How We Hire Podcast Episode 15 Transcript
I find that in recruitment, but also in everything I do in HR, people have opinions and sometimes forget... A real job, it's not just me thinking stuff. I mean, sometimes it's just me thinking stuff, but...
Grace Woods (00:14):
You've got to.
Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs. With me, Linnea, licensed psychologist and head of people. This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. In every episode I will speak with thought leaders from across the globe, to learn from their experiences and best practices within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.
Welcome to another episode of How We Hire. Our guest on today's episode is Grace Woods. Grace has a true passion for recruiting and is currently leading the talent management function at e-contract platform Oneflow. In her current role, Grace has an overarching focus on improving the recruitment effort and making sure it's both candidate centric and measurable. But she also knows firsthand the struggle of getting everyone involved and aligned. That's why we will focus on exactly that today... How on earth do we actually get everyone onboard with our hiring practices? Welcome to How We Hire, Grace.
Grace Woods (01:25):
Thank you for having me.
Lovely to talk to you. So first things first, I have heard that you're a recruitment nerd, so you're in good company. Why is this a passion of yours?
Grace Woods (01:38):
That's a big question, I think... But, as you probably know, recruiting is... Everybody does it, everybody has it in their role, if they're up in the hiring manager seats. But it's also something that's actually quite scary for a lot of people. Anything from your first job to a C-level job, people are quite nervous in interviews. So one of my passions is breaking the walls down and getting them comfortable and calm and at ease in their interviews, because then that's when you get the best out of them. And I like to try and push that on other people, so they make a calm experience as well. Because I think a lot of people in hiring still try to make it scary and intimidating, to try and create some kind of power balance, but that's not when you get the best out of people. So, that's why I like to do it, anyway, to try and recreate that space.
I love that you take the candidate perspective and take their... Like sit in this process, I think it's an important aspect. Okay, so you're working at Oneflow, for those that doesn't know what Oneflow... What the hell they're doing, what are they doing?
Grace Woods (02:49):
So we are a digital contract platform or a digital... Anything that needs signing, essentially. And we've put it all in one place. So I will keep it very, very short and concise, but it's an e-signing tool, as well as a place where you can create contracts, collaborate in them, send them, store them, sign them, all the rest of it. Which is a little bit different to our competitors.
Over the last years, Oneflow has grown a lot, right?
Grace Woods (03:21):
Yes. I started in October last year and we've doubled since then, but I think four years ago we were still at 15 people and sharing an office with three other companies in Stockholm, and very startup-y then. But yeah, we're just over 180 now.
That's fantastic. What a massive journey. We can obviously talk a lot about the efforts around that, but let's focus on recruitment for the context. So what does the recruitment process look like? How did you manage to go from 15 to 180 in a successful way?
Grace Woods (03:55):
Yes. Well, I could only talk for the last year-ish, but we're quite agile with it, to be honest, but usually how it looks... Do you want the whole process, start to finish?
Grace Woods (04:08):
So, it starts with the application then. So it is the talent acquisition team and/or the hiring manager that will screen them, and then they have people interview, that focuses on basic screening of the role and a culture contribution to Oneflow. But we are a culture and value first company, so that interview is really, really important to have first. And then they would do an Alva Labs assessment, and following that, depending on the seniority of the role, they would jump straight into a case assignment, and then have a final interview with the hiring manager and somebody else, maybe, for about an hour to an hour and a half... And then we would review all of these steps and then it would be either an offer or feedback on why we're not giving them an offer.
Nice. And if we dissect this a bit, you said, first step is you screen the candidates. How does that process look like? What do you look for?
Grace Woods (05:05):
Depending on the role. So we have done a startup meeting before we've opened the role with the hiring managers. And I say to my team, after this startup meeting, you need to be able to either write a job advert and pretty much do the job. So we need to know every single thing about this position. So then, when we're looking at the CVs, and the screening process and the application questions, for example, we're looking at to see if the candidate fits the very, very basic things. So does their CV say what we're looking for? Is there anything that we can maybe ask them in the interview that they don't have on there? And what can we dig deeper in? So that's how we screen them, and we just book a people interview straight away from that.
So it sounds like, super closely tied to what's needed in the job... And it also sounds like, or let me know if I'm reading too much into it here, that it's not a long list of requirement, but rather the actual need-to-haves.
Grace Woods (06:04):
Exactly. Exactly. So, we don't really work with nice-to-haves, we don't post them on adverts anyway because I think they can be problematic for minorities of people applying. So yes, the absolute must-haves in the CV, is it somewhat similar to what we need or is it completely off?
Right. And you said you had screening questions in some way, how does that look like? I think that's often something a lot of people are using, but it's super hard, and I often get questions on what should you actually ask for? So do you want to share some examples?
Grace Woods (06:39):
Yeah. Well, I think with these, and this... I have a huge opinion on cover letters as well, so we'll tie the same thing in together. But one of our mandatory questions on all roles, which did take me a little bit of getting used to, as a person from the UK, is, tell us why you're awesome. And this question is not really anything to do with the job, of course... Some people answer it as so, but we're looking for personality. We're looking for, is this person... What have they got to bring to the teams? And the same with cover letters. As a recruiter you read so many applications, so if somebody's got just an ounce of personality in these application questions or in the cover letter... I've booked an interview just because the application questions were funny. And I want to speak to this person just to find out what was going on in their mind when they were writing these answers. So it does help in terms of that.
So then it sounds like you're not necessarily evaluating if it's a good fit for the role or not, it's just like, will this be a culture add?
Grace Woods (07:47):
That one, the tell us why you're awesome, definitely. But then some hiring managers do tailor them to, tell us what the ideal blah, blah, blah process looks like to you. Just so it's a little bit easier to screen, or if you're not going to see something in a CV, for example, so they might not have projects... So what projects have you been involved in mostly? And they might write a little bit about that. But some companies like to use application questions, some don't, and they do it in the first interview. But I think it's easier because then you've got the CV and the application questions to pull things from in that first meeting.
And do you see a risk of favoring funny candidates?
Grace Woods (08:30):
Grace Woods (08:32):
But then we do have a focus at Oneflow on biases as well. So we are trying to implement a bias training for hiring managers. And because we're at the forefront of all of this, we have it in mind. If somebody was completely, the CV was so off, with no experience, and they were hilarious... I always write in my rejection email, I loved reading the answers to your application questions, however... If I did, not if I didn't and they were boring,
Grace Woods (09:01):
Yeah, yeah, never.
Okay. And then you said, next step is then a culture or people interview, I can't remember now the phrase that you used. What happens there?
Grace Woods (09:14):
So, in that interview I tell people, usually we will go through Oneflow a little bit, as a company and a product, then I'll find out a bit about them... And then the second half of the interview, which should be about half an hour, 35 minutes, is the culture part, which is my favorite bit to do, where we focus on our values and how we work at Oneflow. So the first little bit would be those basic screening questions again, and that part is just to make the second interview easier for the hiring manager... So they have a bit more information than the what's on the CV, but most of the interview is the values that we get through.
And how do you value them? Do you have a predefined set of questions or what does it look like?
Grace Woods (10:02):
So we work with a semi-structured interview process. So we have a lot of questions that we can ask, but we don't ask the same ones all the time... It's maybe depending on the conversation. But the way I do it, and it works really, really well is, if I'm explaining one of the values at Oneflow, I explain a working example of how that value shows up. In the way we work or in the offices or anything like that... And then they're like, oh... It actually is a concrete thing that they're actually practicing, and then they give me one of their examples of how that's shown up in their life. And I think it is a little bit different because the feedback I hear from candidates is that companies usually just tell you the value and say, okay, so how are you resilient? And that's it. And they don't hear how people are, if resilient was the example, in this company that they're interviewing for. So it's nice, it's nice to give them something back, I think.
Yeah, I think that's a really good way to make it more concrete and more transparent. And I think, okay, so one thing that I struggle with sometimes is... You obviously want to have a bias free, or eliminate as much bias as possible, and get a lot of diversity... But you also want people that actually want to work for the company that you represent, right?
Grace Woods (11:22):
How often do you reject versus move forward with people from the culture interview?
Grace Woods (11:31):
We are quite thorough with how we score them. We do have somebody that's focused on diversity and inclusion, and she is obsessed with scorecards... So evaluated the same candidates for the same things, and it works really well. So we have rejected based on the people interview, but that is because when you have such a strong culture in anywhere, you're kind of attuned to it... And I'm not going to say gut feeling, we've gotten rid of the unreflected gut feeling at Oneflow. But it's like, when you ask them a question about this value and then they give you something that's maybe... It doesn't align or it's not what you meant, and we ask again, if it was not really the right thing.
So you know. You know if they're just telling you what you want to hear or they just say, yeah, yeah, I agree with that. And it's, I asked you for an example of how that shows up in your life, but... So yeah, we have rejected, but most of them, I think really, really want to work with us... And they do have similar values. But it's something we do take quite seriously to retain the culture anyway.
Yeah. I think the upside would for sure be this psychological contract where you, early in the process, set the expectations for the candidate. This is what it's going to be like, if that's something you found interesting, then let's proceed. But if it's... It's a decision from both ends, of course.
Grace Woods (12:58):
Yeah, definitely. But to give it an example then, so one of our values is, in it together, and it shows up every single day, there's not one person that won't do something for somebody else. But you find that sometimes people, they don't want to... Startups and scaleups aren't for everyone, some people want to just come to work, do the job, and go home. And that shows up actually in their answers. So, maybe the question... Something around doing something for somebody else that's not to do with your role, or helping somebody from another team, that wasn't really your job... And the examples don't really reflect the question. And you can tell, it's not something they want to do, or they're not going to want to put up a bookcase with a drill at half past 9:00 in the morning, they want to get on with the job. So things like that, it's like, well, I wouldn't really want to put them in that environment then, if they're going to be uncomfortable with it. So it's a two-way thing, I would say.
Yeah. And then you said, it's the people interview and then you had psychometric tests...
Grace Woods (14:01):
How do you use that?
Grace Woods (14:05):
We don't have a hard line with these, really, and we always tell the candidates that we wouldn't use them alone as something to move on or reject with. So because they've come after the first interview, I know Alva's recommendation is to do it beforehand, but we like to speak to them as well. So we've got the notes from the interview and then the psychometric scores. So, if it was a high score, for example, that's nothing, we just move on with it... I tend not to look too much into the results and tell the hiring managers not to do so until the final interview, if they desperately want to see the ins and outs of it. But if it's a low score, then we would look into it. And then if not, if it wasn't a fit at all, based on their result, and that the interview wasn't that strong, then we would reject them.
So it sounds like, not looking for perfection, but rather looking for something that is in line with what you're looking for, in combination with other things, and not overanalyze.
Grace Woods (15:06):
Yeah. And then you said case.
Grace Woods (15:10):
Yes. So we have a work sample for all roles at Oneflow. I don't know how common that is actually at the moment.
We do it too. It's the bomb. I think it's great.
Grace Woods (15:19):
Yeah. And this is a bit up and down as well, depending on the role. So, I try to tell hiring managers in the startup meetings that they don't need to be a quarterly planned, they don't need to spend three weeks on it, just a few hours of a work sample... Something you want to highlight in this role. That they can spend three or four days on, all the same... It's not random. Depending on the role, they get three or four days, I think. And then, they would send it back, and that's a review step. So, this can be, we tell the candidates, try and get everything that you want to say in the... If you want to write a little writeup after it, that's fine, but it's not a guaranteed interview, that is a review step.
Grace Woods (16:04):
So, say it's a graphic designer, for example, they would send in their assignment, that would be reviewed, and then they either get invited for a final interview or feedback on why they've not been invited for the interview. And then, depending on that, the final interview should essentially focus on something else, maybe deeper into their experience. But we do give them a bit of time to explain what they did in the case, and why they did the certain things... So that's why it's an hour and a half, that last one.
Oh yeah, that makes sense. Nice. And then the decision, is that up to the hiring manager to make based on everything, or how does the decision-making process look?
Grace Woods (16:43):
Yes. So, we've already told the hiring manager that they are a culture contribution to Oneflow, based on the values, they have all the values, they have the basic stuff, they've reviewed the case... So that's the hiring team that would review the case. And then, in the final interview, they're evaluating the deeper experience and the team contribution. So, are they going to get on with my team? So the team shouldn't really be decision-makers in this part, it is just the hiring manager, which is either, the team manager or the department manager sometimes, that's deciding... But we would have a discussion sometimes. So they might come back and say, did you see this in your interview? Because I didn't see it so much... Or, they didn't look too motivated.
And this is a big one actually, because we've had it multiple times, where they've been absolutely fine in my interview, shining, and then they've got to the final one and they're terrified. So they've said, they looked really, really shy, what was going on? And I was like, I don't know why, because they were swearing in my interview and they were [inaudible 00:17:45] in the first one... So, I am trying to have a bit of a conversation now about how we're presenting ourselves in the final interview, because, as I said at the start, that's when you get the best out of people, when they're comfortable. So if you want to swear at the start of the interview, please do it because it sets the tone.
I think that's great advice.
Grace Woods (18:05):
I love it.
It's amazing. Okay. How different is this process from the process that Oneflow had in the early days?
Grace Woods (18:15):
Early early days, I'm not sure, I've only been here just over a year. But before I joined, in tech especially, because I was their first tech recruiter, there was a people interview that focused mostly on culture, and then there was a second stage interview with the hiring managers or the CTO, which was basic screening. Then it was a case, then it was a third interview, and then it was a decision. And I came in and I thought, this is so long.
Grace Woods (18:43):
It's so long, it's going to take over a month... The tech department has a five-day case assignment... So it was taking two months to hire people. So, one of the first things I did was put those first two interviews in the same one, which was, I did the basic tech screening because I understood how to evaluate them on that, and the culture interview in the first one. And then we went to the case, and then we did a final interview, and it was flying after that. So then I was thinking, why don't we roll this out to marketing and the other departments that we're hiring for? Sales, it was a bit different, we did have to do three interviews for sales. Because the final interview was a complete presentation.
Grace Woods (19:29):
So that one's a bit different, but the other teams have worked really, really well, with a bit of here and there... We do need a third interview, depending on seniority and things like that. Or C-level people is a completely different process, but that's another conversation.
That's another beast.
Grace Woods (19:45):
Yeah. But yeah, it's worked amazingly well. And I think when you have a strong process, you don't need to meet the same person five times just to confirm what you already think in the first time you've met them. So yeah, that's what we're trying to teach at the moment.
Yeah. How did people react to that? Cutting down steps, making it shorter... Did people love you or freak out?
Grace Woods (20:13):
It was a discussion, definitely. Some people, yeah, they just went, do what you want. You do it, if it works, whatever. If it doesn't, we'll change it back. But some people really, really clung onto that second interview, because it's what you know, it's the way they've hired for the years... As I say, everybody's got their own hiring styles, and it's not so natural to people to think, okay, I'll meet this person once and then we'll give them an offer and then that's it. But it's not once, it's somebody else from the company has met them and then they've done a work sample and they've done the psychometric test and... There's so much data that we can have, that there's a lot of focus on this meeting where there shouldn't be really... All of the data and the steps that we've done should contribute to the big picture, I think.
I think this is really interesting... And just thinking out loud, it feels like recruitment processes are so hard to change, because people have super strong opinions, they don't trust the process, and I guess they don't trust, either someone else or themselves, because they want to measure the same thing 1000 times... In your mind, is it something unique with hiring that make it harder to change, or is this just people being people?
Grace Woods (21:32):
I think because everybody is involved in it... So it's like I don't have any decisions on the tech department because I'm not a developer... But if I was developing my own website every day, or my own web-based application every day, I would probably have some opinions on what they need to do and how they need to do it. And I think that's why everybody is so involved in the discussion because when you become a hiring manager you expect to become an expert in recruitment as well. And it's just not the case. So, I personally think that they're just used to what they're used to, and if it works and they see that it works, it's like, okay, let's leave it. Let's leave it like that because it's worked up to now. And it's a bit scary to do something new.
In my opinion... So I'm a psychologist, and it feels like everything people-related... People have super strong opinions because they're like, oh, I'm a people person, I know this, I understand this, I've done this before... I would never step into the developers or the engineers here at Alva, and say, oh, I have a hunch that we should do this in a different way... Because I have no clue. But it feels like, since it's something that you can sort of have an opinion on, it's allowed.
Grace Woods (22:46):
And I find that in recruitment, but also in everything I do in HR, people have opinions and sometimes forget... A real job, it's not just me thinking stuff. I mean, sometimes it's just me thinking stuff, but.
Grace Woods (23:01):
You've got to.
Yeah. But yeah, I think that's interesting. Okay, so there were some discussions, some people were fine with jumping on it... What were the reactions when you had tried it for a bit?
Grace Woods (23:14):
To be honest, we just saw it working. There was no... We do retrospectives as well, after we close roles, because one of our other values is, beat yesterday, so we do try to improve constantly. So we do these retrospectives to see what went well, what didn't go so well... But to be honest, we've been hiring like this for over a year now, and I don't think anybody that we've recruited in that way has left or not passed their probation. So, it does take six months, I think, to actually see if it's working like that, when the hiring manager has met them once and decided they're a good fit for the team. But it's worked really well.
That's a fantastic statistic, that everyone that you've hired like this is still with the company. Gold Stars. So, when you joined, there was a draft for a recruitment playbook that you finalized and rolled out. Can you just tell us a little bit about what's in it, how do you use it?
Grace Woods (24:08):
Yeah. So, the recruitment playbook was actually written by the people experience team now. And what it was, it was just getting on paper, the whole process... So everything that comes into recruiting. So from how we open a role to the retrospective, so every single step. And it's not so much for us, we do it day in, day out, in the talent acquisition team, but it's for hiring managers. So, if they need to refer to how they open a new role... They've thought of a new role in the team, what do I do now? Well, do I run over to Grace and say, can you open this role? No, you don't. They do... You go to recruitment playbook and you find the little bit that says, what to do when you want to open a new role. So literally every single step like that. So when they're interviewing, what to focus on, and how to write feedback, and how to use the scorecards... And literally everything you can think about in recruitment should be in this document. But it's from start to finish, step by step.
Right. So use the success stories that you have created. I like that. Okay. Now, I guess I want to give you a taste of your own medicine. So, you ask your candidates why you're awesome, so now I need to ask you, why are you awesome as a recruiter?
Grace Woods (35:02):
As a recruiter?
Grace Woods (35:03):
Okay. I think my, if we can say superpower, in a cliché...
Yeah, you can.
Grace Woods (35:11):
My recruitment superpower is that I do try to break people down to a best friend level. So, I'm not going to tell you my success stories of recruiting interviews, but they really appreciate it, and they appreciate having somebody who's not telling them all of the nice things and painting everything in rainbow colors, essentially. So I do tell them what's going wrong. If I'm late to an interview, it's not often, but I'd be like, oh my God, you will believe what happened this morning. I'm going to tell you anyway, before we get into it... Before we get into this interview, I need to tell you what's going on with me. And you just see them calm down. But if you're interviewing and you do want to do this, I would say try and find some kind of common ground with... Not similar attraction bias, but in terms of what you can talk about that's nothing to do with the interview, to get them a bit more comfortable. I personally think I'm great at that, so.
Then... No one's going to say no. So then that will-
Grace Woods (36:08):
No, hopefully not.
That will be the truth. But I think you raise a really, really important aspect, where, let's face it... The successful recruiter is like a salesperson.
Grace Woods (36:21):
You need to sell the role, but you can't oversell it, because then people will jump ship once they join. And I think being a really truly successful recruiter means that you need to build relationship. And the examples that you gave, sharing, vulnerabilities, and being super transparent with stuff that's not related to the actual job... But also related to the job, of course, can be a highway into creating that relationship.
Grace Woods (36:50):
Yeah, exactly. And I think I've made four friends of interviewing them... Rejecting them, they don't work at Oneflow anymore, but they're like, okay... I call them every time I reject somebody that I've met, and it's always, it's so positive, because of the relationship that we had in the first interview... So it's not a hard call at all. And I'm always like, oh my God, it would've been so fun to work with them, every single one of them. And then they're like, "We should go for a beer." They're like, "Yeah, we should go for a beer, let's do it. Oh my god. I'll follow you on LinkedIn, let's plan it, let's do it." So I'm still yet to go for a wine in Norway.
I hear a lot of people talking about that... You need to wine and dine with the candidates, but that's to get them in the process.
Grace Woods (37:30):
Yeah. [inaudible 00:37:32]-
You flipped it around. I love that. I think one of my best interviews was, when I was going to explain how I was to work at Alva, and I said like, "Oh yeah, it's so fun, I nearly pee my pants every day." And the candidate, he laughed so bad and now, I don't know, a year and a half later... We still meet up every now and then... He didn't end up getting the job either, but he keeps coming back to that. Apparently that was unexpected? To talk about things.
Grace Woods (38:00):
Yeah, but it's human though. That's the read between it all. If you are a normal person, a human, normal person, I mean, and you just treat them like that, instead of a robot interviewer that's, I'm higher than you, and you want the job... You also need them. As an interviewer, you need them as much as they need you. So, as soon as you're on that level with them, they're like, oh, this is nothing I've ever had before in my life. And they remember it. I think that's why they remember it.
Yeah, and it's an easy win, right?
Grace Woods (38:30):
So my send home message would be talk about pee.
Grace Woods (38:33):
That's an unexpected recruiter tip.
Grace Woods (38:38):
Yeah. Yeah, there you go.
Okay, let's try to wrap things up then. We've talked a lot about how you have made the process more efficient, more now data driven, and objective... Helped save time, but also challenged the organization in how they view different aspects of the recruitment process and how they should view it, I guess. And then sprinkled that with a lot of candidate-centric interactions. I think that sounds like a great recipe for a successful company-building.
Grace Woods (39:13):
Yes. I would say so. And to be honest, if things weren't working, I would talk about those as well, and say, we have had bumps in the road with hiring, we've changed processes halfway through... I think that's the best part, is that they are so onboard... As long as you're open minded and onboard with, if this doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. We are still in a corporate job, lets all calm down. We can change it back. I think keep that in mind and you'll be fine.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's mic drop on that one.
Grace Woods (39:43):
Thank you so much, Grace, for visiting How We Hire. It's been an absolute pleasure to learn from you and talk about your experiences.
Grace Woods (39:54):
Thank you so much for having me. It's been amazing.
Thank you everyone else for listening. Hope to talk to you again in two weeks for another episode of How We Hire.