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EP 28: Nancy Gray-Starkebaum, VP of Client Value Realization (formerly the VP of Global Talent Acquisition) at Phenom

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  

Hello, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. Today, we're joined by Nancy Gray-Starkebaum. Nancy, welcome to the show!


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  0:20  

Hey, James, nice to be here.


James Mackey  0:21  

We're really happy to have you here. And before we jump into our topics, would you mind just sharing a little bit about yourself with the audience?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  0:28  

Sure. I'm not gonna say how many years of experience I have. But let's call it north of 20, leading recruiting teams, being an HR, and doing a few other things. But I currently work for Phenom, which is a vendor in the HR tech space providing different experiences for candidates, hiring managers, and employees. And I was the global VP of TA up until two weeks ago, and now I am the global VP of client value realization.


James Mackey  1:03  

Cool, nice. I'm actually excited to hear a little bit more about that. And what that role entails.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  1:09  

Very cool. So, it's really working with our customers to understand the value that you're getting out of your talent acquisition team and your technology. So what are KPIs that drive revenue that maximize value for your organization? Something I think, traditionally, we haven't been super great at in talent acquisition.


James Mackey  1:27  

Right. I agree with you. And, one of the things that we wanted to dive into was surrounding where the market is and what's happening out there. There's a lot of volatility. And I don't want to use too many buzzwords, but a lot of choppiness in terms of kind of companies hiring demand, and companies kind of pausing searches last minute, and everybody's kind of pumping the brakes, trying to look around and see what everybody else is doing. And I think, maybe there's almost to a bit of an oversimplification where people are hearing sound bites from, you know, certain venture capitalists or equity investors, and they're basically just, you know, saying, Okay, we're going to slow down, we're going to be more conservative. 


So, could you talk to us a little bit about how you go about leading a team of recruiters and talent acquisition organizations, when there is a slowdown or when there is all this choppiness in the market? How do you go about running the organization and keeping your dream team on track? What are you focusing on? Just share a little bit about that.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  2:31  

Yeah, so it is 100%, the craziest market I've ever seen, and I've lived through three or four global recessions in my career and seen all kinds of things. We went from such a candidate market with salaries escalating into this crazy place, right now, we're not really sure what's going on between the war in Europe, recession and inflation in North America, supply chain issues, and everything else. 


And so for my team, we're doing what everybody else is doing, right? It's just sort of watching the market, seeing what's happening. And recruiters to me are always on, right?  We're just like sales in so many ways, and your recruiters spend their days with lots of requisitions working hard. And when you get a slowdown, instead of panicking, I think we need to treat it as a gift as a recruiting organization. Because there are all kinds of things that we wish we could get to. But because we have so many requisitions, we're not able to. 


So the very first thing I do is make sure my team has a vacation booked. Because sometimes they have a hard time taking because there's always a candidate, always that critical role that has to be filled. So I do that. And then I set a plan for hygiene and maintenance. And what I mean by that is what are those things that I wish we could take care of, that we finally have time to. So it could be cleaning up tags, and then my CRM or ATS, it could be looking at our process and doing an overhaul especially as we have added on, you know, new divisions, new customers, acquired companies, things like that, being able to take the time and sit back and go, does this process work for me today? And do I need to tweak it? I think that's a really important thing to do. 


Looking at the documentation that you have and how you provide information to your hiring managers. So do you have a pre-qualification document that is branded with your recruiting team, that your recruiting team is proud to share with hiring managers and you have a place where that documentation resides? So it becomes part of your team's organizational knowledge? Do you have an intake meeting or a kickoff meeting template for when you first get a requisition? 


So there are all kinds of things like that, that I think you can step back and examine and then create a project plan to start to tick those things off your list as you go through it slow down and I mean recession or no, summer is traditionally a very slow time for many organizations, whether it's in retail, or tech because people are on vacation retail, you know, hiring ramps up again, usually in October. For the Christmas season or back to school, this is a slow traditional time for many of us.


James Mackey  5:05  

Yes, for sure. I'm curious about your process docs.  What we do at SecureVision is, basically, have all of our process Docs and Google documents. And we just have a huge table of contents. And then we actually kind of moved away from just like one large page, and we broke it into buckets. So if it's something tied to talent acquisition, all of our process docs live in one folder, essentially, we have a different folder for different parts of the business. But we have a lot of playbooks. But it all lives in Google Docs. I'm just curious about where you keep everything.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  5:38  

So we have stuff set up in Confluence, but we're moving to a Google site. So our own Google site is seems. We're just starting the process to put everything out there. But in terms of creating a playbook that you can also share with your internal customers Seems like a much better way to go about and brand your organization internally than using what we had also been using as a Google Drive.


James Mackey  6:04  

Yes, I think you're right, having a little bit of the branded fuel is nice. Definitely. We're not 100% there on the branded side, like, oh, we'll just have everything just written on in a Google Doc, in our process docs are really robust. We basically take the approach of, okay, if I just had to hand this to somebody, and we didn't have the chance to explain anything to them, would they be able to figure it out? And that's kind of the standard at which we try to write those.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  6:31  

Yes, I mean, back in the day,  my thing was, if somebody came by and picked this up off the printer, would they recognize it for talent acquisition document and know what it was? Exactly? I think that's really a best practice. And sometimes we're not very good at doing that stuff as an industry. So I love that you have them too.


James Mackey  6:51  

Yes, I think, well, a lot of people, when you come up in recruiting, I don't think like an emphasis is really put on the process at scale, right? Like, that's just not what you're focused on. You're focused on developing your soft skills, you're focusing on hitting certain activity metrics. I mean, this is in the early days, right?


And I think a lot of people when they move up into leadership roles, a lot of them never really go through any training on okay, this in terms of the optimization needs to kind of mirror what you're going to see in revenue organizations, whether it be marketing or sales, we have to look at holistic funnels, we have to look at talent attraction, we have to look at sourcing strategies, we have to look at the entire funnel all the way down to offer process, and, you know, onboarding, even if we really want to create a frictionless experience. But that's not something I think a lot of people like, come up learning, right? I think a lot of us are just, we kind of learned on the job when we move into leadership. And we're like, okay, now my role is completely different. And I gotta figure this stuff out. Right?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  7:51  

Yes, I totally agree. And I think making that transition from being a tactical filler of jobs to talent acquisition partner, you really elevate yourself if you got good documentation. Because to me, it always demonstrates the value that you bring to the organization, especially when you can demonstrate that a candidate the manager wants to hire is probably not going to be their best fit, right? When you can convince a manager to not make a bad hire, and instead make a great hire.


I think that's when you really start to cement yourself as a talent acquisition partner and a valued associate within the organization. But it's really hard to do that if you don't have good documentation. If you're not able to share metrics or insights that you gather by looking, you know, at trends and things, you can't look at trends, you can carry them around in your head, but you can't look at trends unless you have things on paper, in a spreadsheet, or in a computer.


James Mackey  8:55  

I would love to dive a little bit more into that topic. So in terms of preserving or ensuring high quality of hire and helping hiring managers only let through the best-fit people, I should say, right? What are the steps in the processes that you build out to ensure that? So I know you were talking about pre-qualifications? Is that part of your intake call with the hiring managers where you're getting clear on the core things that the role needs to accomplish? Or what metrics are you looking at? How do you help hiring managers make the right hire?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  9:31  

So we do a deep dive in, you know when we do the first role with a hiring manager of a specific type. So let's say we're hiring a Solution Architect, for one of our tech organizations, and we do a really deep dive in that kickoff meeting into what that role is looking for. Who in the organization does a great job of it, let's look at their profile and see what things are key. Because sometimes managers have a hard time articulating what great looks like, but they can point to examples of it, and then if you peel away the layers of the onion, right, you can figure out, okay, this is what great looks like. It means this degree or these programming languages or this experience at X y&z companies. So really understanding that is important. 


My team often brings a few profiles with them from previous roles or roles that other hiring managers have hired that are similar to go through, you know, do you like this or not, within our platform, we have the ability for managers to select an ideal candidate, and then AI will match profiles against that, whether you have that AI helping you or not, knowing what an ideal candidate profile looks like, is critical. 


Once you have that, we then tailor a pre-qualification interview, instead of doing a calling in a phone screen, I just think that a pre-qualification interview has more cachet in that march to be a talent acquisition partner or advisor. Right? 


So our pre-qualification interview is really all about digging into does this candidate matches up to that ideal profile from a skills perspective and experience perspective. And once we've done that, you know, I never want to present candidates to a hiring manager that we haven't pre-qualified. Because I want to carry that burden, right? I don't want hiring managers to be spending their time going through 100 resumes, looking for candidates, and telling us to interview. I think we add value when we're presenting fully vetted candidates to hiring managers and say, Okay, I have these five, of course, pick the ones that you want to interview.


James Mackey  11:28  

Right. That's a really strong parallel to sales to it's like, that's the difference between like an MQL and an SQL, right? I mean, as sales qualified, it's gone through some kind of discovery process, the leads going through a discovery process, and you know, that Okay, now I have a qualified pipeline of the slate of candidates. I mean, I agree with you. I mean, that's what people should be looking at is, how quickly can we develop a full slate of qualified candidates, that as a metric.


Just to kind of take it to the next step, time to fill is obviously very important but a lot of what I tried to optimize at SecureVision for my clients is really focusing on time to coverage. Like how quickly can we get to full coverage in a qualified pipeline of let's say, like four candidates, right? And honing in on that as a metric. 


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  12:23  

Yeah, I like to look at time to find. So the candidates that we hired, or the candidates that we pre-qualified, how long did it take us to find them? How long were they sitting in our ATS or CRM, waiting for us? I changed my process at a previous employer. Because when I took the team over, everybody was pre-qualifying candidates as soon as they came into the system. And when we looked at some metrics, we found that if we were going to hire somebody who applied, they typically applied between day seven to day 10 of the job being posted. So it was like, Well, why are we pre-qualifying candidates before day 10? Because the people you're going to hire typically haven't even applied yet. So we changed it so that we were pre-qualifying candidates on day 11 to day 13 of a job being open.


James Mackey  13:14  

Wow. That's interesting. I wonder why. Like the earlier applicants, just one is relevant? I mean, what do you think?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  13:24  

Yeah, they weren't as relevant. But I think that people who are really serious about the job, they might look at it on a weekend, I mean, Saturday morning, coffee, Sunday morning coffee, dreading, you know, Monday and wanting to change your job, right? But then I think they really think about it and are thoughtful, at least at that time, they were really thinking about whether they were going to apply. I imagine that they had some conversations with their spouse or partner, and then three or four days later, or five days later would decide to apply for a job. 


But it was really interesting that we had the data to back that up. So that's another thing for teams to do is start to look at their data and see if there's anything like that that jumps out at them. Changing our process in that way, accomplish all kinds of things. It created a sense of calm within the recruiting team because they weren't spinning their wheels doing extra work. It reduced the number of pre-qualifications that they had to do, it increase the quality of candidates, they presented the hiring managers, and it allowed them to spend more time where it really mattered and creating that great candidate and hiring manager experience versus thinking that they always needed to be pre-qualifying or interviewing for every job that they had open.


James Mackey  14:30  

So I'll be honest, I never even thought about tracking that, like looking at when the candidates that were converting into hires are actually applying to inbound applications. How'd you even think of that? 


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  14:46  

So when you come into a new organization, I think you're either coming in as a team leader, you're coming in as a builder or maintainer. And if you're coming in as a builder, it's because the organization is either brand new, because it's grown significantly, or things need to change dramatically. So if you're coming into a situation where for whatever reason, things need to change dramatically, you've had a lot of people leave, there's been a huge shift in the business, whatever it is, I think that you will always have to look at a way to market your organization. 


So the process we created and you know if anybody wants to use this, go ahead, I've used it in a few different organizations, was called Calling the first 14, and how we marketed and started a TA brand within the company. So it was, we on the first 14 days of the process, and then we enabled the next seven. So our goal was to reduce our time to fill under 30 days. So we can't control what a hiring manager does, and how long it takes them to interview, but we can enable it. But if we own that first 14, with rigor, and we have screen candidates ready to present on day 14, and we're confident of that, then hiring managers, we can pre-book interview slots from day 15 to day 21, and hiring managers will relax, right? We've stopped getting phone calls, when live candidates, you're too slow. And all of those things is that you know, we've all had those interactions with hiring managers who are just so eager. 


But having a process like that really elevated the team after a couple of months, you know, I had laminated cards, that recruiters check into the kickoff meetings with hiring managers and said, This is a process, here's what I'm going to do in the first 14 days of the search, you need to be prepared with your interview team to interview between day 15 and 21. And we accomplish that with our time to fill it down dramatically.


James Mackey  16:36  

So even with, I guess probably this varies from department to department, and hiring managers have different preferences. But what if they need a several-round interview process? I mean, is the expectation like, okay, look, if you need to have three or four interviews fine? However, they need to occur within this week we've been is that basically


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  16:58  

So there were two things. One, that was what we tried to do. And part of that is having a great candidate experience and not losing them. But the other thing was, you know, if they did that, then when you report that out, that becomes the report, right? That it took them this long to interview. So throughout my career, I have had lots of hiring managers who would be behind on projects, and other things. And it would be because they couldn't get the staff because recruiting didn't deliver. 


So part of what I always try to do is I don't want to say protect my team, or insulate them, but make sure that we're doing everything we can to enable the business to be successful. And part of that is having a process and if the business takes a long time to do their part, that's okay. That's their prerogative. But I don't want my team getting penalized for that. 


James Mackey  17:55  

It shouldn't come back on your performance.  And also people need to know, okay, where's the thing to optimize right? If you don't have clear data on what the bottlenecks are, and where things are slowing down, then we can make it better. And also there's just been my experience and talent acquisition, like going to other members of leadership or to a hiring manager with data is a lot more effective in terms of getting them to change their minds. 


Because we could go with our opinions or our expertise or our skill set or whatever. But it's just a different conversation when we can go to the table saying, Hey, we've reviewed this data, we want to show this to you. We want to get your thoughts here. You know, what do you think? Is there something that you know, would you think we should try to move faster? Do you feel like you're getting the results you need right now? It's just a different type of conversation, right?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  18:44  

And I think the other thing that happens is, you can then manage the candidates' expectations. Because if you're having the conversation up front with hiring managers, this is what I'm going to do when I'm going to do it. And this is what we want you to do. And they say, oh, half of us are on vacation that week, you can say, okay, no problem. Now you're managing the candidates' experience. And you say, the managers, you know, you're in front of the manager to interview but it's going to take two weeks because the team's on vacation, whatever. 


Having that information is always better and sometimes I think that SLAs are great, but hiring teams are often reluctant to subscribe to an asset, a particular SLA unless you laid it for them in a thoughtful and logical manner.


James Mackey  19:28  

Right. I hear you. I am curious about your thoughts on what other kind of data-driven insights did you learn? So I think it's a kind of unique insight that you just shared with us. Because again, I really hadn't thought about that before. And what's really interesting about it is, that it's something that I really haven't heard before, and it seems to have been very impactful for your team. So I feel like that's really cool. 


Do you have any other kind of data-driven insights similar to that where it's like you uncovered something with data and you were able to make this shift to the process that enabled quality, velocity, and experience?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  20:04  

Yeah. So one of the things that we used to do hiring for, was a call center. And the thing about call centers is that hiring managers and call centers are very busy. Right? They are walking the floor there, and it is very, very difficult to get interviews scheduled in a timely manner. And so when we analyze our call center process, and you know, we were losing candidates and time to fill was quite a bit longer. 


And I remember this was a new team, I took it on, and I remember going to see the recruiter who is managing the call center hiring. And in her cubicle, were all these stand-up flip charts, with all of his writing on it with interview slots and times and hiring managers. I was like, wow, this is crazy, like, how can you be organized? And when we talked through the process, and after we analysed the data, it was taking so long, because hiring managers were so busy during the day, and she was trying to schedule interviews between eight and five. 


So when we looked at that, I went and talked to the leadership and I said, you know, here's my proposal, because you are hurting people, it's hurting our business. Could your staff or would they be willing to interview at night? So if I could bring 30 to 50 candidates in for interviews, from six o'clock to nine o'clock at night. And we were able to process them all through all of the interviews, and at nine o'clock started to debrief, so that we could get offers out the next morning, would that work for you? And they were like, Oh, that will never work. That'll never happen, we'd be up for it. But you'll never be able to get all those candidates as one. I feel like I can. 


So that was a process that we put in place. And we had to do things because it was in Canada, they had, some of the rules are bilingual, so they had to pass a French test. So we organized these interviews, nice, there was a benefit presentation. Bilingual candidates for the French tests went through a first-round interview, a second-round interview, and a final interview. And everybody throughout the process could cut them out and say thanks so much, appreciate it but you know, this isn't going to work out here, whatever the polite way of saying goodbye was. And then at the end of the night, we would do the debrief, and out of you know, we'd invite 50 people and 40,42 would show up. And at the end of the night, we would have about, you know, 10 to 15 ready to go to make offers too.  So pretty good ratio. 


But there were two things it did, right? A, it made us a lot more sane, because we knew what we were doing every two weeks. So we knew what we were pre-qualifying candidates for and if our funnel wasn't big enough, we could do activities to drive more into the top of the funnel. The second thing it was, was the business heaved a collective sigh of relief because it became a really repeatable process. And it was fast and efficient. And it didn't waste a lot of their time. I mean, if you're a hiring manager, and you can spend one night interviewing, versus having interviews sprinkled throughout your extremely busy calendar over a four-week period to get the same number of hires, I think that's a beautiful thing. 


James Mackey  23:17  

That's a really good strategy. And also, you're less likely to get put through the wrong hire or something like that. I mean, if somebody's going from meeting to meeting, back to back all day, and they have a couple of interviews just kind of scattered in there. They're probably unless they're very good at taking notes, which most people that are overwhelmed and from being from meeting to meeting usually are not, you know, you're gonna forget, you're gonna forget how conversations went, you're gonna forget your concerns, you're gonna forget what you liked. I mean, where you thought it was the most relevant fit, like all that stuff's gonna slip. 


So it probably also hurts the quality of hire. So I have a feeling that this process probably also helped increase just the outcomes that the department is able to produce, probably increased tenure, probably gave a lift in a lot of other areas that maybe would be difficult to directly attribute to it, but I'm sure it did.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  24:12  

Well, I really think it did. And if you're a candidate, what an amazing experience, right? You come in, you spend one evening, you go through all your interviews, and you know the outcome right away. I mean, that's a really amazing candidate experience. And I think that we really need to and this is, when we're looking at processes, we need to design processes that support the business goals, as well as relieve the burden on hiring managers. And not just the act of interviewing, but there's a lot of stress when you're a hiring manager and you're trying to hire people at scale. Right.?


And so, there are lots of tools today that allow you to hire at scale, and sometimes it's good to take the recruiter out and have the recruiter really focus on the top of funnel activities, especially for things like a distribution center, retail, or work where there's not a huge skill set. You get there a lot of technology that can now help with that they're not skill set the differentiating factors, right? So I think that we can be so creative in talent acquisition to solve problems if we allow ourselves to be and give ourselves the grace to try new things.


James Mackey  25:17  

For sure. And you need to join an organization that is going to provide enough budget, and really sees the value in strategic talent acquisition, and sees the value in building up repeatable processes at a scale that, you know, you want to be part of an organization that doesn't see talent acquisition, as a transactional light switch, and just be turned off and on. And then as a leader, you need to be able to communicate as well, just on what you really need. 


Some of it's about getting the right organization. And some of it's about also having the discipline to build out the team the right way so that you have time to think, right, and to actually create these solutions, as opposed to just being always down in the weeds, right? I think a lot of talent departments, it's a combination, and maybe, some of it is like lack of leadership training or just progressing into talent leadership roles. 


But in some companies maybe the talent acquisition teams, just aren't as big as they really need to be. And so people are just kind of overwhelmed. And they're not really in this place where they can do great strategic thinking and think about how to really optimize for the mid to long term and get much better results, right? 


In general, what are your top metrics? What are you looking at? What does success look like? What metrics are you tracking and constantly optimizing?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  26:38  

So, there are the metrics that I use to ensure that my team is doing a good job. And then there are the metrics that you use to show the business that you're doing a good job. So T metrics are things like, time to find usage of tools and technology, are we using them appropriately pre-qual to interview ratio. So if I'm doing 10 pre-qualifications, and they do three interviews, that's always been kind of my North Star. But if I'm doing 25 prequels, and they're only interviewing one, then that's a great opportunity to say something's not right here, either the business hasn't, isn't clear and what they're looking for, or the recruiter is not clear on what the business is looking for. And so it's a great indicator that you need some kind of intervention. 


I always look at offer-to-acceptance ratios. And these are ones where you just when you know your business, you can say, something's not working, something's off what is happening. Because I look at those is, you know, kind of the oil light in your car, you know where it should be. And if it gets too high, or gets too low, you know, you've got an issue that you need to look at and figure out what it is. 


Other things I look at are our responses to campaigns, right, and talent nurturing pipeline of talent. I think that a recruiter who can go to the business and present to an organization say, This is what your talent pipeline looks like, this is where the people exist, live, the degrees they have the companies, they've worked for their degree of engagement with our organization. I think that's incredible. And I think it's something that you get to step up, you know, if you're a business leader, I think you have a wow moment. So, this is a little bit off of what you asked me, but I think making sure recruiters have the opportunity to live in that hero moment is a really important one. And that gets into things that I think that are important for the business, but for the business, to me, it's that ultimate output metric to get the right person in the right seat at the right time. 


I sometimes ask that all requisitions be opened, but not posted. Give me all the requisitions at the beginning of the year, and the date that you've budgeted for them to be filled. And then let me and my team work backward from there. Because the time it takes me to find a niche, tech skills are going to be different from the time it takes me to find a role that I'm hiring 100 of in a year. So I think that sometimes where we do a disservice to talent acquisition leaders is we don't give them the macro picture at the beginning of the year and allow them to plan. Because I think we should think of ourselves more like a supply chain. Right, we have to really plan for uptime, downtime on-time delivery, and quality.


James Mackey  29:33  

Yeah, that's a really smart analogy. I think there are a lot of similarities to the supply chain. So hiring plans, this is a good one. I think a lot of companies get hiring plans wrong. You know, particularly in a growth stage, right when it's a less established environment that's growing quickly. 


How do you make your hiring plan for the year as accurate as possible? One of the biggest mistakes that I see, again, is more so on the growth stage, but a lot of companies just have unrealistic expectations with time to fill. And so basically they build out a whole hiring plan. And time to fill is like two or three weeks under what it should be. And so they're, you know, eight to 12 weeks into the year, and their whole plan is already all messed up. 


What are some of the common mistakes you see? What checks and balances do you put in place? And how do you develop the hiring plans to where they don't become obsolete? 


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  30:36  

Well, and you know, things are going to change. You just have to take into account that things are going to change, but there'll be some things that will stay the same, barring an unforeseen economic event. So I think each business has a rhythm, to its hiring and to its growth. And after a year one, if it's a normal year, you'll see that rhythm.


I used to work in the video games industry. And at that time, the rhythm was, this was way back, when you didn't buy things online, you went to the store and bought them. So Black Friday, all your games had to be delivered to the store for Black Friday. So that was the biggest day they were going to sell. And then what would happen is, you know, budgets would change based on how Black Friday and how Christmas went, how the December holiday selling went.  And then you close your books in February, so things get re-budgeted. 


But then there would be this event in Las Vegas, in the Consumer Electronics Show where everybody's showing all their game concepts and everything. And leaders would go there. And they'd have great ideas that would change the dynamics of game teams. So you would expect an increase in hiring after that. And then you get into finals, where you're finally in your game to ship it off, you know, to be created and get to the market. So there was a real rhythm to it. As long as you knew that rhythm, you could manage your talent pipelines. And that's just the video games.


Retail is similar in some ways, right? Where you've got your seasonal hiring spikes based on the type of retail that you sell, again, you close your books, budgets get reworked and depending on how the year went, you may have thought that you were gonna have all kinds of money. And you didn't, or you had a banner year that you weren't quite expecting, and so you've got more money. So once you get to know the rhythm of the business, you can anticipate what you need to do. You also know that you are likely to have more people, and your attrition will spike after bonuses are paid out. If people have thought about leaving, you know, attrition dips down usually over the summer, then spikes back up in early fall, once kids go back to school, and people are thinking, Yeah, I need to make this change. 


So there are all kinds of things that if you pay attention to, you can understand the rhythm of the business. That's a huge factor in your hiring plans. And then you also know how long on average it takes somebody to go through an interview process and make a decision or find a job. 


And, you know, we hire in India, for example, it's typical to have a three-month offer to start. So if you want somebody to start on January 1, you need to have that offer in place. And they need to have given notice three months before, back that up a month to get through your interview process, back that up a month and a half to two months to get through everything right. 


So I think that the TA leaders have this awesome responsibility to really think through all of these other factors versus just listening to the business say, Oh, I've got a headcount. I've got five headcounts for Jim. Right?


James Mackey  33:40  

Yes, that's right. 


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  33:42  

Have to have those conversations, right? I remember having a conversation with a CFO that was new to our business, he wanted me to stop all recruiting activity, you can't do anything, you can't interview candidates. I said You know what, this is my second year with this company. So this is what will happen if we stop all hiring. And we had quite a heated debate about it. And, he was the CFO, so I don't want to say he won, but he kind of won it. But then I went back and I said, `` Help me to understand what you'd like me to do now. Because as you requested, right, we stopped all hiring activity. And now there's this huge demand. And, it was painful, but it earned me some respect. And I was confident in my knowledge, because, I mean, we've seen it before, right?


James Mackey  34:27  

Yes, for sure. I think the takeaway is you just have to understand and have to know your business. You have to know the kind of the flow of the business and when hiring is going to pick up and the kind of the cyclical nature of hiring and attrition. And considering those in the hiring forecasts, and hiring plans.


I mean, this is very similar to budgets and forecasts, financial budgets and forecasts like you know, robust budgets, they're not just looking at line items, they are not just looking at okay, here are the expenses here the revenue. I mean, you're getting into like oh Okay, we're anticipating this coming up in fall, we're anticipating, okay, like raises are gonna kick in.  I mean it's gonna have a little bit more complexity. And like any good budget, a hiring plan is going to change. Right? You're going to have to update it probably on a monthly basis and tweak it. I mean, you build it out ahead of time. But yeah, I think a more sophisticated one is taking into consideration attrition, and taking into consideration when demand seems to creep up, and what are the drivers of demand. And, just working with other executive leaders and figuring out okay,, what's happening later this year, that could impact hiring right. There's obviously the macroeconomic things but do we have any upcoming acquisitions or all of these things are going to kind of play a role? 


How do you view working with agencies versus in-house for volatility? Specifically with what's happening in the market now, where we have a lot of uncertainty and a lot of kinds of ups and downs where it can make it in some ways a little bit more difficult to put together accurate hiring plans. You could argue, I guess. Do you think about how to leverage internal versus external teams to fill roles given the volatility? Or is that something that you don't really like? No, we just keep, you know, hold the chorus, build out the internal team, make sure that they're in a position for hires, how does that work for you?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  36:31  

So I lean heavily on the internal team because I think that it's really important that you're able to articulate and sell your own brand. But I think from time to time, you do need to augment it, with the support that will be external. So you need to figure out what that support is, and it can be pulling for monthly contracts, it could be sending some hires to an agency. 


What I would say, though, is if you are using an agency, spend the time to prepare them, get them the material that they need to be successful, and don't waste their time. I mean, I hate to see, you know, somebody giving six agencies the same role or roles. Because, you know, the pie is only so big, and everybody wants a piece of it. They're spending their time doing work for you, so make sure they get some reward for that, give them roles that are real, and set them up for success.


James Mackey  37:23  

So it sounds like ideally, I mean, I think at scale, it's like you want to have a robust internal program.  And then it's like, just for capacity overflow, which may be you plan that on being like, alright, you know, the 10% of the time that we hit this kind of capacity overflow like you tried to build your system. So you're only gonna go overflow with capacity, like X percentage of the time. And when you do you have a plan to bring in additional capacity to help deliver on that.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  37:54  

And, I've never been a fan of outsourcing a particular type of role all the time. Because when you're building a really great recruiting team, your recruiters need to have different experiences. So I think everybody who's in recruiting should go through high volume, fill roles for distribution centers or call centers have that experience, right? Because that is such a great place to break your teeth or cut your teeth, whatever that expression is. 


I think that you need a stint in executive recruiting as you're more senior because that is a high-pressure role where you have to be perfect, right? I mean that's the rule where you really have to be perfect. I think you'd need to try out tech because tech hiring has its own unique challenges. And tech recruiting is a very specialized skill, but it will make you a better recruiter if you spend some time in tech recruiting. And I think then, you know, your corporate roles are where you learn a lot about the business. Interfacing or interacting with your finance teams, your HR teams, your marketing teams, if you can do all of those things, as a recruiter, I think that you can really become a superstar and become really well rounded.


James Mackey  39:05  

Well, so what are your thoughts because there are a lot of TA leaders that really believe in the concept of specialization? Like they want their tech recruiters to be, oh, wait, you know, they've worked in growth stage or enterprise tech for, you know, 10 years and that's what they know. And then they want the revenue recruiters that understand comp plans and restricted stock and they've had those conversations a million times. And that's all they do. 


I almost like people to be more well rounded and I thought a great recruiter is a great recruiter, even if they have less revenue experience and they have more tech. A great recruiter is gonna be able to go into that revenue role and crush it. Right? They know the questions to ask, and they know how to uncover what they need to do. I just don't find it that complicated to be able to shift into a different part. I mean, maybe there's a big difference between high volume and executive search like that is different, but just thinking about supporting different departments. I don't necessarily see that as a big lift, but a lot of talent leaders swear by it like they want the specialist. So what are your thoughts there?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  40:11  

So, I absolutely have specialists on my team. But I think if you are a good leader, and you're growing your team, right, you can either buy or develop, that, if you were developing a team, you put them through those different paces over time, right? A tech recruiter who's only done tech recruiting their entire career, it's a high nation, they come with a really great pipeline. But if you all of a sudden have your tech roles dry up, and you need to shift to revenue-generating roles, that's going to be a difficult transition for them. 


So yeah, you should have some specialists. But make sure those specialists have gotten different experiences and give them the opportunity to try different things. I always think that a recruiter who loves sales, recruiting is very different from a recruiter who's absolutely passionate about tech recruiting. But unless you've tried on all those roles, how do you find out what you're passionate about?


I mean, I have somebody who worked for me, his best thing is high volume recruiting, he's amazing at it. He can create the process, bring people through it, and have them have a great experience, I would never put them in tech recruiting or recruiting for HR. But right, so if you never let your team try on different hats, I think that you may miss the opportunity to help them find their passion and be truly excellent.


James Mackey  41:30  

I agree with you, I think it's just a huge value add for them to be able to pick up that experience. I mean, I've always liked the concept of strong generalist people that have experienced revenue, tech G&A, across the board. We don't do that much high volume, but I like the idea of my team being very well-rounded.


What our company does is basically companies borrow recruiters from us. So we do RPO stuff. But, some of our clients, particularly later growth stage enterprises, really want the specialists, and sometimes I'm like, Look, the person I want to recommend is somebody who has, close to 10 years of experience, has done revenue and tech, they don't only do tech, but, I think that they would just be a great culture fit, I think that they can bring the level of, you know, expertise, and communication needed to communicate with your different hiring team. 


And, so it's just interesting to see kind of like, some companies, they're gonna value more on the specific like, hey, they've done this type of search a million times others are gonna value more the communication. Some prefer the well-rounded aspect, so they can pivot and shift people into different roles. So I guess you want a little bit of everything, right, you want some specialists, you want some strong generalists. It's about having a good mix, too, right?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  42:50  

It's about having a good mix. And to be clear, like today, if you are recruiting for security and compliance in the tech space, understanding and being able to decipher all of the technologies, all of the regulations, you know, globally, for those rules. That's hard to come by. And so if you have somebody who finds that amazing and passionate, I would definitely keep them in that role. 


The same thing, if you're hiring designers or artists. Being able to understand the nuances of a portfolio, if you're not an artist, yourself, but you're a recruiter, that's a skill that takes some time to develop. But, again, not everybody's gonna like doing that, and others are gonna get jazzed by it. So I'm all about getting to know your team and what makes them tick and what they love and don't have them do stuff that they don't really care about. Have them do what they're most interested in, and then help them be great at it. But you gotta have some utility players, and you have to be able to have confidence that your recruiters are skilled enough, that you can move them around as the organization requires. But you also have to develop them and help them be great at their job.


James Mackey  43:52  

For sure. And one thing that I've just learned throughout the years, too, it's when somebody is passionate and doing what they love, or what they like doing the most, they're probably going to be better at that. Is in everybody's best interest to put people and align them with what they're best at, and just try to empower them to do so. So I couldn't agree more. 


But anyway, you know, I'm having a great time talking with you. We are coming up on time here. So I did want to just say thank you so much for coming on today. It's been a blast speaking with you, you've shared a lot of very good insight. And we've covered a few topics that we actually haven't covered before on the show. So I just wanted to say thank you for contributing and coming on today.


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  44:31  

Great, James. This was a tonne of fun for me. I love having these conversations. So enjoy the heatwave and have a great rest of your day.


James Mackey  44:39  

You too, and we'd love to have you back on. And real quick before we jump off if people want to follow you online what's the best way that they can do so?


Nancy Gray-Starkebaum  44:49  

I'm really not that exciting online, but they're welcome to follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn on my Nancy Gray-Starkebaum balm. I'm the only one in the world with that name. I'm quite confident about it. So it should be easy to find.


James Mackey  45:01  

All right. That's good to hear. And for everybody tuning in, thank you for joining us and we'll see you next time. Take care. 

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