Talend VP TA Lance Sapera

Lance SaperaTalend VP TA

Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Talend, Lance Sapera, shares the work of transforming the data space for talent acquisition to streamline processes and make it easier for businesses to find the people they need.

Episode Transcript

TTTM 230 Transcript EPISODE 230 


[0:00:06.1] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders  on the frontline’s modern recruitment. 

[0:00:12.8] 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. 

[0:00:22.7] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment,  VPs of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between. 

[0:00:31.1] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings got the certifications  through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing. 

[0:00:39.7] 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. 

[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me. 


[0:01:00.4] RS: Joining me today on Talk Talent to Me is the Vice President of talent acquisition  over at Talend, Lance Sapera. Lance, welcome to the podcast, how are you today? 

[0:01:08.4] LS: I’m doing well, Rob, it’s great to join you. 

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[0:01:10.9] RS: Yeah, I’m glad to have you here. You’re doing a ton of awesome work over there at Talend. I guess, just for the folks at home, could you mind sharing a little bit about the  company, what you all do over there and then we can get into your journey maybe a little bit? 

[0:01:25.3] LS: Love to share that. I have the great opportunity to lead the recruiting team here  at Talend. We’re a global team and the company itself, we are transforming the data space. Everybody knows how important data is in their daily business life now and our company is try ing to make it easier, not trying to, we are actually making it easier for companies to make deci sions whether you’re an enterprise, Fortune 100 company or you’re almost a citizen consumer as an entrepreneur so that you can make easier, better informed, trusted decisions based on  your data. 

[0:02:03.4] RS: Got it and how would you characterize the talent department over there?  What’s the maturity of the talent operation, what’s the strategic use case, how are you kind of approaching all of that? 

[0:02:13.6] LS: We’re approaching it as – and the business would confirm this, we’re a strategic lever. We’re an important part of how talent is going forward. We have started a process of tremendous growth and the business is leaning in to support us to help us find great people so  they can transform our product, grow our sales team and help us continue to take care of cus tomers. 

[0:02:39.3] RS: Got it, what’s kind of top of mind for you right now? What’s keeping you up at night from a talent perspective? 

[0:02:44.1] LS: The competitiveness of the market I think is probably what’s keeping everyone on at night now. What’s interesting is, we just finished preparing for the QBR. Our senior leader ship team is getting together and as you and I have talked about previously, the exercise of  whittling down what are some of those few most important things that we’re focused on. 

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Doing that, my team got together and we captured the current condition of the market and then  we shared with the senior leadership team the things that we’re doing to help us compete for – I mean, everybody’s looking for outstanding talent but the other piece that we add on and I think 

companies that want to be best-in-class are, they’re great people too, that extra piece just makes the recruiting that much tougher.  

So we talked about the things that we’re doing to support the business to do that and then we asked for – and it comes from them, which is, what can they do to help us help them and so, I  think this is the most competitive market that I think almost anybody seen in their professional  lives right now, whether it’s the great resignation or now, the great decision that people are go ing through, depending upon what you’re reading. 

The things that our team is doing as a small company that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of brand recognition yet, what we’re doing to try and find signal in the noise if you will is doubling down on our commitment to talent first. So looking internally first for every opportunity there is  for a role.  

The next piece is referrals, we have a terrific culture, people are bought in we celebrated with  quarterly awards, trust our people to help us find people who would be, not just good in their  role but good for our company and so the referrals piece we’ve got a lot of extra campaigns un derway right now, reminding people of that.  

Then, the third piece which is a new muscle we’re continuing to build is that the nurtured candi dates, the preverbal silver medalist but more than that, the people who we met during the inter view process and maybe they needed six more months in a role or maybe they decided they  just want to weren’t leave their current company that we’ve continued to nurture that relationship with just going back to those people because we know them.  

Those are the things our team is doing and then what we ask the business’s help is, we have to move faster. So we talked about no more hiring manager plus one interviews and they’re open to that, they’ve actually asked us. We’re asking them to continue to trust the process, invest in 

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that early recruitment planning meeting and the interview team meeting. The better aligned we  are, the faster we’re going to be able to go. 

Then, another piece we talk about was just the effective but quick scheduling of the interviews.  We’re a big fans of easy book links and things like that and so in turn, the things that we’ve asked the business they can do so we can help them is we have to move faster. 

We talked about no more hiring manager plus one interviews, we talked about trusting the  process, investing in that initial recruitment planning meeting and the interview team meeting.  The more aligned the recruiter and the hiring manager in the interview team are from the start,  the faster and the better outcome we’re going to get. 

Another piece was just the importance of scheduling and we’re big fans of the easy book link and that sometimes shows a calendar that because people are busy, there’s no availability to seven business days from now. We can’t wait that long. 

Other companies are going to be talking to these candidates between now and then so making  sure that the interview team creates availability and then our team is working with them closely  to make sure we can get great candidates scheduled, not just scheduled but interviewed quick ly. 

So those are some of the things that we’re doing to try and compete for these terrific people, everybody’s chasing. 

[0:06:50.4] RS: Yeah, the scheduling I think is an important, like a – I hate to use the term, low  hanging fruit but it is. When you think of time to hire, speed to hire these metrics, scheduling can  be a real pain and if you’re like, “Sorry, how’s next week?” “No, next week’s no good”, “How’s the week of the 14th?” Then you’re losing, right? If you spend that much time. 

Whether that’s – if you have technology or I spoke with someone recently and I think it was Adam Redlich from Octane and he said that barring like some huge emergency, there is no  

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meeting that cannot be booked over with an interview and I love the sound of that. It’s like yeah, if you are going to prioritize this, put your calendar invite where your mouth is but I wanted to  ask you to clarify, what is the hiring manager plus one interview? 

[0:07:35.3] LS: First, I’m going to take that idea that there’s almost no meeting that can’t be re booked to do an interview, that’s a great approach. The hiring manager plus one is when hiring managers will defer, not defer but they’ll invite their boss to be part of an interview team and the 

muscle that we’ve built here and it’s been one of the exciting, I think advances, that we’ve made at Talend over the last year plus is we created a TA advisory council.  

We have business leaders at every different level from SVPs to senior managers in each region,  in each business unit who we’re working with on feedback from them about how we can support them better and ideas we have to push things forward. With that group, we talked about the fact  

that if we believe in our process, if how we’re assessing candidates and recruiting them works, I don’t need my boss’s permission. It’s not really permission but I don’t need their buy-in. 

They’re trusting me to hire and lead this team because I’m going to be responsible for their suc cess in their productivity in the end anyway and so that’s saving us interviews, plus the coming back to the scheduling piece and greater alignment, we just finished looking at our FY21 versus  FY21 reports and one of the things we set out to do last year was simplify our process and  based on the 400 plus people that we hired in 2020, we hired more than a hundred more peo ple, so almost 550 people last year and we did that with only 66 extra interviews total. 

What that means is, we saved more than 2,000 interviews last year. So that importance of the  interview and getting them scheduled is just – it’s critical and it’s why we’re constantly thanking our coordinators because they can be unsung heroes and we know how critical they are. 

[0:09:35.9] RS: 2,000 fewer interviews but – 

[0:09:38.7] LS: Year over year. 

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TTTM 230 Transcript [0:09:40.3] RS: Year over year but presumably more hires. 

[0:09:42.3] LS: That’s right, a hundred more hires with 2,000 fewer interviews. 

[0:09:47.2] RS: Fantastic. Yeah, the hiring manager plus one interview feels like an easy oppor tunity to remove something, right? Because if you need to have that interview, then you’re not a hiring manager, are you, right? You are hiring manager with an asterisk after it. 

[0:10:00.9] LS: It also plays into a big part of what we’re doing from a culture perspective, Rob, which is, as everybody’s working so hard to retain the people that we have now in our compa nies, one of the things that we’ve looked to is empowering our managers. That the more en gaged they are with their teams, the more engaged their teams are, not only will they be more  productive, which helps us achieve these very ambitious business goals we have but you’ve got that camaraderie and it is free decor that everybody’s looking for that are sometimes way more important than compensation and why people stay. 

So empowering them to make the decisions for who’s going to join their team just adds to that piece of why they’re such a key point of how we grow our company by retaining our current people. 

[0:10:51.7] RS: Yeah, absolutely, that makes sense. I’m sorry, I can’t get over the 2,000 less interviews thing. That’s so much time that’s been saved and there’s an interesting balance you have to strike between, like we were saying earlier, “Oh, we can book over meetings with like, very few exceptions” but at the same time, you also want to be really, really efficient with peo ple’s time. 

On the one hand, it’s like, “Hey, we’re going to book you for meetings, we’re going to book you for interviews over any other thing you have but also, we’re going to have you spend less time at interviews” that’s just a matter of efficiency I suppose, yes? 

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[0:11:26.5] LS: That’s exactly right. We did some deep dives on some of the gardener research and others that showed, you get too that. If you’ve got an aligned interview team in the four to six interviews, you can get to that 90 plus percent quality of hire and then anything more is just  wasted time, you’re certainly not improving the candidate experience and you’re taking time away from sellers and builders.  

That was part of it and then some extra context for why that was such a big shift for us is, prior  to changing our process to a more simplified standardized process as a lot of startup companies  that have IPO’d and just grown, there was still almost this cafeteria style, pick your own recruit ing process and some teams wanted everybody on the team to interview. 

We get that but there was also this tradeoff of, “Do eight people have to interview someone? Because we don’t need consensus hiring.” All of that came together to help us simplify our process, bring more rigor and discipline to it and save interview time so people can build prod uct and find new customers. 

[0:12:39.4] RS: That’s an interesting reality I imagine for talent leaders, this notion of teams who have their own way of hiring. We really have this, like you say, it’s free decor, we have this cadre of people we don’t want anyone to come in and ruin it, we all want to meet the team, we all want to take ownership, which makes sense but also, it sounds like you don’t prescribe to the cafeteria model, right? You want to have a more nailed down process.  

How did you go about standardizing the process and explaining to teams, “Hey, I like that you developed your process but we want to save you time.” 

[0:13:10.5] LS: It starts with trust and building relationships with the business so that we could,  our chief people officer, my boss is great at saying this, she says, “Build in, buy in.” Instead of designing this and then informing the business of how you’re going to do this, bring them on the journey and so that TA advisory council that I mentioned, the individual relationships that many  of our recruiters have with key hiring managers and business leaders, bringing all of that to- 

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gether for what will be trying to solve for and based on how quickly we want to grow, we  couldn’t. It’s a math problem. 

You can’t possibly hire the number of people that we need to year over year if we do the same thing and they saw it and we saw it. So we started solving for it and the exciting thing was that  they had just as many ideas in some of the recruiters and so that challenge just brought togeth er some really good outcomes. We still got a lot of work to do but the advances that we’re see ing, our team is seeing and so it creates almost that hunger for, “Let’s do this better.” 

[0:14:18.4] RS: Yeah, the capacity planning piece is so interesting to me. I think it’s really some next level strategic thinking but also so necessary. If I were still on a demand generation side, I  should invest resources into building like a recruiter load balancing calculator or something. You  

would log into a website and be like, “Here is how many recruiters we have and here is how many emails they send a day.”  

I don’t know what the inputs would be but anyway, the idea would be like, “Here is the actual amount of hires you can expect given max efficiency, max capacity of your existing team” does  that come up with a QBR for you? Is that a piece of it to be like, “Hey, here’s where we are rela tive to ahead of count goals?”  

[0:14:57.1] LS: That tool that you just described if it exists, I am not aware of it. A lot of that for  us is manual, Excel spread sheeting but doing that is so important.  

[0:15:08.6] RS: How much would you pay for it Lance?  

[0:15:11.0] LS: Boy, that’s a game changer. 

[0:15:13.4] RS: Would you pay more for that than I make as a podcaster? That’s the question I need to ask you.  

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[0:15:18.1] LS: Yes, so have we found you your next career? I think so because gosh, I was  talking to somebody recently. I haven’t verified it but the rumor is that there are more recruiter jobs on LinkedIn now than there are developer roles. That’s how important hiring is across the 

globe and so even if it’s not exactly true, directionally you chose how important hiring is and so having a model that shows how much can your team do because you reach that point of too  many reps, too tired, too long and horses get tired, so you’re onto something. 

[0:15:59.3] RS: Yeah and I feel like it just gives a healthy dose of reality to candidly like the  CEO and the C-suite at large who like, they have these great visions of how the team is going to  grow and what hyper growth is going to look like, which is exciting and is an important quality  but then you have to push back and say, “Okay but this is what we can actually do” and there’s only so much I can ask my team to, “Can you work harder and give me an extra five or 10%?” 

That’s not sustainable, so at the QBR stage, are you like – I am sure it’s just a bunch of spread sheets but is that reporting constant? How often are you sort of making that point, making that  argument to the powers that be about the capacity?  

[0:16:40.6] LS: That’s a really good question. I don’t think we have to make that point specifical ly too much around here because it comes back to I am fortunate to be at a company that val ues hiring. I shared with you as we’re kicking this of, we’re a strategic lever and everybody knows it so that’s also a great opportunity for a recruiter here but it is also a lot of responsibility and for that reason, our senior leadership team is actually watching that.  

We have over the course of while the whole world has gone through this pandemic and then  some of the social unrest that paralleled it, we also went through a CEO change and a new ex ecutive leadership team. We’ve also gone from public to private, so there’s been some just change on top of change and the way that our entire company has – one of our core values is  agility, the agility that has been demonstrated as we worked our way through this and certainly  with the recruiters is appreciated and valued.  

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We actually in partnership with our owner now, Thoma Bravo, they recently invested in some  extra contract recruiters for us to help recognize that even star performers not that they need to  throttle back but you can’t just keep adding more to the pack and as we were growing trying to keep that rec level stable while also doing this extra hiring, it’s been an added value for us and it’s also just helped our team continue their strong performance. 

It also allows for the – that high touch that our recruiting requires. When you’re having a re cruitment planning meeting in an interview team meeting or trying to for almost every role, that’s time and so not having three extra recs creates a little bit of bandwidth to do that meeting, to  make that extra call to a hiring manager, to reach out to that extra candidate whose résumé you  reviewed because you didn’t have to jump to your next rec. 

[0:18:43.5] RS: How have the contract recruiters been?  

[0:18:45.1] LS: We’ve been fortunate, our team helped interview them and then in many cases, we also had somebody from the business provide their lens to it and so that’s helped us find people who could quickly adopt our process and start to add value. 

[0:19:01.1] RS: Yeah, that seems to be the value is that you can kind of turn it on turn it off. Do  you think there is always a place for that sort of supplemental contract recruiter role even in an  established team with full-time recruiters?  

[0:19:11.8] LS: I absolutely do and in fact, one of the neat opportunities I’ve had in my career is when I was at Intuit. You can’t tell it from my LinkedIn resume but I actually led the RPO function there and I learned so much from the TA leaders at Intuit and that manpower group solutions in  having this force that could expand and contract when necessary to meet the needs of the busi ness.  

So yes, I think particularly in companies where budget is a reality, you can’t just grow your re cruiting force with all of these new full-time team members but finding people who can quickly  

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come in, adapt and add value, we actually did that when I first joined the team and we’ve been fortunate. I think we’ve converted four of our contractors in the last year to full-time. 

[0:20:01.4] RS: Interesting, so the contract recruiter, is that someone who is like looking to get  internal or are they these career contract recruiters out there? Because I was imagining them as  like, “Oh that works for them, they get to sell their recruiting skills into multiple companies prob ably at one time” the roles and projects are always changing. They are sort of like that’s impor tant to some folks but in your case, you’re signing them up full-time. 

[0:20:24.5] LS: It is actually a mix because we’ve had in this competitive environment, it actual ly took us. It wasn’t go find a contractor and get them started right away. We were competing and we had people say no and we’ve had people who were very clear from the start. Yeah, I am interested in three or six months and talent is right up front that they’re not interested in convert ing because they take a couple of months off every summer for whatever reasons.  

So I think there is a real mix there and again, just like any team, the things you learn sometimes  even unexpectedly from the mix of your team helps you move forward in a more effective way,  so it’s been a really good experience for us. Fresh lens because we had a pretty stable team for almost two years and you know bringing in fresh voices particularly people who are experienced  and we’ve had some great learnings form them and their first few months about, “Have you ever thought about this?” and in some of the cases, it was like, “I thought we stopped doing that.” 

[0:21:22.8] RS: Yeah. It seems like Lance you’ve kind of have been able to ensure the talent department is a strategic business partner at talent. That doesn’t happen by accident. Is that a result of leadership already being bought in at the beginning even before someone like you  steps into the role or is that just a constant process of like pushing a rock uphill, reminding peo ple what role this plays in the business, demonstrating value with things like QBRs. How do you  ensure that the talent department is viewed with the respect it deserves?  

[0:21:57.5] LS: Boy, there is a lot in there. I think the biggest piece is does your company care  about it and you heard me say earlier that we’re fortunate that across talent people care about 

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hiring, they care about whose joining our team and whose going to take us forward on the jour ney. So that’s a big start point. The next piece would be becoming that strategic partner. It is not just the TA team, I would say it is our entire people team.  

So we work very closely with the HR business partners, our comp team total rewards, our  PSAO team, everybody is just really learning in development. We gained a diversity leader this  past year, everybody working together so that people are part of what we’re thinking about not just revenue and product growth and so I think that’s an important part and the way that’s demonstrated is our company has two big objectives in 2022.  

The first is we’ve got a really ambitious annually re-occurring revenue goal and so that’s certain ly for the sales team and then what the product team needs to do to grow the product in support  of that are huge but right next to that objective is that we want to attract and retain innovative  and empowered people to help grow our company and so product and revenue and people right  there next to each other is how talent is – how we plan to become an industry transformer.  

[0:23:28.1] RS: Right. Lance, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length here but before I let  you go, I wanted to just ask you to give some advice to the folks out there in podcast land, if  they want to wind up with a role similar to you or is leading a talent department and making sure  that talent is a strategic lever for the business, what advice would you give folks?  

[0:23:47.7] LS: Another good question. I think the first, there is a couple of pieces to that. First,  hopefully you just could feel the energy that I have, so loving what you do I think helps. Another  piece would be and I’ve been very lucky to have mentors and leaders who cared about Lance and have challenged me and encouraged me both so that I could do different things. So those  are certainly part of it but probably the advice piece would be learn the business.  

For me, that comes from I spent my first 17, 18 years in the Navy, I was operational. I was in  squadrons on carrier group battle staffs. I did some staff jobs like in the Pentagon, so I learned  the business of the Navy before I got into recruiting for the Navy and then the same thing hap pened for me at that 24 Hour Fitness when I retired from active duty and I joined that company  and my first private sector role. I had business roles my first four years in the company.  

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One was in transforming our sales process as part of that team and another was leading the  equipment function and so just like I had the chance in the Navy to learn the business before  being responsible for recruiting, the same thing happened for me at 24 Hour Fitness and so I’ve taken that mindset to the other great companies I’ve had the chance to be a part of, so it is probably learn the business.  

[0:25:14.3] RS: Yeah, that’s great advice and I’m also realizing there’s a lot we didn’t talk about here about your time I get into it at 24 Hour and in the Armed Forces. We must have a follow up  where we can get the full Lance story. I’m sorry we glazed over that. For now Lance, I just want to say thank you so much for being here and sharing all of your experience and the way that  you are building talent over there at Talend.  

It seems like you’ve really thought of all the angles and the results don’t lie, so well done and thanks so much for being here and sharing with me today Lance.  

[0:25:41.3] LS: Thank you Rob. I appreciate it and I am fortunate to work with a great team at a  great company.  


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