We recently had a community roundtable with Michelle Rife, who leads talent acquisition at Branch (a $4b SaaS company that is transforming how users and brands interact across digital platforms).
Our conversation covered everything from the biggest mistakes that recruiting leaders make during economic downturns, to how we can use data more effectively during the hiring process.
Here’s one great snippet from our conversation. As economic conditions change, creative companies like Branch look inwards to fill roles and provide current employees with cross-functional stretch assignments.
Michelle is a creative and entrepreneurial leader, and has been managing large recruiting and TA teams for the past decade. In the past, Michelle has led Talent Acquisition teams at Playstation (yes, the gaming company!), GE Digital, Facebook/Meta and Aurora.
We talked about how the best recruiting leaders are taking this time to cross-train their team.
In our conversation, we cover:
(00:43) Michelle’s background (01:55) Cyclical nature of recruiting (02:31) Radical changes to recruiting in past few years. How recruiting leaders must adapt. (03:20) Rethink “the how and the why” of the role, it’s no longer just doing a job (04:19) Candidate’s don’t make a job decision based solely on comp (05:20) How to prioritize recruiting changes on your team (06:20) Why/what data is a massive differentiator for recruiting teams, when making changes (08:30) Biggest mistakes recruiting leaders make during a recession (10:20) Why many large privately-held companies have an advantage right now (16:19) How to best help former colleagues during a reduction-in-force? (21:40) Career development, opportunity to jump a few career levels during a downturn, cross-training, and continuous learning (23:30) Being a champion for early career hires (25:55) How to kickstart a data analytics program within recruiting (31:10) Group Q&A and Roundtable (39:11) End
See below for the full AMA + roundtable!
Staffparty’s all-in-one candidate journeys make recruiting fun. Recruiting teams win more candidates by delivering a best-in-class candidate experience, and eliminate punishing Glassdoor reviews with novel analytics, candidate feedback, and instant candidate-recruiter communication.
Recruiters invite candidates to a single hub where they can get everything they need during their hiring process: interview prep, welcome videos and culture intros, messaging with interviewers and recruiters, and an interactive offer at the end of the process.
Learn more and sign up at www.staffparty.com
Join our recruiting community
Join our (free) recruiting community where we chat about career growth, and best-in-class recruiting playbooks (and more!) with some of the best recruiting leaders in tech. (And get an invite to all our events!)
In the past few months, we’ve talked with recruiting teams that have a ~100% offer acceptance rate. And they are hitting all of their hiring goals. Their recruiting processes are thoughtful. They have great corporate cultures. They care. And despite a challenging recruiting environment between layoffs and never-ending talent battles … they are having FUN!
We’ve also talked with recruiting teams that are struggling. Their offer acceptance rates are sub-25%. They are working hard, but struggling to win great talent for their team. Struggling to stand out. Struggling to find the right people. Struggling to keep their team motivated.
So we asked ourselves, ‘why do some recruiting teams win most A+ candidates they connect with, while other teams are struggling to hire any candidates at all?’
We decided to go to the source. Not recruiters, but candidates.
We interviewed dozens of candidates who recently accepted job offers, and asked them about their recruiting experiences. These are top candidates, accepting roles at some of the most competitive tech companies such as Greenhouse, Google, Flowcode, and many others.
Our candidate interviews resulted in A LOT of juicy content, so we wrote 5 episodes summarizing feedback and insights about key parts of candidates recruiting experiences. Below is Episode 1 – follow along for more!
Episode 1: First contact with top candidates Episode 2: People and culture transparency Episode 3: Career progression Episode 4: Offer stage Episode 5: Standing out
Episode 1: First contact with top candidates
On average, only 10% of recruiting outreach messages get a response (recruiter.com).
I asked one engineering candidate about what they thought of InMail, and they told me that “LinkedIn can F&#@ right off”. So there’s that.
That said, there is a HUGE variance in response rates. And many recruiting teams say that InMail is central to their recruiting machine.
In two of our candidate interviews, new hires mentioned that a key part of the entire recruiting experience was a light-hearted and personalized cold outreach message that drew them into their future employer. 🤩🤩🤩
What makes a great intro message? Let’s talk about it.
🤝 Warm intros are becoming more creative
About half of the employees we interviewed had a warm intro to their next job.
However, warm intros these days are changing. They are more broad than a simple direct referral from a current employee.
Growing connections through networking on LinkedIn is still powerful! Candidates are 46% more likely to accept InMails when they’re connected to your employees LinkedIn
Internal company referral systems do work. But the problem with those programs is that they have limited surface area of exposure, especially for smaller companies. You can’t ask the same employee group of 25 people for their list of referrals and expect a different answer every month 😛
Here’s a great example.
We talked with Nkem, who had a strong connection to Greenhouse – the company he recently joined full-time – before he started interviewing for his next role. A few years ago in a previous role, Nkem was working at a different company partnering with Greenhouse on a cross-company initiative. And it turns out, Nkem’s partners were on the same team at Greenhouse that he ended up joining full-time
What a giant vote of confidence not only to the Greenhouse recruiting team, but also to the eng-prod-design and partnership teams who developed such a great relationship with Nkem that he later wanted to collaborate with them full-time years later. 🚀
If you’re playing the long game, think about that the next time your company works on a cross-company initiative.
In other cases, we learned about friends helping friends make that first introduction. Zohaib shares his journey to Sendlane below.
I was referred to the company by a good friend of mine who said I needed to talk to the Founder and CEO… I thought “Why the hell not” since it was just a conversation. It was in the same space I was passionate about, digital marketing, and the executive team was diverse af.
Zohaib Rattu, accepted role as Senior Product Manager @ Sendlane
It’s very expensive to have casual chats like this, but we found that in most startup recruiting processes top candidates were encouraged to speak with founders and/or the leadership team before getting to offer stage.
🚨If you’re not introducing top candidates to executives at the beginning of your recruiting process, be aware that your competitors are doing this and you’re probably already behind 🚨
As a more extreme sidenote, we also spoke with a senior AI recruiter at a particular FAANG company and learned that most AI engineering candidates will get an intro to the C-Suite at the end of the recruiting process to wrap up recruiting with some sizzle. Including most IC engineers.
We also talked with Dom, who had a warm introduction for his new role at Cortina via a former colleague and investor in the company. We were particularly drawn towards Dom’s positive reaction to Cortina’s inspiring and accessible CEO. (Subtle signals from company leadership are amplified during recruiting!)
🌡️ Cold intros must get personal
Without a warm intro, how do companies stand out? Personalization is key.
Both Court and Andrew highlighted that they felt important and welcomed during the beginning of the process, with a high degree of personalization in their cold outreach messages from their future employers.
This is time-consuming – but effective. And creates a memorable candidate experience.
I was contacted by a recruiter (internal) for the company over LinkedIn. I connected with them for a few reasons:
1) The message clearly was not a scripted “blast out to everyone who meets this criteria” type of message,
2) Ease in scheduling a 15 min call with the recruiter,
3) It was an internal recruiter, not an agency (nothing wrong with agencies, just not my preference at the time),
4) Pursued the position due to increase in responsibility and the team
Andrew Elliott, recently accepted role as Product Manager @ Groove
⛔ Stop slamming corporate metrics
At Attentive, we used to clobber candidates in our cold outreach messages with our corporate metrics.. “Attentive raised X, growing at Y, etc”. That used to work well in 2021 (especially given the growth rate of the business – the metrics genuinely were impressive!). However, not a single candidate mentioned corporate metrics as being a differentiator in the intro message. In fact, one candidate said this:
I get 2 or 3 messages every day describing how much money a company has raised or what their revenue is. I care that the company is growing, but I want to learn more about the team and the role and why I might be a good fit for it.
Staff Engineer, 500-person company
Social proof is important, but the fact that a company just raised $1b from SoftBank isn’t the only reason why candidates want to explore job opportunities at that particular company. Also, everybody raised $b’s in 2021 c’mon.
⛰️ De-risking new jobs
Moving to a new job carries risks – we heard this theme from most employees we interviewed – and folks are now aggressively de-risking each opportunity as quickly and early as possible.
Top risks named by job searchers
1. Career growth opportunities 2. Hiring manager support 3. Corporate culture health 4. Business outlook and growth potential
This is all great fodder for future posts, but even now it may be helpful to bring this data into your intro messages. How does your open role present an opportunity for career growth for new hires? Talk about it in your first contact, particularly if it’s a cold intro!
These interviews were SUPER helpful for us at Staffparty. And we’d highly recommend talking with recent candidates who ejected from your recruiting process. Especially if you’re re-evaluating your recruiting processes like many other companies post-2022-hyper-growth. Those standard candidate NPS surveys help, but a little more effort goes a long way – hop on a call with recent candidates! Let us know if you’d like a copy of the interview script that we used, we’re happy to send it to you!
Thank you SO MUCH to all employees we talked with in the past few weeks 🙏 particularly Andrew, Court, Dom, Nkem, and Zohaib who were mentioned in this article 🙂 Yall rock, thank you!
⏭️ Next steps
This is the first part of a multi-part series. Up next we’re going to talk about how people and culture transparency is the one thing that can early-terminate a recruiting experience OR become the one thing that re-engages a candidate who is about to eject.
See y’all soon 🚀
Where we’re going next
Episode 1: First contact with top candidates ✅ Episode 2: People and culture transparency Episode 3: Career progression Episode 4: Offer stage Episode 5: Standing out
You did all the work. You interviewed a candidate and found them a role at your company that they will LOVE. Your internal team agreed on a comp band and initial offer, and now it’s time to deliver that offer to the candidate. What do you do?
This is one of the most important conversations for managers and recruiters. Getting to the finish line with a candidate and not closing the deal is a VERY expensive miss.
Here are 5 quick tips that will improve how you deliver job offers.
Tip #1 🔍 Gather critical information
Every great recruiter and hiring manager is searching for 2 pieces of information at the beginning of the recruiting process:
1. The candidate’s primary motivation. For some candidates it’s compensation. For other candidates it’s setting themselves up to start their own company in a few years. Learn this asap!
Pro-tip 💡 One way to learn a candidate’s primary motivation is by asking ‘why are you leaving your current job’ in your first chat with them
2. Your company’s competitive advantages. If you’re a startup, it’s unlikely that you’ll compete with a BigTech offer on cash salary alone. Perhaps equity ownership is attractive to a candidate. Or the opportunity to learn and do new things in different domains. Or they are motivated by a grand mission. Learn this asap too!
Tip #2 ✨ Conversational >>> ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offers
A common approach to delivering job offers is to describe each part of the offer on a call, and then at the end say “let us know by Friday if you accept”. We call this the ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ approach, and we are not fans 🙅♀️
Instead, make the offer call conversational. A conversational offer call naturally leads into a negotiation process, and it’s incredibly friendly and comfortable for everybody. Kick off the call with friendly questions, “you’ve had a chance to talk with everybody .. how do you like the team? How are you feeling about the company and the vision?” Candidate answers drive an escalation of commitment: “Yes, yes, yes!”
Bonus 🎁 To save you some time, we wrote a detailed conversational script that you can find at the end of the article. You can follow this script from top-to-bottom on your next offer call
Tip #3 ⁉️ Ask clarifying questions
At every step in the recruiting process, asking clarifying questions helps both you and the candidate learn if it’s a good fit. The most important thing is to match a candidate with a job that they will love, and the sooner that you can figure out whether your company is that right fit or not the better.
It should never be a surprise whether a candidate accepts an offer or not. Asking questions is the only way to 1) get to know candidates, and 2) make sure you avoid surprises!
Tip #4 ⛔🎉 Never say ‘congratulations’ until the offer is accepted
By saying ‘congrats’ you totally shift the power dynamics of the conversation – Our work isn’t done until a candidate joins the team
Pro-tip 💡 Instead of saying “congrats”, say “good to chat, looking forward to working with you.” Jump to a conversation about “what it will be like to work together”, and highlight that this is an important decision to make – It’s not a celebration yet
Tip #5 🧑💼 Manage expectations on your team
The tips above, and the script below will help you win more candidates. However, not all candidates will accept your job offers. It’s important to control the expectations of your team (interview panel, local team a candidate would work with, hiring manager, execs), to avoid over-promising results. It’s helpful to set expectations (and repeat them frequently) that you’re working with a very competitive candidate.
Pro-tip 💡 It’s super important to get teammates excited about the potential of a candidate joining, but we gotta marry excitement with the reality of a tough recruiting market
Bonus – 🆓 Free job offer call script
This approach is conversational, and includes calculated moments – such as pinch points and escalations of commitment
Drop in your email and download the complete script. Enjoy!
I’ve personally used this script to deliver dozens of job offers – both senior execs and junior hires – with tremendous success. And it works whether you’re in a large company, or a startup. You may have a rigid comp philosophy, or you may not yet have comp bands. The conversational nature of the script is friendly and flexible.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions 🚀 email@example.com