Friends of Attract: Simon Bernardino from Lab17

Simon Bernardino and Nick Ingall founded the Lab17’s talent partners in 2019. The pair first met at the age of 14 and have worked in many startups around the world. They started Lab17 shortly after the pair finished up at SafetyCulture and saw the challenges startups had.

The Lab17 approaches hiring with a product lens, allowing the team to speak the same language as their partners and achieve fantastic results.

How viewing recruiting through a product lens can drive tangible results.

Attract: Can you tell us about The Lab17’s approach to hiring with a product lens?

The product lens came from wanting to speak the same language as the people we work with.

When product managers are delivering a new feature it goes like this: have the idea, do some research, validate the idea, build and deliver something, and then iterate. Adopting that product mindset and talking the language of product gives us a stronger level of connection with the hiring managers, founders and candidates we work with. It highlights to our partners that we have a methodical approach to what we do.

Every partner that we have has a different set of problems, different stages of growth, different cultures. We develop a custom approach for every partner that we work with – it’s one of the really cool things about our approach — it’s not just about establishing processes, we view talent acquisition as a product. Yes, we’re supplying candidates along the way, but are there different features or different strategies we can adopt?

Attract: What is the similarity between product and hiring?

We have a six-week sprint plan that we follow. The first two weeks are focused on research and setting up the success of the search — taking job briefs, market mapping, hooking into your systems, and getting interview processes established. Then we get into hiring and iterating.

Thinking about a product manager, they’ve got all these different stakeholders. There’s nothing worse than a product company not doing enough customer research or understanding what customers want, and just building stuff they think customers want. They’ve also got all these internal stakeholders, engineers, and designers. It’s the same as talent acquisition. You’ve got to understand the candidates and you’ve got pressure from your hiring manager. Additionally, from an embedded talent partner’s perspective, you’ve also got expectations from your stakeholders. It’s a similar type of situation: multiple stakeholders, and different push and pull from each.

Attract: Why did you adopt this strategy?

The problem with recruitment is that as recruiters and TAs we can be too quick to want to impress and get results. We speed everything up. We fall into a trap of taking requirements, finding candidates as quickly as possible, and then letting the candidates impress your hiring manager.

Talent acquisition and recruitment (in my experience) as a function hasn’t evolved as quickly as other functions. To a degree, it is being done the way it’s always been done. It is on us to bring stakeholders, founders, and hiring managers on the journey.

That’s a big motivation behind the product lens and doing it in six-week sprints, with each step clearly defined. So that when we share this back with our stakeholders they’re like “okay I get this, this is how I operate as well and I want to be involved. You’ve done all this research, and you’ve got this market map and you can tell me how many people are in Brisbane for that job role.”

It’s cheesy but if you build it they will come. You will get the tough person here and there, but if you build processes that are logical and get an outcome those stakeholders will want to be involved. It doesn’t have to be a positive outcome, because that’s the whole point of viewing recruitment through the product lens. If we get to the end of the six-week sprint and didn’t fill the role we’ll look back at the process and see where we can tweak it, and in the next six-week sprint you can take the learnings and iterate.

Attract: What is one key aspect of this approach that every recruiter should adopt?

Every great PM that I’ve spoken to has empathy for the customer and the problem they’re trying to solve. That is a consistent attribute that I see with good product people. I think that ties into our approach, examining challenges through the product lens.

Having empathy for each individual’s problems and the challenges they’re having, like finding people and scaling a team is important. If you can have that, it goes a long way in terms of being able to deliver an outcome.

Attract: Do your customers adopt the strategy once you leave?

I’d like to think they take away some things we try to embed into them. We want to scale up the TA function where possible, not everyone we work with needs to have their TA process changed or improved, but where we do see an opportunity we will make a recommendation. Ultimately we want to roll off and leave our partner in a better place than where we found them. If they don’t have an existing TA space we’ll go in and build that out for them. All the IP that we create for our partners is theirs for them to own and continue to develop going forward.

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