Internal communications plan: 6 Reasons your talent team needs one

Talent teams are used to being an interface between their own company and the outside world: attending conferences, meet-up groups, marketing efforts, showing up at open source nights, and career fairs. In recent years recruitment marketing has become more sophisticated than ever, but some of the most critical communication you can do is within your own company. Here are 6 big reasons you need an internal communication plan.

  1. Amplify your efforts
    • Focus your most valuable asset – your colleagues – on the most useful activities they can be doing. Have a report you send to your leadership team? Why not share that more widely as part of a weekly newsletter? Share your list of open roles to get more relevant referrals. People can’t help if they don’t know what you need.
    • Share your goals. Want to decrease your time to hire this quarter? Let everyone know they can help by getting their interview notes in promptly and not rescheduling interviews.
  2. Recognize contributions
    • Has someone gone above and beyond in the name of recruiting? Maybe they did 30 code reviews last week, or stayed late on their birthday to interview a candidate. Give them some props! You can send out an employee of the week email – saying what the person did and how it helped you, put a piece in your newsletter, give awards at your monthly all hands meeting. You might even inspire others to go the extra mile.
  3. Training and reminders
    • Pick some training topics, e.g. networking at events or creating an elevator pitch for your company, and write short do’s and don’ts for them.
    • Share your Glassdoor reviews, the good ones and the bad ones – this keeps it real – along with some interview tips. It’s no substitute for proper interview training, but it’s a really efficient way to (re)cover some basics.
  4. Continuous improvement
    • Get feedback and then act on it! Ask new hires ow their process was, what went well for them and what could have gone better. Ask regular interviewers what they need from you. Showing that you’re listening will further engage your colleagues. The more engaged they are, the better their ideas will be.
  5. Save time
    • There’s a reason FAQs exist. They reduce time-consuming back and forth answering the same question 37 times a week. Create one for your talent team and make sure people know where to find it and your team is empowered to edit it.
  6. Keep recruiting front and center
    • Although you eat, sleep, dream recruiting, chances are your colleagues don’t. They’ll need gentle reminders to tweet that open job, blog about your great company culture, or network at hack nights to find new talent.

The ones that got away – Why you should talk with candidates that turned you down and what to ask them

It takes a lot of work to get a candidate to offer stage. When they decline that’s a lot of time, effort and money down the drain. Consider all you did to find that one person: sourcing, creating the job ad, advertising the job, all the resumes screened, phone interviews and then in person interviews, assessments, practical exercises, interview group pre-briefs and de-briefs, maybe you flew in the candidate, had a team lunch, set up manager interviews – it all adds up. Ideally you’d only offer candidates when you know they will accept, but since candidates are humans too, they can make life unpredictable. 🙂

Everyone that comes through your hiring process should have a great experience. Word of mouth is powerful and candidates talk. Good candidates know other talented people that haven’t applied yet. If they don’t hear good things about you they are unlikely to apply.

How do you continuously improve so future candidates are more likely to say yes to your offer? Feedback. You need feedback to improve your process and ensure you are attracting/hiring the right people.

There are a few different options to get feedback from candidates: Glassdoor, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) candidate polling functionality, chatting with new hires once they’ve joined, or debriefing the candidate at the time they turn you down. These methods all have shortcomings.

Contact the ones that got away! Reaching out to people that turned you down can get you rich actionable feedback and avoids many of the flaws of the other methods. Here are some more reasons to do it:

  • It’s not anonymous – You have a ton of context in which to set the feedback. You can spot patterns in the experiences of women and minorities coming through your pipeline.
  • Motivation – People will be more likely to share real feedback when they know your intent is to improve your hiring process and not a Machiavellian attempt to get them to change their mind about your job offer or they’re not worrying about burning bridges with you.
  • Quality – These are the people who were closest to becoming your colleagues, by definition these are the people whose judgment you trust the most. This group experienced the entirety of your hiring process, vs feedback on places like Glassdoor, where they may have only had a first round screening.

So how do you do it?

  • Batch ’em up – It’s a good idea to batch up this outreach, contacting people 3-4 months after they turned you down. Grouping like this allows for trends to surface, and better perspectives arising from having had time to reflect.
  • Share context – Email the candidates initially, explain that you’d like to chat with them regarding their experiences. Share that since you offered them a role, you trust their opinion and value their feedback. Don’t forget to share your goal – that you’d like to improve your hiring process and lose fewer great candidates like them.  A little flattery goes a long way!
  • Entice! – By all means offer an incentive, after all this group of people really don’t owe you anything (a Starbucks card, Amazon voucher, donation to charity in their name). But people often respond well to a sincere request earnestly asked without needing inducements.
  • Prepare! – Look at the offer declines
    • By diverse candidates, are women and minorities disproportionately represented?
    • By role, did PMs turn you down more than other skill sets?
    • By location, did lots more people in New York turn down offers than elsewhere?
  • Prepare some more! – Before you pick up the phone make sure you review all the notes. You need background. Know the role they were applying for, whether they applied to you or you sourced them, all of the interview feedback, and the reason you *think* they turned you down.

Questions to ask/Patterns to look out for

  • Context – What was the candidate looking for when they started looking at new roles?
  • Branding and messaging – What was their understanding of the role and your company at the outset of the hiring process? Why did they apply or agree to interview? Did that change during the hiring process? Was there anything that confused or surprised them during the process?
  • Experience of hiring process – Did they have a positive experience? Did they feel that your company had a good understanding of their skill set by the end? Which parts of the process particularly gave them that impression? If not, why not? Was there a particular moment in the hiring process where they became more or less excited about the role? Were they interviewing with other companies at the same time? If so what did those other companies do well?
  • Diversity – Were diverse candidates comfortable during the process? Is there any trend or commonality in the experiences of diverse candidates?
  • Competitiveness – Did they have competing offers? How did the opportunity itself compare to their other offers? How did your offer stack up? How was the timeliness of the process? What could have been offered/ done differently that would have resulted in them accepting your role?
  • Their current role – Why did they decide to go with that role/company? What clinched it for them?

When you’ve synthesized all the feedback and thanked your participants you’ll know what to fix first. This could be re-writing job ads to more accurately capture the role, rolling out interviewer training, making the compensation package more desirable, a combination of these things, or something else entirely.

Aside from the obvious benefit of gleaning valuable intel and making improvements to your hiring process, there’s also a chance that the other opportunity the candidate took isn’t working out as they’d hoped. Maybe, just maybe, they’d been looking for a way to approach your company again.

Recruiting Team Stand Ups 101: What? Why? How?

The What?

Stand up meetings, a valuable part of agile software development for years, are now being adopted by talent teams. A stand up is a frequent – often daily – short and snappy (5-15 minutes or so) team meeting which takes place standing up, hence the name! Each team member speaks briefly. Everyone’s communication is short and to the point. The idea is that if you’re standing up it removes the temptation to get comfortable, keep chatting and find the meeting has run long.

The Why?

If teams are not careful, recruiters can easily become silos, working completely independently of teammates. Due to this, it’s easy to see why stand up adoption is so common among recruiting teams. It brings benefits in knowledge sharing, collaboration, connecting distributed teams, transparency, and removing roadblocks. Team members can talk about where they’re stuck or having problems and quickly find solutions or escalate, “Oh, you’re having problems sourcing good candidates for this role? Try this!”. Stand ups are an especially worthwhile practice for teams with new members or contract recruiters leveraging the experience they bring, while also providing real time support to them in the activities they’re doing soonest.

Additionally the discipline of prepping for the stand up creates good habits of choosing the highest priority things to work on that day. It keeps everyone aligned and is a great opportunity to celebrate wins, commiserate over losses, and re-prioritze if needed. Done right it can also have the effect of getting everyone energized – and collaborating – for the day ahead.

The How?

  • Decide timing. Stand ups can be at any time, but the best time to have them is in the morning. It sets you – and your team – up for the day.
  • Decide cadence. In dynamic teams with plenty of change going on and a lot to share we recommend starting out with a daily stand up.
  • Ideally stand ups are face to face, but dial in stand ups (assuming usual best practices for having people dialed in) or video conferencing can work well. If your team is in the same city they should make a priority to be there in person as much as they reasonably can.
  • Decide content.
    • Team members share what they did yesterday and what they plan to do today.
    • Team members share a win and a roadblock.
    • Have a visual of the candidate pipeline displayed as a card wall (using a tool like TalentWall or Trello, or even having a physical card wall set up) and “walk the wall”. This is where each recruiter talks about candidates in late stages of the hiring process, or candidates they’re excited about.
  • The team lead is there as a roadblock remover in the same way the other team members are versus being an overseer. The stand up is not a reporting meeting and team members should address everyone in the team.
  • Share with the team the goal and “rules” of the stand up. Typical rules are:
    • Respect the team: show up on time having thought about what you’re going to share.
    • Respect the team’s time: keep it brief, and take bigger conversations off-line into smaller groups. It’s OK to say “ditto” if you did the same as someone else.
    • Reiterate that the meeting is for the team – it’s not a reporting meeting per se.
  • You can go around the circle or have a ball to toss. The person that catches it speaks next. This is a nice way to keep everyone on their toes.
  • The stand up should be self-organizing when it’s up and running. Anyone from the team should feel empowered to corral the team, get the stand up started, and keep the conversation moving.
  • Continuously improve: empower the team to share feedback about the stand up and make changes to enhance it’s usefulness. Tweaks you can make:
    • Change the frequency. Cut back from daily until you find your team’s sweet spot.
    • For large teams split the team in to affinity groups e.g. sourcers and recruiters, or sales recruiters and tech recruiters.
    • Play with content: Mondays – share main goals for the week, Tuesdays – talk about obstacles, Wednesdays – walk the wall, etc
    • Change the timing: push it back by 30 minutes if people need to get caffeinated  first, or do it after lunch to beat the post-lunch slump.

Top Tips: Onboarding new recruiting team members

Onboarding a recruiter right can have a huge multiplier effect. Not only will they hire sooner, but they’ll hire more aligned candidates. Starting out on the right foot can even positively impact retention rates down the line, so it’s definitely something worth putting some effort into. Use the points below to get recruiters ramped up right.

  1. Don’t spoon-feed – Create a balance between information that’s given to your new recruiter and things that they need to seek out for themself. Assign then missions: have them seek out 5-10 recent hires and ask them about their hiring process and why they joined, or name 6 must-meet people in the company – these might be members of the leadership team, old timers, subject matter experts – have them book time with each of person within their first 6 weeks.
  2. Right information at the right time – Don’t bombard them with everything they’ll need to know on the first couple of days. Try to space out the information so they get it when they need it.
  3. No surprises! Your onboarding information should build on the information they learned about your company from their own recruiting process.
  4. Great expectations – Share your goals and targets for them and for the team. Have them write their own, where do they hope to be in 3 months time? 12 months time? Share with them the codes of conduct, and cultural norms in your workplace, “It’s fine to wear flip flops, but Green Bay Packers shirts are frowned upon.”
  5. Assign an onboarding buddy – This could be another member of your talent team, or a well-connected colleague from outside the team.
  6. Meet regularly – Set the expectation that you are going to regularly check-in and give and receive feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can give you a new perspective on your day to day operations. You can touch base for 5 minutes at the end of each day. for the first week. At the end of each week for the first month or two. After that you’ll catch up during your regular one on one meetings.
  7. Shadow – Have them shadow recruiters and candidates throughout the process. They can listen in on other recruiters’ phone screens, be a fly-on-the-wall for in-person interviews, attend interview debriefs. It’s so important to hear the thought process behind pursuing or rejecting a candidate.
  8. Get them recruiting as soon as possible – Sure, it can feel daunting to get started on phone screens when they’re barely in the door themselves, but they’ll learn it all much sooner. Stay close in case of questions.
  9. Use real life situations to knowledge share – Team meetings and stand ups are rich with scenarios to talk through. This really accelerates new hires’ understanding of your company’s values, dynamics, priorities and culture.
  10. Announce their arrival – You should introduce them to the company – perhaps an email with their bio. And they should update any social media they use: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc to announce they’ve joined the team. It’s just possible they’ll pique someone’s interest and you’ll get an extra hire.

A feedback tweak that gets you to the the heart of the matter

Giving positive feedback is a breeze, if not an outright pleasure, but most people find giving constructive criticism more of a struggle. Advice aimed at feedbackers usually focuses on setting the scene, getting the timing right, and delivering the feedback. Coaching geared to the receiver of the feedback – the feedbackee, if you will – says grateful acceptance of the feedback is the only way to go. Any appearance of being defensive, which includes asking questions or putting forward your own perspective is a huge no-no.

The trouble is it’s like feedback hit and run. There are too many scenarios where this dynamic causes problems…

  • The feedbackee already knows how they did, and it’s knocked their confidence. They presented to the leadership team and blew it – they were ill-prepared and it showed. After your feedback they feel worse.
  • The feedbackee doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. They don’t recognize what you’re describing – they feel like they can’t ask questions – that would be pushing back. So they thank you and leave the conversation confused and unlikely to change their behavior.
  • There’s context you’re in the dark about, e.g. they recently received devastating personal news, or there’s a complicating team dynamic. You miss an opportunity to have a different, more supportive conversation.
  • They don’t share the same goals/expectations as you. They were aiming for quantity, you’re focused on quality. You’re focused on speed, they’re focusing on preparedness. Your feedback won’t make much sense to them since according to their goals they did great!
  • Perhaps they’re overcompensating after previous feedback you’re unaware of, they were told to collaborate more – now they won’t move forward with anything until they’ve run it past 5 people. Your contradictory message leaves them caught in the middle and unsure how to go forward.

In all these cases a small tweak will get you right to the heart of the matter, resulting in better conversations and outcomes. Set the scene, get the timing right, but then ask the feedbackee how they think the meeting/presentation/last iteration went. Take the conversation from there and decide which mode you need to be in: coaching, expectation realigning, supporting, problem-solving, or strategizing. You can adapt what you were going to say once you’ve learned what you’re dealing with.

Feedback is essential for growth, but hit and run feedback hinders understanding, a key component in the coach – coachee relationship. Adding “How do you think it went?” morphs the whole thing from a stilted transaction to a constructive conversation, one where you can get to the heart of an issue and address it accordingly.