How to approach talent ops without a talent ops team: Tips from FabFitFun and Zola

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Which came first? The talent team or the talent? Operationalizing a structured recruiting process is already challenging enough, but if you’re building a startup, you most likely don’t have a talent ops team in place just yet. How can you recruit top talent if you don’t have the recruiters to do so?

Last June, the Jacob Javits Center in NYC was buzzing with business leaders from companies of all sizes – and some were lucky enough to get all the talent ops insights from successful startup leaders themselves.

During their session, Help! I Don’t Have a Talent Ops Team, Angela Mayhew, Senior Recruiting Manager at FabFitFun, and Ashley Reid, Senior Talent Manager at Zola, revealed how they’ve used data to make a big impact on their recruiting processes.

Here are five of their best tips for taking action on data while running and scaling your existing recruiting processes.

Tip 1: Make hiring everyone’s business

Whether your team is lean or not-so lean, your entire org should be engaged in hiring. Ashley says she was lucky her CEO was already a talent leader who was invested in hiring and wanted to make it an organizational priority. She recommends finding advocates – especially at higher levels in your company – who will champion your commitment to recruiting best practices and support your hiring initiatives.

Employee referrals are another way to get employees at all levels involved in the hiring process. Angela discovered that it’s not just about getting a specific number of referrals from existing employees – she recommends keeping an eye on the data to see what percentage of referrals are actually making it to onsite interviews and getting hired. You may find that you need to coach employees to help them identify the types of prospects you’re most likely to hire for specific roles.

Tip 2: Invest fully in your processes

What worked early on will not always keep working as you scale, especially when it comes to systems and processes. And bad habits are hard to break, so Angela recommends creating “teachable moments” whenever you’re trying to get team members to adopt a new process.

For example, some hiring managers love taking notes on a paper resume, but what happens when the paper gets coffee spilled on it or the folder you’re keeping it in mysteriously disappears? Gathering feedback in an online system ensures it’s easy to track and manage the data. Make sure the talent team is committed to your systems and processes first, and then you can begin to get coworkers from other departments involved.

We were previously using a lot of vendors and agencies in our processes. Our biggest challenge was driving adoption within our own recruiting team during hyper-growth, but we realized that if we wanted to scale, we needed to start with us. –Angela Mayhew, FabFitFun

Tip 3: Think about how to automate technical skills

If you’re on a lean team, you most likely wear several hats – but you’re human, so you don’t know how to do everything. You should always be thinking about how you can make things easier and more efficient.

I didn’t realize that I would have to be a data analyst. And because I don’t have a talent ops team, it’s so crucial to be able to use a tool that can show hiring's impact, in order for people to respect your decisions. –Ashley Reid, Zola

Tip 4: Data is your best friend

Ashley recommends centralizing everything. Make sure you have one person who owns all the data and keeps it in one place. This approach will help you keep your data clean and reliable. It also means you have one point of contact who can help you pull reports when you need them. Having all your offer letters stored in one place can also come in handy when your company is preparing for a round of funding.

Keep in mind that good data in is good data out. Angela suggests starting small – make sure that the candidate source is properly labeled and recruiters are assigned to each role. Once you know you have these small steps nailed, you can start running reports and looking for other areas to optimize.

Tip 5: Know that what works today might not work tomorrow

During hypergrowth, your company is constantly evolving. Angela says it’s essential to look ahead to anticipate the upcoming changes and consider which tools, systems and processes are likely to break as you scale.

If you want long term success, you have to stop and think at every point in the process: ‘Is this scalable?’ –Angela Mayhew, FabFitFun

For example, right now, knowledge about candidates might live in recruiters’ heads. You may be able to get away with tapping someone on the shoulder and asking them about a specific candidate. But what will happen when you expand to other offices? How will you track information about candidates in a way that future recruiters will be able to access and understand?

Angela and Ashley have plenty of hard-earned lessons about approaching talent operations – getting company buy-in on recruiting best practices, adopting new tools and processes, gathering data and monitoring metrics so you can continuously improve. It may not always be easy, but getting started with small steps and easy wins today can pave the way to a well-oiled talent operations machine in the not-so-distant future.


Want to hear their full discussion, including their tips on how to make the most of Greenhouse to optimize your talent operations?
Watch the session video here.

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Micah Gebreyes

Micah Gebreyes

is a Senior Content Manager at Greenhouse where she creates and elevates the Greenhouse social media, blog and newsletter content strategies. When she's not in the office engaging online communities, she enjoys spending time with her Pomeranian, Cashew and relaxing on NYC rooftops. Keep the conversation growing with Micah on our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.