Imgur's VP of Talent Jason Medley

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00:45 Rob Stevenson: Hello again, Recruiting Pals. Welcome back to another classic installment of Hiring on All Cylinders. I’m Rob Stevenson and today’s episode is a doozy! The gang’s all here, we have an all star guest, and the return of an old friend. But first, indulge me for just a moment in a self-serving, ham-fisted plea for your help, my dear listeners. If you’ve enjoyed the show, I ask you to do me this one huge favor, please open up iTunes and leave a review. Maybe say something like, “This podcast changed my life, helped me make a hundred hires and reaffirmed my faith in the immortal nature of the human spirit.” Or failing that, just, “Cool show, Bro!”. Reviews are the main currency of the iTunes ranking world, and if we can improve that, we can continue to bring you awesome guests. Okay, down to business. I’m joined of course by Loni, our Director of Customer Success. Loni, what’s up?

01:33 Loni: Hello, Rob.

01:34 RS: And I’m very excited to reintroduce an old friend of the show, and a new employee of Entelo, Amina Moinuddin. Amina, welcome back.

01:41 Amina Moinuddin: Thank you. Hello.

01:42 RS: So, hopefully many of you will remember that Amina was a guest on the show sometime ago, and it was all part of our master recruiting strategy, because now she is on board at Entelo and she’s in recruiting with us. And I want to hear all about that, but I’m gonna try a new format. Rather than have our awesome guest just wait idly for the next 15 minutes, I wanna bring him in right away. So, unless you’ve been living under an e-rock for the last several years, you’ve undoubtedly come across Imgur. Imgur is the web’s most popular image hosting site, and Jason tells me the 14th most visited website in these United States. And their Director of Talent is also sitting right next to me, Jason Medley. Thanks so much for coming in.

02:21 Jason Medley: Yeah. Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

02:23 RS: So, put a pin in that. Back to you, Amina. So, you joined Entelo a few weeks ago, a couple months ago? How long has it been?

02:31 AM: It’s been a little over two months.

02:33 RS: Okay. So, you’ve had some time to ramp up a little bit. What’s that whole experience like, learning a new scenario, picking up these new roles, learning what processes exist, maybe firing with a new ATS, how’s that been?

02:45 AM: Yeah, it’s been great. It’s been very, very busy. I think that coming from a company where I saw 35 employees go to 400 employees, and then now being back to 75 employees, and being a part of that scale in growth, I forgot a little bit of the really, really fun, but also the really, really chaotic times. Good chaos, not bad. But just coming into Entelo, I realize that it’s definitely time to be building out our recruiting team. And the awesome thing is that everybody here is on board, everybody here wants to be building, everybody wants to be creating a better recruiting process. So, I’ve been really excited about that.

03:25 RS: So, you’ve settled in, what’s your… Do you have a pie in the sky, like, “Alright, now that I’m ramped up, here’s a big thing I wanna tackle?” Let’s expose all the gaps in Entelo’s recruiting team right now.

[laughter]

03:38 JM: Let’s hear that.

03:40 AM: The number one thing I wanna tackle right now, other than hiring people and filling head count, is creating a structured interview process. I think that… I’m going back and looking at all the score cards on Greenhouse, which is the applicant tracking system that we use. And seeing the people that we’ve hired, the people that we’ve declined, the people that maybe have declined us and really understanding, “Okay, why did that happen? How did we get to where we are today? How do we wanna move forward?” And I notice even the interview process right now, when I’m looking at interviewers’ feedback versus sales managers’ feedback, they’re very different. So, creating alignment among sales managers, as well as interviewers. Making the interviewers understand that, “What are we looking for in the candidates? How can we have a better, and more focused approach to interviewing?”

04:23 RS: So, you’re a win/loss analysis on candidates, as well as interview normalization, to put two blog post titles on it?

[chuckle]

04:33 AM: Yes.

04:34 RS: Okay. So, how do you analyze these patterns, I guess, in the different reports that you get from team members or managers, and say, “These are gaps in the… ” You’re not giving a consistent interview, that’s the issue, right? You want the analysis to be even across the board?

04:50 AM: Yeah. So, one exercise that I did is I got our VP of Sales and our two Sales Managers in a room together, with our VP of Talent as well. And we all sat down and we discussed what are we looking for? What are the attributes that are important to us? And let’s think about experience, let’s think about skills, let’s think about personality traits, and then let’s think about role-specific skills as well. So, having us all in a room and having a discussion about what’s important, really gets the conversation going. Sometimes even the sales managers aren’t thinking about the same thing, so let’s all have alignment at the top. And then once we have alignment there, then we can go back and walk the interviewers through, “What are we looking for? What’s the right type of candidate profile?” Because I don’t think they frankly don’t know what we’re looking for, and I think right now they’re just going into interviews and thinking, “This is what I do, this is what my role is and these are the people that I would like to spend time with, so let me see if I wanna hire them.” We have to have a much more methodical and thoughtful approach to how we hire.

05:47 RS: Jason, have you had that kind of experience where maybe hiring managers don’t really know what it is they’re looking for, beyond maybe the technical needs of the role?

05:56 JM: Yeah, I think it sounds like you’re introducing the idea of what I call really the kickoff meeting. And so I would even take a step further. So what I find a lot of times is that the hiring manager themself have a really great idea what they’re looking for. The interviewing team is not aligned with the hiring manager, and that’s why it’s so important to have a kickoff meeting. And so what I actually learned a long time ago was just meeting with the hiring manager to go… A lot of people call it the intake meeting. That’s great, but if you’re not really roping in the entire interviewing panel in that meeting, it can really derail the entire interview process.

06:34 JM: And so at Imgur and really everywhere else I’ve recruited for, we’ve always had a kickoff meeting where we had the entire interview panel and the entire team in that meeting, all strategizing together, and all on the same page. And so for example, even if it’s a sales role, if it’s something that the entire team’s used to hiring for over and over again. For every new role that we’d hire it for, we would do it again to make sure that everyone is aligned. And so, I actually think it’s brilliant that you’re doing that, and just that one little meeting can add so much to your overall interview process. And it can actually shorten the time, I think.

07:09 RS: Is it just for each role you have a kickoff? ‘Cause we’ve experimented a couple of different ways here. We of course have the kickoff when a new role opens. But like, when a new candidate’s coming in, do you also huddle the team up and go, “Hey, just as a reminder, even though we had this meeting about maybe a few months ago when this role opened.” Do you still need to get people together, and make sure they’re still on the same page?

07:30 JM: Yeah. So at that stage it depends, it depends on the strength of that particular hiring team, and usually how early we are in the interview process. So if we’ve already met a couple of candidates, we may really have our groove down, and we’re going really well. If there is something particular about that candidate, then we may just meet for just a couple of minutes to touch base, and make sure that we’re all aligned. But we do do it, but we reserve the right, it’s kind of a case by case basis.

08:03 RS: Sure. So strength of the hiring team.

08:06 JM: Yes. Strength of the hiring team. [laughter]

08:08 RS: Dot, dot, dot.

08:09 JM: Dot, dot, dot. So, much like Entelo, Imgur… We’ve been around for seven years. So we’re not really a start-up so much, but in a lot of ways we are. This past year being at Imgur, we’ve essentially rebuilt a leadership team. We have a lot of new faces in the company and there’s also a lot of people who just haven’t been exposed to a recruiting culture before. A lot of the earlier people at Imgur were never really exposed to that. So it’s not so much that they’re weak employees, it’s just that there’s a lot of training that goes into hiring and making sure that the process is nailed down, and you’re constantly iterating, and there’s a lot of communication. So that’s really what I mean by that. But it’s just getting people on board with the process and making sure everyone is aligned.

08:53 RS: Got you.

08:54 AM: Can I jump in?

08:54 RS: I would love for you to jump in.

08:57 AM: I have a question. Jason, bringing back to process, what is your process once you have interviewed all the candidates? Do you guys do an interview sink? And if so, what is that like? What is the process for the interview sink?

09:09 JM: Yes. So we call it debrief at the end. So in an ideal situation, you may have three or four candidates that you’re interviewing, that you’re bringing in on site. We’d love to have them all around the same time. And we can hold one debrief for all of them. Sometimes it doesn’t work that well, but we do always debrief every single candidate. So the entire interview panel gets back together into a room. For our engineers, there’s a technical screen upfront, and that person is usually not there for the on site, but they will come back in to give their input as well in terms of some of the technical expertise. But we all get in a room. So we partner with Green House, which I think you guys do as well. At that point, hopefully everyone submitted feedback, which we have about a 50% hit rate on that. I’ll be honest, I think that’s everyone’s challenge. But we start out and we go around the room, and everyone gives their yes or no. We try not to land on maybes, and then from there we start giving feedback. And we try to start with the outliers first. We pretty much have a rule at Imgur that we do want to have 100% agreement on hires. If there is an outlier, so if most people are “Yes” and there’s one “No,” we will usually challenge that, and it’s up to the team if they really wanna hire them, then they have to try to vet out whatever their concerns are.

10:24 RS: So it’s like a 12 angry men situation?

10:26 JM: Exactly.

10:28 RS: So you don’t just go, “Oh heaven, no. Sorry, no hire.” You’re like, “Alright, well let’s see if we can resolve this concern.”

10:34 JM: Yeah, because here’s the thought. We wanna keep a really high bar for the talent that we bring in. And when we hire someone, we wanna be really, really excited about them. So if you’re a “Yes”, you are excited, you’re willing to fight for that candidate. If someone has a “No” and a genuine concern, “Okay, cool. Let’s vet that out.” What is that? If we need to bring them back, if we need to meet again, if we need to do some more back door channel referencing, whatever we need to do, we’ll figure that out. But if we’re excited enough to be a “Yes” on a candidate then we’re willing to fight for them and figure that out. So usually, it’s very rare that it becomes too intense. Usually, we’re aligned for the most part.

11:13 AM: So we have a few people in the company that can consistently always say “No,” to everyone almost all the time. And then we have others that consistently say “Yes” all the time. And so we’re trying to… It’s almost like when there is certain people that say “No” all the time, continue to say “No.” We almost… We don’t weigh their “No’s” as much as certain other people. Or if there are people that say “Yes” all the time, but then they say a “No, then that “No” becomes more heavily weighted because they’re usually typically a “Yes.” And then you have people that are a little bit more 50-50. So I found that in Green House, they have that interviewer calibration, where you can see people, even at different stages.

11:54 RS: How good has the data been? So I’m not using that, or I’m not pulling the data on that now, and that’s definitely something that we wanna get to, but has the reporting been pretty accurate on that? Has it been pretty good? How are you finding that?

12:06 AM: Yeah, it’s been pretty good. It’s allowed us to at least have the right conversations, especially with the interviewers, especially if it’s not helpful. If you always say “Yes,” then maybe we don’t need you in the interview. [laughter]

12:16 JM: Right.

12:16 RS: Yeah. Yeah.

12:19 AM: Or we’ll say okay, we know that you’re typically always a “Yes”, but can you specifically answer these questions in your feedback form, just so that we can have you tackle something, Because we know you’re probably gonna be a “Yes.” So we’ve been able to just use that data to have more thoughtful conversations around calibration and giving certain peoples’ answers more weight than others. But I’m just curious how other companies are leveraging, that kind of thing.

12:44 JM: Yeah. In all fairness, the last time I tried to use that in Greenhouse, we were having some issues on the reporting side of it. And so we’ve been doing it a little bit more manually, and just kind of what we’re catching. But if we do catch that, it is something that we address and we watch for. And the way that I’ve typically gone about it is, it’s more just sitting one-on-one with that particular interviewer and really understanding what their motivation is behind interviewing, really. Because that’s really what it is. Very few people really love interviewing, let’s be honest. But understanding why they’re always a “Yes” or why they’re always a “No” and really coaching them through that. But I think, and this is where it goes back to interview prep, if you have a really detailed plan out, and we use a combination of Google Docs and then we copy and paste all that into Greenhouse, but we iterate on the process, from the questions being broken down to what they’re gonna be covering. And we’re also, in those kickoff meetings, we are agreeing on what success looks like and what a good answer looks like. So I feel like if you can tighten that step up and you can tighten up the architecture of the interview, and what they should be screening out for, it starts to [13:57] ____ softer that a little bit. So you start to… They’re able to defend their responses a little bit better, and that’s kind of how you get over it.

14:07 JM: I think when you leave it a little bit more vague, it gives people the opportunity to be more “Yes’s” or more “No’s.” But then again there are some people who are just gonna do that, and my advice is get them out of process, because they’re adding literally no value. And I’ve done that before. [chuckle] And I think you probably should, if that’s the case.

14:26 AM: Has the employee pushed back by not being part of the process?

14:30 JM: Yeah, so if I think about how many times I’ve probably done that, it’s probably been four or five times. And it’s not like we caught it and you’re out right away, We really try to work with them. What it’s come down to, we’ve just realized they’re just not a good fit to interview. Some people are just so nice they just can’t within themselves give someone a “No”. Or they feel like… One of the things I’ve ran across is, one of our interviewers just felt like they didn’t feel like they had the right to pass somebody, or really fail someone, that it really wasn’t their place to do that. And we just couldn’t get them to the place that they needed to to be really good interviewers, and that’s okay. And that’s the thing, not everyone is meant to be an interviewer. Now, when you’re a small organization sometimes you don’t have a luxury, and you have the people that you have. But it’s not like it’s… For me personally, it’s never been a screaming, dragging, knock-down fight to get them out of there. But it’s just understanding what the motivation is behind it I think, but most people can be coached out of it. And just getting over those insecurities and some really solid training will help them come out of that, I think.

15:38 RS: So when you say motivations, understanding someone’s motivation for interviewing, and that as a cause of always saying “Yes” or always saying “No?”

15:47 JM: Yeah, so yeah. Motivations for why is it a “Yes” every single time, this just doesn’t make sense.

15:54 RS: And they say something like, “Oh, I really liked him. We had such a nice chat.”

15:57 JM: Yeah! But see this is where, if you have a really good, well-planned, well-architectured interviewing process out and even down to questions and how you’re evaluating them, that’s where you can point them back. So you’re like okay, so you’re supposed to be measuring their ability to get shit done. And you ask these questions this way, this is how they answer. How is that a no every time, or how is that a yes? What would a “No” look like to you, or what would a “Yes” look like to you? And so in that kick off meeting it’s also about what does a “Yes” look like, what is a good answer, what is not so good of an answer. And it’s really just spending more and more time… I’ll go in, I spend a lot of time. So when it comes to interview training, one of the things that I’ve learned over the years, is group training definitely has its place but I love shadowing and giving direct feedback in real-time, and those type of people I like to spend time with, and usually they can kind of come out of it.

17:00 RS: So would you sit in on an interview then with someone who is not a stellar interviewer?

17:04 JM: Yes, 100%. But the important part is communicating to the candidate what you’re doing. So we actually do it a lot. So shadowing to me is one of the most important things that you can do, but not only myself or my team shadowing, but other weaker interviewers shadowing stronger interviewers as well. And then being transparent with the candidate and letting them know what’s happening. “Hey, interviewing is super important to us, we wanna make sure we’re getting this right, and we’re getting good training around it. Do you mind if someone just sits in and observes?” And we talk about it so it’s not awkward. But I think that’s super, super important. It’s just knowledge-share.

17:43 RS: Cool. I hadn’t considered the idea of, not just you sitting in and being like, “Alright, why’s this person not a good interviewer?” But someone else in the organization who can kind of coach them along as well.

17:54 JM: Yeah, yeah, no I think it’s great. Look, interviewing is kind of what I do for a living, but I’m not gonna say that I’m the best person at it. But as I shadow people, there’s times where I learn as well, especially from some of our more senior people from the organization. Or even as I’m observing some of our technical interviews, just some things that I just don’t know or don’t understand. Even myself, learning from other people, helps me to coach other interviewers to be better, essentially.

18:21 RS: What’s some stuff you’ve picked up in those shadowing exercises?

[chuckle]

18:25 JM: So, embarrassingly, let’s see. Most recruiters aren’t extremely technical. I’m not an engineer. Communications major in undergrad, so I’m not an engineer. So actually, it’s a really great place to go and learn a lot about the technical side of the business if you don’t understand it. Because, especially in those technical engineering interviews, it’s laid out so basic, almost, and you’re able to learn so much from it. So honestly, if I don’t understand something really well, that’s a great place to go and learn. Also, there’s just different ways to approach questions or ask specific questions, I think. Especially some of the senior leaders, I just love to get knowledge share from then, especially some of them that have more experience than I in this. So, it becomes really helpful, I think.

19:23 RS: Man, this is fascinating. If Amina starts sitting in on my interviews, I know I’m in trouble.

[chuckle]

19:30 RS: So yeah, Imgur. When we sat down I was like, “Yeah, we’ll kinda ask you what you’re working on, your challenges. We haven’t got anywhere near that yet, I guess. Should we talk about that sometime?”

[chuckle]

19:41 JM: Sure, sure. Yeah.

19:42 Loni: We were still catching up with Amina.

[chuckle]

19:44 RS: Oh, wait. Yeah, yeah.

19:45 Loni: Technically…

19:46 JM: I think we kind of robbed some of your time.

19:47 AM: That’s totally fine.

19:47 JM: Sorry about that.

19:49 RS: But anyway, back to Amina.

19:51 JM: I’m actually curious, I have a question for you. I’m curious. Since Entelo is, I mean recruiting is Entelo’s business. Were you, not to put Entelo in the hot seat.

20:04 RS: Do it.

20:04 JM: But were you impressed with their just level of interviewing skills and how much was built out for this size of a company, or were you maybe even expecting more than what you saw, when recruiting is their core product?

20:22 AM: Yeah, great question. I was impressed. So before me, there was only one person, and his name’s Vivek and he was the head of talent, and he pretty much did everything with Loni. And so there has been a lot, a lot has been built out, more than I expected. The structured part of the interview process hasn’t been built out, but Greenhouse has been built out pretty well. Scorecards, there’s actual attributes, there’s a good process, there’s a good recruiting process. All of that has been built out. The biggest thing that I was impressed about, and I think it says since we’re a recruiting software company, is just how bought in everyone is about recruiting. I think one of the biggest challenges many companies, and you might face this as well, is how do we get hiring managers bought in? How do we get interviewers bought in? How do we make them understand this is a priority? How do we make them understand that hiring is just as important as closing business? Because if we don’t hire, we don’t close business, and it all goes together. And I think at other companies that’s a challenge, luckily here that’s not. I haven’t faced that at all. That has not even, for one second have I thought, “Oh man, no one’s buying into this.” It’s more of like, “Wow, what can we do, what can we do, how can we make this better?” But we have a long ways to go, but we have a good foundation. Given the size of our company and given where we’re at, we have a good foundation.

21:37 JM: Gotcha. Cool.

21:39 RS: And also, you got this opportunity to work as a recruiter at a recruiting company, that’s pretty cool, right?

21:44 AM: Exactly. I get to be a part of telling product what to do. What’s broken? What can we fix? No, I’m just kidding.

21:51 RS: Yeah, you get to be on a podcast.

21:53 AM: Yeah, exactly. I get to be in the podcast, I get to do different webinars. It’s really, this is an amazing opportunity for me.

22:00 RS: Gotcha. As a recruiter, you raise an awesome point here, Jason, when you’re interviewing somewhere, you can assess them on a level that you can’t in another role. If you and I, Amina, were both interviewing at the same company. And I could assess their marketing by what I see on their website, but I wouldn’t know about their internal processes, nothing, at least unless they told me. You, in your process, interviewing as a recruiter, you get to see, “Alright, this is what they actually have going on here.” You see step by step, “Is this a place where I’m gonna fit in? Is there an opportunity to fix this if it’s not good?” That’s something that reflect… Was that in your interview process here, was that something you were looking at?

22:40 AM: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I will say, my process was really long. That was one piece of feedback that I gave when I got here, is that our process has been pretty drawn out. We have candidates come back multiple times. So that was the number one thing that I did, was cut the amount of times that candidates come on site for a sales interview, ’cause that’s what I’m focusing on right now. We shouldn’t be having people come back four or five times, ’cause that’s really hard when people are working. I came back many times, but that was also by choice towards the end. But Margaret, our recruiting coordinator, was awesome. The emails with providing the itinerary, knowing what’s happening, getting direct feedback, all of that was really great. So I think the foundation was really, really great.

23:22 Loni: What do you think is a good number of times? My team, I do three and I still think that’s a lot, but I need all three so I’m still trying to see if there’s any way I can cut it down, but what do you think is a good… Five is definitely, I think, too much. But what do you think for three?

23:39 AM: Yeah, I think, we have three right now for sales as well. Because what we do I think is unique, and I’d love to hear Jason what you guys do. Our initial hiring manager screen is done in person, it’s not over the phone, where I think a lot of companies do hiring manager screens over the phone. And because of that, we have candidates come back, or come for that initial meeting in person.

23:57 Loni: Yeah, exactly. And that’s mine too.

23:58 AM: Ideally, I think two times is a good amount of time bringing people on-site, but it depends on the role. It depends on how senior level this role is. But it is tough to get people to come back many times.

24:11 JM: Yeah, so I kinda of think, there is not a one process fits all. My whole take on recruiting is: You should always be iterating. So every role is different, every hiring team is different, every hiring manager is different. Now, you wanna set up some consistency within the organization so that the company has certain expectations and you’re aligned. But for us, for example… So for engineering roles it usually goes, first chat is with the recruiter. Then from there depending on how senior the role is… So for a regular individual contributor role, from there they would go to a text screen an hour and it’s like a Skype call, with one of our senior engineers. If they pass that, then they come in for a full on-site. That full on-site, we try to do everything in that day. But sometimes, depending on the candidate’s availability, we may have to change that up a little bit. Or depending on if there is still more closing to do at the end, if we’re super excited.

25:09 JM: But it changes a little bit when you get more senior. One, because the more senior you are, usually the less availability you have. But also, it takes a little bit more grooming in that process. So I don’t know if there’s a certain number. I do know that five is too much. But I would say, if they’re coming more than twice for an on-site, it starts to get a little bit dangerous on a candidate’s experience side, if when things don’t work out for a candidate. So just make sure if it has to be three times, make sure you’re offering an amazing candidate experience and there is full transparency. I think as long as there’s transparency to the process, you’re fine.

25:47 AM: Yeah.

25:48 JM: And like, true transparency. Let them know what’s happening. Like, “Why does this take three times?” “Okay, this is why.” But as long as you have that with the candidate and you have that type of control with the candidate, I think, you will be okay. But definitely I don’t think there is a magic… In my opinion there is not a magic formula, because, every situation is different, I think.

26:05 AM: Yeah, definitely and this is throwing to another subject, but you mentioned transparency. I’ve had a conversation with a couple of recruiters and I’d love to get your take on this. So I believe in full transparency when it comes to giving feedback. I wanna make sure my candidates know why we’ve decided to move forward with them or why we haven’t decided to move forward with them. Obviously, there is some times you can’t say everything, but, I want to give as much as I can. Some companies and some recruiting teams don’t believe in giving feedback at all. That they just say, “Yes or no.” What’s your take on that?

26:37 JM: So I look at it as a candidate. So candidate experience for me is one of the most important things that we do, right? So I believe talent should own employer branding and candidate experience directly impacts your employer brand which also impacts your consumer brand. And so, when you think about the investment that a candidate is giving, I mean, they’re taking time off, they may be taking time away from family. They are devoting a lot. And honestly, you should treat candidates… You should feel privileged that they are interested in your company and they are coming in and they’re investing time in you.

27:14 AM: Absolutely.

27:15 JM: And so, every candidate, I look at this situation like, every candidate should come and they should learn something. Either we’re gonna hire them, they are gonna learn a lot about the company and you give them great feedback and you offer them a role, but if you don’t offer them a role… I love to give them something that they can go back with and improve on their interview experience. Being transparent is very, very important. I realize sometimes it gets a little tricky, like personalities can be off, and there’s ways to tackle that I think, but, you’ve gotta be transparent and you gotta be transparent from the beginning. I love to set the tone with candidates that I work with directly. “Hey” like in my very first call, honor transparency, “I’ll be very honest with your through the process. I’ll give you feedback as soon as I have it, good feedback, not so good feedback. I’m gonna help you through this process.” And it also helps the dialogue on their side. They start to open up to you. They fill you in on where they’re interviewing. It becomes a really great relationship. There has been a lot of people in the past in recruiting that I’ve passed on, I’ve given them great feedback, what to go back and work on. And, maybe it was even something in their skill set, whatever. They went off, they got strong, they came back and we hired them. And just ’cause you don’t hire someone doesn’t mean they can’t be a great future talent for you.

28:31 JM: Also, there’s times, especially in start ups, you interview talents and they’re not just right for the company at that time, but they’re still great talent, and you want to refer them out to other companies and I do that a lot. But if you’re not being transparent, you’re not just respecting your candidates. [chuckle] You don’t deserve to be a recruiter. You have to be transparent. These people are investing a lot in you and it will affect your employer brand, and so I always believe in transparency.

29:00 Loni: I come from agency side, so I’m used to giving feedback, because I’m working with the candidate and if we don’t [29:07] ____ hire them, I wanna continue to work with this candidate and maybe place this candidate somewhere else. So I’m really used to giving transparent feedback both good and bad. So now that I’m here and doing my own interviewing process for my team, I would do the same thing. Even if they’re moving forward or for passing I’m giving them the same feedback and so many of them have been so blown away. They’re like, “I can’t believe you are the first person that’s given me solid feedback and it’s been crazy.” I am like, “Really, no one else does this?” Not a lot of people do. It is really vague or they’ll say, “Oh, I’m gonna give you transparent feedback.” And it’s literally nothing and it’s really sugar coated and they can’t really do anything with it. It’s basically, ‘Thanks but no thanks’ feedback. And I make mine really tangible and I even will say, “Here is the specific thing that someone wrote in their scorecard specifically and they’re like, “Wow! That’s so great.” I can see how that, that’s good for me to know. That wasn’t my intention but I’m glad to understand that that’s how that was received and so I just think it’s a good thing to do.

30:13 AM: Yeah. I completely agree. And just like you said Jason… Sorry. I keep cutting you off.

30:17 RS: That’s great. That’s great.

[chuckle]

30:18 AM: Just like you said, just for an example, I had somebody just like that in my previous company. Came in, did well, but not well enough, gave him direct feedback. A year later we hired him and he said, “You gave me your feedback, I took it, I got hired at another job. I made sure I was thinking about what you were saying and then I brought it back and now I’m ten times better.” So it’s always great to see that the feedback that you’re giving and the way I think about interviewing as well, it’s one of the most anxiety driven processes that anyone is ever gonna go through. And if we can be better and if we can help them improve that’s something great we’re doing as well.

30:50 JM: And it’s not just the right thing to do. Again going back to employer brand, you are building an employer brand and essentially if you give the candidate a shitty experience, it will come back to haunt you. And you don’t want to damage your credibility that way and so… God! Everyone out there, please be transparent and give good feedback to candidates. Don’t give recruiters a bad rap for sure.

31:14 Loni: Plus 1. [chuckle]

31:15 RS: Plus 1. So I’ve heard it both ways. Everyone that I talk to seems to say, “Yeah, we value transparency. You should be transparent.” But then I’ve also been in process and I’ve had friends in a process where companies just aren’t. And I’m trying to think why they wouldn’t. One obvious answer is just laziness. It’s like, “Alright. Well, we’re not gonna go with you. I’m not gonna spend an extra five minutes writing email,” which is just reprehensible in it’s own right. Is there some sort of legal thing I’m missing where if you’re too blunt with a candidate that it can harm you? Are they worried about again, maybe [31:49] ____ affecting brand where it’s like if you give someone a harsh feedback and then they’re gonna have a bad taste in their mouth anyway?

31:56 JM: Yeah. I think, and some companies may have some different policies on this, and there’s definitely ways to deliver the message. Clearly you’re not gonna give any kind of information that in any way is damaging a protected class. [chuckle] You’re not gonna share… There’s very few things I think you can share, but for example let’s just say, and I would never let this pass because it’s just not a reason, you have to articulate why someone shouldn’t be a hire more than this. But what I have seen is that sometimes with candidates they’re just not a great fit. They’ve got the technical ability but they’re not a great cultural fit, and I’ve heard that before and we try to get great examples and sometimes it’s just the way in their demeanor, or they’re too aggressive or they’re too whatever. And sometimes that’s really hard feedback to give because it’s like, “You’re good enough technically, you’re just not a culture fit based on this,” and that is hard and you may make them angry.

32:52 JM: You wanna be honest, you wanna be truthful and you wanna be creative in your feedback but I think as humans we just… And it’s like we don’t like having hard conversations, and sometimes it’s just easier to be like, “Sorry there was just another candidate that was stronger than you and… ” I don’t think that’s necessarily fair but I think a lot of people do take the lazy way out because… And not just because they’re lazy and don’t want to but because they don’t like having the difficult conversations.

33:17 RS: So how do you have a difficult conversation? How do you say like, “I love you but I’m not in love with you”?

33:21 Loni: Oh, pick me. Pick me.

[laughter]

33:23 RS: Lana, go.

33:24 Loni: I was gonna say on the culture one ’cause I have this a lot actually ’cause obviously here and even previously, but what I like to do is not necessarily sugar coat it, but tell them why they’re not a good culture fit and let them know that it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just for this company. So if someone’s too aggressive, maybe that’s too aggressive for us but maybe some other company… Like, that is what they want. That is their culture, and not in that sense.

33:46 RS: No no, it’s just like…

33:47 Loni: But there is some companies where that is the perfect culture fit and they want that and they actually screen for that. We hire for grit here. We hire for resourcefulness. We hire for, you figure it out on your own. Other companies are actually hiring for the opposite of that. If you’re resourceful and you have a lot of grit, you don’t follow the rules, you step on people’s toes potentially, it can be seen as a bad thing and that might be perfect for our company and not perfect for another company, so what I encourage candidates to do is I say like, “These are our core values and here’s what’s gonna be a good culture add for us. Based on our interview we think that you’d be great at a company that values this and this because that’s what you’re really bringing to the table.” And sometimes they’re like, “Yes!” Like, “That you’re right on, I need to go find a company where they value that,” and it’s almost helping them figure out which companies they should go target based on that type of culture ad that they’re doing, so you’re turning their negative into this positive because it’s not like… It’s the like, “It’s not you. It’s us.”

34:51 RS: That’s why I was laughing. Yeah.

34:52 Loni: It totally is that but that’s where you wanna work.

34:55 JM: And that’s okay.

34:56 Loni: I wanna work for a company that wants me the way I am. Like I get crazy sometimes. I like to do things my way. I like to have autonomy and if I’m interviewing for a company and that’s not their environment and they will look at that as a bad thing, then tell me that I’m not a good culture ad because I don’t want to be there.”

35:12 RS: You’re right. In that case you’re helping someone find just an honestly better career move. I only laugh because like you say, it sounds so much like a cliche break up thing. It’s like, “You’re gonna make some girl so happy,” but it’s like, “But not me.”

[chuckle]

35:25 Loni: Yeah. But explaining it to them in a really tangible way of like, “These are our values and we really didn’t see grit there. And that is so important for our company, it’s so important that it’s part of our core values, that we have it on the wall. We talk about it as a company and we didn’t see enough grit here and it’s probably because you’ve worked at really large companies in the past and maybe that’s it, or maybe that’s just your personality but this is something that’s really important for us,” or whatever it is, but giving them something tangible. Don’t just be like, “You’re not a good culture fit.” What does that mean?

35:56 RS: Right. Put it in context of the company. Yeah yeah.

35:58 Loni: Put it in context like, What specifically, like why. If they just have a crappy personality well then that’s different I don’t know how to spin that.

36:08 JM: I probably wouldn’t. I would be like, “Look, technically you’re great, no doubt, you could do this job but you can’t really do this job here because several of the people that’ve interviewed you said that you came across really aggressive, you weren’t able to build rapport and for us those things are really, really important in our culture and it just wont work here. So maybe those things you’re not aware of maybe it’s nerves, maybe it’s whatever but maybe in your next interview, if that’s not the impression you wanna give off, maybe try going at these conversations a little bit differently.” But sometimes you have to be direct, but you don’t have to be a jerk about it and certainly, I think every candidate deserves some kind of feedback and there maybe something you can’t tell them but there may be a specific thing you can’t tell them but there is something that you can give them to help them make them stronger in their next interview.

37:07 Loni: There was one candidate, not here, this was at a different company, but came in and had terrible body odor, kind of like you just don’t shower ever and it was such a big turn-off and they were like, “How do we tell him this? Should we just not even say anything or should we let him know?”. And then everyone was, “Surely he knows, maybe he doesn’t.” But, that was one of the times where I was like “I don’t know if we can be that transparent.”

37:35 RS: What did you do?

37:37 Loni: We just decided to use, “Sorry, we just thought it wasn’t a good fit and there’s a another candidate that’s better.” ‘Cause other than that, well one to be fair, because of that I don’t think people even gave him a fair chance even in the interview but it was just kind of awkward. But I don’t think that anyone would say, “Your body odor was impacting the interview.”

38:04 JM: That’s a hard one.

38:11 RS: Have there been any horror story? Are some of them like, “I came off aggressive? I’m not aggressive, bla, bla bla”. I’m just trying to…

38:16 Loni: Like push back?

38:16 RS: Yeah. I’m trying to understand under what circumstances why someone wouldn’t wanna give constructive feedback.

38:21 JM: Yeah. You know what? I would imagine in sales heavy organizations, this is where you run… So I’d imagine you guys would run into this as you hire salespeople. And when I think back, that’s probably where I’ve ran into it the most with sales people and creatives. I love creatives, we need them and they’re some of the best people in the world but they’re very difficult to manage. And sales people and creative people, I have found take the feedback probably a little bit more aggressive or they feel like its a little bit more of an attack. And sales people by nature think that they have to rebuttal, that they have to really fight for this and they almost feel like that’s part of the interview, that they have to do that and it becomes this game. Creatives are a little bit different. But thinking of any particular stories, I think it’s with the sales people.

39:19 JM: We’re actually interviewing for sales right now at Imgur. If you know any great sales people in New York actually, we’re looking for a couple of director level sales people in New York, so just put that plug out there for me.

39:30 RS: All New York salespeople listening to Hiring on all Cylinders.

39:33 JM: Yes. Yes. Reach out to me, Jason at Imgur. But we find that they can come across way too aggressive and sometimes you have to give that feedback. And its just like, “Look, this is a reflection of our candidates.” And I’ve had to give that feedback before and they didn’t like it and they just chose to disagree and there’s nothing you can do, you’re being honest. The worst they’re gonna do, they’ll get on Glassdoor and they’ll make up something. But if you have a really great process and you’re honest and you’re showing a lot of transparency, the positive reviews will out weigh those couple of bad reviews and you have nothing to worry about. But it will happen. I’ve never had anything horrible… You know what, I take that back.

40:15 RS: Yes.

40:17 JM: Actually, it just came to mind. Here in San Francisco, actually.

40:21 RS: Jackpot.

40:21 JM: Yeah. I know. Here we go, it’s a great story. I interviewed a director of engineering candidate and I was meeting with him first, it was kind of a soft meet, we were meeting for coffee. And I was interviewing him at coffee and behind me, he was facing the exit and he kept just talking about the women that were walking by in a very sexual way and it was, “Wow, I know it’s not really a formal interview but it is kind of an interview.” It was pretty bad. So I pretty much reached out to him a couple of days after that meeting and I was, “Hey, nice meeting you but we’re not gonna move forward, we have a few other candidates that we are little bit more excited about, we feel are a better fit.” And he harassed me for a couple of months. He wrote things, he was basically like, “You better hope I don’t see you on the other side of the street.” He called me vulgar names, we had to get our lawyers involved. The guy was a psycho.

41:19 Loni: What?

41:23 AM: What? Oh my gosh.

41:23 JM: And maybe this is a great time everyone can share their best story. But yeah, in that case I couldn’t give him the real feedback. I probably should have, but that one was a little scary.

41:39 RS: That might have opened up a whole other can of worms.

41:41 JM: Maybe I’m kind of glad he didn’t but, yeah he was stalking me and calling me and it happens sometimes. But luckily that is as worst as it’s been. I’ve never been assaulted or anything. But I was trying to be as nice as possible but that happened. I’m just glad he didn’t come into our office for the interview.

41:58 RS: Oh yeah.

42:00 JM: I don’t know, do you guys have any horror stories?

42:05 AM: Mine is not as bad as yours but this is funny. This is my first decline ever that I have ever done in my entire life right getting into recruiting. And it was this sales candidate and I call him and I’m like, “Hey, you know,” and so his communication style wasn’t, it wasn’t great. He had a good background but he just wasn’t clear. He wasn’t articulate, didn’t really have a polished communication style and I’m scared. This is my first decline I’ve ever done in my life but I gave it to him, I gave him the real feedback. He flips out on me and he’s like, “Absolutely not. That’s not true at all. Are you sure you got the right feedback from the interviewers?” I’m like, “Yeah, I was able to sync up with them. Unfortunately, we’re not moving forward. Wish you the best of luck.” Five minutes later, our VP of Sales comes out to me and he goes, “Are you okay?” I was like, “Yeah, why?” This guy emailed every single person he interviewed with, putting me on blast.

42:56 RS: What?

42:56 AM: Saying that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that he wanted to make sure that that the feedback was the correct feedback that I’d given him. And they were all just like, “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” But he just flipped out on everybody. Nobody even responded back to him.

43:10 RS: That was your first.

43:11 AM: That’s my first decline ever in my life.

43:14 RS: And so the team had to be like they’re not all gonna be like this.

43:16 AM: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. He was like, “It’s okay. Not everyone takes it this bad. So that was a good way of getting myself into giving decline…

43:24 RS: Right, welcome to the jungle.

43:26 AM: Exactly or decline phone calls, exactly.

43:29 RS: Cool. Well, we’re getting at optimal podcast length here. So I’m going to cut it off although I feel like, Jason, we could probably talk about this for a few more hours. You’ll have come back in and we’ll do round two sometime.

43:41 JM: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Thanks so much for having me.

43:43 RS: Absolutely. Next time, maybe we’ll go over the questions we said we were going to go over. We got to zero.

43:47 Loni: The real questions we were gonna ask you.

43:48 JM: Yeah, the real questions. Sorry about that, guys.

43:50 RS: No, this is way better. So yeah, this has been an absolute blast. Thanks so much, Jason, for coming in.

43:55 JM: Yep, thank you.

43:56 RS: And to all of you out there in Podcast Land, so thrilled that you tune in once more. I’ve been Rob Stevenson and you’ve been fantastic, beautiful, wonderful, magical recruiters. Have a spectacular week. And Happy Hunting.