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Ep 447: Dealing With Disruption

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Back in 2020, there was an acknowledgement that talent acquisition had changed forever but a sense that things would eventually stabilise into a new normal. Two and half years later, it is clear that the only new normal is continual long-term disruption, change and uncertainty.

So what should TA leaders focus on to give their organisations the best chance of maintaining a competitive talent advantage in these challenging times?

My guest this week is Hayli Thornhill, Head of Recruiting at Brighthire. Hayli is an experienced TA Leader with experience in both start-ups and large corporates. She has some insightful advice on dealing with disruption and preparing for an uncertain future.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Long term disruption and uncertainty

• Intelligent interview and evidence based hiring

• What should TA Leaders be focusing on

• Efficiency and quality

• Auditing tech stacks

• Modernising interviewer training

• Improving the hiring process

• Five non-negotiables to focus on

• Providing a brilliant candidate experience

• Looking to the future

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts

Interview transcript:

BrightHire (Ad) (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by BrightHire. BrightHire is leading interview intelligence platform transforms hiring by helping individuals run better interviews, and helping teams hire faster with more confidence and less bias. BrightHire automatically records and transcribes interviews, and creates highlights that can be revisited and shared right with MBATS. Teams use BrightHire to streamline their interview process, train interviewers and recruiters, and give hiring managers better information to make the best possible hiring decisions.

BrightHire (Ad) (40s):
Visit brighthire.com to learn how BrightHire can help you win the best talent.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 4s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 447 of The Recruiting Future podcast. Back in 2020, there was an acknowledgement that talent acquisition had changed forever but a sense that things would eventually stabilise into a new normal. Two and half years later, it is clear that the only new normal is continual long-term disruption, change and uncertainty. So what should TA leaders focus on to give their organisations the best chance of maintaining a competitive talent advantage in these challenging times?

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 43s):
My guest this week is Hayli Thornhill, Head of Recruiting at Brighthire. Hayli is an experienced TA Leader with experience in both start-ups and large corporates. She has some insightful advice on dealing with disruption and preparing for an uncertain future.

Matt Alder (2m 2s):
Hi Hayli and welcome to the podcast.

Hayli Thornhill (2m 5s):
Hi Matt. It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Matt Alder (2m 8s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you just introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Hayli Thornhill (2m 15s):
Yes, of course have been in the recruiting space for quite some time now going on about 20 years. But like what’s hopefully a bit unique about my experience is I’ve spent a lot of time in very large global organizations, spanning different industries from finance to different areas of technology, leading large teams in those places and took a bit of a turn to try my hand at early stage startups, which I found that I love. So that’s where I’ve spent the last few years as the first recruiter in early stage, just post series B, tech startups, building teams, essentially from scratch, and have had an opportunity to, I feel like round out my experience in a way that was certainly a goal of mine to do so.

Hayli Thornhill (3m 8s):
And that gets us to today.

Matt Alder (3m 10s):
Tell us a little bit about your role at the moment and the company you work for.

Hayli Thornhill (3m 14s):
Absolutely. So our lead recruiting for Brighthire. What drew me here was certainly the mission. And of course the people after being in the space for so long, I believe that there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes for doing things a bit better in the hiring space. So I was very drawn to Brighthire. What we’ve done is built an intelligent interview platforms. That’s on top of Zoom and Google Meet. We record and transcribe interviews, empowering companies, I would say for the first time to truly make evidence-based hiring decisions. So surfacing data in a way that makes it extremely easy to digest, share, revisit, analyze, to make sure you’re hiring the best people in the most efficient manner, and with the least amount of bias.

Matt Alder (3m 58s):
Tell us about the team that you work with. What is your recruiting team look like?

Hayli Thornhill (4m 1s):
We’re a small but mighty team of two, right now. So we have amazing go to market recruiter, who’s mostly focused on that side of the business. I managing tech and processes and a little bit of everything else. And we work very closely together with our partners here. Right now, we’re about 52ish full-time employees.

Matt Alder (4m 19s):
So It’s ah… I mean, I’ve, it seems like I’ve been continually saying this for two and a half years, but it’s a very disruptive, a very strange time in recruiting at the moment. We seem to have gone from a period of time where everyone was wanting to recruit as quickly as they possibly could quicker than was actually humanly possible in many cases. But now the market is also sort of smattered with layoffs sort of, particularly in the tech sector and in the startup sector. Tell us about what you’re seeing in the market at the moment. What are the challenges? What’s going on from your perspective?

Hayli Thornhill (4m 56s):
Yeah, of course. I mean, I would, I think we can all agree that globally people have been through quite a bit in the last few years, especially. So I think, and not know that many of us are still adjusting to pandemic impacts both personally and professionally. People are feeling uncertain in the wake of the layoffs that you mentioned, certainly with these big name companies leading the charge. I think it is even more unsettling for folks. So we find ourselves somewhere on the broad spectrum of slowing down, freezing, hiring completely to some people operating, you know, essentially be a, you are full speed ahead and many still have sizeable hiring targets to meet this year. So I would say the market is still a very challenging one, particularly in the technology space.

Hayli Thornhill (5m 41s):
And I think we’ve known this. I mean, certainly we’ve learned this over the last couple of years as well. But I think the market demands a new level of agility and companies will need to erupt to rise to meet this new demand, to be competitive, and some are having to do so with much smaller teams, if their teams have been impacted. So we find ourselves with this unique sort of forced opportunity to work better, smarter, faster. And many of us actually have the time for once to figure out what that means and actually how to do it, which is a lot of exciting.

Matt Alder (6m 13s):
Very much feels like this is what the future looks like. This continual disruption, moving of goalposts, things going on, talent shortages, companies, freezing hiring, companies accelerating hiring. So the future is uncertainty. And as you said, it’s such an important time for talent acquisition leaders and talent acquisition teams to really get the sort of the basis of their strategy and their technology, and everything really cemented in to see them through what’s going to be a kind of a rollercoaster river of a few years. Talk us through what you think the key elements are that people should be looking at right now.

Hayli Thornhill (6m 53s):
Yes. I mean, I think, you know, we’re all still talking a lot about efficiency. And I don’t think that’s going to go away. You know, I think efficiency with quality is key. I would say there are three large buckets that I’m hearing rather consistently from folks in the market. And those are related to tech stack interviewer training, and just overall improvements to the hiring process. So it sounds good to you. I’m happy to talk through each of those, obviously a more detail.

Matt Alder (7m 26s):
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s start with tech stack. Talk us through what you’re seeing, what you think people should be focusing on.

Hayli Thornhill (7m 32s):
Yeah, for those of us who have slowed down. I mean, it’s a great time to audit our recruitment tech stack. So there are plenty of tools as we all know, to address any area of your funnel that needs assistance. Most of us are working with, you know, five large bucket areas of the tech stack. And those are sourcing and candidate attraction. So things like job boards, sourcing platforms, second would be candidate management and engagement. So your ATS or CRM, the third would be interviewing. So screening, video interviewing platforms. Fourth being assessment and screening, background checks, reference checks, think of that technology addressing those areas.

Hayli Thornhill (8m 13s):
And then lastly offers an onboarding. So things like documentation management. I think it’s fair to say we’re all somewhere between tool overload, fatigue, and hey, this seems to be working, when it comes to our tech stacks. I was chatting with a friend recently who leads a large team, a team that she inherited by the way. So she joined a new company earlier this year. And she’s currently in the process of assessing 30 to 40 tools that were purchased prior to her joining. So, I mean, that’s enough to give anyone anxiety with the forced shift to remote in early 2020. Some hasty purchases were likely made to accommodate the virtual hiring process.

Hayli Thornhill (8m 54s):
And this is a perfect time to evaluate and optimize.

Matt Alder (8m 59s):
And how do you sort of personally go about looking at a tech stack? How do you sort of set the strategy? What are you looking for? What have you found to be the best way of making sure that you have the right technology that’s fit for purpose?

Hayli Thornhill (9m 13s):
Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of times, many of us are, you know, to my earlier story, I think many of us are joining a company a lot of times, and there are some things in place and we’re inheriting things that maybe we wouldn’t have been at the top of our lists. You know, when you join a new place, whether you’re inheriting or there’s nothing, I think understanding what the current process looks like and what is currently happening in the day to day is key. So, you know, really talking and listening to people on the team and finding out how they’re working and what’s working for them. I mean, what I’ve found in the past is that you may have some recruiters with some very strong opinions about certain tools that they love for whatever reason.

Hayli Thornhill (9m 54s):
But, you know, I think really looking at, again, what’s working? What’s working for, not only your recruiting team, but for hiring team collaboration, et cetera? And then figuring out what the return on investment on either their current stack is, or the one, you know, again, that may be the one that you’ve inherited? But really figuring out, or a lot of times there’s overlap. Are we paying for five things that are ultimately doing the same thing? So really breaking it down and understanding, you know, that’s the first step and then working through what the team needs. And a lot of times it’s not 250 things.

Hayli Thornhill (10m 35s):
It’s just understanding, what’s working well? Where are the gaps?

Matt Alder (10m 39s):
You mentioned into your training and I’m particularly interested in this one in the light of what Brighthire does. So talk us through that.

Hayli Thornhill (10m 45s):
Yeah. So I recently attended greenhouse open, which by the way, it was great to see people in person for the first time in a long time. Also, a great opportunity for a real time market pulse Jack. So I cannot speak enough about how much I’m hearing about training specifically interviewer training as being top of mind for recruiters and leaders who may find themselves with some extra time on their hands right now. So, you know, interview trainings are really interesting topic, as I’m sure you, you know. I mean, every organization knows it’s really important, but most have an old model and materials for getting it done. So the old ways, I think what most of us are familiar with, maybe a training deck, one lab session, you know, primarily focused on what not to do or say.

Hayli Thornhill (11m 27s):
You know, in other words, how not to get sued. Followed by maybe some live awkward shadowing experiences, which result in a less than stellar candidate experience. So, you know, overall the old way is really completely disregarding what should be covered and how to do so in an impactful way. And I think it’s finally time. I know that it’s finally time for us to let technology help us do that really well, too. So, you know, companies like Brighthire are certainly changing the game. Our platform gives companies the power to create on demand training playlist, so to speak, so that recruiters and hiring teams can see and hear what good looks like for every stage of the process.

Hayli Thornhill (12m 16s):
So imagine track one being company pitch. Track two, how to describe the engineering culture? Track three, how to conduct a successful system design interview. And the best part is that, you know, there’s an opportunity for relevant and meaningful content in an on demand fashion. So allowing teams to train async in a way to create something that’s actually repeatable, relevant, and scalable.

Matt Alder (12m 41s):
Just to dig into that a little bit deeper. Tell us a little bit more about how you use your own tool.

Hayli Thornhill (12m 49s):
So, I mean, I love — you know, and people internally listening will laugh at me cause they know how much I love our clips feature. So, and that to me works in line with what I was just describing for interview training. So, you know, with our product, with us recording that entire discussion, if you think about it, most companies haven’t had the visibility to first understand what is actually happening throughout the process, truly. So I think, you know, that’s the first and foremost unique thing about what we’re doing here is the first place, is we’re showing up to these discussions. You and your teams are already doing all the hard work, which is having these discussions in the first place.

Hayli Thornhill (13m 32s):
We’re capturing it all for you and allowing the data to be shared seamlessly. So you’re able to pull specific moments from these discussions, for example, and share them with the rest of your team to ensure that you’re making the best decisions. And you’re using those same moments for example, when it comes to putting these customized playlist together for interview training.

Matt Alder (13m 56s):
You also mentioned hiring process improvement, and obviously interview training is part of that to some extent. Talk us through that a bit more, because I think it’s something that lots of organizations have been looking at over the last 12 months or so. Very often with a view to trying to desperately speed up their process, and perhaps not making the exactly the right decisions to do that. What have you been seeing? What do you think people should be focusing on right now?

Hayli Thornhill (14m 21s):
Yeah, I think sometimes people can get a bit wrapped up in thinking they have to have such a complex process to begin with. Or maybe they’re just trying to fix too many things without understanding where the real issues are to begin with. So when there is time like this to assess the process without the stress of trying to hit, you know, huge hiring targets, what a great time to really just take it back to the basics. And we can start by asking ourselves, if we would use words like structured, streamlined, and unbiased to describe what’s currently in place. You know, so again, what’s working well? Where are the gaps?

Hayli Thornhill (15m 3s):
What are the biggest challenges? And I think, in my mind, there are really kind of five non-negotiables that should proceed the posting of any new role, for example. Which is ultimately that’s the first step, right? For any process. So happy to talk through what those five things are, which I think is a great place for anyone to start again, who kind of wants to take it back to the basics. You know, a real business need and a well-written job description to address that need is first and foremost, the most important and critical thing. And that’s going to set the stage for the entire process moving forward. Second is a behavioral based questions relevant to the requirements of the role, built into an interview guide for the team to easily access.

Hayli Thornhill (15m 46s):
You know, the next is an interview panel with a clear understanding of what’s to be covered at each stage. You know, for a fully virtual process, it’s important to remember that this is the candidates chance to get an idea of what our culture is like. And it’s important to represent that appropriately. Calibration is probably the biggest of these five non-negotiables, you know, in my opinion. So calibration regarding an ideal candidate profile, what a good answer looks like establishing a rubric for each stage. So consider even establishing a calibration meeting for the whole panel before interviewing starts, I think we likely all found ourselves in a debrief that goes completely off the rails.

Hayli Thornhill (16m 30s):
So I’ve seen this happen multiple times with engineering interviews and disagreement. For example, related to leveling of a candidate. You know, unfortunately memory tends to get five-year between interview and debrief. And there’s no way to counteract a biased opinion without evidence from the discussion itself. And lastly, I would say ensuring everyone has access to give structured feedback and set a precedent for that feedback. My recommendation is 24 hours. Post-interview in scorecards. If they’re available, should be set up before the process is kicked off.

Matt Alder (17m 10s):
How do you leverage all of those things to make sure that your Providing a brilliant candidate experience?

Hayli Thornhill (17m 19s):
Again, just understanding what those areas should be in the first place and why they’re important, and making sure that your team understands that. I mean, a lot of times people get pulled into interviews. You know, they might be the best product manager you have, but they’re not necessarily expert interviewers. So I think it’s really important just to make sure that everyone understands what the steps are, and why they’re necessary to ensure, you know, not only a great candidate experience, but to make sure you’re making the right hires. You know, we focus, we talked about this earlier so much on speed, but you have to make sure that you are moving swiftly, but also with care when it comes to bringing the right people into the organization.

Matt Alder (18m 3s):
Final question. We said right at the beginning of the conversation, how the, everything being unpredictable is the key theme of the future. So rather than kind of asked you to sort of predict the future and what might happen, what do you hope is going to happen in talent acquisition in the next sort of one to two years? If we’re having this conversation again, in sort of 24 months, what would you hope would be talking about?

Hayli Thornhill (18m 26s):
What I would say is, you know, I hope that, and what I’ve seen is I believe that companies have, I’m not going to use the word force, but I think they’ve been strongly encouraged to ensure that they are optimizing their process at every single stage. Candidates, extremely high bar for everything right now. So, I don’t think there’s ever been a ton of patients for a bad candidate experience. But what I would say is that I think we’re going to see the demand for that to continue to rise and for candidates to expect a lot, not only of the process, but they’re going to be very intentional about the decisions they’re making.

Hayli Thornhill (19m 10s):
And so companies will either rise to meet the challenge from a competition perspective and make sure that they have the right technology in place to do that, or what I think, you know, we’ll see is there will be a big difference in those companies that continue to grow and attract the best talent, and those that fall behind.

Matt Alder (19m 27s):
Hayli, thank you very much for talking to me.

Hayli Thornhill (19m 31s):
Thank you so much for having me.

Matt Alder (19m 34s):
My thanks to Hayli. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening.

Matt Alder (20m 31s):
I’ll be back next time, and I hope you’ll join me.

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