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Recruiting operations leaders discuss building efficient, equitable, and effective hiring processes for software engineers.
Key takeaways about tech recruiting operations:
As the world turns digital, technical recruiting is becoming the lifeblood of modern organizations. The need to efficiently, equitably, and effectively hire software engineers at an unprecedented scale is changing the way that companies approach their tech recruiting and talent acquisition strategy, with the help of a new function called recruiting operations.
Recruiting ops defines the hiring process. It manages logistics, helps the talent team optimize their candidate pipeline, and it focuses on how data and strategic programs can create a more predictive, fair, and enjoyable interview process for candidates.
Last week, recruiting operations leaders Stephanie Luu from Pinterest and Brandon Johnson from Datadog joined Karat co-founder Jeffrey Spector to share their experiences building efficient, equitable, and effective processes for hiring engineers.
At Datadog, Brandon Johnson recalls that the genesis of the recruiting ops function was executives’ shared frustration over the administrative work required to efficiently run recruiting at a global scale. Together, they realized that improving and overseeing the technical hiring process was a full-time job.
Johnson noted, “when I joined, there were 182 different stage names being used. We couldn’t run any useful reports. We couldn’t forecast the future. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when tech and business recruiting started to split, each were using different processes and systems.”
Prior to working on strategy and planning for the recruiting function at Pinterest, Stephanie Luu orchestrated many of the company’s recruiting initiatives, including the company’s referral program overseeing the suite of recruiting tools the team utilizes. Quickly, Luu and her team recognized that recruiting’s focus needed to stay on closing candidates and building the best possible team to do just that. This led them to create a new function to look horizontally across all of the different activities.
“When you’re in hypergrowth, hiring becomes more complex,” added Luu. “We’ve traditionally seen companies need more senior-level roles and to hire at a larger volume. As you scale, it’s easy for orgs to operate in silos and for processes to become inconsistent depending on what department you’re part of” Luu also points out, “this is messy for the systems that support it [hiring] and delivers a poor candidate experience. From a compliance standpoint, it is also an issue if people are doing things differently.”
In Johnson’s early days at Datadog, he noticed that recruiting processes were fragmented. “Even the recruiting pods on recruiting teams were doing things differently. We needed to align on what the processes are and understand different workflows.” He began to examine how they could create a different workflow for tech.
Today, Johnson’s team reports directly into engineering leadership, and he has a team of two that oversee recruiting operations across both recruitment groups. Both Luu and Johnson point out that while tech and business recruiting require their own specializations, recruiting ops is the glue that holds both functions together. This team uses strong product and program management skills to ensure the same culture and brand are expressed throughout the candidate experience.
Johnson added, “my team and I were able to build out pipelines and workflows using our own resources, but we weren’t spending 100% of our time making this really good. Eventually, we were able to take ownership of these things from a product perspective and then unify the business and eng side.”
Recruiting operations is a very data-driven function. This is important when an organization is growing rapidly and needs to predict when (or if) it will reach its hiring goals. Key metrics and KPIs are critical to define early, in order to connect different tools and solutions that operate independently to support the broader goal — hiring software engineers. Luu shared, “metrics can be both qualitative and quantitative. It’s about efficiency and candidate experience.”
Datadog has turned its structured tech recruiting process into a performance management approach for recruiters. “When recruiters come in each day, we show them their entire pipeline in a single pane of glass. They can see all the candidates. We use these tools to surface the pieces of metadata we’re having difficulty with. This helps with accountability in just getting the data in,” said Johnson.
Recruiting operations is also in a unique position to impart systemic change in how companies hire diverse talent. In a world where haphazard processes have allowed bias to have a huge impact on who companies hire, recruiting operations is using the structure and process to level the playing field for candidates from underrepresented populations.
“We want to understand the talent market overall for underrepresented minorities and underrepresented genders. Something we pay special attention to is how these groups perform within the interview process,” said Luu. Both Johnson and Luu agree that if you’re like most tech companies, you have huge engineering and sales teams that rely heavily on referrals, and they aren’t very diverse teams to begin with. This leads to homogeneity. Ensuring fairness in the hiring process requires close monitoring and measurement.
Johnson said recruiters are now required to provide an EEOC survey to each US candidate. This has increased survey completions by double digits and supported statistically significant analysis on the diversity of the pipeline and inclusiveness of the process. Similarly, at Karat, EEOC surveys come early in the interviewing process. “As a person of color, this is something that means a lot to me, and seeing the industry change as a whole is huge.”
At Pinterest, Luu is working on processes that will draw parity between all recruiting functions, not just tech. “This has meant implementing DSAs [Diverse Slate Approach] across roles to ensure we’re addressing talent pools equally.”
Luu explained that Pinterest is applying additional steps to systematically impact diversity across the company. “We moved away from looking at years of experience and really anchored on the candidate’s qualifications and abilities as well as how they performed in the interviews. We are also standardizing our core competencies across Pinterest to ensure we’re assessing individuals fairly.” To do this, the team is applying rubrics to all interview banks. “We’re not relying on previous years of experience, but really core competencies and functional skills outlined in our rubrics.”
Luu and Johnson agree: recruiting operations teams must ruthlessly prioritize.
“Recruiting ops and recruiting programs is so undervalued…that’s one thing Pinterest did really well. They acknowledged early that this was something we really needed to have,” said Luu.
As a team that is both strategic and operationally savvy, Luu says “It’s easy for ops teams to become catch-alls for all ad hoc programs and projects. So it’s important to be deliberate and intentional. There will be a combination of things that are low hanging fruit and highly complex and high priority. When we look at the projects to take on, we look at the impact of the work as well as the support we have for delivering on the project program. In addition, does the work required tie into our company goals, and does it further our mission to inspire people to create a life they love?”
Johnson has encouraged his team to “think like a rock climber and go for the things you can reach, if you miss, you’re going to fall down.”
For more on Datadog technical hiring, check out their engineering careers page. They are currently highlighting roles on the Event Platform, Metrics, and Site Reliability Engineering teams.
For more on Pinterest technical hiring, check out their careers page.
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