Alison Kaizer returns! She shares her journey transitioning from moonlighting for Golden Ventures to taking on a full-time role. She shares some of the details of her consulting conversations and how it differs for different clients. We talk about some of the resources she provides to eliminate possible friction later on in the hiring process, and why she believes that hiring a good candidate is just the tip of the iceberg. Hear about the difference an ATS can make, why Alison believes that sourcing is such a powerful tool, and what she has done to prioritize leveling up her skillset today.
[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontline’s 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, 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.
[00:00:58] RS: Today’s guest on Talk Talent to Me is someone who refused to believe me when I told her she’s my favorite person to interview. I told her that and she said, “Flattery will get you far, but I don’t believe you.” So, I’ll ask you now, Alison Kaizer. Did you know that you’re the only person who’s done this podcast three times now? Is that more than flattery?
[00:01:18] AK: That’s fantastic. I didn’t know that and I’m honored. So maybe there’s a nugget of truth, but I still don’t quite believe you.
[00:01:28] RS: You remain skeptical here at the top of the show. In any case, here with me today is returning champion and head of talent and operating partner at Golden Ventures. Alison Kaizer. Alison, welcome back. I’m so glad to be chatting with you again.
[00:01:40] AK: Yeah, thanks so much for having me back. I’m really, really excited to be here.
[00:01:43] RS: Firstly, you have a new job since the last time we spoke. So, I’d love to know about what the process was of changing for you? Because high operators like yourself are going to get tapped on the shoulder. They’re going to have opportunities, and I just want to know how you navigated that decision.
[00:01:58] AK: Yeah, it’s a great question, and I will say, I’ve been in this role for about 60 days, and it’s been truly incredible, but very different from what I was doing in the past. So, some of you might have listened to a podcast I did with Rob a while ago, when I was at a company called Ritual. I was the first talent person there and I’m currently at Golden, which was an early investor in Ritual. So, they’ve been on my radar for a long time. Golden Ventures is really the preeminent seed stage fund in Canada, they have a significant hold on the Waterloo Region, and also have a number of investments across North America outside of the local ecosystem as well.
So, their reputation is incredibly strong. They’re on their fore fund and I’ve always known about them. And about a year ago, I was reconnected to them through someone in my network, a mentor of mine. Her name is Christine Sanga, I can’t say enough about her. If you’re listening, shout out and thank you for everything. She connected me to them, because they were looking for some fractional talent support for some of their portfolio companies, and also wanted to ideate around what a full-time program could look like. And so, I began working with them in a consulting capacity externally. I told them at the time, I wasn’t ready to move, but I definitely was happy to be kind of an external support, my CEO at the time knew and was very supportive to his credit and felt it was a learning and branding opportunity for myself and Lunchbox at the time as well.
So, I started working with them, spending time with some of the founders within the portfolio. And the feedback over time was basically that it was very valuable, but they wanted more. And that I could be really valuable as a full-time resource. So, this really was a long time coming. There was about a year of working together before we finally got in a room, whiteboard it, and formalized what a program would look like. I eventually pulled the trigger after 18 months in my previous role. During a period of time when hiring was really actually progressing as opposed to growing, and so it made sense for everyone and I came on full-time.
Even though I’ve only been here for 60 days, in many ways, it feels like coming home between my existing relationship with the team, as well as my relationships with so many of the founders within the ecosystem and the portfolio. So, it’s just been really, really fantastic.
[00:04:18] RS: I am a big fan of the contract-to-hire process. It’s sort of like a trial run on both sides because no matter how good you are in an interview room at assessing a company, you’re never going to get the full picture until you’re actually there working with them every day. So, I think for both sides, it really does make sense. Also, it can be a nice little chunk of change, when you’re charging an hourly rate, and you don’t have benefits in the full comp package. It looks a little different. So, it can make sense for you in the short term. So, it sounds like you did your full-time job at Ritual, plus you were contracting for Golden for a considerable period of time, and then you moved over to Golden full-time. Is that how that went?
[00:04:55] AK: So, I was at Lunchbox actually, at the time, full time and then doing – supplementing with this consultant work evenings, sometimes catching up on work on the weekends. But yeah, to your point it was sort of this like, try it before you buy. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would want to do next. I’d been in-house as an operator for a number of years and knew that I was itching to develop a different muscle, but just wasn’t exactly sure what that would be. So, it was great. And given that you know me so well, and you’ve interviewed me so many times, you also know my personality. I’m a very sort of opinionated person. I like to be in environments where people are very candid, where there’s a lot of debate and alignment. So, Golden is, well, it’s surprising based on the investments they’ve made in their success, probably to hear this. They’re a very small team. So, bringing another person in when you’re a six-person team, is a really, really big deal. So, I think it was important for us to ensure that we were aligned in terms of our work style, and our ethos and our vision, before formally moving forward, and it really paid off in dividends already with how quickly I’ve been able to ramp.
[00:05:59] RS: What was the difference between the work you were doing for them on a contract basis versus your current full-time role?
[00:06:06] AK: Yeah, there are a number of things that are different. So, the first is just the depth of the engagements with the portfolio companies, as opposed to previous, where maybe I would spend 30 minutes or an hour with someone, give them some advice and send them on their way. Now, I’m able to really partner with them and be an ongoing resource, understanding what’s really paining them, what they need strategically, and sort of set benchmarks and give them homework on things to work on over the course of a week, and then catch up with them again the following week to really be a partner with them through their developmental process in regards to the talent function.
And then the other piece of that is just all the work that I do with Golden, aside from the portfolio company work, like assisting with events, helping in terms of our referral programs, so any strong candidates that come into the network, I’ll speak to and I’m able to disseminate those profiles amongst the portfolio companies, helping to do research. If we’re going to throw a big event, who are the most important people in the ecosystem we need to know. And just all of that other platform work that I support with. So, much more in-depth and much more broad in scope.
[00:07:13] RS: I’m getting a little ahead of myself, because I wanted to ask you too, about your CEO at Lunchbox, Nabeel, correct?
[00:07:19] AK: Yeah, you interviewed him.
[00:07:21] RS: I did. And that episode just turned into like 25 minutes of us talking about how cool you are. But you mentioned he was supportive of you doing this additional role with Golden, and that was really cool to me. I don’t know if many bosses would do that. If you came to your boss, and you would say, “Hey, I’m going to do this on top of my existing responsibilities for you.” Do you think that’s a normal thing a boss should support or be okay with? Or was that an unnatural situation, you think?
[00:07:47] AK: I think from his perspective, I was performing, and he felt – I’m speaking for him, but you had the conversation with him. So, he felt I was a strong performer on the executive team, and so he wasn’t worried about my attention being taken away. I was still working full-time hours. But the other piece of it was when helping to consult with other companies and solve problems that are different from the problems you’re solving in-house, you’re then able to bring that knowledge base back, which helps you to be more effective as a leader.
So, if I have two hours a week that I’m going to use toward reading, networking, or going out and doing a little bit of consulting, in many ways that consulting actually provides the most value. And then he also is a marketer, by trade. I mean, you spoke to him, he is one of the few CEOs that started as the CMO, and he really believed that there was value to my brands being more established for people to say, “I know Alison. I’ve heard about her through the network. She’s known as being strong. She’s consulted with someone I know.” And that being able to then transfer to the Lunchbox brand and the candid experience. So, he was very supportive of me learning and building my brand and felt that there would be incremental benefits for Lunchbox as well. But I’m sure if at some point, I wasn’t able to keep up with the hiring requirements internally, we would have revisited immediately.
[00:09:06] RS: I had done some consulting on the side, while I also had a full-time job, and I never did it during my full-time job work hours. This was a like, evenings, weekend sort of project. But I still felt like I had to keep it a secret, like I was doing something naughty. Do you think that was just my relationship with my boss or my own guilt? I feel like I should have now, in retrospect, been like, “Hey, I’m doing this, because people are asking me for it.” And that just sort of elevates my profile almost at my company, as long as it’s not competitive with my job, but I’m still delivering. I feel like people should be pursuing this if they have the time and desire, and should not be ignoring it just because of the job.
[00:09:42] AK: Yeah, contractually, most people can’t. So, from my perspective, it’s something worth discussing once it’s raised. If someone says no, you should focus on your full-time job. That’s your obligation as an employee. For what it’s worth, at Golden currently, I have absolutely zero consulting. My role as someone that’s involved in the fund is supporting the fund 100% of my time, and I don’t do anything external anymore at all. Some bosses will be supportive of it, some won’t. But my advice to everyone generally is to focus on your full-time role, and you never want to risk a job that you really love in order to do something extra. But positioned properly, you could very well get buy-in from a manager or leader that there’s potential value to be garnered from this kind of work.
[00:09:42] RS: I would be wary of a boss that drops the hammer on that. And it’s like, “No, you can’t do it.” Because you’re coming to them with something that you’ve presumably been thoughtful about, that you think is going to be enriching to your career and not just your bank account. And then they’re just saying no. So, if I’m a boss, and I say no to that, I’m like, “Okay, I’ve just made my employee, very disappointed and sad, and possibly, from their perspective, harmed their ability to grow their career and their financial goals.”
[00:10:53] AK: It depends. So, I think there could be arguments made. First of all, one thing I always promised is, I would never consult with any competitive businesses and I never did. I was very, very diligent about that, and ensuring that I would never do anything that would compromise my position as the lead. But if you have someone that isn’t performing, and their time, someone came to me that wasn’t really performing and said, “I need this to further my financial career.” I would say, “If you focus that effort on your role here that you could probably gain that incrementality through a raise, but something that is earned, and is very much based on the relationship you have, and overall company policy, based on the size of the company and is very nuanced.”
So, I think there are a lot of reasons, ultimately, why people are not allowed to do this kind of work. I think it is fairly common and a lot of people are, and I would always encourage an open conversation. But I think there are a lot of valid reasons why often it’s not acceptable. Like, in my current role, it just simply wouldn’t be appropriate. There would be no benefit to me or the fund to continue my entire job is doing that kind of consulting supporting the fund. And those companies’ success is my success. So, if I have an extra five minutes, you better believe I’m using it to figure out other ways that I can support the portfolio.
[00:12:05] RS: Yeah, I was going to mention that. Your role is sort of consultative by its very nature, that you get to kind of scratch that itch going into different companies, taking on different projects. So, that is also an exciting thing about consulting, though, is that you get to shake things up and work on different things a little bit. It can kind of sow creativity, in a way. And if you’ve been looking at the same problems in the same company for a long time, they can start to get stale, and you feel like you’re banging your head against a wall. But getting to change. projects can get you out of a rut.
But anyway, you get to do that day-to-day, right? Like probably multiple times a day. You’re doing that context-shifting. So, what is the role look like when you are going into these companies? And are you mostly speaking with founders or first recruiters? Or how do these conversations typically start?
[00:12:46] AK: Yeah, it’s a good question and I will answer, but I do want to make a point that if you are in-house somewhere and you’re feeling stale, you’re probably not doing the role to the fullest extent. I think particularly with talent, there are always areas to improve. Taking a step back, looking at your interview process, how are you measuring things? How are we doing operationally? And sometimes, even though you’re in a consulting capacity, if you’re solving the same problem over and over, you can still risk some level of redundancy, versus having a new role that you’re working on in talent in-house and so on.
So, I think that there’s always opportunity to keep things fresh and exciting. And context switching is not always the best way to do that. But there certainly is a lot of variety in this role. And the short answer is, it depends. So, I would sort of bucket the portfolio companies into two buckets. The first are companies that are very early stage where I’m working directly with a founder. Sometimes a vendor that’s never hired anyone before at all, and they’re literally starting from scratch in terms of understanding, what does that look like? How do I hire? What does an interview process look like? How do I drive candidates inbound? And I’m really teaching them the absolute fundamentals of what a hiring process looks like, how to draft a great job description? Why candidate experience matters? What an appropriate number of interviews is, and so on. And then often giving them recommendations on things like compensation as well.
And the other bucket are companies that are potentially a little bit more established, where they have a talent person that they’ve brought on, likely their first talent person, or you have a founder that’s more established and has been through hiring significantly in the past. And then the conversation is much more around strategy and best practices, how to measure things, how to increase your bandwidth, tools that can really amplify the program. And then across the board, I help to advice on if someone is blocked in a role, which is something that happens no matter what I think with everyone at every stage, being an external set of eyes and support that can sit down and ask the right questions and probe around, are you sure you really have the right profile? Does your compensation makes sense? Are you fostering a great candidate experience? If people aren’t accepting the role why and why not? And just being a strategic sounding board to dig in and try and figure out what’s stopping them from being successful and providing advice on ways that I believe could help them to be more successful.
And that is a lot of the value, right? If you’re a company and you have an unbelievable – I’ve spoken to some of the most incredible talent leaders on earth. But that’s the value. Even if you’re the best hand person out there, just having another person that you can talk to, gut check with, brainstorm, be a second set of eyes, open up LinkedIn and build a Boolean string, and maybe it’s a different approach than what you’ve been doing, like all of that can really 10x you, and with a lot of these early stage companies, resources are just finite. So, I think that’s where a lot of the value comes.
[00:15:40] RS: So, it’s only been 60 days. But I assume you’ve maybe spoken to the same folks at some of the portfolio companies, whether that’s a founder or early talent person, a handful of times. In the cases where maybe they’ve taken your recommendation in the first meeting, and you’ve seen impact in subsequent meetings, what does that typically look like?
[00:16:01] AK: It’s so funny, because there’s nothing better than getting an email from someone saying, “I implemented that thing, and wow, it’s had a huge impact right away.” I send a lot of folks template for a spreadsheet I built that I call the hiring and headcount, which is basically a centralized place to be your source of truth on everything talent to be shared with the most senior leaders and finance. So, these are the rules, I’ve opened the priority order, when they’re approved to finance or the leader flips it to approved, the compensation goes in there. If you accept an offer, when you did, when they accept, when they start. It’s just a source of truth constantly pull information that keeps everything really organized and there’s accountability, that when a rule is approved, it’s in that sheet and things like that. But when they get implemented have such an impact on your daily operations. I get that kind of, “Wow, that was game-changing feedback right away.”
But not everything is low-hanging fruit. I think, to me, success looks like ongoing engagement, where a founder or talent person follows up and says, “I want to further the conversation.” We get in a room and they say, I’ve been thinking about what you told me, I’ve made these changes. Now, these are the areas I’m blocked, and you continue to see that marginal improvement on a step-by-step basis. So, for example, if someone’s saying, I’ve been looking to hire this role, and I’m struggling, and we sit down and talk about, they feel they can’t be decisive, because the interview process isn’t giving them the information they need. And they give them homework to go and put together a case that will be really impactful in terms of testing a real-time problem that this person would have to solve, and I coach them on how to present it to the candidate, offer pay to the candidate so on. And they come back and they say, “Okay, I built the case, I tested with one or two people. It’s really good and it’s working. But actually, I think the profile may not be working, or I’m not getting enough candidates.” Like the case is going to realize these weren’t the right folks. But how do I work on the top of funnel? And then, I say, “Okay, let’s talk about sourcing. Maybe there are some agencies you want to work with. We want to be very clear on the profile.” And so, this is what onboarding looks like, and we’ve filled that step.
So, it’s a constant level of engagement and small improvements that culminate in someone understanding how to approach from the beginning next time. That’s really what success looks like, from the strategic side. Certainly, in terms of our referral network, there are candidates I’ll send over that are really strong and get hired and that’s always a huge win. But as a strategist, as a fractional head of talent, I’m looking for learning and improvement that I know is resulting in a high-performing talent function, well beyond what you would anticipate for a seed-stage startup. Sorry if that was long-winded.
[00:18:40] RS: That’s great.
[00:18:40] AK: Does that make sense?
[00:18:41] RS: Yeah, yeah, of course it does. I too, am always tickled by the, “Wow, this actually worked” email. Like, people are surprised. Yeah, I’m not making this stuff up. But that is also like it’s fulfilling. It’s like, okay, people did this thing and now they’re reaping the benefits. And it turns them into believers, right? Now, they’re going to want more, and now they’re going to like, want to put more time on your calendar, they’re going to want to implement more things. And so, delivering like that early and seeing it pay off has got to feel good. Will you share a little more about that source of truth spreadsheet?
[00:19:11] AK: Yeah, I can actually send you the link and you can add it if you want. It’s pretty basic, but I think it’s just –
[00:19:16] RS: I can sell it for $100 apiece. Well, I’ve seen products people listening to this furiously take notes.
[00:19:24] AK: It really is just like the most basic of Excel spreadsheets, but when you talk to lots of talent people as I don’t know anyone that’s spoken to more talent people than you, there are these problems that every single company runs into, every leader runs into. Every time I get on talent person, they say, “This is something I’m struggling with”, I say, “Guess what, every single person feels the same way.” And it’s things like how does the role get approved? How do I know when it is? Or no one understands what I’m doing and I have a million things on my plate and everyone thinks that their role is number one priority. So, it’s just a very basic way of having a source of truth with your most important basic information and the right stakeholders around decision-making and finance. So, there’s a visibility into what you’re doing.
So, a rule is approved, the markets, it’s approved for. If it’s a backfill or new approved compensation, finances in there, and HR as well. Once you extend the offer of the final comp, the options you’ve granted to that person. So, finance can pull it down the line for like a board meeting, or whatever it may be for board approval. And then there’s even a column in there for rejection reasons. So, if candidates ultimately reject, you would put a new line for every offer that you extend, and it would be associated with a given role. So, if it was rejected, why? And then down the line, if you want to do like a quarterly review on data, you can filter and see what percentage of my role my offers were rejected for this reason, or that reason, or what percentage were accepted overall? How many people did I close each month?
In the absence of having a very advanced ATS, especially if you’re very early, this is just a very simple way to be organized, but the culmination of 10 years of experience of me knowing all the details, you’ll need to be able to go back to down the line, and you don’t always want to go into greenhouse and mine for all that information in notes, for example. So, it’s actually very simple. It’s just one of those things that’s so much easier if someone gives it to you prebuilt.
[00:21:18] RS: Right, yeah, of course. I’m going to push back because I don’t think it sounds simple. Maybe it’s organization and the actual information is simple. But the orientation, I think, is very clever, because it sounds like it’s less for just the talent team to be like, “Oh, here are our funnels and here’s our average days to fill this, or whatever the metrics are.” It seems like it’s positioned more toward finance and executives and hiring managers, as opposed to the actual talent team. Is that right?
[00:21:45] AK: Well, hiring managers wouldn’t necessarily begin, because compensation would be there, but HR will be there. And I think where it adds a lot of value, first of all, is you’re spending a lot of your time with people asking you when is that person starting? What are you working on right now? What’s on your plate? What’s top priority? There’s a place they can go in self-service a lot that information. But also, if you feel like you’re tapped, and you have a finite amount of time available, being able to go into that sheet and showing, “I have 20 roles that are active right now. Can we prioritize them in terms of order? Is there anything we can put on hold?” Most of the conversations you have on a day-to-day basis, what are we working on? What’s the status? You can pull it will show what is the size of offer extended, versus what’s been filled? What is still active, and so on, can all live in that sheet.
So, it’s the place with which you are operating. I don’t know. Maybe it is smarter than I’m giving you a credit for. But it’s really just an Excel sheet and a basic exam. I mean, something else I give everyone is a requisition form that I’ve felt, that over time has been really deeply flushed out, and it has everything in there from companies we should be looking at, titles that could be of interest, interview process, people this person will be managing, space to pop an org chart in, and thinking about the interview process, what questions you need to ask in the screen? What case study you want to do? All in one place that’s a source of truth. You’ve got no rocket science there. But someone giving it to you is also saying, “These are all the things that you need to think about at the beginning of a process, so you don’t run into issues later.” And if you align on these things upfront, there will be a lot less friction in the process moving forward, and I promise you, this is a comprehensive document. Sharing those kinds of things can have a huge impact, because you’re avoiding a lot of friction down the line. So, I tend to get very good responses on those kinds of resources.
[00:23:41] RS: Yeah, I can see why it’s interesting. You focus on okay, how does the rule get approved and what is the comp associated with it? Presumably because you have seen that cause friction down the line, as you said. But I don’t feel like if people were going to start this from scratch, that would be how they would do it. Like, “Okay, we’re going to kick this roll off. Let’s pair with the hiring manager and write a job description.” Alison’s waving her finger at me, no, no, no. And so, you’ve seen this as the actual meaningful thing to focus on, to move this role forward?
[00:24:08] AK: 100%. What everyone starts with is, I mean, this title, let’s write the job description, and always pull people back to start with the responsibilities, what you need this person to do, what are the must-haves and the nice to haves. And then based on that, we’ll know what the right level is actually, and the right title, and then we build the job description around that. So, it’s not the natural state to think about all of those things, and what ends up happening is, you don’t have a well-thought-out profile or process, you get a great candidate. And I always tell the founders, like that’s the tip of the iceberg. You’re thinking, I don’t need an in-house recruiter, there’s an agency or I posted a role and I have tons of applicants. Well, great, you have a great person, what do you do with them now? How do you ensure they have a great experience? Do you know what you want to pay them? How do you evaluate them in a way that makes you feel confident that they’re the right person and that they have the opportunity to evaluate you back, that they’re interested in your product, in your culture, and working with you? What does everything else look like? And I feel like often there’s a lot of effort and thought put into just building the funnel and not the other stuff, which is the actual process of hiring, and hiring the right person.
So, yeah, direct form really lends itself to being well thought out upfront, not that you can’t adjust down the line, but you can probably remove 80% plus friction, just being able to go back to a candidate and say, “This is exactly what we’re looking for and this is the process that you can expect.” And trust that it will be a good use of your time and you won’t be asked the same question 10 times by 10 different people.
[00:25:41] RS: Yeah, there’s no point building a funnel, if the bottom of it like dumps people off a cliff.
[00:25:46] AK: Yeah. But all those things you rattled off about, “Hey, here are the downstream things you need to be thinking about.” Can you do all those things mindfully, thoughtfully, strategically, and still move fast?
[00:25:59] RS: Absolutely. Because the nice thing about this stuff is it’s very scalable. If you take the time to think about, these are the core foundations of our culture. And we know if people have these key attributes, they’ll be successful. Let’s craft six questions around them that we’re going to use repeatedly every time we interview moving forward and train our whole team on that interview, that is extremely scalable, and actually allows you to move way faster down the line.
What’s slow is, I’m not sure. Maybe we need to have another conversation with them. What should we ask? Oh, I still don’t know. Let’s have a week to put together another panel, then get back to – oh, they took another job. We didn’t close them because we don’t seem like we know what we’re doing. I guess we have to start over now. But what was the right profile again? That is the slowest. So, taking the time upfront lends itself to a really, really frictionless process, where you’re also not wasting your time talking to people that are wrong because you have a very clear mental picture of what greatness looks like. You can start with the ideal and then flex as needed kind of down the line. But yeah, I hope that makes sense. You’re delaying the start, but it allows for a much faster process when you pick off.
[00:27:07] RS: Yeah, it’s just an upfront investment, right? And it will save you from unpacking and ripping out technical debt down the line when you’re really ready to step on the gas.
[00:27:16] AK: Totally. And the wrong hire, which I mean, that’s a whole conversation for another day, the cost of that from a time and financial perspective.
[00:27:24] RS: Yeah, a different catastrophe. So, when you were mentioning, again, back to this source of truth spreadsheet, and you said, if you don’t have a really robust ATS early on, this can bridge the gap for you for a little bit. What do you recommend for people early on with regard to their HR tech stack?
[00:27:41] AK: The first thing that you should get to stay organized is an ATS. That is the most valuable thing that you can have. Because at the end of the day, you have history. Anything you build has a home. You can stay organized, and you can operate efficiently in terms of things like scheduling. So, I always say an ATS is great. I’ve always been a huge fan of Greenhouse, but actually one of the ATS’s we’ve partnered with and we offer a discount to the portfolio is an ATS called Teamtailor, that my network had great things to say about. I demoed and looked out of this world. So, I haven’t used the product personally. But it’s very reasonably priced, and I think drives a true amount of impact in terms of ability to report, and stay organized and foster a great candidate experience. And also, as part of the product craft an amazing careers page, which is the first step to being able to really attract talent.
After that, I think it really comes down to sourcing. I’m a huge advocate. I’ve talked to you about this, and anyone that’s spoken to me is probably laughing, be like “That girl and her sourcing.” But I’m such a firm believer that sourcing is the best way to find really, really high-quality talent. And while it seems daunting, an hour spent sourcing the 30 best candidates in market, is oftentimes better spent than going through 200 applicants that aren’t really right. So, a tool that helps you source like formerly top team, allows you to source really efficiently, have data and being able to AB test your verbiage and know what’s really working, and just reach out to people really effectively, with a drip, with a custom email that has a higher likelihood of engagement, and build that top of funnel efficiently would be the second most important thing in my mind.
[00:29:25] RS: Do you think that approach to sourcing skills with a company? And if so, what is the long-term role of inbound recruitment marketing and trying to funnel people to your “Apply Now” button?
[00:29:37] AK: It’s such a good question, and the answer is it is scalable, and it’s a combination. And I’m not saying inbounds aren’t good. It really depends on the role. So, for example, if you’re looking for a senior salesperson, and I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions to this, so I really hope no one takes offense. But if you’re a senior salesperson, you’re high performing, making a lot of money, and you’re in a great company, the chances of you going out and applying to roles is very slim. Versus if you’re a more junior person, maybe you’re just itching to try something new, there’s a problem with culture, you want to be able to take the leap to the next level, maybe you’re going to go out and apply.
So, you’re working on a senior sales leadership role. I’m not saying don’t post it. But chances are that your dream person, especially if they’re very, very strong, happy and successful in their current role, they’re going to need to be sourced and sold on why they should consider engaging in a new role. They’re not going to be on market. If you’re looking for BDRs, or a junior marketing person or a designer or customer success manager, often you’ll have a very large pool of high-quality inbound candidates and sourcing might not make the most sense. These are people maybe that are trying to change careers and the background can be very varied. And definitely those are roles that you should be posting.
But if it’s a niche role, a role that’s very deeply strategic one that’s senior and around leadership and performance, chances are, you’re going to need to go out and source that person, and that will be the best use of your time. And then, in terms of scalability, it’s interesting. It’s one of the conversations I’ve had with every leader that I’ve worked with, and I certainly talk about a lot now. But when we look at bandwidth, one of the things I found to be very impactful and advice I often give, is to write down how you’re spending your day. So, saying this is a given day, I’m working nine hours. I spend an hour going through funnels, I spend 90 minutes scheduling candidates and emailing them communicating back and forth. I source for an hour and build my top of funnel, I’m in 101s and other internal meetings on average for 30 minutes a day over the course of the week. That leaves me time for four calls. This is fewer, let’s just say. For four calls and one briefing.
Based on our historical data, it takes 100 applicants at the top of funnel and 30 calls to get to a higher. This is my bandwidth, that means I can actually work on four roles at a time if you want me to fill four roles a month. Or if you want my time to hire to be within a month, excuse me, based on like the funnel metrics of how many calls I have to do to get to a hire. So, if you want me to hire more people, what are the different ways we can adjust these levers? Are there tools we can use that take off the admin from my plate, that take the scheduling off of my plate? Should we bring in a more junior resource? Sourcing is taking a lot of my time, should we invest in the source or can someone else maybe do the phone screens? Like I’m focused on the top of funnel, I come in later down the line, but the hiring manager takes on the initial screen themselves, so I’m not a bottleneck at the top of the funnel and just really looking at your bandwidth capacity, and all the things you’re spending your time on as levers that you can play with, to be more efficient and take more on.
So, your question of whether it’s scalable. Of course, it just depends on what your priority is and how yourself and leadership define the best way to spend your day is and then adjusting around that. But I do think given the choice between an agency and spending time sourcing, obviously much more cost-efficient to do the sourcing yourself and to incorporate that into your strategy for almost any role.
I don’t know if that translated verbally the way it does on paper in terms of bandwidth. I hope it made sense. If anyone has questions about it, feel free to reach out.
[00:33:18] RS: There’s that green light that you’re looking for folks, to slide in Alison’s LinkedIn DMs. Speaking of those people out there in podcast land listening, if you’re tuning in this podcast, you care a lot about getting better at your job. There are so many podcasts you could be listening to. Kim Kardashian has a podcast now and there are people out there actively choosing me instead of her. I can’t wait to tell her that if I ever see her. But my point is, people do care about getting better at their job.
Now you, Alison, got a lot better at your job without this podcast. Can I just ask you how you did that? How did you get to be how you are now? Because when I asked you any question about recruiting, you are able to rattle off just really thoughtful answers that I know are steeped in your own experience. But I’m just curious, what is your strategy for upskilling yourself and learning and getting better at this job been, over your career?
[00:34:10] AK: Of course, I think that’s the most flattering thing anyone’s ever said to me. So, I’m just going to take that back pocket, have it on recording, anytime I’m feeling down, to listen to. But I think there are a few things. It’s interesting, my background is actually management consulting and I study business, and I’m a strategist by nature, and I’m someone that really loves learning by nature. So, I approach everything in recruiting with a problem-solving lens and trying to think strategically. And instead of looking at what I’ve done in the past, actually asking myself, what are all the different ways that I could possibly solve this problem. And I hate complacency and always want to challenge myself. So, I’m someone that’s constantly raised my hand and asked to be challenged in new and different ways and take on problems to solve that I haven’t in the past. And there really is no shortcut for that.
You can become an expert at one thing and do it well every single day repeatedly forever and lots of people take that avenue and become subject matter experts. In one particular thing, maybe there are funnel recruiters, they know everyone on the globe in a specific function, and I think there’s a lot of merit to that. I’m just someone that has always really edge to be challenged, and solve new problems.
The other piece of it is, I’m a little bit of a masochist and that I’ve always looked to report into people that I thought were 10 times smarter than me, if not 100, and wanting to level myself up to them, and particularly choosing people that weren’t going to be easy on me. When so, when I think about Lorena Scott, who managed me at Ritual, Harvard MBA, educated mom of three, brilliant, who was not holding my hand, through problem-solving around recruiting in seven time zones, then reporting directly into CEO at Lunchbox, who was extremely driven and now reporting into a partner at a VC. Matt Golden is one of the most respected investors in the entire country and I’ve worked with him closely as well. I’m in the room with him sometimes and I have no idea what they’re talking about, and I’d go home and read and research and just constantly push myself in hopes that one day I’ll be on the level of the incredible partners that I get to work with. And so, surround yourself with people that scare you a little bit and learn from them and ask questions, is the best advice I could possibly give to anyone.
[00:36:22] RS: Yeah, that is great advice. I look back on bosses I’ve had, and I’ve had bosses that pushed me really hard, and I’ve had bosses that kind of let me do my own thing. And in the latter case, I was maybe less stressed, and maybe achieving some kind of equanimity. But when I look back at the bosses who really pushed me, I credit them with where I am now with, like, kind of accomplishing the career goals that I wanted to, and it doesn’t always feel great. It’s not easy. By the way, you can have that relationship with a boss without it being toxic or abusive, I believe, right?
[00:36:56] AK: Of course, with all. I mean, I speak to all of these people frequently, and I deeply respect them, right? It’s almost parental. It’s known as someone who’s doing this because they care about you and your best interests are in mind. They don’t want you to fail. They just want to push you. And when you come to accept that, you really grow and develop. But not everyone wants that and that’s fine. If you’re someone that really values balance, you value spending time with your family, you just want stability. I’m not judging, completely. Everyone’s entitled to have whatever values they have and find importance in certain things. For me, I just have always really wanted to push myself in my career and feel challenged. So, I put myself in situations that would facilitate that.
[00:37:36] RS: Got it. Well, Alison, we are approaching optimal podcast length here and again, you’ve done it again. You deliver and you deliver and you deliver. So, thank you for being here and being yourself and sharing with me. I just love chatting with you. You’re welcome to come back on anytime. Thanks for being here.
[00:37:52] AK: Thanks so much for having me and be careful what you wish for. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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