What hiring looks like right now: Best practices from Hipcamp, Sonder and Greenhouse

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The world of recruiting is always in flux. Companies grow and contract, and hiring needs shift as a result. But at this exact moment, most of us are facing unprecedented change and uncertainty. In our recent webinar, Great hiring in 2020: Best practices for recruiters and hiring managers, we reflected on both the timely and the timeless aspects of recruiting. Panelists Khang Tran, Head of Engineering at Hipcamp, Joeri Leemans, Technical Recruiter at Sonder, and Alexis Tissian, Technical Recruiter at Greenhouse, shared best practices for recruiters and hiring managers, both in response to today’s situation and in general.

We’ll recap a few highlights from the webinar here and address a few bonus questions from the audience that we weren’t able to answer live.

Curious to hear the whole conversation? Watch the on-demand webinar here


What are some universal pain points for hiring managers and recruiters?

As Head of Engineering, Khang finds that there are many friction points throughout the hiring process. Getting to candidates when they’re open to hearing about a new role, seeing them through the recruiting process and competing with other companies are some of his biggest challenges. That’s why recruiter and hiring manager partnership is critical. Khang says, “You have to get that right or you won’t be able to close candidates or get them through the door.”

From the recruiter’s perspective, a lack of clarity on the ideal candidate profile can be a challenge. Joeri says, “Often a hiring manager won’t know exactly what they’re looking for and the company will end up hiring someone for a role who may be a little different from what you were looking for initially.” He recommends starting your search widely and getting plenty of feedback from your hiring manager early on – including what they’re not looking for in candidates – to help you get aligned as quickly as possible.


What are the necessary steps for recruiters and hiring managers to make sure they’re set up for success?

Alexis shares that all first-time hiring managers at Greenhouse go through one-on-one training with a member of the recruiting team. it covers general principles like what it means to be a hiring manager and what’s expected as well as tactical tips like how to use Greenhouse. The recruiter also provides a rundown of the different meetings the hiring manager will need to attend like role kickoffs, weekly updates and team debriefs.

Joeri agrees that it’s important to establish common ground: “The first step is setting clear expectations and establishing a relationship with the hiring manager.” He recommends discussing what you can expect from one other and sharing your preferred communication channels. And remember that not everything is set in stone: “Make small tweaks as you go along to make the process run more smoothly.” 


When it comes to data, which metrics have been most helpful?

Joeri looks at conversion rates for each pipeline stage to optimize the process. For example, if you have a large percentage of candidates passing the phone screen but a significantly smaller percentage of candidates passing the next stage (whether that’s a take-home test or hiring manager interview), you can investigate further. Maybe you need to adjust your phone screen interview questions or align with the interviewer on how they’re assessing candidates. One Greenhouse report Joeri finds especially helpful is the Interviewer calibration report. Based on what you learn in this report, Joeri says, “you can put together stronger interview panels and provide training to those who are not as aligned.”

Alexis recommends looking at Candidate quality by source reports in Greenhouse to reveal where your most qualified candidates came from, pass-through rates to see how candidates moved through your pipeline and candidate survey results to get a sense of candidate satisfaction with your process and identify areas for improvement.

Like many recruiters, Khang finds the funnel a useful way of thinking about how candidates move through the hiring process. He regularly reviews the conversion rates at each stage of the funnel to get a sense of how much time members of the engineering team will need to set aside for interviews. He says, “Knowing the volume and conversion and knowing your hiring target, you can budget how many hours you need to set aside for engineers to interview. Understanding those capacity needs is important.”


How do you re-create the candidate experience when interviewing remotely?

You won’t be able to deliver the exact energy of the office in a virtual interview, but you can still look for ways to bring personality to the experience, says Khang. He recommends adding some structure to the “lunchtime” portion of the interview. For example, have team members play a game like two truths and a lie with candidates as a way to bring the atmosphere of the office into a video interview. 


Are candidates more or less responsive when working from home? Is one communication channel better in this setting?

Alexis finds that email is still the best way of communicating with candidates, especially for initial outreach. Once you’ve opened up the lines of communication with a candidate, you can always ask them if another channel works better. Khang has found that texting can be extremely efficient, but only when used sparingly. After his first call with a candidate, he’ll send a follow-up text to thank them. And if he ever needs a quick response, he’ll send a text since “email tends to get crowded.”


Bonus question: How do you regularly leverage hiring managers to help build out interview kits for individual jobs?

Alexis suggests sending an email after your initial kick-off meeting with action items for both the recruiter and hiring manager. She also recommends building out the interview kit as much as possible before passing it off to the hiring manager. You can copy kits from past related jobs or older jobs. Alexis says, “Give them something to work with so you set them up for success.”

Khang believes the most critical piece of interviewing is the scorecard, which represents an objective view of what success looks like. He says, “Work closely with your hiring manager to flesh out all the things that matter for a job, i.e. all the dimensions by which a candidate will be assessed.” Next you can work on the target profile and interview sessions that will help you assess the dimensions you defined in your scorecard. Over time, as you conduct debriefs, it'll become apparent which dimensions matter, which ones don't and which ones are missing. “As a recruiter,” Khang says, “you should continually challenge hiring managers on refining the scorecards or interview process in order to identify the best candidates.”


Bonus question: How do you go about doing market research for a role before your kickoff meeting with a hiring manager?

Joeri recommends using LinkedIn Recruiter for your market research. He says, “The purpose of doing job market research is to A) identify good places to look for this role and B) come up with a rough estimate of time to hire to set expectations with the hiring manager.” Estimating what the recruiting funnel will look like and thinking about the volume of inflow you expect can help. Joeri says doing some quick LinkedIn searches and seeing what kind of results show up is a good way to get a sense of which tactics to use: “If only a dozen profiles show up in your search results, you may want to set up a ‘send on behalf of’ (SOBO) sequence and organize referral jams in the beginning. If thousands of profiles show up, these things may not be needed and regular sourcing will do the job.”


Bonus question: How should recruiters and hiring managers work together to ensure diversity in the hiring process?

At Greenhouse, Alexis says, “We talk about diversity in the hiring process in the kickoff meeting before even building out the job.” Recruiters and hiring managers will define what diversity looks like for their specific team and department, consider job boards and other tools that will benefit their team and discuss ways for the hiring manager to stay involved. Once the role is open, Alexis recommends checking in regularly to track how candidates are moving through the pipeline. Do you notice any red flags? Are there any areas where unintentional bias might be creeping in?


Bonus question: Any tips for improving a "broken" recruiter/hiring manager relationship?

“It all depends on what way things are broken,” says Khang. Generally, though, he recommends having a very open conversation that you approach with a sincere desire to work through things. If that isn't enough, you will need to escalate, which Khang says works better after you've already tried to mend things directly.

The most common cause of recruiter/hiring manager difficulty is a misalignment around what success looks like, each person’s roles and responsibilities or a combination of both. To overcome this, Khang says, “I recommend coming together with your hiring partner and sharing what success means to you. In the process, you'll likely gain perspective, empathy and hopefully more trust. Once you've achieved a shared reality of what success means, then it's about being very clear about who is accountable for what.” Ultimately, Khang believes that “even though there are clear area owners, you'll both be more successful when you go beyond your boundaries to fill gaps and watch each other's blindspots.”


Watch the full webinar here.

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Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.