Jon Stross @Greenhouse. Recipes to climb the Hiring Maturity curve.A-Players - The top startups' recipes to build teams of top performers
- 1,598 views
- 8 Feb 2021
Jon Stross is co-founder at Greenhouse, a leading Applicant Tracking System that built a very interesting framework: the Hiring Maturity Curve. 4 stages (Chaotic, Inconsistent, Systematic, Strategic) that every company needs to complete before achieving recruiting greatness. Wherever you feel your company belongs, listen to Jon's battle-tested recipes and escape your current stage!
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Hi, everyone, today we're having John who was cofounder at Greenhouse. I expect a lot of know Greenhouse. Maybe you are Greenhouse users yourself. So very, very happy to have you here today, John. Can you tell us more about yourself about Greenhouse and about the topic we picked for today?
Sure. Thanks so much for having me. Happy to be on the show. So my name is John Stross, among the co-founders of Greenhouse. And for those who don't know it's a hiring software. Helps company manage the whole process of recruiting. We've been around since 2012 and now have forty two hundred customers both in the US and a lot in Europe as well. And so we have offices all over the US and Europe. And the topic that we chose for today is around creating recipes for inclusive hiring.
I want to talk about what we think of as hiring maturity curve and how companies kind of evolve and mature over time and what the specific steps they take are to build a more successful and inclusive hiring process.
Right. So there's probably something that was created. This framework was probably created by Greenhouse or what I like is this hiring maturity curve. Can you tell us more about this hiring maturity curve? And if you see some examples of companies along the way, how to determine which stage you're in?
Sure. I mean, it goes back to when we actually started the company is we were working with people and talking to them. And what we noticed is that it wasn't really about the company size or how fast they are growing or how famous they were. You could kind of place them somewhere on some sort of maturity curve or some companies were so advanced and thoughtful and doing such amazing things. But the bulk of companies were not. They were kind of sort of at the bottom of the curve doing really poorly.
And it was kind of chaos. And so we realized was depending on where a company was on that curve, they need really different things. And so we really had to help identify where are they and what are the things that would help them get to the next step. And so we end up kind of defining the curve kind of formally and saying these are the four key stages of it and we built an assessment test. So we have everybody go through it and take a quiz so we can kind of benchmark where they are when they start.
And then we help track kind of how they evolve over time of using greenhouse. So in the first stages, it's worth laying out are it starts at the bottom with chaos, where anybody who works in recruiting for long enough will unfortunately see this at some point where usually it's all a mess. There's a lot of people pointing fingers at each other. Everybody's blaming each other for everything going wrong. Everyone's doing things differently. A lot of times the hiring managers will give up on the recruiters and hire their own agencies on the side to get ancandidate.
And then tell the recruiters the last second, I found somebody we're making the hire. Inconsistent is actually the most common one I see is that they actually have a recruiter who's doing a great job. They work really hard and they're kind of a hero. They're building relationships with the hiring managers. They're finding candidates. They're making hires into the companies able to have some succes, actually. The problem is it's entirely dependent on that one person. If that person leaves or even takes a vacation, everything stops.
And maybe other parts of the organization who don't get to work with that one person are working completely differently. And so typically, like there's no consistent data across the org, it doesn't scale then it's very fragile that one person leaves you fall right back into chaos. And so what most people who start them inconsistent, they come to greenhouse and they say, hey, we're trying to get to the next stage systematic, which is where you actually have a process.
You have kind of defined process of how you're supposed to do things. Everyone's trained in that you're collecting data consistently. So everyone uses works inside the tools. And so you actually have reports that show you what's actually happening. You have real transparency. And only when you do that and you kind of reach that level can you shoot for the top level, which we call strategic, which is really where it's about. What are the things you're doing to really stand out where you're winning as a company because you're winning at recruiting.
You have a differentiated candidate experience where you're doing things where people join because of the candidate experience, not in spite of it. Where you haven't operationalized the program, where you're actually mitigating bias and improving the diversity of your of your company. And so it's a it's a select few who reach that top. But ultimately, we think that's the ultimate thing most companies are trying to do other than just kind of filling roles on a day to day basis. The meta thing is how do we build the capability of recruiting?
And also that Greenhouse, that's what we think we're trying to do, is be the catalyst that helps people off the curve.
OK, so there are these four stages. There is a test online. I think you can find it on Quizno's, the new site, but also just a name. I think a lot of people will know which stage there are. So there is chaos, number one, inconsistent number to expect. A lot of people are lying there and then systematic, which is marginally better, and then strategic. So these four stages and today we're talking about recipes at each stage and how you can build your own recipes, both to be more efficient and also to be more fair and more inclusive.
So why do you believe that's important for those people that are still not convinced? And where do you want to start? At what age of the curve do you want to start?
Sure, sure. So I think if you step back and you ask the CEO and say, do you recognize your company in this curve? Can you name where you are or what are the outcomes that you're noticing? Typically what you know, they're not involved. The CEOs might be involved in the day to day is of recruiting, but they're going to be able to say, oh, yeah, we're super unpredictable. I know we're supposed to hire 10 salespeople this quarter and we'll probably only hire four.
And we're going to have like six open seats of people who aren't making sales. That should be. We have a big chunk of people who we hire. Turns out they didn't work and so they had to leave and we had to rehire them and we would lost all that productivity or they were spending a ton of money on agencies or LinkedIn or things where it's like, shouldn't we be able to find people for cheaper? So there's all these big outcomes that everybody we even outside of recruiting would notice it.
A lot of times people throw up their hands and say, I don't know if this is how recruiting is. Is everyone bad at this? And when you talk to companies who have gotten out of that pit of chaos and inconsistent and have gotten to higher up on the curve, they look and say, oh, yeah, like I know, like I'm excited when we get to go hire someone I know, we're going to find somebody great who's going to raise the level of the whole company that feeling that confidence that, you know, that you can build whatever your company is going to turn into whatever is next for your company.
I know I can quickly predict laboring on the very best person that's like the best weapon you can have in business. And so I think a lot of times in recruiting, we're so in the weeds of like, how do we reduce time to hire by three days? But if you step back and think about it from the high level business perspective, like ultimately that's the difference. It's like, do you feel confident that you can go build what you need to do?
You have this weapon in your bag, or is it constantly attacks where you're like, oh no, we have to keep this mediocre person here because if we lose them, we have to go higher and we'll probably even do a worse job. It's just I mean, that's that's the actual calculation in people's heads. And so I think that's why it's so important for folks to build the confidence that they can hire well.
Well, right. So it's a lot about consistency and being able to create processes. And that's also the reason why we picked the special word of recipe. What are the main few recipes? And let's be very practical here. What are the main recipes somebody in the chaotic or inconsistent stage can implement today? And what are the recipes you've seen your own users or the company you worked with implement to move to the next stage of the maturity curve?
So the first one we always start with is called structured interviewing. So the idea that most companies do especially lower down in the curve when you say, well, how are you going to go interview somebody? They don't really have a plan, right? They grab somebody off their desk and say, here's this person's resume, go talk to him for an hour. And the person walks in the room and asks a bunch of duplicative, illegal, irrelevant questions.
Right. And they walk out and they go, I don't know. She seems smart. Let's make the hire.
I mean, it's a joke. But like, we've all been a candidate in those circumstances where, you know, they have no idea what you're interviewing for. Unfortunately, usually many of us have been interviewers and that when you walk in, you're like, I don't know what I'm supposed to ask this person.
And so and so not only does that feel like a terrible experience, an inconsistent decision, it's also where a lot of bias comes in. So when we start talking about how so how do we move up the curve from a diversity and inclusion perspective, the first thing we also talk about is actually structured interviewing. So the way you do it is you say we're going to create a plan at the very beginning. We're going to say what are the characteristics we need in this person to know what they can do the job, what are the skills they should be able to demonstrate what the experience is they should have had, the personality traits they should have and then design an interview process the test explicitly for those things.
So we're going to put every candidate through the exact same process and ask the same questions where we try to assess do they have all of those things? And then we're going to write down our feedback. And by doing that, by explicitly interviewing around things for whether they can do the job instead of just letting kind of, you know, your first impression bias take over where you're like, oh, they laughed at my joke on the way to the interview room. I'm going to spend another fifty nine minutes convincing myself they're awesome.
That's actually a great way to get everybody to align around. How are we going to make a decision, how are we going to be fair in this decision? How are we going to mitigate bias in decision? And so that's actually the biggest recipe that we use to help people out of that kind of inconsistent land into a systematic land is to implement structured interviewing. You have a kickoff meeting at the beginning where you say where the hiring manager and the recruiter get together and agree on what the plan is.
You then tell every interviewer their role. You have them write down feedback. And then when you get to that huddle where you make a decision, you're making a database decision instead of merely kind of whoever speaks loudest.
OK, do you have any recommendation on how that should be structured? Like the first you should start with a phone screening call and then you should move to the technical assessment and then do this and that. Do you have any recipe that you've seen work and say, OK, if you don't know what to do, just that one and that will work,
I think it really depends on the job, right?I think we have customers. Even a single customer will have one role where they say it's a data science role.
It's a really expensive hire. It's a really critical hire where to put this person through eight different interviews. It's going to take two months. But if that critical to get right and down the hall, they say, well, we're making these customer support hires or we do it in volume. And our goal is from the moment the applicant comes in, we want to make an offer within 48 hours. So there's not a one size fits all process.
Now, that said, well, we encourage people is you should test for what's appropriate, where you can write from a resume. How much can you figure out about somebody or some of the couple specific things you can learn on a resume? There's lots that you really can't. The real common thing the very small companies fall into is the most senior person does all the interviews up front and that gets really expensive really quickly. The CEO can do all of the phone screens and you realize, oh, what could I have recruiter do where they can totally be trained to assess things really fairly?
And then what things do you hold for later? There are some general techniques of things like skill sets and the best way to understand if somebody has the skills to ask them to demonstrate it for things like values, personality traits, particularly people use behavioral interview questions or asking them for examples of times have done in the past rather than just how they would imagine they would do it. So it's lots of techniques there. But I think our overall thing is it's not that there's a one size fits all.
The key thing is you need to have a structure and then you need to experiment and try different things with that structure over time. The big problem where people go wrong isn't that they have does one interview. That's not quite right. It's a they're just making up the whole thing as it has to go the whole time.
OK, so you have to have a structure. Be conscious that if you don't have a structure, if you don't have a plan, then you are probably wrong.
That's hard to improve, right? Like let's say you make a bunch of hires and a bunch of them don't work out and you're like, geez, something's going wrong here. We're making bad decisions. You say, well, what should we change? It's like, well, I don't actually understand how we're how we're deciding the first place and we're doing totally differently. So what should we change about our process? I have nobody would know. And so to be able to even like, iterate and say, what can we change about our process to say make it more fair, you have to actually have a process.
You have to be able to measure it and say, geez, why at this one stage did men get passed through at twice the rate as women? Like if you're not tracking all the data, you can't even ask that question.
And what's very important here as well is you do mention that you need interview plans. You also probably need some sort of system of record to keep that data across time and consistently. But you don't necessarily need a need to set this stage in this probably something you can also do your own in Google spreadsheets or would you agree with that?
So theoretically, yes and practically no. And so theoretically, everything I just said about how you would conduct that structured interviewing process, you could certainly figure out and do on your own. And people do. Right. We run into companies that go, yup, that's exactly how we work with these interview guides that we give interviewers at all levels and Google Docs. And they're really organized about it. But I'd say that's about one in 30 companies can say that.
Twenty nine thirty companies you talk to and we'd like to do that, but we haven't been able to roll that out. And it's a real barrier, right, is how do you get companies to actually work? How do you get everyone to realize this is a new way that we're going to work? And so that was why we started our company as we saw this and said this is obviously the way people should do it, but it's hard to make that behavior change.
And so this is what's embedded in Greenhouse. As an interviewer you just get a calendar invite says Tuesday at 2:00, you're to go to interview Bob. You click on the link and it gives you the interview guy that tells you everything you need to know to do a good interview. And so there are folks who pull this off without an ETS, without greenhouse. But I would say the rate that we watch, the rate at how well people do it, once they use our product goes gets much higher.
That was a blatant sales pitch. But I mean, that's kind of why we started the company. Is that exactly right?
But that's a good advice. Then if you feel you're stuck in a chaotic and inconsistent stage and you don't have a consistent system of records. So there is obviously a greenhouse. There are several greenhouse is very good. So you should definitely try it out. But if you don't have a system of record, then there is probably something you need to figure out now. That's also good advice. I would expect you to say.
Oh, yeah, I mean, this is very challenging to do if you're like we're just going to manage everybody in our email inbox so we have a spreadsheet. It's like that does not scale too highly once you're over a couple of hires here right now.
OK, so that's how you escape chaos and inconsistency. Is there any advice that you gave at this stage? Any recipe?
I think the other typical thing you have with inconsistent or chaos is that there's no real data being produced. If you're being asked on a quarterly basis, like how's it going? Are we hitting? The numbers are supposed to how is our time to hire? How's our offer acceptance rate? Are we consistently sourcing like top of funnel? The candidates that we need? Are we being predictable and making the hires when we're supposed to be making the hires? Usually the answer or some version of hard to say, you don't have good data.
And so when you're usually making that switch to systematic, you also start committing to say, hey, we're going to publish data and create some transparency. So our business leaders who are really dependent on these hires start to get some transparency to what's happening. And that has all but the data is wrong or people aren't using the system. Yeah, that's right. But like, we're going to start publishing the data and because everyone's looking at it, that'll force everyone to make it correct.
And so the other big thing is you have to, like, publicly commit to we're going to start showing data and that forces everyone to start working inside the tool and like, actually being consistent about how they work because you kind of have now committed to you're going to show this data.
You mean publicly commi to the stakeholders and to the company or even to the outside world.
I think it's start at that point with just your internal stakeholders that you say to the hiring manager, hey, we need to make this higher together. Right. We're going to our goal is 30 days from now, we'll be able to make an offer. Every week I'm going to send you an update of what's happening. And in return, here's what I need from you. You say to your CEO, hey, just like you have transparency into our sales funnel, you also should get transparency in our recruiting funnel.
We need to put butts and seats and I'm going to let you know if we're on track or not, I'm let you know what I need it for or not.
OK, so that's advice number three, getting back a number one, because what I'm thinking is maybe people listening to us now might be aware they need structure into interview, but they don't know how to start. Do you have, I don't know, books or reading lists or videos or anything to recommend they read and just look at it and understand in thirty minutes how they need to structure the interview for the specific use and their specific company, because, again, as you said, there is no one size fits all but a different role, different companies, while different processes.
But still, you need to be structured about the way you create your own structured process.
I mean, we have whole workshops and e-learning courses and all sorts of stuff in our help center that helps you walk through that, which isn't really about our products. More just about like for a company who's not doing structured interviewing but wants to start, how do you do it? How do you have that kickoff meeting would give you a template to say here's a template you can use to run that kickoff meeting. Here's the question to ask yourself. And so there's all sorts of materials that we do have within the kind of Greenhouse help center to help people understand all that.
OK, and on books, people often quotes "Who — The A method for hiring". What do you think of the book?
Yes, great. Yeah, that was an influential book to us. So I remember reading that one thinking, yeah, that's a great idea. People should to do that. I think it's hard to read a book and just do it, but I think that's it.
Yeah. And there's another one that I find interesting is called the self acceleration formula. There's a whole chapter on hiring, recruiting and building a scalable process. And it's not only applicable to sales team, so absolutely no interest in that book.
So it's not interesting. I mean, how many places like once you kind of know this concept of structured interviewing, they start looking around. You're like, oh, wait, a lot of people are actually talking about this. This isn't some new idea that we invented. This is a standard thing that there's actually lots of research backing it up to say like this is much better than unstructured interviewing. It's just hard for people to actually execute it and go from a dead stop of like most people haven't worked in that environment.
They don't realize what's expected of them as a homeowner or as an interviewer. And so it takes a little bit to get it going, teach everybody like here's how to play your role.
And so now people listening to us. And in the chaotic or inconsistent stage, they know how to implement a structured process. They obviously have some kind of system of record. They know how to train the team. They have proper numbers that they do reporting across the company. So for a lot of people, this already feels like the dream. Great. What you're saying is you only reached stage three out of four. That's right. And you're not in the system at six states.
But no, there are even better recipes to implement, right?
That's right. That's right. So once you get there, I mean, there's more things to do. I think one that we talk about a lot is, is you map your candidate journey, you say, OK, let's actually map out and do it on a big whiteboard. What's every single touch point that you have with the candidate from the moment they learn your company exists through the application process, through the whole interview process, through the offer, all the way through the first day and the first couple of months.
And when you write it out, what you see is that there's dozens of touch points, right? It's not just like one interview. It's like, well, no, there's actually a week when you schedule the interview. When they come, they actually come to your office and sit in the waiting room and somebody gets them a water. Like every single one of those touch points is an opportunity to impress them and it's an opportunity to screw it up and have them say, oh, I wouldn't want to work here.
And so what companies do once they get up higher on the curve is they realize, oh, let's actually look at that journey and make sure that every step is pretty good. Make sure that we're at every single step, like we've systematically choreographed it and said, well, what should that email look like when you say, hey, you've got an interview coming up Tuesday at two. Here's where you're going to go. Here's what people wear. Here's where to park, like all those different things and then also try to brainstorm.
What can we do that would stand out? What are the things that make our company unique? Why would somebody want to work at our company other than pay? What's our unique employee value proposition? How do we ensure that that's actually coming through in the interview process or somewhere in that candidate journey? And so companies get really intentional about ensuring the things that make us unique, the things we want to communicate throughout this process to convince the person to take the job with us.
How do we make sure that's infused throughout that whole process?
OK, so no one, map the candidate journey and see what you can improve.
And the next one is when people go deeper on diversity, equity, inclusion, and they say, OK, it's one thing to measure the demographics of your current employee base and say, geez, where does our employee base match the demographics of our community? What about our management team? We get into recruiting and say, well, a lot of people want to just say, well, it's just about the top of the funnel. There just aren't enough women engineers applying.
What do you want us to do, but what people will start to do now is they said, well, now we have a good structure process, we have all this data, we can really dive in and interrogate the process and say, how come 60 percent of the applicants were men, but seventy five percent of the hires were men for this specific set of roles? Where is that happening? And then start to realize it's a certain stage. Is that that the way you're interviewing is that the specific attributes you're interviewing for?
Who's doing the interviews? You start to really question your process and say, why are people getting through these interviews at such different rates? And that takes a bunch of effort and time and data. But that's ultimately how you make an impact.
There's also why there is the idea of maturity curve and you cannot go faster than the curve. You first need to have the structured process and track the data so you can dive in.
That's right. Think of the structuring process as a prerequisite and not sufficient.
Right, you really have to do that first. But that's not enough. Once you have a structured interview process. And the next step is you really have to go interrogate that process and say, where are we going? Where is it going? Well, where is it going? poorly.
OK. And you also talk about understanding your value proposition for candidates. Is this something that should be done only at the systematic stage or can you do it earlier? So we had a pretty good podcast also with James. It is from Rockwool talking about employee Branning and writing the world class job description, how you can find your unique value proposition as a company recruiting. Is this something that you can do earlier or should you wait for the stage?
No, I'd argue that's a great input thing to do. And I think it's bigger than recruiting. Right. It's also if you determine, like, here's what makes our company unique and why somebody should work here. You also have to worry about how inside of my company to ensure that we're living, that it's not just words on a on a page, but it's actually real and that we're lining up our philosophy and our management practices and our perks and all of these different things around that.
And it comes through in recruiting as well. So I wouldn't call that just a recruiting only function that I would wait, I'm going to recruit to do it. I think that's a great thing to do to start early. I think people tend to only infuse it in the recruiting process once you actually have a process.
Yeah. OK, the number one thing you should do is not the candidate journey. Then deep dive into the numbers to bust through race. You understand from a diversity and inclusion perspective, is there any final recipe that people need to implement before reaching the ultimate final stage superceding?
I mean, I think I think then the other characteristic we see of people who are reaching the very top is their focus on data. I know you had somebody from Dropbox on the podcast recently, and they're they're a long time tough customer who I put very much at the top of the curve, who are super thoughtful about how they do this. And they're getting to the point where they can use data to really inform how do we get better over time?
From the perspective of how do we source more effectively. How do we interview more effectively? How are we ensuring that we're coming up with competitive offers? Like every different piece of that you should be sharing the same level of operational rigor that you would to a sales process or product development process. And I think that's a thing where recruiting is frequently just behind those other things, where it's really standard that you would have a really clean pipeline and sales that would tell you good predictability.
Are we going to make our quarter and recruiting people? Like hard to say at the top level, I think you're saying, no, we're going to be as rigorous in recruiting as we are in sales at understanding what's about to happen and what can we do to get better.
Yeah, so the episode you were mentioning is Mike was the global head of talent acquisition at Dropbox. And if you want to hear strategic there, it's exactly like you mentioned the he says about how he implemented sales techniques to be able to understand the recruiting quotas and consistently hit recruiting doesn't have a perfect mastery on the recruiting pipeline. Is there anything else you can do once you're at this stage? So the final number for stage strategic, I guess there are always things to improve.
What should people do and what should they be focusing on?
I mean, there's an infinity. I find virtually no one who thinks they're at the top of the curve or terrible. We could get better so I could go on forever, I think. But another theme I would talk about is more and more we're seeing the best companies are saying, listen, recruiting doesn't stop at the moment. You that they signed the offer, the recruiters job might say, like, yeah, my job is to get them to sign the offer, then I'm done.
But the truth is, like, ultimately what you're trying to do is create like new engaged employees, not signed off letters. And so people are trying to do is say, listen, I want to do is continue that candidate journey, not stopping at the offer letter. They're going all the way through onboarding and learning how to ensure that that new hire, especially during COVID times. So I'm not going to meet them in person. I'm going to be virtual.
How do I make sure they're becoming part of the community of the company? They're learning the culture and values of the company. They're learning how to do their job. They're hitting the 30, 60, 90 day goal. And realizing that's all part of talent acquisition, and so I think that especially now during covid, because everybody's forced to do it remotely, I think onboarding, people are realizing, is a far more strategic part of talent acquisition than simply getting them on payroll and making sure they have a desk and a computer.
You're probably right as well, especially people of the far right of the curve will always find things to improve. There is a pretty strong dean effect here. Recruiters will always want to perform better. The same, a sales team performing at a higher level will do, and probably people at the very far left of the curve feel better that they are actually are. So a good thing we at least have some recipes for them as well and help them see where they are on the curve.
Thanks a lot, Jon. That was super interesting, very actionable, loved. It's anything else, any final word, any final advice or recipe that we might have missed?
I think the other big one is that is the changing role of the business leader or we call it Greenhouse with the mentality maker is so much of recruiting is oriented around recruiters. And the truth is you're not recruiting for the recruiters. They're merely helping make the process happen. Ultimately, it's the hiring manager. And what we're seeing is more and more hiring managers. If you're a head of sales or head of engineering, the success of your job is entirely dependent on your ability to recruit well.
It's not like a thing that happens on the sidewalk. I will hire some people, then we get back to the real work of building our company. Recruiting is the real work of building your company. And so the other key thing that's happening in companies working their way up the curve is they're hiring managers are getting way more transparency to what's happening and they themselves are taking more ownership in realizing I've got to step in and do my part and be a talent magnet and be a good talent partner if we're going to actually be successful in our hiring plan.
So going out and finding ways to engage those talent makers is the other crucial step. I would I would recommend to folks
100 percent completely agree and we'll keep that punch line for the end. Recruiting is actually the essence of building the company. Thanks a lot. John was great having you and talk to you.
Thanks so much.
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