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Four Takeaways from our Virtual Recruiting Operations Academy

Mike Joyner

Over the last several years, recruiting and talent operations has emerged as a foundational team for companies looking to build for scale.

There are so many conferences and forums to help develop recruiters and even specialists within recruiting — SourceCon, URx, Talent42, Talent Connect, and the list goes on. But, where is the focus on building community and developing the amazing talent within Recruiting Operations? Where can Recruiting Operations Leaders build the foundations to enable great recruiting teams to scale? Ops leaders are the creative problem solvers that have recently had to reinvent many aspects of their recruiting processes almost overnight in response to COVID-19, and help lead their teams through these uncertain times. They’re working within their companies to find ways to minimize bias and drive more accountability for diversity hiring, all the while ensuring a great candidate and hiring team experience.

We couldn’t find a forum with this focus, so we built one. Last month, Growth By Design Talent launched its first virtual Recruiting Ops Academy. We were joined by an incredible group of 40 participants from 30 different companies across the recruiting operations community. Our goals were to:

  • Bring people together to take a breath and connect with peers solving similar problems.
  • Reflect on the state of recruiting operations during the current crisis and how the work is evolving.
  • Share the benefits of specific recruiting tools and metrics, how ops leaders are thinking about career pathing and leveling, and the value of recruiting programs, with a deep dive into structured interviewing.

We wanted to share high-level themes from the Academy, and what is on the minds of recruiting and ops leaders as their teams respond to rapid change during a global pandemic. Here are our takeaways from our Recruiting Ops Academy.

Four takeaways from our Recruiting Ops Academy

1. Competency-based structured interviewing creates consistency and a shared language for evaluating candidates during times of great change.

  • Values as competencies are often misinterpreted if left undefined. They are a culmination of collective behaviors, beliefs, and core principles that drive how decisions are made. Since they are less observable than cultural things like company rituals, they can be easily misinterpreted. It’s important that they are clearly defined and examples given of how they should show up in everyday decisions.
  • Pay attention to the unnamed values. Stated values are important, but it’s also important to pay attention to the unnamed values that consistently come up in interview feedback at your company. For example, “raises the bar,” “low ego,” or “mission driven.” Without definition, values are an opportunity for implicit bias because our brains will often use stereotypes as “shortcuts.”
  • Competency libraries are a starting point for implementing structured interviews, not the final answer. Companies often purchase a competency bank like Korn Ferry as a foundation, but the important thing is to adapt the competencies using the language that is best understood and relevant to your business and culture.
  • Change management is key. When moving to a structured interviewing process build a coalition of the willing to design the roadmap and definitions together. Communicate progress often. Provide different training solutions to account for various learning types (documentation, video, practice sessions), and minimize the barriers to adoption.

2. Leverage the current environment to allow recruiting team members to explore new career paths.

  • Career discussions should happen with or without a formal framework. We often work with early and mid-stage startups, and only 15–20% of companies that participated in the Academy had structured career paths in place for their recruiting team. With the absence of a formal framework for career leveling, managers should articulate and support the tour of duty mission for each person on their team.
  • Leverage transferable skills. In the most effective companies, if hiring has slowed, recruiting team members are now using their skills in other parts of the business through shadow or rotational programs. They may work in program management, customer success, or provide external-facing resources for those impacted by RIFs. With hiring slowing down at some companies, and virtual work becoming more widespread, the best companies are getting creative at finding ways for recruiting team members to continue to have impact.

3. Exceptional candidate experiences during the global pandemic must emphasize even greater empathy, transparency, consistency, and preparation.

  • Empathy starts with taking the extra time to check in with candidates on how they’re doing. Put the candidate first by acknowledging the less-than-ideal circumstances for interviewing and asking what they need.
  • Provide transparency into how your company is supporting employees. Candidates want to hear how your company is supporting employees through these unprecedented times. Share concrete, transparent action plans and policy changes. You don’t need overly produced brand videos. Use low production iPhone videos to create authentic virtual tours and messages from leaders, employees, or the hiring team.
  • Consistently nail the basics. Focus on ensuring interviewers are on time, set up a recruiter to welcome and wrap up with candidates, and use company-branded backgrounds in place of physical conference rooms during interviews.
  • Preparation is essential for virtual interviewing. It’s even more important to create contingency plans in case issues occur, especially related to connectivity. This can be as simple as a cell phone number for the coordinator and a Slack channel dedicated to the interview panel, for any last minute changes and smooth handoffs.

4. With headcount plans being reduced, time to fill and candidate experience (NPS) metrics are being used as key productivity metrics.

  • A higher rate of qualified candidates are applying and responding than in pre-COVID times. To impact time to fill, tools like TopFunnel, GEM, and Eightfold are being used to provide some efficiency in scaling outreach and candidate activation while InterviewSchedule, GoodTime, and Clara Labs provide efficiency with scheduling, for recruiting teams that now have fewer resources than before. GEM and TopFunnel validated these candidate engagement insights by analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on activity on their platforms.
  • It’s an excellent time to prioritize and improve on candidate experience. Teams are taking this time to organize sprints focused on work that often gets deprioritized during intense growth periods, like data cleanup, process redesign, tagging and organization restructuring, and definitions for reporting. They’re using tools like to provide more transparency for candidates to see where they’re at in the process with their integrated online Candidate Guide. Teams are also being more intentional about collecting and taking action on candidate experience feedback to iterate on their new, remote interviewing processes.

For ops leaders, the last few months are evidence that adaptability, creative problem solving, effective collaboration, and rebounding quickly to push through challenges are essential to being effective in this space.

Recruiting operations has evolved to become one of the cornerstones of the most successful companies in the world. We hope to continue finding opportunities to bring this growing and talented group together. If you are a recruiting ops leader and want to be connected with a community of your peers, email us at

Growth by Design Talent helps early & mid-stage high growth companies design talent strategies to help them scale quickly and thoughtfully.

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