Friends of attract: Simon McSorley of Crew Talent

Simon McSorley is the founder of Crew Talent Advisory, he runs a micro RPO where tech recruiters work on-site with high-growth companies to help them achieve their hiring goals.

Simon joins us to discuss the debate on hiring well vs hiring quickly.

tl;dr: Hiring well is never something you should compromise on, even when timelines are tight. To hire for quality it’s important to check for culture fit, think deeply about your interviewing skill and ensure that you document your key processes to keep you on track.

Attract: Do you think it is better to hire well, or hire quickly?

There are always things to compromise within a hiring process. Usually, it’s time, cost or quality.

Hiring teams often say “we need to get this hire as quickly as possible.” That’s usually because someone has left. You’re replacing headcount and can’t deliver whatever that role does in the in-between so you need to get someone hired as quickly as possible. Other than someone resigning and not giving four weeks notice there are rarely reasons that you can’t plan for attrition.

Quite often recruiters and agencies get involved in the conversation when the company has tried to do something themselves to replace the role and it hasn’t gotten where it needs to go. They might have had 6 weeks originally and used it all up, and now it’s down to us. It becomes our problem, not theirs. One of the risks that you run with this is that quality can sometimes be given up for speed.

If companies don’t have the budget to use an external provider they have to do it themselves, as well as their day job – running the risk of compromising on quality. If the compromise isn’t time, it is quality. You should never really compromise on quality but sometimes you need to because you don’t have the time.

Candidates are rarely interviewing at one organisation if they’re active in the market. They’re interviewing with multiple people so the burden of having to move quickly is more pronounced.

Attract: What can you do to ensure that you hire well?

You can focus on quality by getting several opinions and collecting data points along the process.

You can collect those data points by using technical profiling to verify skills, skill assessment platforms and having multiple people interacting with the candidate throughout the interview process — who the candidate speaks to is important. When focusing on hiring for quality spread the risk by having multiple viewpoints so you can make an objective decision.

You need more than two people’s perspectives so there is some sense-checking and deeper thinking around the decision. More than two people are important because they could be buddies and convince each other in one direction. Or if one person is more senior than the other, the junior person goes along with the more senior person.

There are ways you can build a process that allows you to move through this really quickly. When I was hiring at Zendesk everyone involved in the hiring of a role would get together at the beginning of the process and all agree on what good looks like: what characteristics, the interview process, and what aspects of the interview process they would oversee. I noticed that everybody gave the hiring process the care and attention it deserved because they all recognised that getting the right hire impacted them.

This ritual started to become embedded. By the time I finished up there the rituals and the way we thought about candidates we interviewed became really evolved. What I mean by that is their people began thinking about these candidates more objectively. What makes candidate A better than candidate B? When we think objectively about what makes a good hire, your chances of making a miss-hire begin to drop drastically.

Having a documented process is a great place to start because you can revert back to that — this is what you agreed on and documented. It could just be as simple as a few dot points. If the decision diverts from everything we said was important for this role, then maybe you need to rethink it.

Attract: How can you improve your interviewing skills?

Most only learn by osmosis, sitting in interviews with others and listening and learning. Some of us take experiences from great interviews. I think just getting hiring teams to think more objectively about what data points they’re looking for, and how to uncover those is the first thing. Do some things as simple as building banks of interview questions. Having banks of questions is a really good place to start.

Over the last few years of rolling out our interview training, I’ve noticed that it’s the actual questions that sometimes people struggle with. Think about how you’re going to ask questions as much as what you’re going to ask. If I said “so, tell me about a time you’ve interviewed someone” it sounds very formal because we don’t normally talk like that. But if you can get comfortable with how you frame and ask the questions you’ll probably see a different result, such as: “I’m assuming you’ve interviewed quite a few people so far, tell me, what is the biggest challenge of doing this?” Now I’ve set the context in your head, and tell me is simply a subliminal command.

Attract: how does hiring for culture fit play into hiring well?

You, as an organisation, need to know what your values are, and how you are going to identify them.

I think you need to be clear on how you describe your values. If you can translate the high-level language of values into what that means on a day-to-day basis, then you’re in a good place. It might be something really granular like “taking ownership”. The real world manifestations of that might be if you’re an early-stage business without a QA function and all of your engineers regardless of how senior they are, do their own unit tests. Some engineers might feel that it’s below them. But in an early-stage business, there’s no such thing as “that’s not my job” so there may be a misalignment of values there. It would be something to investigate further. I think companies in general could do a better job of being clear about how the work happens. If you’re getting pushback on how work gets done there might be some misalignment there.

I’m coming back round to personality profiling now. We’ve got some clients at the moment where personality profiles are a big part of what they do, and they review them 3 – 6 months in and they are actually right. Maybe it doesn’t show straight away, but when the candidate settles in, that’s what you get. That’s who they are. So I’m coming around to that thinking.

Attract: Do you think nurture campaigns and talent pipelining can lead to hiring well?

Nurture pipelines should give you access to better-quality conversations quicker.

But I think talent teams need to understand and be clear on what the “rules” are of your nurture pipeline. For example, is it made up of people that you’ve interviewed but didn’t quite get the role, or is it just anyone who applied but didn’t get the job? If your pipeline is made up of people you’ve interviewed and liked then you can potentially get into a conversation again. The flip side of that is that they’ve probably taken a role elsewhere. The big measurement of any nurture campaign is probably the response rate you get. A casual response like “hey thanks for sending this to me” vs the active response rate when you have a role and need to go into that talent pool can be quite different.

I’m not a big fan of the phrase “talent communities” because communities talk to each other, communities are not one person shouting at other people. To me, that is what EDM campaigns are. So, the phrase communities isn’t quite right, it’s a marketing list. I think there’s potentially a healthy blend of online and in-person events that you could run for your community. But if you’re going to do it, do it with intent. Maybe every three months it’s a short video of you and a hiring manager for 5 minutes talking about the product roadmap, or what the teams have been working on.I think there’s an evolution of that stuff to come. 

Want to hear more from Simon?

Follow him on LinkedIn here or learn more about Crew Talent Advisory here.

Continue reading