John shares his inspiring journey into talent acquisition, his passion for aligning recruitment with a company’s mission, and his innovative, candidate-centric approach. He discusses the challenges and opportunities in talent acquisition, debunks misconceptions, and emphasizes the importance of hiring for potential, not just negotiation skills.
John Beard 0:00
Yeah, I mean, here’s the hard truth, right? Everybody’s mission driven until you get to the opera.
Rob Stevenson 0:10
Welcome to talk down to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.
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Rob Stevenson 0:26
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Rob Stevenson 0:56
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. And you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Hello, again, all of you. Wonderful recruiting munchkins out there in podcast land. It’s me, Rob, here again with another classic installment of your favorite recruiting podcast, and I have a wonderful guest lined up for you today. He works for a company that I once knew very well. Now not so much. But we’ll get into that later. He’s the Senior Director of Talent Acquisition for corporate functions and technology over at one medical John beard. Welcome to the show. How are you, John?
John Beard 1:28
Thank you, Rob. I appreciate you having me very happy to be here and didn’t know I was going to be talking to recruiting munchkins today. So
Rob Stevenson 1:35
little munchkins out there, tuning in. This is just a term of endearment. I don’t know, if they find it endearing. I’ve never gotten any feedback. On that point, I’m just gonna, maybe I’ll just get gradually more insulting. But for now, it’s a term of endearment. But yeah, for a brief time, the company I worked for, offered one medical as our like medical insurance option. And it was great. I gotta say it was I was only at that company for a short period of time. But it was definitely the easiest experience I ever had trying to get healthcare. And so I missed those days. For one brief, glittering six month window, I was actually able to find doctors and get care and not have to argue to get things paid for. So I’m a fan of one medical, if not a current customer, I just wanted to call that out. Y’all are doing great work over there.
John Beard 2:19
Very happy to hear that. And that’s what we’re striving for here. We’re trying to change the way that primary health care is deliberate here in the United States. And it seems unfortunate that that should start with a great patient experience. That should be rather, you know, self explanatory, but it doesn’t seem to be and so that’s what we focus on.
Rob Stevenson 2:40
So what brought you to one medical,
John Beard 2:42
I’ve got a long and twisted journey that got me to one medical. But the short story is when we decided to move back to the west coast from the East Coast. I was very intentional about wanting to get back into health care I had spent earlier in my career almost eight years with Kaiser Permanente, and probably was the most emotionally connected I had ever been to a role or a company. For the Munchkins out there listening who might be attached to a health care company. It’s really something that you either really enjoy it, or you probably really don’t. But if you really enjoy it, one of the reasons is because it’s so easy to emotionally connect to the mission. So I was intentional about wanting to come back to healthcare, I’ll be honest, I did not know much about one medical when the opportunity came across my desk, but started doing some research started doing as much learning as I could. And the more I read, the more I heard, the more interested I became. And then I started meeting some people at one medical and that really sealed the deal. The interview process was probably the most compelling and candidate friendly process that I had ever been a part of. And it’s something that I immediately wanted to know more about and become more a part of.
Rob Stevenson 3:59
It’s interesting that you wound up at one medical through desire to end up back in this particular industry. And deciding on a career move based on an industry, I think is an under valued under appreciated approach when it comes to finding your next job. I think people instead they look for a skill set and a hiring organization. And then the industry kind of comes second and they’re like, Oh, well, it’s in this field. I never worked in that. But I can learn it and blah, blah, blah. And instead focus on an industry feels smart.
John Beard 4:29
Yeah. And for me, it was more personally just wanting to get back to something that I knew that I connected to. It happened to be industry related for me, maybe for a lot of people wouldn’t be. But I think if more talent acquisition professionals connected to something that they were really passionate about, I think we’d have a lot more very highly successful talent acquisition professionals out there.
Rob Stevenson 4:55
Do you suppose we’d have better talent acquisition pros because they’d be more are aligned to the mission that accompany they’d be working? Yeah,
John Beard 5:02
I think, you know, so much of what we do is a marketing effort, right. And I think people are naturally better marketing something that they can truly stand behind something that they believe in, versus just trying to sell something you don’t really believe in to get the job done.
Rob Stevenson 5:20
Yeah, exactly. That’s gonna wind up like, how long can you really keep up that energy if you don’t connect to the product? At least? Yeah.
John Beard 5:26
And I think that that’s what you know, look, I think talent acquisition professionals have have fought long and hard to overcome a stigma of being something akin to use car salesmen, right and not to disparage used car salesmen because they’re doing a job also. But I think that that was part of that stigma, is that we were just selling something that we didn’t even really believe in. And so took me a lot of years to really figure out that I just am not effective. Doing that I need to really believe in what it is that I’m pitching to candidates, and I need to be able to tell my truth, and have it resonate with people.
Rob Stevenson 6:05
that reputation is completely unfair. I think there’s bad actors in every career and every function. There’s bad doctors out there, right? There’s bad astronauts, probably, I don’t know, guess what, there’s also good used car salesmen, I went through a broker to buy my last car, and he was awesome. Like, he saved me a bunch of money, he actually really did a good job. So it’s like that used car salesman was a really, really effective one, he was turning the franchise around for like the punching bag of bad professions. But I can see how people might get that, like, if you have one bad experience with a recruiter, you could kind of extrapolate that over a whole industry, it’s not fair. But as you say, it does that perception does exist.
John Beard 6:41
Yeah. And then I think beyond industry, you have to find a company that has values that match with yours. For me, you know, I’ve always been kind of a candidate first kind of person and one medical had actually built their function, their recruiting function in such a way that the businesses that we support are not our clients at all, only the candidates are our clients. And it was very different because it puts us in a position of when we have to make a decision between what is best for the candidate and what is best for the company, we actually default to what is best for the candidate. And I know that these days, a lot of people are focusing on candidate experience, or at least they were a year and a half, two years ago, when the candidate market was crazy. I worry that companies have reverted to some old habits now that it is a company driven market again, because there are so many candidates available out in the market now really good people. And that’s when companies tend to get arrogant and forget that the candidate really is what they should be leaning in towards. For us, it’s simply a matter of we recognize that every single candidate is either an existing or a potential one medical member. So our ethos is if you wouldn’t do it to a member, don’t do it to a candidate.
Rob Stevenson 7:59
What is an example of something that would be good for the candidate, but not necessarily good for the company?
John Beard 8:04
Yeah, we schedule interviews based on what’s most convenient for the candidate, not what’s most convenient, necessarily for the hiring manager. And that’s something that, you know, when engineering leaders especially come to us from other companies where that hasn’t been the case, they can struggle with that in the beginning, right? When, when here, talent acquisition has the authority, if you will, to schedule over something on their calendar, you know, we have a rubric. That’s so that we know what we can and can’t schedule over. But if we need to schedule over something on your candidate, because that’s when it’s most important, or convenient for the candidate. That’s what we’ll do
Rob Stevenson 8:42
that it’s pretty awesome to have sort of calendar priority like first right of refusal lot of space in in someone’s calendar. I’m sure some people out there wish they they had that because scheduling can be a nightmare can kind of be a job in and of itself. What are the meetings you are in are not allowed to schedule over?
John Beard 8:57
Well, there are certain meetings that we’re not allowed to schedule over, I think I’ll not go into the details. But those might be but for instance,
Rob Stevenson 9:06
like a company is doing like a board meeting,
John Beard 9:09
regular weekly one on one with maybe somebody that reports to you, that can be scheduled over because those are easy to reschedule. And if this is what works for a candidate, then this is what will happen. It manifests itself in other ways too. You know, we have some time bound SLA s right. So listen, if a person is going to give us their time and energy to go through an entire interview loop with us, then we want to commit to having the interview debrief within 48 hours after that because candidates number one of their number one gripes as an interview with this company, and then I haven’t heard anything now for three weeks. That’s just a terrible, terrible thing to do to a candidate. So we really want to have those debriefs within 48 hours, ideally within 24 but certainly within 48 hours so that we can get back to a candidate, let them know where they stand.
Rob Stevenson 10:02
Yeah, if you don’t get back to them right away, candidate experience suffers. But also the quality of your feedback is worse the longer out you push that, right?
John Beard 10:10
It really is. I mean, we ascribe to the old, I read something once I don’t even remember where I don’t remember who to ascribe it to. But I think it was a clinical psychologists who said that, after 24 hours, a human doesn’t remember an event. They only remember their memory of the event. And so the longer that that time goes on. It’s like a game of telephone, right. And the longer that string is, the less accurate things become on the end. And so we really are striving for that quick turnaround on the debrief times. We’re also really, really pushy about training managers on how to write effective interview scorecards. And we’re pretty diligent about that, too. So that if we there is any sort of delay, at least they’ve committed to writing right away.
Rob Stevenson 11:05
I’m sure there are folks listening thinking, wow, that would be great if I could just schedule over existing meetings on calendars, or if we could get this commitment to having debrief meetings as soon as possible after the interview. But for that, you do need a lot of top down buy in like, it can’t just be the recruiting team being like, listen, we’re going to start doing this within 48 hours, like you really need to have buy in. So how did that transpire at one medical? How do you get that much,
John Beard 11:31
I wish I could take full credit for all of that. But it existed actually, before I got here, that was one of the things that drew me here was the way these things were structured. And you’re right, it does take a lot of top down leadership, at the end of the day. Hiring is either a priority or it’s not. And you can’t say it’s a priority, and then do nothing that demonstrates that it is a high priority. So I think the senior leaders at one medical recognized early on, we’re not going to be able to grow the way we want to grow without hiring truly being a priority. And then they also recognize that, look, there are two ways to grow, you can just start, what’s our old saying putting butts in seats as quickly as possible. And that usually leads to bad things down the road. Or you can be very intentional about making it a priority, still keeping the bar high while wanting to hire as quickly as possible. And you do that by by when you set the bar high, you know that things aren’t going to happen as quickly. So you try and remove all of the time consuming waste from the process when you design it. And I think that’s what we’ve tried and continue to try and do. We’re a growing company. Now we’re not the same company we were before. And I think most people know by now, we’ve been purchased by Amazon for a significant amount of money. And, you know, we want to continue to grow, we have well over 200 offices nationwide. And that sounds like a lot until you look at a map of the United States and look at where those dots are and see how many places that we still aren’t. So there’s a lot of room to grow here. And we’re gonna have to be very aggressive in our growth going forward. And so we have to continue to look to remove friction from the process whenever and wherever we can. Let’s
Rob Stevenson 13:20
talk about that time reducing waste, the things that maybe you you are doing that you don’t need to do. What was that, like at one medical? How do you kind of tune into things in the interview process? And be like, do we really need to do this?
John Beard 13:34
That’s not easy, by the way, right? Because once people are comfortable in a process that can be very resistant to change. And that’s where using the data comes in, and your funnel metrics come in. And, and if you’re able to timestamp each step of the funnel, you can see how many days passed between here. One of my favorite metrics is simply to identify the day that the recruiters first discovered the candidate that we ultimately hired. And then the candidates start date. Because everything that happened in between those two points is pretty much process related. And so, you know, maybe the last two weeks of that there’s not much we can do a candidate maybe has to give notice where they’re at that’s kind of out of your control, but everything before then we’re looking to how could we have made that faster? And we are looking at which parts of the process are really adding value? Are there parts of the process that can be combined? Can we take three steps and turn that into two steps? And I think you have to always be willing to start with a blue sky type of effort and say it doesn’t matter what we’ve been doing. Okay, we’ve been doing it and it works. But is it optimal for now and where we want to go so you always have to be willing to reinvent and start over.
Rob Stevenson 14:53
So that metric would be like time in process or time to offer accepted?
John Beard 14:58
Probably yeah, time I’m to offer accepted, but most people measure that from when the wreck is opened, it could be that the candidate you hired as the very last candidate you interviewed, right. And so I think that our original anchor metric of when the wreck is open can be a little bit of a loss leader for purposes of trying to streamline the process. So when I’m looking at the process, I really need to know how long are candidates engaged in the process?
Rob Stevenson 15:27
The offer accepted to start date thing that is a little squishy, because one, like you say, someone has to give notice, or maybe they want to take some time off. And that’s totally reasonable. But in like you, I’m sure you’ve seen offers be signed, and then no call no show. That’s I guess, recruiting spalt. Right, is it?
John Beard 15:49
I mean, I think it depends on the role, right. So if you’re working high volume, maybe lower skilled roles, that might be more common. But when you’re working with professional roles are intact, mostly, you know, engineering product people, ITN security people, we very rarely run into that.
Rob Stevenson 16:10
Yet, it makes sense why you would want to not measure on that just because, like, if a goal is to shorten that time, you wouldn’t want to incentivize recruiters to try and talk someone out of taking time off, for example, right?
John Beard 16:24
Again, that gets back to our ethos of candidates first, you know, we’re not trying to force them to start two weeks after accepting the offer. A lot of candidates are more comfortable giving three weeks or even 30 days notice. Sure, we want them to start as soon as possible, but we’re never going to force them to do that. We just don’t believe that’s the right way to begin the relationship with them.
Rob Stevenson 16:46
Yeah, of course not. It leads me to an interesting conversation I wanted to have with you about just the narratives around Labor right now. And availability in the workforce, et cetera, et cetera. First, kind of a softball question. Are we in a candidate driven market? Or are we in a company driven market?
John Beard 17:06
We are in a company driven market right now, although we’re starting to see the early signs of change, we are definitely in a company driven market right now.
Rob Stevenson 17:16
So then what challenges does that present if and in a company driven market, the idea is that talent should be lucky to have a job at all. Presumably hiring gets a little easier? Does it bring its own unique challenges?
John Beard 17:29
It really does. And I think that there’s two, for us, there’s two distinct challenges here. Number one is finding that easy tendency to get arrogant in a company driven market, because you know, darn well that if somebody can’t do something you want them to do, there’ll be somebody right behind them who can write, we’ve got literally 1000s and 1000s, of really great people on the market through no fault of their own right now. And it’s that arrogance that put us, not us, but put the market in that state in the first place. And so we are constantly making sure that our business leaders and our hiring leaders don’t start to slip over and what I would call the arrogant edge into not treating candidates just as well as we would, in a really candidate driven market, which we don’t have to go that back that far in memory, right. I mean, it was just a year and a half ago, plus maybe a little that every candidate that we talked to that seems like had six or seven offers in hand with some ridiculously high salaries attached to them. So we never want to forget there because invariably, it’s going to swing back the other way. Again, it’s just a matter of time before it does, like I said, we’re already starting to see maybe the earliest indications of that. The other challenge, Rob for us in this market. And it’s interesting, it’s actually the exact same challenge in the candidate driven market to and that’s for us really finding people that want to be a part of what we’re doing. So in a hot market, and a candidate driven market, we’re really looking for people who aren’t just out to get the highest salary increase they can get, we’re looking for people who want to be a part of what we’re doing. It’s the same thing in a company driven market that we’re in now. And there’s so many candidates out there. And it’s a nerve wracking time for people and they have commitments. And there can be a tendency to Hey, any port in a storm, you’re throwing me a lifeline, I’m going to accept it. But we know that if they’re not truly attached to what we’re doing, they’re going to be gone. As soon as something else comes along. That’s better. And so keeping that bar high, and really making sure that we’re hiring people who want to attach to our mission, it becomes even more important and it becomes just as challenging is that hot market, we’re always looking for people who want to attach to our mission. It’s just that they come to us with different motivations in those two different markets.
Rob Stevenson 19:58
The motivation is P is always interesting to me. Because the basic motivation, the most important foundational motivation is like getting paid, right? Unless maybe you’re working for a nonprofit or something like a volunteer organization, I don’t know. But when there’s an ACH direct debit, hitting your account, twice a month, like that’s, you got bills you have needs, you have goals and dreams, blah, blah, this is attached to that. So, given that that’s this foundational candidate motivation, do you think we ever over index on the other stuff where it’s like, oh, we really have to be mission driven? Or could someone just be mission driven enough? Is it okay to just be like, Look, they’re gonna do a really good job. And they are here to get paid? Yeah, I don’t think it’s a
John Beard 20:42
binary either or necessarily type of Proposition, we go all the way back to Maslow’s pyramid of want versus needs. And we know that the needs are always going to be there. So what we’re trying to focus on is the wants, assuming that the needs are going to be met, we were focusing on that want, do they want to be a part of changing a way that healthcare is delivered in the United States? Do they want to be part of something that’s important? I always like to use this candidates tend to use the word impact, it’s a really over used word, I just want to make an impact. I don’t think it’s hard to make an impact, you can make an impact no matter what your role is in a company. And no matter what the company is, you can make an impact just by doing a good job for that company. When we talk to people who specifically want to be a part of what we’re doing here, we think what they really mean is they want to do something important. You can make an impact without necessarily doing something important. And I don’t want to disparage anybody here. But when we’re talking to engineers, it’s like, Hey, do you want to use your engineering skills to I don’t know, help people find more pictures of the Kardashians faster? Or, you know, shop for something a little quicker, more? Do you want to help really get into something meaty and complex? Because healthcare is hard? It is. I mean, look at the large tech companies that have been trying to get into healthcare for over a decade now. And they haven’t made much headway. This is a really complicated stuff. The whole system of healthcare in the United States is so convoluted from the way that people are covered in the way that they’re treated in the way that providers are paid. It’s just really messy and complicated. And it differs from state to state. And we have federal regulations and state regulations, and sometimes County and sometimes city regulations, right? So it is what I would call a perfect quagmire stop. And it’s not for the faint of heart, because it’s not easy. So we’re looking for people who really want to tackle the hard stuff.
Rob Stevenson 22:47
Yeah, it makes sense. And the question of impact is interesting, because as you say, it’s actually easy to make impact and impact is neither negative nor positive, like my basement flooded last week, that made a really big impact, you know, but that’s not the kind of impact to talking about. But also, it’s like, that is maybe a chance to push further on a candidate’s motivations, like impact on what on the world, on your local community? Do you just want to impact the team you’re working on and feel like your work is valued, like maybe you didn’t feel like you made any impact at your last job, even though your perceived impact would have not had like a mission driven thing? So that just feels like it’s a nebulous thing, but maybe something is suggesting a bigger thing about their character, if they use the word impact, I think,
John Beard 23:32
yeah, I don’t know that I say it’s indicative maybe of their character. But certainly, it’s indicative of whether or not they’re in tune to what makes them happy. So like, for me, you know, again, I’ve been doing this for 150 years now, it seems like and it took a very long time for me to realize that, hey, I don’t want to chase the brass ring anymore, where they want to work for a company where I really feel connected to it. And some people are able to make that or have that awakening earlier in their career. And I’m very envious of them, right, because I wish I had done it a decade earlier. What matters is that you eventually get there. Nonetheless, the challenge for us is still defined those people versus the other kinds of candidate, you know, in a hot market. In a very hot market, there are also a lot of candidates available to you, right? They just have way more strings attached to them. And, you know, when we’re talking about trying to find tech talent in a hot market, we’re not a tech company. We’re a healthcare company. And I’m not even a health tech company. We’re a health care company. We’re very tech forward. But at the end of the day, look when I’m, you know, trying to compete with the sexy tech companies out there, right, the Googles, the Apples, the Microsoft’s all the big boys. I’m not going to win against them. If they really want someone they’re going to be able to get them and what we’re not going to do is we’re not going to make a decision ones that aren’t smart. And we’re very proud that we don’t really make those, quote unquote, dumb decisions. Because you know, we haven’t had layoffs here at the beginning of the pandemic, and no layoffs in the bloodbaths that have happened over the last several months, where it’s literally 10s of 1000s of American workers have been laid off. They haven’t laid off anybody. And it’s because, number one, we’re making smart decisions about who we hire and how we hire and how many and how much. And but then number two, we’re keeping the bar high, we’re finding the right people who want to be a part of this. I think when I talked to you before, Rob, I mentioned that, you know, we look for missionaries, not mercenaries. So in a really hot market, we’re asking candidates, look, if your number one priority is you’re in the market simply to completely max out your earnings potential, more power to you, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you’re probably not going to be the right person for us, because we’re not going to help you get to that Max earning potential, we’re going to make you an offer that’s really fair, and equitable, and is in line with what we think the role is worth. But it’s not going to probably maximize your potential. So I guess, you know, candidates, and we’re very successful in finding candidates who believe so strongly in what we’re doing that they want to be a part of it, even if they’re gonna leave a few dollars on the table. Because we know ultimately, if we try and outbid people, and yet, maybe we won, but we’re only going to win in the short term, because that kind of candidate is going to be gone. The next time somebody else offers them something more.
Rob Stevenson 26:37
There’s always a bigger fish, right? Always a bigger fish, would that come out at the offer stage? Maybe they’re considering multiple offers, and they’re like, oh, this other company is offering me 50 grand more, because people are going to try to maximize income. But usually in an interview, you’re not just going to come out and say, Listen, I’m trying to get as much as I can out of you. No one’s really that forthcoming typically.
John Beard 27:00
Yeah, I mean, here’s the hard truth, right? Everybody’s mission driven until you get to the offer. And then you know, things have a way of changing. But we really do start the conversation on our very first contact with the candidate, we believe in being transparent. We’re not trying to play gotcha here. We also don’t much prefer the game of negotiating. And look, the internet now is full of websites that give candidates a lot of information on how to negotiate the best offer. We just believe in being fair, we place a lot of emphasis on fairness, and there’s reams of data out there that show us generally speaking, we know that there are exceptions, generally speaking, males negotiate harder than females. And the practice of negotiating strongly on the way in has probably the most significant factor in creating the gender wage gap that we have in the United States. So the gap has been closing probably not as quickly as we want it to. But for us, we want to reward the best candidates, not the best negotiators. Yeah, of course, that makes sense. Maybe unless I’m hiring a salesperson, then I might want the best negotiator to right.
Rob Stevenson 28:18
You want them to negotiate really hard, and then you want to tell them we don’t negotiate but good job.
John Beard 28:24
Like it’s not that we don’t negotiate, it’s that we really have a set of criteria that we’re evaluating against. And it’s what a candidate brings to the table. Right, and then we look hard at internal equity.
Rob Stevenson 28:39
Sure, yeah. John, we aren’t creeping up on optimal podcast length here, the 32 minutes have flown by, before I let you go, I would just love for you to pass on some advice to the folks out there who are forging their careers as they try and continue a career in talent, you know, perhaps climb their way up the talent ladder, or at least find roles that inspire them and make them want to continue, what advice would you give them?
John Beard 29:02
My advice would be to try and figure out what it is that will make you the most fulfilled, and that may not be top dollar, it may not be the highest title. It may be the kind of company that you’re working for the kind of environment and the people that you work with, because that’s what really makes it more enjoyable, especially for those of us now who are remote and doing this all via zoom all day long every day and we don’t have that opportunity to connect. Find people that you really enjoy working with a company that you really enjoy working for. That has a story to tell that lets you be true to yourself. Sounds simple, but it doesn’t.
Rob Stevenson 29:5
It’s great advice though, John at the end of episode full of great advice. So thank you for being here and sharing with me today. I have loved chatting with you.
John Beard 29:51
Rob Thank you. Appreciate it.
Rob Stevenson 29:56
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