top of page

EP 103: Evolving hiring practices and retention strategies for a competitive advantage w Britt Haris

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey: 0:18

Hey everyone, welcome to the show. I'm your host, James Mackey, very excited to speak with you today. Our guest is Britt Harris. Britt, thank you for joining me. 

Britt Harris: 0:27

Glad to be here. 

James Mackey: 0:28

Yes, very glad to have you and Britt. Could you please do a quick intro for everyone? 

Britt Harris: 0:35

Yeah, I'm Britt Harris. I am the Head of People at Hasura and I've been here for just about a year now. I've been in the talent and people space, formerly known as HR, for about 16-plus years. Now I'll leave it to 16 plus. Originally got my start in Enterprise at a company of about 20,000 in size for about eight-plus years and then moved on to progressively smaller companies some public, some private, and a few startups and that's really where I found my passion. Prior to Hasura, my most recent organization was actually acquired by a large enterprise organization, so I found myself back in Enterprise, a little bit short-lived, though I realized my passion is really in the startup space. So I'm so excited to be at Hasura and leaving the people team there and doing awesome things. 

James Mackey: 1:30

And Hasura. How big is your team at Hasura, Like employee headcount, stage of growth?


Britt Harris: 1:34

Sure, we're approaching about 200. We completed the Series C funding prior to my start and we're still in that space. So I think right now our trajectory has slowed down a bit on the growth side with everything that's going on in the market. But I think we'll be looking at the 200, or 250 as the next milestone from a headcount perspective. 

James Mackey: 1:59

Yeah, for sure I mean. So, before we actually hit record, we were talking a little bit about the market, which I wanted to talk a little bit about to our audience. I don't know if a few of you are out there wondering like what in the world? Like what are other people saying right now? Is it stagnant or are companies growing? So we could I think Britt and I could both share a little bit of insight here. On my end, as CEO of Secure Vision Talent Solutions, we work with a lot of companies to do contract recruiting and better recruiting, all that kind of stuff, and we are not seeing a lot of growth right now. We're seeing a lot of false starts we saw it looked like there was going to be more hiring right before SVB, silicon Valley Bank crashed. Then we felt like I think it was back in like April, May. It seems like things were picking up and then it's like we'll get this kind of flood of pipeline where companies are like, yeah, we're going to do it, we're going to do it, and then it drags, decisions aren't made, executives go back and forth Okay, we're going to hold, and so we're not seeing a whole lot of headcount growth. We're not seeing a big decline in hiring, though at this point it's more of this steady plateau. So it's kind of been interesting to see, Britt, what are you seeing out there? 

Britt Harris: 3:11

A lot of the same and, frankly, we're doing the same. We really, in lieu of making drastic changes to our existing headcount, we're just being very conservative about additional hires to the team, figuring out how we can leverage the skill set of people that we have to fill in gaps so that we can give a little bit more security to the team that we have, and to make sure that everyone's got a full plate of things to work on, which never has been a problem Historically. People have lots and lots to do, but we want them to feel good, that they're in a good spot, versus continuing to bring people on and then having a worry that we're overstaffed for what our trajectory looks like. So we are pretty flat in terms of our headcount, but the reality is that very talented people, highly skilled people, are mobile in any economy for the most part. So we do need to be mindful of retention efforts and make sure that we're keeping our team in Gaten happy because we want to retain our top talent and even in economies like this, they can still find another opportunity. So it's a bit of a balance of keeping everyone's plates full, being very thoughtful about each additional headcount we do add, which is not very many, but then also making sure we're focusing on retention so that we can keep the team that's there happy and engaged. 

James Mackey: 4:32

Yeah, it can always be a little bit tough when it comes to sometimes even employee engagement and thinking about retention strategy. I think why it's even if you feel like you aren't going to have a retention problem or, excuse me, an attrition problem, I suppose either or over the next few months, the reason you need to be focused on it is, once the market starts to rebound if you haven't made those investments, people are going to start jumping right when there's an opportunity to grow the business, which is like the worst time. And I've been there where it's like okay, we get through this storm, we get to the other end, and then you have a key person leave and you're just like no, and even you know like I've had a situation I've had a leader that, like we hired him when he got laid off, right when the market was terrible during COVID, and he worked with us throughout COVID and I was like, okay, that's great, we got him in, he's gonna be ready to help us scale. And then, like, right when the market started to rebound, he was out and we're like damn it, now we don't have a leader to come in, and so that like set us back a couple of months when that was insane growth. We had coming out of COVID and so we missed out on some of that. So I think it's you got to get ahead of that. I think it's you know. What are some things that you're doing from a retention standpoint and employee engagement standpoint? I think they're sort of tied at the hip, maybe sort of so like that is forward thinking to make sure that not only people stay now, but really the big threat is when the market rebounds and people have a ton of options. How do we keep great people? 

Britt Harris: 6:02

Yeah, it's challenging, especially because I think, historically, most people think of retention. Retention efforts, you know, in the context of compensation and when the market is what it is right now, everyone's being very mindful of additional spending and so you're not necessarily looking to, you know, make a lot of compensation changes in an effort to retain people. So you have to get creative to say how can we keep people committed to our organization if we can't necessarily, you know, give them bonuses, give them, you know, significant pay increases. You know what that looks like. And for us, it's really making sure people understand how their particular role is contributing to the company's success, that they see the connection between the stuff that they're doing every day and what our you know growth outcomes are, but also that they see a path for growth like they need to be able to see what that one year from now looks like, even if it's not our company growing by 50% in size. What is it like for them? What are they doing that's different from what they're doing today, that they can look forward to and build up to in the next year?


Because that's a lot of times what people are looking for in the next job is their skill set. Is this going to? Let me build, learn, grow, you know, exude in that next opportunity, and so we're able to give them that within the organization. And you also have to make sure that you know there's a good culture, that there's good communication, that they have, you know, good day-to-day experience. But if they can see what that path looks like in that organization, a lot of times they're going to be more open to weathering the storm and kind of letting that play out and seeing what happens. But all those things kind of have to be in alignment. You know you can definitely throw money at these situations but it typically will not have the longevity that you hope it will. Because, again, highly skilled people can command those higher salaries from other organizations as well and once those budgets start to open up and once those headcounts start to open up, they'll be able to, you know, easily go to market and get that. So if you haven't addressed those other things within the organization, you know their day-to-day work experience, what their growth path looks like, what those opportunities for them look like in the future, I don't think compensation changes are going to be enough to keep people in the long run. So I would say definitely making sure it's looking at their total experience, but also like what their growth trajectory looks like within the organization. 

James Mackey: 8:24

Yeah, I think the issue with comp is, if you're doing comp properly, it should be competitive, but it's probably not going to be top of the market. There's always in a growth market, particularly in the startup growth stage world, there are always going to be companies that are hiring at unsustainable rates that are well above what's actually again like sustainable for their, for their business, and those are the ones that have to cut the deepest and the messiest. And so you got to think like if you were truly the top bidder for talent, you're probably not doing it the right way. You want to be and I don't have there hasn't been a double-blinded, tested academic study on this. I don't know, but I would assume you kind of want to be in the 80th percentile of compensation 75 to 80, you want it to be competitive, and you want it to be better than the median. But if you're bidding top dollar, there's always you can't do so responsibly is what I'm getting at and you can't do so sustainably because there's always going to be the hot new. You know A to Z company on the block that gets the 100 million, is going to hire a bunch of people and waste a ton of money and you just can't compete with that. Or, you know, google or Microsoft right might just throw like 400K out of engineers. So I think it's like you have to. You have to have a holistic package, you can't just rely on comp. 

Britt Harris: 9:42

And a lot of those people who are earning at those higher levels have very high thresholds for what they expect of an organization. So they're expecting you not just to have the compensation, but they're expecting to have a growth path in that organization, whether it's to the leadership position,  you know, deepening their technical skill in a particular area, whether it's having an influence on the strategic direction of their particular team or the organization. So you know, just incentivizing them into the organization with the compensation isn't going to be enough to keep them there, because usually, they're going to want to have a critical influence in the organization. That's generally what draws people to startups. In addition to compensation, equity, and some of those other financial pieces, people want to see that quick impact. They want to see from the inception of the idea to execution, to outcomes and so at those higher salaries. That's absolutely part of what they expect and if you're not prepared as an organization to give them that as part of their work experience, they're not going to be happy and they're going to be able to find another company to match that compensation who will also give them that experience that they're looking for. 

James Mackey: 10:46

Yeah for sure, and I think it's the balancing act for startups in early growth stages knowing, okay, like, how much should we be emphasizing? Can it be an employee experience? And so the analogy that I give is like imagine, you know a lot of this is a lot of startups say this to talent. But if you flip the script and imagine a startup or a growth stage company saying this to a customer like hey, just so you know, if you join us as a customer, you're going to have practically no onboarding support. We're really looking for customers that are scrappy and can figure it out on their own. Do you want to join us? Right? And like that sounds so stupid. Like nobody obviously would communicate that to a potential new customer. Like hey, you're going to get nothing from us and you should be blessed, feel blessed, to be here. It's like how would that be received by like on the talent side, you know I'm saying, look, I get it. Like there's. We need to hire people that are adaptable and do well, without a ton of structure. Like I'm not saying I know there's someone out there like Whoa, what about? I get it. What I'm saying is that you have to make the investment and see, the business has two big demand gen funnels. Right, you have customers, candidates, and you need both of those things to have. You have to have great customers and great employees to create a thriving business at scale. 

Britt Harris: 12:04

I think it's really a balance of giving a realistic picture of what the job is and what the company is and where the company is in their life stage, and also some salesmanship. As you said, no one's going to want to come into a company where they're like we have absolutely nothing to help you get up and running. You're going to have to basically ramp yourself up and then you're going to just kind of be out there like figuring it out alone but, like we hope you'll join us. That's not really going to entice people to join the company. That being said, you also want to make sure somebody really understands what they're getting themselves into, especially if they're coming from outside the startup space, which a lot of times, depending on where you are in your organization, you do need to start shifting the talent that you're looking for to blend in some people who have a little bit more enterprise experience, because that may be, ultimately, the goal that you're trying to get at.


So having somebody that can be scrappy and can create something from nothing is great, but then you also need people who've seen enterprise and who can create something that can mature into an enterprise program at some point down the road, so that you're not having to go back and undo a lot of the work, but you're rather just maturing it over time, and so finding that balance in the candidates is really important. And having those deep conversations with candidates may seem like a heavy list, with a very aggressive recruitment process, which a lot of times is very time sensitive, but it's super important to make sure you're getting the person who's going to be enriched by the role, but also bring something to the table that's going to be critical for your organization. 

James Mackey: 13:37

Yeah, for sure. I mean there's an episode that, Britt, you might want to check out on the show, episode 98 with Anthony Onesto, and for everybody tuning in that, if you like this topic, definitely check out that episode. But what Anthony talks about, like you were just talking about, you want people there's a scrappy kind of startup environment and then you also want people with enterprise experience.


Another kind of interesting kind of parallel of sorts similar concept is you know, we were talking about, like I, one of my LinkedIn posts was like you know, hire people that have done 75% of the job. The 25% they don't have is why they're going to accept your offers, why players don't accept offers for roles they've done 100%. That's one of my most successful posts of all time. We got like 5,000 plus likes, a ton of views, all this kind of stuff, and we're talking about that with Anthony and he was like, well, yeah, that's like you need that, but you also need the people who have been there, done that and you have, based on your growth stage and the company's objectives, you have to figure out for which roles you want one of those things or a percentage like you need somebody. That's just like doing it.


Maybe there's a little nuance, but they've done pretty much everything, and they're excited to do it because of the mission. They're excited to do it again for another reason. And then you want the people that are like pushing upright, they've done 75, 80% of the job, but they're really excited to tackle that 20%. And you know being able to diagnose, okay, of the 80% that we need them to have, what is that? And then what do we know they can learn? So I thought it was interesting. It's like a good rule of thumb. I think having growth for people in a startup environment is important, but you know you're right, you need somebody with enterprise experience or you need somebody who's been there done. That can bring some process to the table as well. I think both of those types of profiles are pretty important, right? 

Britt Harris: 15:19

Yeah, and the type of stretch that a job opportunity can be for somebody is something that can vary depending on the person. You can have somebody who has the enterprise experience and the startup experience, but maybe they don't have that global experience, maybe there's a particular region of the world they haven't supported. So, you know, 20% for them is geographic support and like learning, you know, in that particular region and market, you know how to take what they know and apply it in that particular situation. We had someone join our team who had lots of experience, but only on the enterprise side and not on the startup side, and so for the particular role that we were having them join for, that was okay, because we actually wanted someone who could come in with a little bit more process structure and start moving us in that direction and it helped. You know, show the value add to the organization of this is why these things exist this way in enterprises.


This is why we need to start scaling the direction, because they've been proven to be successful, and this is how we can take that and kind of adapt it down so that 20% could be a variety of different aspects of their skill set that you know, maybe a stretch for them. So again, like having those conversations with the candidate and really understanding what it is that they're looking for in their next role, what are the you know opportunities that they've had and had a chance to fulfill in their own particular like career path, and can your organization help them achieve that? I think when you find those good matches you can really have some good synergies in the role that you feel. And then you're going to find somebody who's not only talented and still, but they're excited to take on something new and get that kind of like rejuvenated energy that they might not have had by just taking like a lateral move into another position at a similar company doing something that they've already done. 

James Mackey: 17:08

Yeah, and I think too, it's like people are just wired in different ways, not only in their capacity to learn, but it's also like, for instance, for me, like I need to be doing new stuff, I need to be learning and growing. For me to be super passionate and I feel like my buy-in and interest levels are like my capacity to get things done when it's getting newer is so much greater, and then when it's like a process is built, it's ideal for that to be handed off as quickly as possible because it's just like I don't like. 

Britt Harris: 17:39

I'm just not done with it. 

James Mackey: 17:41

Yeah, it's very hard for me to stay engaged. It's just like there's like it's good to be aware of your weaknesses and to work on, like what you're good at and what you're not, and it's just like I hate it. I hate doing this. Like there are certain things I like doing over and over again, like I like hosting my podcast, like this is fun, yeah, but like there's things operationally for my company that I don't like I want to be focused on. Like what's the highest leverage thing I can do once and then? But then other people like they like they're like refining and they like the details and the tweaking and tweaking, and they like that ongoing piece and maybe they would think taking on a new project every quarter would be way too stressful and they don't like the uncertainty surrounding it. So I think it's just you're right. It also depends on the person and maybe even considering that when it's like you're hiring for a role, right, like, as you said, it's like who do we want? Like what kind of personality? Right? 

Britt Harris: 18:32

Yeah, I've seen some managers kind of fall into this trap where they have like what their defined idea of a successful path is and, so they kind of project that onto other people. And, you know, I remember I remember a lady that I worked with earlier in my career and it was that larger enterprise company and they were trying to level up the people team at the time I think we're still called HR team and so this particular person they kept wanting to give her stretch assignments. Now, this particular person was in a later stage of her career, she had had a full career and she was kind of like a file clerk or the equivalent back then.


And so they would always kind of like try to give me these stretch opportunities, put her on a committee, you know like really get her out and engage in the business. And I think there's one day where she just kind of was like I just want to file like I've done all those things and the thing with she was immaculate at her job, did an awesome job filing, like she knew any piece of paper you were looking for, she knew where it was, everything was like she was organized and that's a hard job to be excited about. So I mean the back, she's super happy. Keep this woman happy, let her do this filing, and leave her alone.


But like the manager just kind of had this idea of like well, don't you want to grow? And she's like, no, I want to do this. Really well, and she did. You know, there were times when she would make a recommendation for how to switch something up or do something a little different, but it was all in the scope of like what that job was, and so I think we had to be careful. You know that's an extreme example, but I do think we need to be, you know, careful and thoughtful that we're not projecting like what we think you know the pathway to success or the growth trajectory should look like for any one person, because there are people who, for whatever reason be it, you know the personal life or their career aspirations, their capacity with other things that are going on in their lives. You know what they want their next step to be and what they want their growth path to look like.


It's going to be very different than what we may consider the norm to be, and so we need to make sure that we're listening and those interview conversations or even those development conversations are, you know, internal mobility, to make sure that you know it's mutual interest there and it's a mutual fit, because those are going to be the ones that are more long-lasting and more successful than when we're just trying to, you know, put on to someone what we think that path should look like and that growth should look like yeah, actually that's happened to me as a leader. 

James Mackey: 20:52

I was like I had a great employee that was actually a sorcerer and she was. She would crush it. Like her output was just nuts. She was contributing to a ton of hires and so I was like really got to get you in the full lifecycle. You're doing so well like I think our clients would love you to be. You know, client-facing is going to be great, and she was kind of hesitant and I was like Well, you know, we, we really want you to give it a shot. And that's like, two weeks after we put her in the new role, I was so bombed, I was so upset, I was like Damn it. I should have. I feel like I said damage Well now three times on this episode, but anyways, yeah, I was like it was just so upsetting because I was like and I learned my lesson. I was like I'm going to let people day if they, you know say they want something and if it's the right fit on me could happen. But you know, not everybody wants that level. Up to that I mean it's it sure might be a little more money, but it's a lot more responsibility. Maybe they just don't like the extra stress. I mean there are a lot of reasons. 

Britt Harris: 21:52

I think they want to know that they have the option to if they decide to, and I think they want to know that they have the trust of the business and the confidence of the business to be given the opportunity if they want to like that in itself is meaningful and just to know that, hey, you've earmarked me as somebody with high potential and so if I decide that I'm ready for the next step, you're open and ready to give me that next step like that in itself can be meaningful. It doesn't have to be the actual implementation of, like the job change because, like, for a reason, people have, you know, an affinity toward a certain type of role.


So, you know, I think that all of that, again, it's really about listening and those conversations. You know, one of the roles that I hired for I think that was really important for the individual. Just I was like, have any questions? We'd had a couple of conversations and probably more than what was necessary to actually like ascertain her skill set, and she was just, like you know, I just really appreciate that you've had so many opportunities and you really making sure I feel comfortable with the sleep and I'm like I would rather spend an extra hour or two hours with you now, then spend another three months trying to find another person if you come and you find out that this isn't what you thought it was going to be in the right fit.


So let's explore all of those different things now. Let's take the time. You know this is as much an investment for us as it is for you. You're leaving a place where you're connected, established, you've demonstrated success and you have a growth path to come somewhere else and take a chance with us. We're obviously taking the chance to invest in you and, kind of you know, train you in some areas and give you exposure in some areas you haven't. We're both putting time, energy, and effort on the line here, so I want to make sure it's the right fit. Let's have those conversations now. There's no need for it to be awkward. You know. I even tell my team now. I'm like I'm not under the impression that any of you are going to retire from this company. That's just not the way we live anymore. People aren't going places, for the most part to work for 30/40 years until they retire.


So if I already know that you're not going to retire from here, that means one day you're going to leave, which means we can talk about it, because it doesn't have to be taboo. Let's put it out there. One day you're going to decide that we have outpaced each other one way or the other and that your next step is probably outside the organization as a leader, as you know, a mentor, as just a good teammate. I want to make sure that you're not going to be over-poised to go to that next opportunity and be successful because you're still representing our company, you're still part of our network, you're still, you know, part of our profession and industry, and so I want to make sure that you feel well poised to do that because in the process, we're still going to benefit from it as an organization, while having you be able to work on, you know, projects and you know, provide a value, and then you're going to get that skill that will prepare you for the next thing, and hopefully it is at our company, you know. But sometimes the structure of the organization doesn't always really support what that person's next step is, and that's okay. 

James Mackey: 24:47

Yeah, you want to know, you have to, I think, have open conversations about long-term goals and you know what people would, they could see themselves doing in the future at your company or somebody you know, a different company. And that's important, I mean because it also gives you a heads-up. If somebody, somebody feels safe enough to say that they might be leaving, that's a great culture for one they're more likely to stay. But also it gives you time like to decide. 

Britt Harris: 25:12


James Mackey: 25:13

Is there a way to keep to what you know? If we want you to say, is there a way for us to do that? And if we can't, then is there a way like hey, do we need to spend some more time to write out process documentation to help with transitions, to make sure there isn't any kind of knowledge gap? So it could be a great way to make sure people can stay and increase tenure, and it's also a great way to make sure that you can iron out any process that you need to, so there's not a knowledge gap or customer experience gap or you know whatever. It might be right. I think it's having those conversations more important and you know I you try. Not everybody's always going to tell you exactly what's in their head because they're just too kind of conditioned, nervous, or whatever. Yeah, you try to have, every once in a while, people are reporting to me and like, hey, like what's going on for real? Like are you happy here? Like do you think you're going to stay? Do you feel like you know what's going on?


Like I really just want to get a pulse for where you're at and you know we have these, these goals over the next 12 months and I really want you to be part of it and just trying to get a sense. For if you see yourself, you know, continuing, or you know, are you looking for this next step with us? If so, or if it's not with us, like, what do you need? Where do you need to be? I try to have this conversation. I think most of the times, like, folks are pretty, pretty honest about it. It hasn't been 100 percent of my experience, but more often than not, as long as you're cool about it and you give them good feedback and they know that you're going to be respectful of you know their thoughts and feelings that kind of stuff like it's never I've never, it's never been ill received. Let me put it that way. Yes, it's only helped. 

Britt Harris: 26:48

Yes, and you know I have to be realistic, right? I don't think anybody's going to come in and be like, hey, three months from now, you know, I'm going to put in my two weeks' notice, right, that's not necessarily what I expect and I don't think that's realistic. As you said, people have just been conditioned to kind of hold some of those things closer to their chest, but I think it's more along the lines of when they do come in to give their notice, it's not a surprise. It feels like, yes, this makes sense based on kind of what we've been talking about. You know, if I'm doing, you know, my due diligence and sharing with my team where the organization is headed and where our team is headed in terms of the things that we're going to work on in support of where the organization is going, it should be very clear to both me and them what the next step for them looks like if they are to stay at the organization and I try to be, you know, pretty transparent with anybody who's reported to me in that you know the company has to have a need for it. It has to make sense in terms of where we're going as an organization. I can't just promote people to people managers or to certain levels of roles, just because they have a certain amount of tenure.


The work has to demand that type of contributor. And so if the work isn't there, you know we can definitely try to find other ways to like give them that growth that they're looking for. But if they have a very narrow kind of path that they want to go down, that may make it more difficult for us to align with that as an organization. And so in those situations, you know, it may start to kind of feel like it's leaning in that direction where that person probably is going to start looking externally because you know where our organization is going is just on a different wavelength than what their next step probably looks like. But again, just trying to take, you know, kind of the awkwardness out of those discussions and be able to have those, I think is the first step. And, as you said, everyone's not going to necessarily feel that comfort. But I think if we create the space where they can do it, you know those who feel more comfortable will. 


James Mackey: 28:45

Yeah, I think so, and I think it's also knowing when to push to keep somebody versus knowing when to let go, based on if they want, like a very specific path. So if they're looking for a path and they're passionate about it and you can't offer it to them like, it's important to not follow the trap of trying to sell them on staying to continue to go down a path they don't, because their engagement is going to be lower, You're probably wasting your time. They're probably not going to go for it anyways. Even if you try to like to give them another 20, 30 grand or whatever probably not going to go any, you know. And it's just like even if they do stay, they're probably going to leave six months later. It just like, it just doesn't. It hasn't really worked in my experience. It's better to just like if it doesn't, it's either aligned or it's not. And if you can't, if you can't get it to the point where it's mutually beneficial or it's aligned, then it's better to just let it go than just continuously fight for it. 

Britt Harris: 29:37

Yeah, and I think you know one of the you know benefits of being in a small organization is that people do get exposure to so much more than they probably would at the enterprise organization. They may not have the number of openings that are available for internal movement, but within the role that they have they get exposure and experience that they wouldn't necessarily get a larger organization where the roles are so segmented, because here, you know, they're wearing multiple hats. So you know, a lot of times you're going to be able to give them a pretty rich experience just in the nature of like everyone having to wear so many different hats. But yeah, I mean, I think in doing that people start to figure out, like what they enjoy doing most. You know what they prefer to move on from and not have to do again, and then you can start seeing, you know, the lights click on for them and they start making decisions about, like what that next step looks like. So just trying to have those discussions I think is really helpful and, again, just making it not taboo I think that's the biggest thing is the extent that we can call these things out is like very normal things in the life cycle of a team member and you know the life cycle of the organization. I think it starts to help those conversations happen a bit easier. Yeah, I agree. 

James Mackey: 30:55

And I think one of the things we want to touch on is particularly how, like, interviewing for leadership roles has taught you a lot more about how to hire. You know finding alignment. How do you want to jump into that topic Like, is something top of mind there? 

Britt Harris: 31:13

Yeah, you know, I think it's. You know, having joined this company relatively recently, I say it's been a year for me. I think back to my own experience, kind of an interview process, and actually at the time that I started the process I wasn't particularly looking but was open to having conversations just because I've been connected through a former colleague of mine and you know, I think it's interesting I've noticed this kind of in my own path as I've changed roles and changed organizations is that as people gain experience, gain exposure, you know they start to kind of really have that more narrow focus in what they're looking for in the next opportunity. And I think from the time that I first started, you know as a person with NHR but also as a person who was interviewing for jobs, there's just been such a shift in the way people approach the interview process. You know I remember even learning in school like, okay, you need to look at the job description that's posted and then you need to formulate your resume to match the job description because you want all of the keywords to match up.


So when they look at your resume they see all the things in their job description and you're really trying to present yourself in the scope of what they're looking for. And I think over time certainly personally, but also I think I've seen in the market a shift where people are like, hey, this is actually what I'm good at and this is what I'm looking for, and if there's a mutual fit with your organization and the role you're hiring for, great, let's talk. But if there's not, that's okay too and I think keep looking and hopefully find something that is going to be that right fit. So I think the conversations are starting to shift a little bit more, where candidates are feeling a bit more empowered to be vocal about what kind of organization they want to work at, what their skill set is, what they're looking for in their next opportunity.


Certainly, I think this happens more at the leadership level because those types of discussions are a lot more organic than maybe at the entry-level, where you're doing maybe a bit more formulated questions, and obviously the process is much more intensive and those leadership levels of hiring. But I do think there's been a broader shift in the market all together, just in people being more vocal about what they're looking for and who they are and what kind of environment they can be successful in, and I think companies are asking people more what kind of environment do you work? Well, especially now with the shift to remote working, hybrid work environments. Some people still prefer and drive in an office environment. Some people prefer, you know, to have flexibility. Some people only want exclusive opportunities and I've heard, you know, people in my network talk about how, like, oh yes, I ruled that company out or that particular opportunity out because it didn't have XYZ that I was looking for. So I think there's, you know, been a bit of a shift and I think people are being more vocal and more particular about being authentic to what they really want in a job opportunity and then finding the organization that's a fit for it, as opposed to trying to, like, craft the way they present themselves to match what that organization is looking for. 

James Mackey: 34:32

Yeah, I agree, I think it's honestly too. I'm more interested in candidates that are evaluating that fit. Like to me, that's really critical. Even if there's like an element of the fit where they're like they question, I still feel like that person is going to be more successful if you hire them. Like me, I actually find it in a huge yellow flag if somebody doesn't ask any questions related to whether or not it's a fit or the company or like you're just going to blind, like blind faith. That take anything or you're putting your income is, and I mean, look and that's. I get like to be clear. We're talking about the tech industry, where folks have options. They're very lucky to be where they are in life, and there's a lot of people out there that don't have, you know, don't have these types of options. They're going to take whatever and they're going to just accept it. We're talking about the tech industry where there's a big talent shortage and if somebody's just going to like with blind faith, just like accept, like whatever is handed to them, without asking critical questions about the leadership team, the product, the culture, their point of impact, it's like what do you do? Do you really want that person on your team? I don't, I really don't. If somebody's not asking those critical questions, I'm not interested in working with them. I'm just not. 

Britt Harris: 35:50

Yeah, I mean I remember conversations in the past where you know we debriefed after a candidate and the feedback was like it felt like they were running from something you know. They were just like really desperate to get somewhere else than where they were and so they weren't necessarily being very purposeful about what they were looking for. So I think sometimes it can come across as like hey, I just need to make a move quickly because maybe I'm not in a favorable situation versus somebody who's like making a very thoughtful move, that's you know, lined with, kind of where they want their growth to be. And I think the other part is like, in asking those questions, it also helps the organization understand what's important to you. You know, if somebody asks 10 follow-up questions around equity compensation bonus, you know how's the bonus paid off All valid questions and that helps you know, like where that person is going to be focused. If somebody's asking lots of questions around like well, what does the team structure look like?


And you know what is the reporting look like and you know how many people on the team and who's the manager and what's the kind of you know reputation in the company, you know that's going to give an indication of what's important to that person. So I think, in you know those people asking questions, that also helps the organization understand what's important to them and where they may need to make sure that they're giving lots of information to make this person secure that you know that they're making the right decision, as much as we need to be secure that we're making the right decision. So you know the more questions that are asked, I think it's beneficial for all parties involved. But, yeah, when people are, you know, not being very thoughtful about you know what they need in a role, it does give me a cost for concern because ultimately, whether you identify it upfront or not, it's going to come out at the end Once you get there, those things that frustrate you or that you didn't realize if you didn't ask questions about they're still going to have an impact and they're still going to influence you to know, your decisions to stay at that company. You'll have just missed the opportunity to air those out before you joined versus the person who's asked questions in the interview process. 

James Mackey: 37:50

I actually think of the applicant tracking system and scorecards and custom questions, like there should be fields for was this person an active participant in the conversation, asking good questions like that's not something like, okay, there might be this kind of a doddle, or, you know, hiring manager said oh, that person was, you know, seems really sharp, you know why, right, I mean like I don't think they're a big enough. Emphasis is put on how you know the quality of the questions that the candidates are asking. It's not clearly defined in any feedback that's passed along throughout the hiring process, usually just like lives in somebody's head, and I feel like one thing that I would like to see. 

Britt Harris: 38:29

How do you quantify that yeah? 

James Mackey: 38:32

it should be done more because, again it's one of the biggest critical thinking, independent thinking, and self-awareness. These are all things that you know. Maybe there are people that aren't in players who have those skill sets, but every a player that I know, type of former, is thinking critically, independently, they're aware of themselves, they're aware of their environment, they want to learn and they're intellectually curious, right. They want to understand how the engine, the car works, right? They're looking at these types of things and I think we should put a bigger emphasis on that in the interview process and make sure that it's being reviewed and as part of the hiring process. 

Britt Harris: 39:11

Yeah and if you break yeah, if you break down, like you know how long the actual interview process is, you know for what type of decision you're making right, like, let's say, there are three rounds between 30 minutes and 45 minutes each depending on the type of role. You know you're doing an intro for you know maybe 10 of those minutes and then you're kind of going through life skills, that stuff, and so acutely maybe three, four hours for most roles to make a decision on whether I should leave the place that I've established myself at and try to join somewhere. Completely like that's not a lot of time for a decision of that large scope, and so I want somebody who's maximizing every minute of that time to make sure they're making the right decision, as much as we owe it to them to make sure we're maximizing their time as an organization. I always start conversations with candidates by asking, hey, I understand you met with so and so before you met with me, what questions can I answer for you regarding what they shared with you? To help add any color, fill in any gaps, because I generally know what's being covered in those calls and there are always gaps. There are intended to be gaps because the conversations are supposed to be progressive, so there's not one time when a screening call is going to give you all of the information you need to know. There's certainly something you should have walked away with being like, hey, I wonder about this, and so when someone's like nope, no questions, I think I know everything I need to know from that 30-minute screen with the recruiter, I'm like I hate that. I hate this stuff. 

James Mackey: 40:41

Yeah, like I'll do the final rounds, like for my company, and when I get to know I think you know Andrea or Bridget, they did a pretty good job explaining everything.

Britt Harris: 40:54

I think, as much as I know, that they do a great job with this green it's not practical to have covered everything in that amount of time, so there has to be something that's still left open to cover. 

James Mackey: 41:07

Yeah, I don't move forward with those hires, even if they're recommended from the previous interviews. It just doesn't work for me. I want people that are curious, that want to learn more, at a minimum, even if they feel like they know the scope of the role. They could be asking about my leadership style or what I have seen be successful in the environment, but don't come to the final round interview and ask me about PTO. You should have asked that like 200 years ago. 

Britt Harris: 41:36

And it's fine that I'm happy to do that Chat. Gpt could probably come up with some better questions than that. 

James Mackey: 41:41

I know I just like I don't know. Again, I don't mind. Of course, those questions are valid, but this is your career. You're making a huge life decision. 

Britt Harris: 41:53

Yeah, and the level of analysis we're expecting you to make in your role. I'd like to see you demonstrate some of that, for your own benefit and well-being, as part of this recruitment process. So if the job that I'm considering you for entails a lot of strategic thinking, interfacing with leadership, being able to push back, ask questions, challenge, and then, in the interview process itself, you do none of that, yeah. It's gonna make me question whether you're the right fit for that role. 

James Mackey: 42:21

Well, I think it's like a lot of hiring managers and leaders were focused on kind of behavioral interviews and trying to identify behavior from previous roles or in their current role. But they're missing, the fact that you can look at their behavior, of how they act in the interview process. And I'm not talking about like basic stuff, like oh, they were 20 minutes late to the call or they know show, like I'm not talking about that, but like how they engage with you and how they're asking questions and how they're problem-solving. Or they look at okay, how do I get to this offer stage, or if I'm going to want this position or not? These are all indicators of behavior, as you said right, it's like we should focus, I think, more on how they're actually interacting with us. 

Britt Harris: 43:05

Even something as simple as closing out the call. When a person says so, what are the next steps from here? What can I expect from your organization in terms of the remainder of the recruitment process? Who's going to follow up with me? What timeline? All of these things are things that they should be asking. It helps me understand how invested they are in the process. 

James Mackey: 43:23

If somebody is just like okay, well, let me know, I'll just, whatever you call, it's fine. 

Britt Harris: 43:27

They're either not very actively looking or maybe they have a lot of companies that they're engaging with and ours may not be a priority among the total group of them. But if someone's like, okay, so I've had this call. I've had this call, what would additional steps look like? What would the timeline be? It's exposure, what I have to other members of the team. That's about it for me. Who's giving serious consideration to our opportunity, trying to understand what the next steps look like so they can plan around? That's someone who seems to be engaged and invested in the process and I want to engage back with them. All of those indicators, I think, are the things that sometimes get missed. As you said, behavioral interview questions are they have their place in the world and I don't think they're going away anytime soon. That's not necessarily the best and only indicator of whether somebody's going to be a good fit.


There are often cues that are hitting us in the face about whether somebody's going to be a good fit. I remember we had a person at a previous organization who was going through the interview process and things happen, calls me to be rescheduled, and obviously we try our best to be respectful of people's time, but they were very frustrated that a call had gotten rescheduled. While they have every right to be frustrated, my perspective is you might be really frustrated working at an organization. If a call being rescheduled frustrates you to that extent, you're going to be very frustrated working here because that happens all the time. It's not necessarily something that people are going to follow over themselves to apologize for either. They're like, hey, we have to shuffle some things around, so we'll kick this tomorrow. Even things like that, in terms of how someone responds to the way your organization moves through the recruitment process, will sometimes give you an indication of whether that person is going to thrive within your organization. All of those things should be things that we're keeping an eye out. In addition, do they have the skill set? Is this what they saw their next step being? 

James Mackey: 45:33

Yeah for sure. That's really honestly. This kind of stuff is actually how I make hiring decisions. That's a key vision. I emphasize that. As long as there's a basic skill set in place, I'm all for it. I would much rather have a person like this maybe that doesn't meet all the criteria than somebody who's great on paper but I just don't get that vibe from where. Maybe the vibe is too loose of a term, but kind of demonstrates the energy that we're like. It's like the critical thinking nature. Anyways, we're definitely on the same page and, Britt, we're coming up on time here. I wanted to say thank you for joining us today. We covered a lot of ground and there's a lot of value here, so thank you I appreciate it. 

Britt Harris: 46:13

It was great to chat and just kind of talk through some of the experiences I had and some of the things that I've taken away from my experiences over the years. So hope it's been insightful to anybody who's listening. Thanks.

bottom of page