Mission Impossible: How TUNE, FUEL TALENT and mongoDB are crushing impossible hiring missions.

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At Talent42, Carmen Hudson led a panel of recruiting leaders who shared their secrets for ramping up fast in competitive talent markets:

  1. Get real. Listen. Be different by being be authentic. Tell the real story of why your company exists. Open the doors wide and let candidates see the truth. Listen to candidate stories, understand what moves them.
  2. Be creative for the sake of being efficient, not for the sake of being cute.
  3. Invest in professional hiring bar and interviewer training early. Invest in a super powerful ATS early, don’t create inefficiency by being cheap.
  4. Forgo spending a bunch money employment branding, but instead leverage your corporate marketing (after all candidates and customers are often the same people).
  5. Stop selling. Stop being transactional. Invest in relationships and make connections, even if those efforts don’t yield immediate, tangible results (hires). Give it a couple of years for the 100x return.
  6. Invest in senior recruiters at the get-go, select those who have high EQ and strong business acumen.
  7. Don’t start recruiting on jobs until you have 100% alignment internally on what problem you are solving by making each hire. Get commitment from hiring managers that they will engage, have pre-lunches with candidates, whatever it takes to distinguish your company from the pack

What was your mission impossible?

Sabrina Hilton, Director of Recruiting at TUNE — “We doubled size of the team in the first 6 months of existence, mostly engineering”.

Albert Squiers, Director of Tech Recruiting at FUEL TALENT—”Four years after founding, we have 50 active clients, are hitting 15–20 hires per month, were awarded a 100 Fastest Growing & Best Places to Work award.”

Jason Buss, VP of Talent at mongoDB — “We doubled employee base from 400 to 800 in 18 months”.

How did you do it? Talk about your ramp up

TUNE — We were founded by identical twin brothers. Before we had a brand, we asked “what is unique here”? What is our story? We wanted a consistent story across the organization, the facts, and passion about our why. We decided to let people see inside our house by showcasing our employees, showing how diversity starts from the inside out.

FUEL — Our challenge as a start up recruiting agency was to attract talent to our team without a brand that people recognized. And to attract clients to working with us. We looked at our tools, people or process. We had to pick one to focus on. So, we decided to become connectors. Not the kind of traditional transaction agency that pitches a job and candidates. But rather to focus on understanding motivators, get to know people and companies. We de-emphasized revenue goals, focused on just making connections without an agenda. After 2 years this exploded into a referral network. The conversations we were having with with people blossomed organically into a revenue generating business. We focused on hiring senior recruiters instead of the traditional agency model of hiring entry level and training up. We wanted to hire only people that could understand client’s business, nuances, etc. Sr folks enabled us to ramp very quickly and built the brand. We are a commission business, but we give our recruiters time to ramp properly.

mongoDB — As the VP of Talent, Jason reports to the CEO, and is a peer to HR. “I was hired to create a competitive advantage and am held accountable” MongoDB’s we measure our recruiting advantage in terms of our brand/awareness with candidates, our offer:accept ratio, and our ability to recruit top players in the market. We started scaling our sourcing capability to achieve these goals.

Lessons learned from the ramp? What would you do differently?

TUNE — We would have adopted a modern ATS early on. We started with Resumator; it was fine but not scalable. Then we moved to iCIMS, and now we are with Lever, which allows us to view data in real-time, scale, and gives us global capability.

FUEL — Slowing down before we execute. Really understanding the client’s pitch, pushing back on hiring managers to get their full commitment before our team hit the market on their behalf. We do this better now.

mongoDB — We consider any employee departure to be a massive failure with mutual accountability. We adopted hiring bar/interviewer training way too late. We hired employment branding people too early and ran out of money for other programs.

How does creativity play into your strategies?

TUNE — On one end of the spectrum, we are doing low cost things like Open Houses, sending out 200 flyers, meetups at CSE career fairs. Nets short term hires, super cheap, and the long term strategy is employer branding. On the other end of the spectrum, we created the TUNE HOUSE. It’s a scholarship program we developed. We renovated a house on the UW campus, 50 employees doing the renovation work. We gave scholarships to 8 CS undergrad women. They get mentorship, free room/board, laptops, access to our partnerships with GoDaddy, Zillow, Real-Self, Chris Devore talk series. We’ve not made any hires from this yet, but it’s early.

TUNE HOUSE is nominated for the 2017 Geeks Give Back Aware

FUEL — We hold ping pong tournaments in our office. We invite our consultants, clients, candidates. It’s all about community building and providing a platform for folks to connect.

mongoDB — We track trends around success rate of hiring managers. This is all about accountability.

How do you prioritize your investments?

TUNE — We think about what we can control. What can you do without money that is in your control. Pick the few things that can have the biggest impact. We focus on stories, getting our engineers to tell stories at tech meetups. We think intentionally about building allies within our network so that we can share learnings (we have alliances with Zillow, Uber, Expedia). We sponsor community conversations, meetups about trends and topics that are hot. This helps us control the perception of our brand.

FUEL — We invest in customers vs. candidates by hiring Sr. recruiters with business acumen who can run a full desk. We focus on passive candidates vs. active. We’ve only hired 1 person from job boards. We actively pursue passive candidates and partner with our clients. We do a lot of work up front with passives, such as having the engineering leader do lunch with the prospective candidate before the onsite interview takes place. FUEL pays for that lunch, by the way.

mongoDB — Our filter is anything that differentiates us from our competitors. For example, our employment branding is done in collaboration with our corporate marketing team so there is cohesiveness and leverage. Also, we ditched the “hiring manager satisfaction survey”. It sends the wrong message as recruiting as scapegoat and service provider vs. mutual accountability. Instead we do real-time feedback.

How do you compete for talent with the big brands?

TUNE — We focus on really understanding the phase of life and candidate motivating factors. We also measure decline data regarding compensation so that we can make good arguments with the compensation team.

FUEL — We focus on connections and relationships not transactions.

mongoDB — We optimize for hires that are more likely to close. For example, we had more offer declines last month than all of last year. The indicators we are seeing is that the folks with 4–8 years of experience are harder for us to afford/close. However, 30% of our hires are from campus, and we have a much better close rate with folks with 8+ years of experience, so now we try to optimize for those early career and later career folks that are most likely to say yes.

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Shannon L Anderson is a Principal Consultant with Recruiting Toolbox. She draws from over 25 years of talent acquisition, executive search and leadership experience, including 14 years as a corporate recruiting practitioner at Microsoft and Ignition. She loves to solve unique talent challenges presented by companies at progressive inflection points.