Talent42 Review - Hiring World Class Tech Talent with Cheryl Ainoa from Intuit

Here’s a novel idea – NON-Recruiters speaking at a Recruiting conference. What? Is that even allowed? Thank goodness it is or we would never have heard from Cheryl Ainoa – Senior Vice President of Product Development at Intuit. She worked at Yahoo! before that so safe to say she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to tech. In her entire career, with all the great companies she’s worked at, Cheryl has never been pulled out of a company by a recruiter cold call. Well, maybe they just didn’t call her enough times. Oh, but she almost never returns calls from recruiters. Well, crap. I got nothing. Except… she HAS accepted three roles she never intended to seriously consider but took the call because of a request for help.

The “H WORD” – HELP. (The G word works too – guilt. Except probably not on people you don’t already know. So go make some friends, y’all.)

The bulk of Cheryl’s talk was centered around recruiting the best people (and clearly cold calling them at work isn’t one of her suggestions). It’s important to understand the personality of the traits of the candidates we’re trying to woo. Cheryl gave us some terrific insight into technical talent. This is a long one guys, so grab a drink and get comfortable. This is some good stuff.

Characteristics of a Technologist

  • Incredibly social in their own way – online, virtual communication
  • They want to make a difference, problem solvers
  • Incredibly loyal, respectful and have relationships
  • Don’t like change in their routines
  • Be master of their domain – wants to control their environment
  • Inherently competitive – maybe not with everyone else, or obviously competitive, but very competitive with themselves. Pushing themselves, always raising their own bar, rising above others
  • Technologists are natural rebels – if you say “do A” they’ll do “B” just because

So what’s the most effective way to hire these revolutionaries? Why employee referrals of course – Cheryl considers referrals to be the best source of talent. What makes it easy? Fortunately, technologists like to work with other great technologists. Everyone knows who the great ones are – ask 20 in a company who’s best, you’ll likely get the same answers. Easy, right? Well... not exactly. That's what makes it hard - everyone knows who the great ones are, and so naturally we're all trying to recruit them.

Most of us agree (as Cheryl does) that employee referrals are great - however most traditional employee referral programs are not. Here are some ways we get it wrong -

  • Assume $ is the primary motivator
  • Give little visibility into or control over the outcome
  • No personal accountability for quality of the referral or match of the role (no skin in the game)

Lucky for us Cheryl offers some simple fixes to get the most out of our employee referral efforts.

  • Personal appeals to employees, get them to own success. Explain why it matters, use “we” to get them to feel ownership in solving problem
  • Recruiters as “coaches”, not the entire team. Teach mangers & employees how to mine their own networks
  • Keep employees informed of status process, include them and use them to get feedback along the way

Recruiters have to let go of the idea that it’s OUR job to bring names. It’s ok to be a coach – teach teams how to use social media, etc. how to reel in, all the touchy-feely stuff that we do really well. The name gen isn’t as critical since we can count on our teams to use their network. And yes, LinkedIn is a perfectly acceptable place to go for candidates – Cheryl spends 10-15 hours a month on LinkedIn herself.

Creating Partnerships

Remember technologists (and yes, your hiring managers were likely hardcore geeks before they got into management) are data driven and competitive. By sharing key data points with them from their own teams and how they compare with others, you can appeal to their competitive nature. For example - “on average, we’re taking 16 weeks to fill your jobs, vs company average of 10. One year later performance measures are the same”. Do you think that could be a conversation starter on what to do differently?

Bring thoughts and analysis. Don’t lay blame, show you are invested in their success! “I’ve done some research, found the teams with fastest turn around while maintaining quality are at 8 weeks and doing (this and that).”

Get employees and managers involved. Talk to recent hires – what did we do right/wrong? Oh and by the way who do you want to work with that we can recruit? Just keep in mind that recruiting is not their day job. Don’t frighten them off by trying to implement some massive new program, but try a “let’s test this” approach. It gives an out.

The true test is what % of new hires end up being highly rated 1+ year after hire. Unfortunately, most companies don’t track this. How would hiring managers view recruiting differently if they were tracked by ratings of people they’ve hired over time and average tie to fill their positions?

How To Recognize Great Talent

Great, we have qualified referrals. Now what? We still have to verify what we think we know. Enter the interview process. Questions Cheryl asks -

  • What are their hobbies
  • Last interesting thing they read
  • funnest project worked on in last five years?

Characteristics she's looking for -

  • Intellectual curiosity for how things work, wants to make them better
  • Serial learner
  • Passion for technology in their personal lives

In summary, recognize that trusted referrals are golden – turn employees into miners. Appeal to their data-driven and competitive nature, and know that what technologists do in their free time can often be a better indicator of performance and capability than what they know today.

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