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Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.


Welcome to eight players. But guess what? We'll tell you how to target, hire, retain and train top performers for your team, at least in your first 50 people.


As a company, you really need those builders. You need those people that are flexible, creative. I'd say those are the things that ultimately what have people delivered. They're going to have stories about the things they've delivered and what problem they were solving, what they needed to build, and they'll be able to explain it and explain it clearly. I am Robin shows you at Higher Suites and we are sourcing automation software that helps Ninan tech companies hire the best talent at me.


And follow me now on LinkedIn Qwant to keep an eye on this.


OK, so today we're having Crystal, thanks for joining us today, Chris. What is it, 20 years total experience, studied your own agency, all basically suggesting recruiting people of a tweet or Google not upload. Thanks for joining us today, Chris. Can you tell us more about your background?


Absolutely. And thank you for for having me. So, yeah. So a quick introduction actually started my career before recruiting in technical sales. Back when I lived in Wisconsin in the late 90s. I posted my resume and ended up with a half dozen points of interest from staffing agencies. And that's how I began my career. Sort of been a process of after owning my own agency for eight years because going in house, really learning how to build the recruiting and sourcing machines and then slowly going to smaller and smaller companies.


So I went to Google, learned about their machine. I went to Twitter, built a sourcing machine, so kind of built half of the recruiting process, then went to a startup company called the Lumia and Injuries. And Hollywood startup built the whole function from the ground up, everything from the interviews, training, the interviewers, sourcing to recruiting and closing and then doing the same role at Apollo. It's the same thing, a second chance with Andriesen Horowitz.


And in this case, I actually ended up running ops for a few years as well. And that was a fantastic experience.


Cool. And imagine you're joining a new company today. What do you do? How do you build that machine in the next few months? In the next four months? What do you need to do? What's the question you're asking? What all the tools you're using?


I think there's a lot of teaching and it's one of the fun things about doing this for so long. I get to talk to interviewers about best practices in hiring, just simple things that most people know already. But standardizing your your interview questions really becoming experts in those questions. You're working backwards from a list of competencies, not necessarily experiences. And what I'm always telling interviewers is once you've asked this question 20, 30 times, you'll be able to say, OK, yeah, this is the best person that's ever answered this question or this is the top person or this person in the bottom 50 percent.


So not a very strong performer.


So one of the things hiring is so important, but like people don't often do enough training and teach their interviewers how to do it. And it's one thing for my team to be able to identify talent and then get them on the hook with the sourcing team, but then you have to be able to evaluate that talent really well. And that's that's the cross-functional work that you really have to do as a talent leader. And then there's other parts of that as well, like, OK, does every person on your interview panel realize that it's a two way street when you're recruiting, that the candidate is evaluating you at the same time that you're evaluating them?


So I just think I think there's a lot of work there that people that sounds logical, but they haven't really thought about before.


Yeah. And can you tell us more about the assessment on how do you build a database of the questions that you ask all the time?


And do you have any specific questions that you recommend?


So what we do when we're building a new acquisition and I won't even have my team start working on a requisition until we get together what we call an MLC. And so that's just like, OK, what are the missions, the objectives, the competencies for the role? So we write down, OK, what is the mission? What are they going to need to produce? What are the results we're looking for? And then the competencies is really this is where you start to plug into your interview process.


And sometimes I'll get a list of 20 different competencies from my hiring manager and I'll have to say, well, look, we need to be able to test for these things. Also, if you have twenty, you're sort of creating this unicorn candidate that be impossible to find. So start by narrowing your competencies down to somewhere between four and six, and then you design an interview question to test for each of those competencies, or at least you make sure that there's an interviewer assigned to looking for each of those competencies.


So that's a huge part of the process. And then the other bit is like, all right, we've kind of put together our plan. We know what we're looking for now. We need to get everybody on the interview panel in a room together and say, OK, let's all ask questions, let's try to poke holes in this requisition. And what I mean by that is you could very well get an interviewer who disagrees with the requisition itself and they might say, well, this person needs to be way more senior than what we're looking for or this person is too senior, et cetera.


Leveling is often a big part of this. And what you'll end up with is negative feedback that might blow up a perfectly good candidate. And you're getting feedback about the wreck through your interview feedback.


So I'm always encouraging the interview panel like now is your chance. Ask your hard questions. Now, I don't want to see disagreement with the wreck in your feedback. I want to talk about it now. So getting everybody on the same page with the hiring manager right away before you interview a single candidate is another critical part of that.


Do you do that for every. You wreck that we do every single wreck, so once we've done the we call that, the hiring panel will kick off. We also have a source and kick off that might have happened maybe a week or so before where the recruiters get to sit down and really make sure that the requisition from our perspective is fillable. So that's sort of the unicorn test that we're not pulling together a number of skill sets that we don't think we could ever find.


So you run these hiring people kickoff and saucing kickoff and then you start to actually source for people.


Right, right after the saucing kickoff will source before we have a candidate come in. We'll do the panel kickoff. It's not a terrible thing to do. Those things close together, though, because let's say someone brings up a good point about the wreck and then the wreck ends up changing. You could end up throwing away a little bit of sourcing work, but that's one of those compromises you make with your hiring manager, because you know how excited a hiring manager gets.


They're like, oh, I have this new rack. I want to get people working on it right away. For them, it's like it's very exciting to get a new hire and they want to bring them in as quickly as they can.


Yeah. And I guess it's better to already have done some sourcing work to compare with the reality of the market at the same time. And see, OK, this is the kind of people we can get you and it helps just to rank at the same time, right? Exactly.


And you can bring one or two of those top profiles to your panel, kick off just to say, OK, here is actually the kind of person that we think would be a good fit, at least on paper. And that'll give the interview panel a better sense of what we're looking for in a candidate as well.


And when it comes to the competencies, can you give us examples of these competencies and how do you assess them, the kind of questions you connect to each one?


I can. So one of those is, for example, we're looking for a salesperson and we want that person to be able to be a hunter. Like we want them to be able to go out, find new business, not just wait for business to to come to them. We want somebody that is going to be able to understand our product and our user. So that sort of user empathy in this case, because we sell a technical product, we have a software engineer on the interview panel who will be asking about kind of be diving into like, what is it like to work with the salesperson?


Do they speak the language of technical? Do they have demonstrated they'll ask what kind of technical curiosity have you had? Like, have you ever done any programming side projects also poking into like what? Maybe they downloaded our tutorial and actually tried to use our product, even though they're not technical.


We do a lot of testing as well around like, OK, can this person function in a startup? Even though we're doing enterprise sales here, we want to make sure that we want them to be able to give us examples about times that they've had to adapt when they don't have all the structure built. So you can imagine a salesperson at Salesforce or other larger companies, they've got all these tools in place. They have a process built, they have product marketing, et cetera.


And in a startup, the salesperson is going to have to invent a lot of that on their own. And you think about a salesperson, they're very similar to recruiters in a lot of ways, like they have to have to do research on their customers. They have to figure out the best way to do outreach and customize it.


And it's sort of like an early salesperson is like a full cycle recruiter. So we're testing for those types of things. And then lastly, we'll be asking questions that like, OK, are they detail oriented? In other words, are they going to follow our Salesforce process or are we going to end up with, like them doing their own spreadsheets on the side? And we can't reconcile their spreadsheets with Salesforce? We have no sense, no source of truth.


So and then we do some questions about our culture. It's really important to us. Like we we talk a lot about kindness and transparency at our company, a lot about business ethics and integrity. And we want to make sure that our salespeople are out there representing us in a way that makes us proud. One of the great questions we do is sort of a life story interview. We call it a deep dive. I know a few companies out there do this, but it's sort of walk you through your whole life history practically all the way back to high school when I went through this interview back at Apollo.


And it was amazing just for me, just watching my own life trajectory for my career, the things that have changed about me, the things that have stayed the same, the mistakes that I've made, what I've learned from them. And a big test of that interview is how open and honest you can be in that interview.


So few of these competencies are linked to the role of these competencies leaked to the company. So, as you said, Kynaston transparency. Do you seek common competencies across eight players, across different companies and different roles like common traits that you always found in eight players in twenty years hiring?


Yeah, I mean, the biggest one really is and we talk about this a lot at Apollo is have they left sort of this trail of artifacts? Behind them in their career, in other words, what have they built and you can tell pretty quickly, if someone has built something, then I guess I'm emphasizing really what you need in a startup. You need builders.


You need people who are excited about that challenge and aren't frustrated when they don't have everything they need. So at least in your first 50 people as a company, you really need those builders. You need those people that are flexible, creative. I'd say those are the things that ultimately what have people delivered. They're going to have stories about the things they've delivered and what problem they were solving, what they needed to build, and they'll be able to explain it and explain it clearly.


That's that's the first time I hear that answer like it. And you have precise examples of people you hired recently that had this kind of trail behind them. I guess open sources might be different because it's easier to contribute to a project, right? Yeah.


I mean, that is one of the things that we look at. We look at our contributors. Our community becomes a channel for how we recruit. But this really applies to all different types of functions, not just engineering, but engineering. It is easier when you can go on somebody's GitHub and you can see what they might have contributed to. It gets more difficult, actually, with people in larger companies and their work is hidden behind some veil of secrecy and they're not allowed to talk about what they've done in those cases.


You really have to give them your typical coding questions where you're testing for different types of skill sets. Now, where a lot of this building also comes out is in that deep dive interview because you're going to find the highlights in your life. Career are going to be the things that you built yourself and that you're really proud of. Yeah.


So that's the number one thing you're going after. And are there any other traits that you find, again, across different roles, different companies?


You know, there's this sort of cliche now and this is also fairly general, but I think it's true across companies and it's certainly how I hire for my own recruiting teams. But Warren Buffett often talks about the three things that he looks for and he looks for people that are intelligent, looks for people of high energy, in other words, hard workers.


And the third thing, and I would say arguably the most important is their integrity. The Warren Buffett quote something along the lines.


And I'm paraphrasing that if the candidate lacks integrity, I almost hope that they are lazy and and unintelligent because the hard working, intelligent person who lacks integrity is going to do more damage to my company than anybody else possibly could.


I happen to know that if I hire somebody who is really bright and hardworking and they conduct themselves with integrity, like I can build them into a recruiter. And I've had a lot of fun doing that. Something I'm proud of. Yeah.


Or into cells or into there's a lot of different roles where you'll find those common attributes. Can you lower Apple? Because I'm not sure everybody know about you. And obviously there's something very specific to your product and how you are hiring, especially software engineers.


Yeah. So Apollo is a developer tools company. The technology that powers these tools is called graphical graph. QR was invented by Facebook and then they open source to it. And as Facebook had no intentions of making a business model of open source software or graphical, we actually took the open source work and made that technology work for a lot of companies like Facebook. I built this thing for the scale of a Facebook company and we were able to take it and make it work for the other ninety nine percent of companies as well.


At this point, Apollo is now leading the space and we get about one and a half million downloads weekly of our open source software. And we're now powering companies like Netflix and New York Times and Airbnb. I mean, these are legitimate and companies that can build this stuff on their own. But we're very proud of the software we built and we're excited about who's using it.


And I guess that means you have top notch engineering team and they all in the Bay Area, right? Actually, no.


We we hire around the world. Even before covid, we were about 50 50. As far as who is in San Francisco versus who was remote, we always felt like we wanted to open ourselves to as many talent pools as possible. The founders of the company came out of MIT and they've always been very particular about who we bring into the company. And for the very reason you said, like, we need that high level of engineering because in a way we're actually competing against the engineers of Airbnb or Netflix or whoever who might want to build this on their own.


Yeah, so our software has to be better than what they could build on their own. So our hiring bar has been a key part of our company's success and how we can sell our software.


Yeah, absolutely. And what are the reasons for that success? Because you can have that high bar, but then you have to actually have high conversion rate on your offers. How did you achieve that?


The strength of Apollo, in addition to us having open source as a hiring advantage, in addition to being able to hire remotely as a hiring advantage, in addition to having already a strong team. So the foundation of the team was very strong. Jeff and Matt, like they started by hiring some pretty legendary software engineers to build the core product. And great people want to work with other great people. That's an advantage. What has become a probably one of our biggest advantages that if not the biggest advantage is our culture.


And it's something that when I first was interviewing with, which was what media at the time, and we eventually became Apollo, we pivoted. I asked the CEO, I was like, OK, well, how would you describe the culture here? And he went and talked about what we just said a minute ago, which is around transparency, around kindness. I never heard that come into play before. And culture was really important to me as I was picking my next thing.


And so we've just really built on that as a company.


When I was running people operations, we'd often talk about how, well, OK, you here are the first twenty five people in the company. You're the foundation and it's going to be your job to teach our culture and maintain our culture and guard our culture and give you a job to teach it to the next twenty five people that come in. And then when there were over 50 or so where it's now like, OK, you're the foundation, it's your job to teach and guard the culture to the next 50 that come in.


So I mean, if you look on our Glassdoor, you will see a dozen different reviews of people saying this is the best place that they've ever worked. We actually measure how people are doing with our cultural values and their performance reviews. So it's not just a bunch of talk. It's something that's very important. Everybody that joins the company and we're looking for that. And if somebody doesn't resonate with our cultural values or if it's just if they're just it's not their jam, it's OK if they self select out.


You know, sometimes you hear people talking about, well, don't hire the the talented jerks. The reason you don't hire the talented jerks is that, yeah, that talented jerk might do a lot of really impressive technical work, but maybe there's two or three other people that don't want to work with them, end up quitting the company, or they're not able to align development altogether because there's constant disagreements. So the company culture, I think, is a critical, critical part about being able to close talent because that culture actually shines through in your interview process or it doesn't.


And you promote the culture outside. You have a blog or things that you'd like to display the culture outside, or is it only during the interview process that really shines?


The only exterior promotion is Glassdoor. Yeah. So occasionally we'll say, hey, if you're enjoying working at Apollo, people actually do look at it. Go over there and write something if you want to. And if you don't know where he's like, we make a point of never forcing anyone to do it. We do talk about it in the interview process. Absolutely. I think it's important to make note of that. The fact that it's not just words on a wall or some mission statement that no one ever pays attention to, but that we actually follow through and measure it in our performance reviews.


That helps a lot for people.


And do you also use Glassdoor as a way to to get in bones? Do you actually get good candidates from Blairstown?


Almost all of our recruiting is outbound. I would say that I do invest in Glassdoor just for a way to have people be able to get a more full picture of Apollo. So when they go there, I have content there. I have some content on our Apollo careers page and that it aligns and we do talk about our culture in those two places so people can read about it before they come in. What's most important about Glassdoor is that it's a third party software.


The reviews are private, are anonymous, I should say. And I think actually it does a good job of reflecting the culture we have at Apollo, and it's been a huge competitive advantage.


What's interesting is what you see is that you use that culture, you use those referrals to reviews on Glassdoor to actually improve your conversion during the interview process. But most of the leads come from a bonus, right?


Yeah, people verify. We know that they're looking. And the people that are in the closing process with us, I use Glassdoor because I know that they're going to go look at it at some point. So I would say our hiring comes from three sources. We are getting quite a bit more inbound lately, and that's something that we didn't have before we had a brand. Now that we're getting one and a half million downloads a week, we have a lot more people from our community that are like, oh, my gosh, I'd love to work for Apollo.


This is amazing. In the past, it was outbound sourcing and what I call source referrals. And that means that my team is actively working with our team to go through their networks. I did a. By the best people in those networks and then design strategies for how to carefully and respectfully approach those people and and so and bring them here over time.


So if you look at those three different sources, so there's bones in, don't you have any recommendation except from building a tool that's the only one point five million people doing. Do you see anything that could be improved on the bone?


Well, something that I think we've improved recently that we didn't do as well before. We used to write pretty stodgy job descriptions.


You know, it was just sort of boring, like here's here's this job. Do you want this job?


Now, we we write them now a little bit more informally and we allow ourselves to lead with more personality in the actual write up of the description itself. What we're trying to do is really just sort of knock down the walls of formality because we want to open the doors and the windows so people can see into the company and really evaluate us for who we are. And the more we do that because we're so proud of our culture, the more we do that, the more success we have.


So why not apply that to your job descriptions, write them as a person, not as a robot.


And these job descriptions are always on your, I guess, your careers page and connected on your own. What is it? Leever, right?


Yeah, it's it crosspost there. And to Glassdoor. OK, so in Bownds improve the job descriptions make sense and try to make it more personal than source referrals. That's something you mentioned. So it seems that you work closely with the hiring managers and your teams. Can you tell us more about how you built it?


Yeah, and I should clarify its sourcing and source referrals. Yeah. Yeah.


So this was actually a technique I learned in the Google days. They used to call it door to door. And what that meant is a recruiter would literally just go and knock on somebody's door or make an appointment with it with somebody, an engineer, and just go through their networks together.


The way that that applies, that Apollo is that will ask for their permission to download their LinkedIn connections. And then we'll just sit there and go through them and schedule the time we want to take all the work off of their plate the way to make it. Because if you just tell everybody, OK, well, send us some referrals or go through your LinkedIn connections, like people won't do it, you actually have to schedule the time with them. You have to help them.


You have to like do as much of the work for them as possible. And the reason why the one on one meeting works so well is that they actually when you're a little bit more careful, what they'll probably do if you leave them to do it themselves, they'll scan, scan, next page, scan, scan. And they're not really looking very carefully. The recruiters and the saucers have the eye to be like, oh, this person looks interesting.


And they'll be like, oh yeah, I haven't thought about them in a long time. Yeah, you're right. We should put them into a referral for the long term.


Maybe, maybe we don't have a role right now, but this person's really good.


OK, so you're just sitting with them and reviewing the lead connections one by one, right? No tools here. Yeah.


I mean, what we might do is we might sort it for specific roles if they have too many connections. OK, and yeah. And that can help speed it up. How do you do that.


So we'll download it into like a Google doc, sort it and then you can upload into into Leever. OK, yeah.


It's just much faster than one at a time and then search inside leever. Right. Yeah.


Those referrals will be assigned to that person and they're tagged with that. Yeah. The tag remains OK.


And so the last question would be on the sourcing, what does your engine look like and what other tools are you using. What are your recommendations here? Because a lot of people struggling building that on engine. Yeah.


So you mentioned at the top that I did some advising with Lever. One of the things that came out of that was lever nurture. And the way we use that, that is one of the best amplifiers we have for our sourcing program. The basics, that lever takes care of it. Everyone knows about like Toute app and Jam, I think is another one that people are using a lot these days. The problem that I see with those is that I prefer the tool to be all in one.


Like I like the fact that all of my outreach is done from lever. It's all tracked there. All my metrics are right there. I don't have to leave the tool to do my sourcing. And one of the cool programs that we built is that I actually hired a former Apollo software engineer to help us analyze. The first step of your sourcing is research, right? So we analyze technical blog posts, open source projects, looking through their GitHub, maybe like a stack overflow, maybe look at some things that they're tweeting about.


And then we really create a meaningful outreach campaign, something that really could only be written by an engineer and not necessarily a recruiter.


And it really sets apart our outreach. And so nurture does. Great job of automating all of that. So what we'll do is create a like a four or five email campaign that might get sent to this person over the period of five or six months. But that automation like the sending the follow ups and all of that, like I think that's common practice these days. But really being able to customize those first couple of messages is a key part of making that work.


And know you're sending emails on behalf of the engineer who helps you on the email templates.


At times we are one of the cool things about nurturers. We can actually change the sender now so we can send as the hiring manager. Initially, we never send anything without their approval, like we want them to take a look at what we've written and if it makes sense and we'll have them put it in their voice if they don't feel like it's in their voice and will switch centers over time, like the managers don't want to feel like they're spamming people.


So we actually can do a handoff mid campaign where it'll be like, OK, you know, after the final message from the hiring manager, the next question will come from the recruiter and say, Jim asked me to follow up on their behalf. We'd still love to talk to you. And so that allows us to get a couple more messages in there without the hiring managers feeling uncomfortable that they are spamming great people.


And that's something you can do. We've never done right. So be nice, OK? Yes. Yes. Thanks a lot, Chris. It's been 30 minutes already. So when first we're just getting started.


Yeah, that's most interesting part. So we'll have you again. Probably. Thanks. Thank you for having me.


Thanks for listening. That podcast till the end. If you're still with us, it's probably that you enjoy the players tape players is brought to you by myself and higher suites. Well, building a sourcing automation software. And we already helped 900 tech companies hire the best times to know more about us.


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