their time and productivity. So if they really do need that COBOL experience, that’s fine. We make sure the VPs are signed off, that that is a snowflake, to keep the analogy consistent. And then we just… How we resource for that is differently. So our philosophy for the roles that are always open, we call those evergreen roles, we basically look at… We look back. And in my mind, this is my training from previous to Dropbox, was I don’t want sourcers on a non-evergreen role.

11:40 MM: And what makes it evergreen for us is if a role has been open and has a percent of the total demand over a period of time. So for us, let’s just say it’s over… 8% of my total demand is SRE, and it’s been over 8% for a trailing three quarters, you’re anointed evergreen, you get sourcers, I can have sourcers pipelined on this, and just keep it open, and really get more efficient, and I get a bigger ROI or PPR out of that sourcer. I’m not gonna put a sourcer on that one-off COBOL one, I’ll leave a recruiter on that to full life cycle it, because I won’t get the productivity out of the sourcers that I would by putting them there. If I’ve moved them over, I hope it could come that way, but they can apply online, they could get referred, they can come through us through an event, and then I misuse the time of the sourcer.

12:30 MM: So we look at the type of role, evergreen, non-evergreen, we use niche or niche, that’s also another debate on our side, which… What word is right. That qualifies as niche or niche, you don’t get sourcing support. We’ll put it online, we’ll… You can obviously refer, we’ll do other things. But if it’s been part of our evergreen roles, we have sourcers aligned to it based on the total percent of demand of all our roles open. And that way I have been able… And with the partnership of Cam, who runs sourcing now, we’ve almost tripled the productivity per resource of sourcing since we got here.

13:04 RS: Wow, congrats.

13:05 MM: Thank you. Yeah, it’s nothing… Like I said, it’s nice to hear the congrats, but it’s like I said it’s… From Google it’s really helped us learn of how I get the biggest ROI from those. So if I move those people off and put them on a one-off role they have to start the search from scratch, and then who knows how it goes. And then I gotta move them again. Moving sourcers on and off pipelines, it’s basically like starting a business over from the ground up each time. It’s really detrimental for them. So, when Cam, who used to work with me at Google, we used… We had a team of about 45 sourcers. Our top, I think, 65% of our production came from our top 20% of our people, and those people who’ve just been in role for about eight quarters. And so the longer I can keep them in seat, motivated, happy, successful, and focused on the same pipeline, their ROI goes up, my spend goes up, my PPR goes up, and everyone’s happy.

13:56 RS: So is that just because as these sourcers build pipeline they’re building relationships with talent so they have this history, this back catalog of candidates and talent from which to draw so that they’re not just starting from scratch, when it’s like, “Okay, new role. I’m talking to these people for the first time.”

14:16 MM: Exactly, yeah, the average… Our average, when I reach out to somebody to when they actually get in process from a passive candidate, it’s about 9-10 months. So with that said, that’s the middle of the bell curve and that’s an average. So there’s people that come in the next week, that’s not as many. There’s people that come in two and a half years from now. I still get emails on my LinkedIn… They obviously don’t check I work at Google anymore, from when I was a sourcer seven years ago saying they’re finally interested. [chuckle] So that’d obviously be one side of the bell curve, but it happens. So the longer it is…

14:46 MM: And then to your point, you’re exactly right, you build this business or this book of business essentially is how I look at it, coming from finance in my previous world, and then it’s less about the find. Now it’s about the conversion. So you have relationships in your book of business with top-level people, and so now it’s just making sure you understand them, their timing, what they’re looking for, ensuring we have that at Dropbox, and then aligning the two for the opportunity. But obviously with the tier of talent that we’re looking at, they have options, so we’re one of many people they’re looking at, but we just want an opportunity to be able to highlight our culture, our opportunities, our tech stack, to see if that’s aligned for them. But then, that’s how I get the ROI. They don’t need to go out and find 50 new people, they need to go talk to the people they have relationships with over the last year and a half and just have coffee or send ’em an [15:33] ____ or make sure they’re at our events.

15:36 MM: We do a Hack Week next week where our whole company shuts down, and we just get to build cool stuff. We like to invite candidates to that so that they see our culture and what we get to do. So it’s a big week for us where we don’t actually interview anybody, but it’s a great example of this, where it’s, “I’ve been talking to you for a year and a half, do you want to come see our culture and see what we’re building. Come hang out and have lunch and check out some of the… Go help us build something.” It’s pretty exciting.

16:01 RS: Yeah, I love that. I love the way you’re looking at sourcing not just discovery but also conversion, because I feel like it has for so long been couched in discovery. It’s like, oh, sourcers build pipeline, identify talent, and pass it to recruiters. That’s usually the process I’ve seen. And instead you’re saying, “Okay, yes, discovery, crucial part of the role. That’s what you’re doing every day, but for what?” If there’s not this long-term thing going on where you will convert them at some point, then all that discovery was wasted if they weren’t ready at that very moment you reached out to them.

16:38 MM: 100%, man, and I think that’s… I know we’re on a Hired podcast, but not to plug Hired too much, but that’s the value that I get from Hired is I don’t need to find ’em and they’re ready now, so I save 9-10 months of my sales cycle. And all the tools and the AI and the ML, all these things that are coming out are more about identification. You still need someone to have a human conversation, in my opinion, with these folks to make sure it’s aligned to everything else. So I’m less worried about the find, especially at a smaller company, which is probably most people listening to this podcast. And at Google it was very challenging, ’cause you have… As a sourcer, you literally have probably everyone that’s ever worked in computer science in your system, and there’s an army of people looking at the same time. So to find the people in your system that are available for you to take that someone else doesn’t have a relationship with is challenging. With the rest of us, there’s plenty of people out there. So it’s less… It’s much easier. And I started sourcing however many years ago, it’s much easier now to find, and now you gotta figure out how to convert.

17:39 MM: And I think that’s the piece where we are focused a lot on and those conversion rates, and Gem helps us highlight those things to making sure we are getting that ROI. The analogy I use way too much, and I’ll use today and I apologize, but it’s much like if, Rob, if we are starting a cupcake shop today, we’re just kicking it off. So we would try multiple ways to get people out there. We would send out mailers, we’d do Instagram ads, and we would do maybe a podcast, whatever it might be. But as people came in and we started getting customers, obviously, to get the initial customers is challenging, but get them to come back would really be our goal. We’d ask them, “Did you get a mailer, did you listen to the podcast, did you get the ad?” and we would maximize our ROI by saying, “Actually, no one’s using that mailer. So we’re gonna throw that out and we’re gonna double down on this podcast.” That’s the opportunity for every sourcer.

18:27 MM: ‘Cause they’re all working in different markets, they have different experiences, they have different personalities. So it’s their responsibility, in my opinion, to run their business and be looking at it as efficiently as possible, so they’re not… That’s the opportunity that we try to set up for them because there’s not one way to be successful, but they should know their numbers to make sure they’re getting the best ROI for their business.

18:50 RS: Yeah, absolutely. You have to go where the opportunity is. And also, speaking of that, I think you and I would probably have the very first cupcake podcast if we did start one.

18:58 MM: I’m in, sign me up!

19:00 RS: Something to think about. Hey, it’s a greenfield opportunity, Mike.


19:04 MM: Sold; I’m in. I’m probably, unfortunately, gonna eat some of our profit, but I’m still in.

19:08 RS: That’s fine, that’s fine. I love that you mentioned Hack Week, too, and that you encourage candidates to come to that, because you’re selling the culture a little bit and you’re moving beyond just… Or just being creative about how you can get someone interested in Dropbox, as opposed to just selling compensation, which I feel like is definitely the stereotype among recruiters here at small to medium businesses. Like, “Oh, well, I can’t compete with these X tech firms, ’cause they’ll just double my salary that I’m offering.” And so if you can’t just sell… And even if that was your approach, even if you are gonna just double someone’s salary just to make sure you get them, how long will that keep them happy? More money is great, but if you’re miserable every day, at a certain point it doesn’t matter how much it is.

20:01 MM: 100%. I think there’s studies out that even show paying for retention doesn’t actually work, people end up leaving anyway. And how efficient and productive were they? And then how were they culturally amongst their team even? To your point, are they even happier?

20:15 RS: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so rather than selling compensation, I’m guessing… I’m leading you a little bit, but I’m guessing that’s not a part of the Dropbox recruiting strategy, right? How do you encourage your team to move beyond just being like, “Hey, we’ll pay you a top of market?”

20:33 MM: Yeah, I think we gotta be aware of that. We’re always looking at comp, and it’s something we’re part of, but to your point, we’re not those companies, we’ll never probably be those companies, and so we really have to understand our values. What makes a good Dropbox… And let’s just say engineer. There’s certain things, but it’s also you need to be a good Dropboxer, and we need to highlight what it means to be a Dropbox employee at this point in your career and personal life as well; those two need to be aligned. And then we’ll see if we’re a fit for you and you’re a fit for us. But for us, we really are values-based, and we have five values that we live and breathe by that we assume everyone knows. For us, we would expect people to be worthy of trust, to sweat the details. I’ve abridged that to sweat the right details, but yeah, sweating the details, aiming higher, don’t just be okay with what’s going on today. A big one for us is we not I. It’s not about you, it’s about how do you lift up others. And then the last one is what we call cupcake. It’s basically what Google called Googly, but it’s basically how do you create surprises, and interact with folks, and basically create some magic within Dropbox. And that could be… Of course, that be a lot of things.

21:46 MM: But those are our brand, those are our values that we live and die by. And I can tell you, I’ve been here two years, and we have definitely said no to people, even on my team, recruiters that passed the bar that are amazing recruiters, but don’t really fit those values, usually the we not I part. And so we’re okay to pass. And it’s not that they’re bad, they’re amazing recruiters. They just might not be a successful Dropbox recruiter at this point in their career, at this point what we’re looking for. And so I think it’s important for candidates and companies to really highlight that, because you gotta make sure… Technically engineering usually falls on just the technical side, but to your point about attrition and if they’re staying and are they happy, if the values aren’t lined up they’re not gonna stay, and that’s really expensive to a company. So we wanna make sure we’re bringing in, obviously high-caliber people or high-caliber engineers, but… That just took away my tagline. But we want to bring in high-caliber people. And what that means to us is this, and that’s fine, and if you’re aligned to that, you’re actually gonna magnetically want to be pulled towards us. If you’re not, then you won’t, and that’s okay. And that’s the part where we wanna figure that out as early in the funnel as possible; it saves time for both parties.

23:00 MM: We don’t wanna hire somebody and then their values don’t line up and they leave. That’s not actually a good experience for them as well, and we’re very cognizant as well that a lot of these people are Dropbox users, people who are gonna move up to be CTOs of their companies and we’re gonna [chuckle] want them as clients. So we’re very, very cognizant that it’s not just working at Dropbox, but we represent Dropbox as a product, and so we really try to make our experiences unique, customized, and tailored to our values. And then it’s less about pushing our values [chuckle] down their throat. If we’re not… If I’m doing the opposite of what I’m doing now and just listening, and asking questions, and understanding what they’re looking for, we don’t wanna just always be selling the red Mustang ’cause it’s the sexiest thing that we can think of, we need to truly understand what that candidate is looking for professionally and personally at this point in their life. And there’s things that we can adhere to, there’s things where we can’t as far as work-from-home, unlimited vacation, whatever it might be, we need to know those things.

23:58 MM: And that’s the point of that 9-12-month, 18-month relationship that we’re now getting the sourcers since I’ve been here two years, ’cause we understand that at a much higher level than we did before we got here. And that’s the piece where we can really tailor it and understand it and also understand it changes. I have two kids, before I had two kids I was looking for less security, maybe more risk. I now wouldn’t… Risk aversion means more to me, and that’s fine, just whoever is recruiting me, and when DropBox did, needed to understand that I wasn’t leaving Austin, that I have two kids, and the headquarters are there, and I was very clear on that, and they adhered to it because they were foolish enough to think I could do the job. That’s the stuff that we try to emulate here, and I think every company is probably doing that, but you really need to make sure you’re listening, and then connecting the dots for your candidates.

24:50 RS: Could you talk a little bit more about the cupcake or the Googly approach? Because that seems like something that, no matter how much you can afford to pay candidates, or whatever your product is, that’s something that can be unique to a company, and as a recruiter you could highlight it if there… That it does exist within your org.

25:06 MM: Yeah, I think the way we try to describe it for us, at least, the way I’ll just say I describe it, it’s the magic of you being who you are. I don’t want you to be a version of yourself to fit within Dropbox, it’s authenticity. And so who you are is magical; no one else in the world has your personal, professional, academic experience combined ever. So we want you to come in and own that and be you, and then just… We wanna create a space where you’re thinking about how… Day one, how you can share that or learn with others and then thinking about how we can impact others for personal or professional growth, whatever it might be. But it’s always this constant magic of lifting up others and trusting others so you can get better.

25:54 MM: I have peers, I work really closely with our head HR VP, Heather Dunn. And she is someone who I constantly look for for this stuff. We sit there and I learn from her, we’re similar but different. And we challenge each other, and I look at that very much like a cupcakey experience to where I got a handwritten card on this promotion from her. That, to me, is the definition of cupcakey, that it’s just… That we allow people to do, it’s not an expectation, but I think people have these thoughts and don’t maybe feel comfortable doing them, or it might be different. We just try to create the space so they feel comfortable to be able to be themselves.

26:31 RS: Okay, it makes sense. And then being able to turn around and sell that to candidates in the form of, “Hey, this is authenticity, this is not a stifled up… Or this is not a stifling environment where you’re gonna have to be two-faced and be a work version of yourself and then leave and then you get to be your real self.”

26:50 MM: I think we highlight it. A big part where I have learned when those levels of conversations come up is we really get back to those into our conversations with our hiring managers and our interviewers. We have a deep dive topic on some things and we try to emulate that. We cover it, but it’s definitely more… It’s been better received when it’s coming from someone who would be a peer to them versus the recruiter. But things like this Hack Week, things like other things that we highlight, those are things that we try to… Making sure we understand if it’s really important to them to feel authentic, they don’t feel authentic ’cause they came from X, then we will talk about that more, and then we usually will pair them up with somebody who also wanted that and has experienced a positive experience with that since joining Dropbox. We’ve found that just aligning them in their same role… With someone in their same role, excuse me, that resonates a lot better.

27:45 RS: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Mike, I had all these other questions I wanted to ask you, but we wound up just kind of shooting the breeze, which is actually what I prefer, so [chuckle] I guess you’ll just have to come back so we can cover the other half of the stuff I wanted to talk about. But at this point I would just say thank you so much for calling in and sharing all about Dropbox and your view on sourcing and cupcakey-ness and all that. This is been really fascinating, and congrats on the new role.

28:08 MM: I really appreciate it, Rob, I’m happy to be there any time. And if you get out to Austin, I will take you to some barbecue, and now it sounds like a cupcake.

28:16 RS: I would love that. [chuckle] Thanks so much, Mike.

28:18 MM: Take care.


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