How We Hire: A Look Inside Evernote's Revamped Recruiting Process

Evernote-2A few months back, Evernote shared “recruiting power tips” on the Evernote blog. The post showcased the company’s streamlined recruiting process, powered by its own technology as well as its recruiting optimization platform, Greenhouse. The post was written in the midst of a high-growth year for Evernote, which hired 159 new employees last year. To do this, the recruiting team managed 20,000 active and passive candidate applicants, an average of 2-3 onsite interviews each day, and 13-14 hires per month.

With such a large volume of applications, one may assume that hiring high-quality talent would be a piece of cake at Evernote. Not the case! The team faced several challenges, namely:

  1. Building better partnerships with hiring managers

  2. Hiring at scale while maintaining a high talent bar

  3. Creating a results-driven process while remaining thoughtful about the candidate experience

  4. Utilizing recruiting data to optimize the evaluation process

1. Building better partnerships

Anticipating this growth, the recruiting team kicked off 2014 by rethinking the way it was structured. Instead of your typical hierarchical org structure, Evernote recruiters are now grouped into pods. They are then teamed up with hiring managers within each department, allowing them to focus on driving the recruiting strategy and managing partnerships.

Pavlina Zabalaga, the Recruiting Manager at Evernote, says that this change was inspired by the product team. “At Evernote, we build products in small teams of 4-6 people. It seems to be just the right amount of people to focus on a specific task. In the pod structure, recruiters are more like product managers, which allows us to be more collaborative and strategic.”

They also implemented technology that all teams would use.

“If you are looking to bridge the gap between recruiting and engineering, I do suggest reviewing the tools you expect your product teams to use to recruit. It’s our responsibility to bring to the table the best recruiting solutions possible and in turn we have gained a lot of credibility by constantly seeking the latest and greatest.” - Kelly Grossart, Lead Recruiter at Evernote  

2. Hiring at scale with a high talent bar

In order to hire 14 new employees each month, Evernote had to create a scalable recruiting process. The process needed to ensure that they were thoroughly vetting candidates - only hiring A-players - while also moving great candidates along the pipeline quickly. Kelly started by rebuilding the process for customer support and then rolled out the new process to engineering teams.

Customer support is a hugely important role at Evernote - acting on the front lines with customers and providing thoughtful feedback to its internal product teams.  

First, Kelly and her team defined the key, core competencies of the role. She worked with the customer support hiring team to understand what it took to be successful. They also identified the features that define all high-performing Evernote employees.The team then used Greenhouse to tie each attribute to interviews, and specialized all interview questions, getting rid of the generalized questions that were not proving to be good indicators of success. Before each interview, interviewers receive Greenhouse reminders of what they’re looking for and what to ask.

3. Providing a great candidate experience

After the new process proved successful for customer success, the team rebuilt the interview process for each group at Evernote. However, the team still struggled to move engineering candidates along quickly - a key component of a great candidate experience. Evernote’s goal is for every candidate to walk away from Evernote wanting to work here whether they received an offer of not.

Before Kelly started at Evernote, the teams were committed to a coding challenge and a strict multi-step hiring process for every engineering candidate across all platforms. This works for more junior-level roles or roles with higher pipelines, but they were now recruiting for more senior-level engineers.

“After courting them for months and then finally getting them on the phone and excited about Evernote, I had to give them a homework assignment and a pretty lengthy hiring process. As you can imagine, we had a lot of candidates get stuck in certain stages or withdraw altogether. But, up until this point, the coding challenge had been our engineer’s crutch to filter out weaker candidates, so we needed data to prove our assumptions to make any changes to the process,” Kelly shares.

So, the recruiting team decided to conduct its own A/B test. They took one senior-level Java generalist role and split it into two pipelines. One track was the our standard process with a coding challenge, 2 calls with engineers, and then an onsite interview. The second was what they believed would be more ideal: First, hiring managers review resumes, which enables buy-in. Recruiters then conducted a fairly in-depth prescreen and, if it went well, they set them up directly to speak with a highly calibrated engineer who would then make the decision whether the next step would be an additional interview or move directly to an onsite Interview.

“With Greenhouse’s technology and reporting tools we were able test and report the time to hire, how long candidates were staying in certain stages and also where they dropped off entirely. We also utilized collaboration within Greenhouse. There are some really easy ways like @mentions and additional review stages to engage and gain accountability for feedback on candidates. So it felt more like we were working together with the engineers to make these decisions about next steps for candidates, instead simply pushing them through a previously established process.”

Ultimately, both the recruiting and engineering teams found that variation B allowed them to hire in half the time! Although some engineers were nervous about committing more time for reviewing candidates and taking phone interviews in the short term, it was far less work over a longer period of time, cutting the recruiting process to hire a senior-level engineer from 6 months to just 3.

4. Utilizing recruiting data to optimize our evaluation process

When Evernote was evaluating a variety of recruiting metrics to both educate and inform us about the recruiting process, they needed a system which would allow them to capture the data without hindering recruiter’s productivity.

Using Greenhouse, lead recruiters are able to provide accurate reporting to hiring managers such as the range of sources the recruiting team is using to acquire talent, or the time in days required to fill positions.

“The most requested report by our executive team is Pipeline History and Pipeline Per Job. This report illustrates a complete pipeline and historical data of the pipeline for each position we have hired for - number of applicants, phone screens, coding challenges, onsite interviews, offers accepted or declined,” shares Pavlina.

It allows the team to identify areas for improvement and over time, it also can illustrate improvements made by the recruiting team through revised strategies and practices that improve productivity.

Kelly shares the details of Evernote’s recruiting strategy - as well as how she uses Greenhouse and HackerRank to support the new process - in a Hiring Hacks webinar - watch the recording now!

How Evernote Enhanced Its Technical Recruiting Process

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