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Ep 542: Building A Global TA Strategy


Being a Global Head of TA in 2023 is highly challenging. Dealing with disrupted talent markets and global hiring nuances while building a consistent approach to candidate experience and stakeholder relations and keeping on top of emerging technology trends is complex, to say the least.

My guest this week is Chet Ritchie, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Manulife. Chet is driving a TA strategy based on transparent relationship management and a core, common and custom approach to the critical elements of recruiting and employer branding.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Demographic shifts and talent market dynamics

• The importance of hiring manager and stakeholder relations

• A personalized and engaging candidate experience

• Providing feedback throughout the process

• Structuring a global team

• Core, Common and Custom

• The role of technology

• Showing humanity through the recruiting process

• Leveraging data for talent intelligence and process optimization

• What does the future of TA look like

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.


Paradox (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by Paradox, the conversational AI company, helping global talent acquisition teams at Unilever, McDonald’s, and CVS Health get recruiting work done faster. Let’s face it, talent acquisition is full of boring administrative tasks that drag the hiring process down and create frustrating experiences for everyone. Paradox’s AI assistant Olivia is shaking up that paradigm, automating things like applicant screening, interview scheduling, and candidate Q and A, so recruiters can spend more time with people, not software.

Paradox (40s):
Curious how Olivia can work for your team? Then visit to learn more.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 5s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 542 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Being a Global Head of TA in 2023 is highly challenging. Dealing with disrupted talent markets and global hiring nuances while building a consistent approach to candidate experience and stakeholder relations and keeping on top of emerging technology trends is complex, to say the least. My guest this week is Chet Ritchie, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Manulife. Chet is driving a TA strategy based on transparent relationship management and a core, common, and custom approach to the critical elements of recruiting and employer branding.

Matt Alder (1m 55s):
Hi Chet, and welcome to the podcast.

Chet Ritchie (1m 57s):
Thank you. Hey, Matt, how’s it going?

Matt Alder (1m 59s):
Very well, thank you. An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please could you introduce yourself and everyone what you do?

Chet Ritchie (2m 6s):
Thank you, Matt. My name is Chet Richie and I lead a global talent acquisition team here at Manulife, John Hancock. And my primary responsibility is to lead the strategic direction for our talent acquisition function across the globe. So this includes overseeing our recruitment efforts for our offices in North America, in various countries in Asia, as well as ensuring that we top in higher the top talent here for our organization’s success and growth.

Matt Alder (2m 33s):
Fantastic stuff. And for those of people who’ve not heard of Manulife, tell us a bit more about the organization.

Chet Ritchie (2m 39s):
Sure. Manulife is a Canadian multinational insurance company and financial services provider that’s headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. The company operates in Canada and Asia is Manulife, and then in the United States, primarily through its John Hancock financial division.

Matt Alder (2m 56s):
So it’s been a very, very strange year as far as talent acquisition is concerned with huge amounts of things going on. Tell us what you are seeing in the market at the moment. What are the biggest challenges for talent acquisition from your perspective?

Chet Ritchie (3m 10s):
Yeah, it is crazy times, right? The global talent market’s becoming increasingly competitive. You know, with a growing demand for skilled professionals in various industries, One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing is the scarcity of talent with the right skill and experience, especially emerging fields like artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cybersecurity. And then there’s also the demographic shifts, such as an aging workforce and the rise of millennial and Gen Z talent pools. So that’s influencing the dynamics of our global talent market as well. And then there’s the challenge of recruiting people out of their roles today. So where last year we saw a huge increase in people looking for new jobs.

Chet Ritchie (3m 54s):
This year we’re seeing an uptick in time to source in time to fill roles simply because people are less likely to change job today’s given the questions they have around the global economy.

Matt Alder (4m 5s):
And as part of this, how important are sort of strong hiring manager stakeholder relationships? Because with so much going on in the market. I presume there’s a lot to communicate, a lot of expectations to manage. How important are those relationships and and how are you building them?

Chet Ritchie (4m 24s):
Well, excellent relationships with hiring managers and candidates are definitely crucial for successful talent acquisition functions. So building that trust and the strong partnerships with the hiring managers is, it’s one of those things where we have to understand what their hiring needs are and then aligning on the requirements of the role in ensuring a robust sourcing and recruitment process. So, here at Manulife, we stress the need for regular communication, providing timely feedback and collaborating closely with our hiring managers to contribute to that strong working relationship. And that ultimately leads to building trust with the hiring leaders. When it comes to the candidates relationship building is equally important.

Chet Ritchie (5m 6s):
So the candidates today expect a personalized and engaging experience throughout the process is what we’re finding. So we strive to create a positive candidate experience by being transparent, providing timely updates, and then ensuring clear communication at every stage. Building those relationships with candidates involves active listening, understanding what their motivations are, and then addressing their concerns from the beginning. Even if a candidate isn’t selected, it’s so important to provide that constructive feedback and then maintain that positive impression to encourage future engagement.

Matt Alder (5m 42s):
Tell us a little bit more about how do you ensure that kind of it, is it every candidate that gets that feedback? How does that work?

Chet Ritchie (5m 49s):
It’s tough. Giving feedback is definitely an acquired skill, right? And so while for internals that might be a little bit easier than it is for externals at times to give that feedback. We try to do that throughout the process, right? And so we’re trying to talk with them candidates throughout the process, how are things going in the interviews, some of the key things that we’re hearing. So by the time we get to the end of the process, it’s not a surprise. We don’t wanna surprise somebody who thought they were doing great through the entire process and then suddenly it doesn’t work out times. At times that might happen. But we try to continue to have that ongoing conversation with the candidate throughout the process.

Matt Alder (6m 29s):
And how do things vary from a TA perspective, from country to country and the countries that you’re working in?

Chet Ritchie (6m 36s):
The world of talent acquisition, very significantly from country to country due to cultural, legal, and economic factors. Each country has its own unique talent market dynamic. And what we find across, say our Asia region is local hiring practices, regulatory requirements can vary from country to country. So understanding these nuances is crucial for effective talent acquisition strategies at a global level. So as an example, some countries direct sourcing and fertile are more prevalent, where in some others job boards and or recruitment agencies play a larger role. So understanding and adapting to these local customs and language preferences and cultural norms, those are essential for any global talent and acquisition strategy.

Matt Alder (7m 25s):
And how does your teamwork, do you have people in all of those countries? Do you do things centrally? What’s the structure?

Chet Ritchie (7m 32s):
We do. We have people across the globe. And we operate as a global talent acquisition function. So we try to employ the core common, and custom philosophy when we think about our talent acquisition strategy. Having an overarching core strategy globally, understanding that there are times where we have to do things that are common across different regions or different countries. And then obviously we have to customize it based on the needs of the hiring manager, the needs of the business, and the types of roles as well.

Matt Alder (8m 8s):
And what role does technology play in all of this?

Chet Ritchie (8m 12s):
So technology plays a pivotal role for us in building strong relationships with the hiring managers and candidates. It enables seamless communication, it automates administrative tasks and obviously can provide very valuable insights for us as well. So application tracking systems, candidate relationship management platforms, collaborative hiring tools, these all help to enhance the efficiency and maintain consistent and transparent communication, not just with our candidates, but with our hiring managers. We’ve been working at leveraging data analytics in the AI and talent acquisition within the process to help us make more informed decisions, reducing bias throughout the process, and then helping us ultimately to identify the best fit candidates.

Chet Ritchie (9m 3s):
So it’s important though, as we go through this, to remember that we have to strike the right balance and ensure that technology compliments the human elements rather than trying to replace it.

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Matt Alder (10m 24s):
You mention there the data there the work that you are doing. Tell us a little bit more of how you are achieving that?

Chet Ritchie (10m 32s):
We are leveraging our data when we meet with our hiring managers from the beginning when we do our quarterly business reviews and annual business reviews with our business leaders to talk through what are we seeing in the talent market. And there’s several different avenues that we go down when we look at how to get this data through various sources. But ultimately it’s about understanding and being able to tell the story of what we’re seeing in the market. So when we actually go to market for a role, hiring managers aren’t surprised by what they’re gonna see. Like we’ve been bringing them along on this journey, and we find that is ultimately the best way to build that partnership with them, build that trust.

Chet Ritchie (11m 17s):
So we can then do what we do as talent acquisition consultants and consult with them throughout the process.

Matt Alder (11m 25s):
So coming back to candidate experience there, because obviously you are talking about it being very difficult to hire and watching the market and all those kind of things. So a good candidate experience is obviously very, very important. What does a good candidate experience look like in 2023?

Chet Ritchie (11m 44s):
In 2023, we are definitely finding that candidates expect a streamlined and efficient hiring process that leverages technology without sacrificing the human touch. So going through the recruitment process can be, and often, often it is stressful for candidates. So not only are they waiting to hear feedback after each step In the interview process, but often their family and their friends might be asking them like, Hey, how’s that interview going for that new job? And then if there’s a potential relocation involved, this adds a whole another dynamic for the candidate and their family. So I actually joined Manulife last year. And it was the first time going through the recruitment process for myself in a very long time.

Chet Ritchie (12m 29s):
And I remember talking with my husband very early on in the process about the potential role and what it would mean if we were going to look at a potential move from Minneapolis to Boston if I was selected. So, for those couple of months I was going through the interview process, but it wasn’t just myself going through it, it was really both of us. And then we had to consider what the impact would be if we did move on our kids. So understanding all of this is why as recruiters, it’s important for us to share our humanity throughout this process. So, regular communication, personalized interactions in a transparent view of the hiring process will go a long way to help candidates through what can be a very stressful time and be able to show up as their true and authentic selves throughout the process.

Chet Ritchie (13m 21s):
And then again, dealing with rejected candidates, that requires empathy, it requires professionalism, and it’s important to provide that timely feedback. You know, highlighting the strengths areas for improvement, how the process went for them, understanding how they felt through the process and maintaining that positive relationship with rejected candidates can turn them into brand ambassadors for your organization.

Matt Alder (13m 45s):
No, absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. And what’s the role of data within all of that? You sort of talked about the data you use with hiring managers. Do you also use data to measure the candidate experience or to improve the efficiency of the recruiting process?

Chet Ritchie (14m 2s):
Absolutely. We spend quite a bit of time on analyzing and looking at the candidate feedback for not just the people that we’ve hired, but also for candidates that were not successful through the process. One of our tools that we use is our NPS. Looking at NPS scores is really a way for us to understand kind of a snapshot of how the process is going. But then we’ve also built dashboards internally where we can get down to the recruiter level, we can get down to the business level, we can really understand where are we getting the feedback throughout the process. So having that data available to us as a feedback mechanism, not just for the hired candidates.

Chet Ritchie (14m 46s):
Because obviously a hired candidate typically is gonna feel pretty good, they got the job right. And we get some great feedback from there, but sometimes it is the candidates that were not hired that actually give us some very important insights into how the process went and maybe where there might have been communication gaps or processes that may have took a little too long. And so we take that data and we spend time with our recruiting teams to really understand the human element of the process itself.

Matt Alder (15m 17s):
One of the biggest talking points of the year has been the arrival of generative AI into the sort of the recruiting and HR space. What do you think the impacts are for talent acquisition from your perspective, from this kind of technology?

Chet Ritchie (15m 34s):
Yeah, generative AI has certainly been top of mind for many of us this year. And it’s definitely impacting the relationship management aspects within talent acquisition. So, AI powered chatbots, virtual assistance, those provide personalized support and answer candidate queries and enhance the candidate experience. They can also analyze large volumes of data to identify patterns, predict hiring needs, and provide insights on talent acquisition strategies. But it’s important to remember that AI is a tool and that the human touch remains essential for building meaningful relationships, especially in talent and acquisition.

Chet Ritchie (16m 16s):
So those effective relationship management, it requires empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to understand unique needs of our candidates and the hiring managers. So utilizing technology and AI to free up the recruiters from the administrative tasks, gives them more time to spend building their talent networks and developing those relationships that are ultimately going to lead to a higher quality experience for everyone and better hires.

Matt Alder (16m 43s):
And how do you see this kind of all coming together and panning out for the future? What does the future of TA look like?

Chet Ritchie (16m 50s):
I think the future of TA is gonna continue to be shaped by technology, changing demographics, and really evolving candidate expectations. So how we communicate and how we automate certain steps in the process. This isn’t even like three or four years down the road, this is now, right? So we can definitely expect further advancements in AI in the coming years and increase automation and data analytics to optimize the recruitment process and improve decision making. I would also envision that DEI will become even more prominent with organizations focusing on building diverse talent pipelines and network and looking to technology to understand how do we mitigate bias in the hiring process.

Chet Ritchie (17m 36s):
And then of course, everybody’s favorite topic flexibility, remote work, gig economy models those are also going to influence how we attract talent and our strategies around that. I think employer branding and the candidate experience are going to probably be front and center in attracting talent going forward. So I would envision organizations investing in enhancing their employer brand through social media, employee advocacy, and then authentic storytelling. And what does that storytelling look like? Does it become 15 second TikTok on employer brand?

Chet Ritchie (18m 18s):
Like, I don’t know. I don’t know if anybody has fully baked that out yet, but it’s gonna be a continuous learning experience, I think for us when it comes to employee branding. And then continuous learning. Upskilling is gonna be key for both candidates and hiring managers and understanding the skills required for success as the future of work continues to evolve. And the thing I would say is not going to change is talent acquisition is going to become more and more strategic. So talent is one of the greatest assets that a firm can have. We’re the ones that deliver on that. And so to do so, we have to continue to be agile.

Chet Ritchie (18m 58s):
We have to be ready to adapt because this landscape of global talent is going to go through rapid changes over the coming years.

Matt Alder (19m 8s):
I couldn’t agree with you more. Chet, thank you very much for talking to me.

Chet Ritchie (19m 14s):
Thank you, Matt.

Matt Alder (19m 15s):
My thanks to Chet. 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 On that site., you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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