Cut & Polish

Webinar Q&A: leading recruiting teams in times of uncertainty

While layoffs and hiring freezes are grabbing headlines, it’s still prime recruiting season for a lot of companies. Whether you’re in the midst of a hiring surge or you're experiencing a summer slowdown, taking time to step back and potentially reset some of your recruiting processes is vital. Now is the time to clean up processes and take actionable steps toward strategic recruiting so you have high-quality talent pipelines for both immediate and future hiring needs. 

To this end, Gem and Codesignal recently co-hosted a webinar with top thought leaders in the recruiting industry to discuss how to manage your recruiting teams in times of uncertainty so they continue to add value to and improve your organization.

This webinar included a panel discussion from Robyn Watson, Senior Customer Talent Advisor at Gem, Ellen Markman, Director of Recruiting at CodeSignal, Hetal Shah, Director of Recruiting at Handshake, and Sophia Han, Head of Tech Recruiting at Brex, where they shared their expertise and insight on topics like: 

  • What’s really happening in the hiring market
  • Initiatives or projects you should prioritize during slow periods or times of uncertainty
  • Increasing the efficiency of your recruiting tech stack
  • How recruiting leaders can make easier adjustments to the abrupt stop/start we often see in hiring
  • Ways to win over talent that may be hesitant to switch jobs in this economic climate
  • Best practices after you’ve experienced a period of hypergrowth
  • How to position your team to become a more strategic business partner

And much more! If you’d like to watch the full webinar (which we would recommend!), you can view it here: Leading Recruiting Teams in Times of Uncertainty.

We had some fantastic audience participation, including many great questions we didn’t have time to answer during the webinar, so we wanted to make sure we had a chance to answer some of them for you now. 

Side note: We received almost 50 attendee questions (shoutout to our amazing audience!), but to keep things applicable to everyone and to save us some time, we chose the top 12 questions to answer.

1. When there are talks about slowing down/freezing hiring internally, how can a talent acquisition team position themselves as valuable assets for the company?

Ellen Markman: In a hiring slowdown, I would recommend building subject matter expertise through talent and company mapping. In addition, you can take this downtime to grow your passive candidate networks, especially with difficult-to-hire candidate populations. Finally, this time may offer a bit of breathing room to conduct recruiting data analysis and share insights on things like the relative strength of various candidate sources, the predictive value of early-stage interviews, the accuracy of leveling, interviewer calibration, and passthrough rates.  

Hetal Shah: This is a great time to highlight recruiters’ impact beyond filling roles and an opportunity to review recruiting processes and policies. Understand what metrics and data are important to the business and create better ways to share that information. Identify broken or inefficient processes and have recruiters improve/scale through project work. You can also meet with stakeholders and understand their teams, initiatives, and growth plans to be prepared when hiring picks back up. Finally, you can take this time to focus on DEI by strengthening partnerships, growing affinity, and building candidate pools of underrepresented talent.

2. What are some ways to handle salary conversations in a competitive talent market? Also, have you seen any changes in compensation expectations alongside market fluctuations?

Ellen Markman: It’s a tough economy but a strong labor market. From what I’m seeing, salaries are pretty high, although perhaps not growing at the same rate they were this time last year. Train recruiters to begin comp conversations early and encourage them to explore the full range of candidates’ motivations beyond salary. What levers will you have? Money matters to everyone, but more than money matters to everyone, too. 

If you think the salary ranges proposed internally are too low, embody your role as an advisor. Collect compensation expectation data from candidates and aggregate it to share with your Finance team. If you’re making the case to Finance that the expected salary range for a position is out of sync with the market, share real-world data to support your position. 

Make sure you’re positioning your offers as attractively as possible. If your compensation package includes equity, ensure recruiters know how to explain its value to candidates. If total compensation at your company includes a performance bonus, ensure candidates understand how you define strong performance and what it takes to earn that bonus.

Be as transparent as you can about growth and profitability. Share the company’s bright vision of its future with candidates, and explain why that optimism is founded in reality, not blind faith. If you’re a SaaS company like we are, train your recruiters like sales reps—they should be able to explain product market fit and how your product drives value for clients, so candidates understand where your company’s success lies. 

Hetal Shah: We’ve noticed that the original expectations candidates share are usually quite different from where they end up at the offer stage, often driven by the market and conversations they have outside our interview process.

Be transparent and understand how candidates are arriving at the numbers they are sharing. We need to check in constantly as they receive offers, especially as their original expectation can easily change. Understand salary and TC and all other motivators. 

Keep an eye on the market in relation to your internal bands. If recruiters are consistently hearing that your salary band is lower, encourage them to raise this to leadership so you can adjust bands when needed.

Finally, educate candidates on equity and get them to see the value, especially at startups. Share historical information and future growth. Bring in the cofounder, CFO, and CEOs to share the equity value.

3. What makes a recruiter stand out in times of uncertainty within your own teams?

Sophia Han: Having a mindset of being adaptable to change, solutions-oriented, and impatiently optimistic. 

Hetal Shah: Someone who can be flexible and power through ambiguity, who stays engaged and excited about the road ahead, and who partners and communicates well.

4. What is the most valuable piece of employer branding that TA teams can focus on right now?

Ellen Markman: Recently, we’ve started creating more informative resources that give candidates a better idea of what their day-to-day work life would look like at CodeSignal.

Sophia Han: Right now, we’re focusing on building out specialized career site pages for things like Engineering, Product, and Design with curated content specifically designed to resonate with those candidates. We’re a global company, so we’ve started creating pages dedicated to certain geographic regions.  

Hetal Shah: Leverage leadership and talk about culture, especially specific to each team. Be on LinkedIn!

5. What are the first talent roles a small company/startup should hire?

Emily Markman: In CodeSignal recruiting, we started by hiring recruiters with broad skills—I don’t have any specialists on my team, and everyone is full lifecycle. Recruiters did their own coordination for the first few months, but we hired our first recruiting coordinator pretty quickly.

Sophia Han: At Brex, we hire full-cycle recruiters first, followed by a coordinator. An alternative to hiring a coordinator early on would be to use Modernloop to help with scheduling. Modernloop automates scheduling and makes it a lot easier for a full-cycle recruiter to take on scheduling responsibilities. The typical ratio of coordinators to recruiters is 1:4 when a company is in growth mode, and recruiters are running a very high volume, but we were able to run 1:9 by using tooling to increase efficiency. 

Hetal Shah: I always prefer to hire senior recruiters first—someone who can hire across all roles until more support is needed, then can specialize. Then, look at hiring recruiting coordinators once things pick up, as recruiters won’t be able to successfully hire if they spend too much time with coordination. 

6. What kinds of Gem reports do you run, and what resources do you use to ensure you have an advanced understanding of what can be evaluated?

Sophia Han: Gem dashboards and analytics have been the predominant tools we use to run reports. We use them to review data on sourcing productivity, pipeline conversions, time to hire, diversity hiring efforts, source of hires, offer decline reasons, and more. 

We also have built an internal facing Looker dashboard that allows us to review data on interviews and interviewers. This helps us look more deeply into areas like interviewer load balancing (are we overusing or underusing any interviewers?) and interviewer calibration (are there any interviewers biasing too much towards Yes/No decisions?).

Hetal Shah: We’ve created department dashboards to look at total hires per quarter or month, pending offers, offer acceptance rate, time to hire, number of hires per recruiter, etc. We also run reports to review conversion rates and pipeline health, diversity of pipelines, the total number of onsites per role, candidate activity (who’s active in the funnel)

7. How is the candidate experience measured by great companies, and can an ATS or CRM collect the data to improve the candidate experience?

Emily Markman: We use Greenhouse for our ATS, and they have a standard candidate experience survey that companies can choose to send out to all interviewees, those who make it to a certain stage, or no one at all. However, the questions are not editable, so every company using the GH survey asks the same questions. This is limiting because if you launch a new initiative, you can’t ask a specific question to pinpoint if it’s working. But the benefit is that GH shares the average results for all clients so you can see how your candidate experience compares to that of GH clients overall. And because GH is a huge ATS used by tons of big companies, this is pretty useful data.

Hetal Shah: At this time, we use Greenhouse and send candidates the survey that comes with Greenhouse for anyone who’s made it to at least an onsite. It’s a good general indicator but not customizable. Our recruiting coordinators are called RECs or Recruiting Experience Coordinators, meaning they help provide insight and improve candidate experience as well in a much more impactful way than our surveys.

8. Do you factor in the location of candidates before hiring?

Emily Markman: CodeSignal is remote-first and global, so we are pretty flexible. We aren’t able to hire in every country, however, and some teams have timezone restrictions. Location is always a consideration.

Sophia Han: No, but given we are a remote-first company, we’ve been trying to actively target the hiring of candidates outside of major hubs with sourcing.

Hetal Shah: We’re remote-first as well and can hire folks from anywhere except a handful of states, so location is not usually an issue.

9. What is your go-to for interviewer training?

Sophia Han: I’d recommend exploring tools like Metaview if you’re looking for a training solution. Metaview transcribes and analyzes interviews, as well as provides a training platform that you can use to train interviewers. 

Training is also a broad surface area, and I’d recommend splitting the implementation of training into phases. Phase 1 would be to set baseline training (e.g., cover illegal interview topics, interview etiquette, etc.). Phase 2 would be to deep-dive into all interview modules that are most commonly used and build targeted training for each. 

Hetal Shah: We’ve used 3rd parties to run interviewer training as well as run our own via the recruiting team. The 3rd party training was recorded, and we use this in a toolkit to get new hires trained before they start interviewing (a requirement). When we’ve run our own training, we try to cover each aspect broadly (for new folks) and give updates to process changes (for people who have already gone through training to keep them up to date).

10. How do you create a great candidate experience that lessens testing anxiety while ensuring we adequately assess their technical skills?

Emily Markman: Good prep materials help a lot. Let candidates know in advance what skills will be assessed and provide resources to help them prepare. Coach interviewers to introduce themselves right away, and explain the skills they’re assessing with each question they ask. That way, candidates know where to focus and what to prioritize if they begin to run out of time.

Make sure questions are delivered in a workspace that resembles the real-world technical environment, with the same tools/functionality candidates have on their desktop machines (terminal access, debugging tools, autocomplete, etc.).

Try a human-led assessment, like CodeSignal Tech Screen, where candidates are hosted by live Interview Experience Managers who greatly lessen anxiety by answering questions and walking candidates through the interview.  

Hetal Shah: Our interview process is clearly outlined from the first conversation. Candidates get organized and detailed emails about what to expect, what the schedule looks like, who they’re meeting with, and prep materials and resources. They also get prepped by recruiters and can ask questions. We want to ensure every interviewer is prepared and comfortable, so there are no surprises. Interviews are standardized, and we have rubrics to assess each candidate and their technical ability equally.

11. Do you utilize sourcers on your teams?

Emily Markman: We don’t—the recruiters on my team are full lifecycle. We don’t currently need sourcing support, but I think some companies can benefit from dedicated sourcing efforts. In my experience, sourcers are particularly helpful when you have evergreen openings with fairly broad requirements and high volume hiring goals, so the Sourcing team can nurture a constant pipeline.

Sophia Han: Yes, we have sourcers. Our sourcers work across all reqs and also take on stakeholder management and updates in partnership with recruiters. They have been super effective in helping us increase the diversity of our pipeline and hiring in remote markets.

Hetal Shah: Usually, finding time for sourcing is challenging for a full-cycle recruiter. I definitely see a value a sourcer can add by providing heads-down support in building the top funnel. Our recruiters are full-cycle and do their own sourcing; however, we do have one contract sourcer to help with challenging roles in R&D and have used technical sourcers before. A good sourcer is hard to find, just like recruiters, but they can help boost the top of the funnel and allow recruiters to focus on other tasks when things are busy/have big hiring targets.

12. How do you measure the success of your TA teams when hiring slows down?

Emily Markman: Recruiting success is usually fairly easy to measure quantitatively, but the statistics you focus on may change. I hesitate to measure “activity-only” stats (things like profiles viewed, candidates added to projects, messages sent) even at times of peak hiring volume, but those metrics are especially unhelpful when hiring slows down.

To measure recruiters’ ability to contribute as strategic business partners, you’ll probably want to focus on the stats that reflect their ability to identify a small pool of highly-qualified candidates for a role and communicate the value proposition of that role in a way that resonates. I would pay special attention to sourcing outreach reply rates, prospect-to-candidate conversion rates, and interview outcomes for the candidates your recruiters select to bring into the process. I also recommend seeking qualitative feedback from business partners and hiring managers to assess the value of recruiters’ contributions to the teams they support. 

Hetal Shah: Recruiters can contribute beyond filling roles, and we expect our recruiters to be true partners/advocates to the business. As hiring slows, they should be more strategic and intentional about bringing representation to teams and building partnerships with URG programs/groups. 

Conversion rates should be higher with more time to add intentionality in their sourcing and hiring. They should be able to help identify areas of opportunity to scale up recruiting and help up-level the team through improved processes. They should review data from previous hiring and identify areas to improve interviews for their org as the business scales. They should deeply understand their organization’s needs and take the time to partner more strategically with their HMs.

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Content Marketing Manager
August 11, 2022
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