Crafting a Purposeful Talent Strategy at Patagonia and Trove with Alyssa Kessler

Crafting a Purposeful Talent Strategy at Patagonia and Trove with Alyssa Kessler

Alyssa Kessler is the Director of Recruiting at Trove, a company whose technology supports circular shopping and aids in shaping environmentally responsible commercial ecosystems. Their end-to-end operating system facilitates the processes behind used inventory and recommerce sales for top brands like Arc’teryx, Levi’s, lululemon, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and many others. Alyssa has always centered mission in her work. She began her recruiting career here at Noto Group before joining Patagonia as a Recruiting Manager. In this episode, Alyssa shares her experience in the recruiting field, as well as the essential elements of successful talent acquisition strategy at purpose-driven companies.

Listen to the podcast


  • The most important elements of a successful talent acquisition strategy (6:26)
  • How to optimize the employment brand and candidate experience (8:39)
  • The unique elements of working as a talent acquisition leader at a purpose-driven and sustainability-minded company (12:33)
  • What makes a great talent acquisition professional (14:53)
  • How talent acquisition teams add value to their organization (17:24)
  • Her assessment of the current talent market (19:57)
  • How the pandemic has shifted candidate expectations (20:48)


[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello, and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best executive hiring advice and insights. I’m Roy Notowitz, Founder and President of Noto Group Executive Search. You can learn more about us at NotoGroup.Com. As a go-to firm for purpose-driven companies, we’ve been lucky to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they tackle the challenge of building high performance leadership teams. Now I’m sitting down with some of these very people to spark a conversation about how to achieve success in hiring and create strong, purposeful leadership for the next generation of companies. 

My colleague Alyssa Kessler is here today. She’s the Director of Recruiting at Trove, an awesome company that facilitates circular shopping. They do all the work behind used inventory or recommerce sales for brands like Levi’s, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and many others. Before joining Trove, Alyssa was a Recruiting Manager at Patagonia, and she actually began her recruiting career right here at Noto Group. Alyssa is here today to share the most important elements of a successful talent acquisition strategy, particularly at sustainability focused and purpose-driven companies like Trove and Patagonia.

We’ll discuss the keys to attracting top talent in today’s market, from having a clear mission to offering impactful work with flexibility.

Alyssa, thanks so much for being here. It’s great to have you on the podcast. 

[00:01:36] Alyssa Kessler: Thanks for having me, Roy. 

[00:01:38] Roy Notowitz: So you’re currently the Director of Recruiting at Trove. So I’d love you to tell us a little bit more about what Trove does because it’s very interesting, and then also a little bit more about your career story. 

[00:01:51] Alyssa Kessler: Trove is the engine that powers the recommerce infrastructure for a ton of leading luxury brands. So the partners that we work with are brands like Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Lululemon, REI, Levi’s. And so we’re a total white label service, but whenever you buy something used online through those partners, through those brands, that is essentially all of Trove’s infrastructure that it’s allowing that to happen. So it’s actually fairly complicated to sell used inventory again, to make sure that it’s authenticated to make sure the SKU count’s correct, to make sure that like the algorithm to make the right amount of money off of it is correct. But, through our technology, if done right it allows these brands to own their inventory through a second and third lifecycle, make money off it a second or third time, own and understand their customer lifecycle, build that loyalty program even further, and, essentially, make money without adding more to your carbon footprint, which is pretty exciting, and honestly like pretty necessary for what’s happening in our planet. If you don’t do it, it’s going to go somewhere anyways, through an eBay or through that secondary market anyways.

[00:03:05] Roy Notowitz: That’s awesome. So it’s becoming pretty much standard now for companies that are sustainably minded and interested in, you know, additional revenue channels?

[00:03:14] Alyssa Kessler: Yeah. So prior to that, I was at Patagonia for about six and a half years where I was the second recruiter in house. And we grew tremendously during that time, we grew from about 500 million to 1.4 billion. I think from a personnel perspective, we probably doubled in size. I worked specifically in our corporate headquarters building out a lot of our digital teams and then growing to manage the recruiting team in Ventura. So learned a ton there. And then how I got into recruiting initially was through Roy and Noto Group where he taught me everything I know about executive search in the industry. So very grateful for that. 

[00:03:51] Roy Notowitz: So tell us a little bit about your time getting into recruiting, your time at Noto. How is that foundational to when you went to Patagonia?

[00:03:59] Alyssa Kessler: So I guess taking it an even further step back, I started my career in social work where I helped folks transitioning out of homelessness find jobs, and I thought I was going to get my LCSW and be a counselor. So, for me, what’s always been important is just, like, that motivational side and finding, like, a really good match between somebody’s skillset, how they want to grow, like, what they’re inspired by, and what the company can offer. So it’s always been about the people and the mission for me. I love building great teams that create solutions that help the planet. 

At Noto Group, you had to be super strategic and think outside the box to find somebody with a really unique and interesting background that was, like, an unlock for a team that can drive innovation, that can help create a solution. And I took the same creativity and strategy to build the teams at Patagonia because that diversity of thought was super important. To think outside just a traditional outdoor industry or retail industry, to think about, you know, if they’re coming from the EPA or an enviro-movement or activism and how that can like inspire us and push us further, and doing the same thing at Trove, which is really exciting because at Trove we’re essentially like kind of creating our own industry of recommerce. So there’s no set pedigree of where people come from.

[00:05:11] Roy Notowitz: What do you think professionally was the biggest takeaway from your time at Patagonia? I mean, obviously you had the opportunity to build and manage your own team, but was there anything else being on the corporate side, coming from the executive search agency side that you sort of took away from that experience?

[00:05:28] Alyssa Kessler: Both experiences were so formative to me. From the executive search side, it’s almost like a research project, you know, where you have to go super deep and you have to understand everything about the talent ecosystem that you’re looking to find a job for. And you have to, like, be that subject matter expert, where, going in-house, it’s not that same experience. You can’t go as deep. You don’t have as much time. But it’s so much more understanding kind of the organization and what makes the organization work and the people and the personalities and like capacity planning and budget. So it’s much more of like the health of the organization and the interpersonal skills that go into that to make it successful.

[00:06:14] Roy Notowitz: That actually is a great lead-in to my next question, which is around talent acquisition and being a talent acquisition leader. You obviously play a huge role in setting the strategy for the organization. So based on your experience, what do you think are the most important elements of a successful talent acquisition strategy?

[00:06:32] Alyssa Kessler: I’ve been lucky enough to always work for mission-driven companies. Noto Group was a B Corp, obviously Patagonia’s mission was to save the home planet. And now, at Trove we’re creating solutions that can actually change consumer behavior. The recipe’s simple when you walk the walk. Talent wants impactful work that is solving problems and building solutions for the greater good. This top talent wants to work under great leaders and feel empowered and be inspired, not only by the work that they’re doing and the solutions that they’re building, but also like their peers. Like I can remember at Patagonia, when people asked, “what’s your favorite part about working at Patagonia?” they always said, “the people I get to work with.” And, you know, at Trove, I can honestly say that, like, I feel so challenged and inspired by these folks that I’m surrounded by, because they’re just so gosh darn smart.

So as far as strategy, the TA team should be a champion of this in the organization, and really be able to like highlight what makes this organization tick and be able to share that externally so that we can attract people that want to be a part of that. Good people attract good people. If you know that special sauce that makes your organization tick around mission and around people and around culture, and you’re able to share it, the right people will be attracted to that and want to thrive in that environment. So it’s really about finding a match for the mission and then having that talent acquisition strategy be around like always honing in on that and those competencies when talking to candidates. 

[00:08:01] Roy Notowitz: A lot of what you’re talking about too, sounds like just authenticity. Like you’re looking for people and your strategy is tied to the narrative, but the narrative and the experience of that candidate or the employee through that whole life cycle of engaging with, whether it’s a candidate or a new hire, is consistent with the brand and the values and the experience that they have.

[00:08:22] Alyssa Kessler: Absolutely. I think that’s totally it. When you’re getting to know people, you want to know their true motivations, you really want to know what makes them tick and you want to really be able to share, like, what the organization is like and what makes them tick. When it’s a really good match, everybody, like, shows up really authentically in the process and there’s no smoke and mirrors behind it.

[00:08:39] Roy Notowitz: So how do you create or influence or optimize the employment brand and that candidate experience? 

[00:08:45] Alyssa Kessler: It’s ultimately a two-way conversation. Are you going to be fulfilled here based on your personal goals and our company’s mission and solution? That’s part of, like, kind of the brass tacks of recruiting, but I think what’s really interesting is, prior to the pandemic, we used to get on a plane and fly to an interview and really think about our life, and our career, and reflect about it, and think about making this big decision, where that doesn’t happen anymore. Now you just like in between meetings can hop into an interview and there’s no real buy-in from the candidate at all. 

So one thing I’ve done from the employment brand in the past is we asked the candidates to pull together an icebreaker interview project, where they introduce themselves in relation to our mission. And if you know that hasn’t showed up yet in their life, and they’re just, like, you know, earlier on in this journey of getting to know what we’re doing here, like, how would you want that to show up? So it’s really open ended. But this is a way that folks have some skin in the game when they show up to the interview, and I’ve had candidates tell me that they really appreciated this process because it really helped them reflect on why they’re looking to make a change and why this role is important to them for not just their career, but also, like, their life and the work that they want to do when they look back on their life’s work.

I’ve actually had folks in this, bake a cake using, like, flour from their garden, you know, share really heartfelt videos of teaching our kids how to recycle. Really simple things, but I think it just helps people show up in a really authentic way as a person and, and help them really think really holistically about what they want next in their career.

[00:10:16] Roy Notowitz: That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about the idea of candidates not having that opportunity to really reflect during the travel to an interview. That’s very cool to think of it that way and speaking of the pandemic and also the J.E.D.I. Movement, how has that influenced your talent acquisition strategy and process? 

[00:10:36] Alyssa Kessler: Oh, my goodness, in so many ways. One of the most powerful things that I’ve heard is that if you don’t follow a set recruiting process, then you are by definition not an equal opportunity employer. So what I’ve done on the teams that I’ve been a part of is really work on following a set process that looks to mitigate bias at every recruiting touchpoint. So, early on in the process, the recruiters on my team have a conversation with the hiring manager when they open a new requisition and kind of go through what they’re looking for, the search strategy, everything like that.

But, but a big part of this is also really talking about, like, what does diversity look like on your team? And this can be gender or racial diversity across the team landscape, but it’s also thought diversity, like what industry or experience are you currently missing on your team? And that can really unlock some sort of innovation, or some sort of growth goal, or some sort of thing that isn’t working on your team. And so, writing that down early on and having that hiring manager’s buy-in early on in the process really helps going back to that when you get to the decision-making stage.

The other really important thing is having set competencies across your job descriptions and throughout the hiring process, so that everyone’s evaluating the candidates on the same criteria. And another thing that we did that has been super successful is we have bias training to kick off the interview when you step into an interview panel, but then the recruiter and the hiring manager also facilitate an interview kickoff meeting, where you go over the job, you go over the role of the job, and then you also talk through, like, how does bias show up in your life? This is personal work, we all have bias, it’s human nature, but it’s just a really intentional conversation going into the interview so that, you know, you’re reflecting on that before you step into the evaluation phase. 

[00:12:21] Roy Notowitz: That’s fantastic. Those are all great things that make a difference. How does being a talent acquisition leader at a purpose-driven and sustainably-focused company factor into your work? I know we talked a little bit about this, but, as it relates to your job, what elements of your job are unique or different as a result? 

[00:12:40] Alyssa Kessler: As recruiters, you are essentially brand ambassadors. When you talk to candidates, you’re selling the company, you’re selling the brand. You kind of have to live those ethos. When you work for a mission driven company, you aren’t just a brand ambassador, you are also kind of that mission ambassador. And I find myself and recruiters that I work with really also helping educate on the mission and the work that your teams are doing to solve these big world problems. 

So, at Trove, for example, as I mentioned, we’re looking to flip retail on its head and really help change consumer behavior for so many beloved brands. It’s a hard concept and a lot of people aren’t as familiar with it. So, like, as you’re selling the company, and as you’re talking about the company, you’re also talking about a really significant problem around consumerism and fast fashion and, like, the role that you may play in it that you don’t actually think that you’re playing it in your own behavior. And that’s a different role to play than just a normal recruiter sometimes, to have those, you know, more complicated conversations in a recruiting process of, you know, have you thought about your consumer behavior and how that shows up and, like, are there actions that you’re doing to limit that? So, we do a fair amount of education with the candidates that we’re working with, depending on where they’re at on that journey.

[00:13:53] Roy Notowitz: That’s really interesting because one of my questions was how do you assess for authentic connection to mission and purpose? And you sort of just provided that answer a little bit with that approach. Is there anything else that you look for when you’re assessing candidates and their authenticity around that connection to the mission or purpose?

[00:14:10] Alyssa Kessler: I guess, for me, it’s palpable. Even candidates who maybe haven’t really thought about fast fashion and consumer behavior and if they buy stuff off Amazon all the time, and then you start talking about what Trove is doing and the work that we’re looking to solve, and, you know, they get excited about it. They lean in. The more they learn about it, the more they’re providing solutions, the more engaged they are. They start to speak the same language. They do their own research. So I think that when it really works and it’s authentic, the conversation picks up momentum. 

[00:14:40] Roy Notowitz: So you’re sort of tapping into their passion or their engagement or energy around the topic?

[00:14:45] Alyssa Kessler: Yeah, and they want to learn more, they want to do their own research. They want to figure out more about this problem and different ways that people are providing solutions for it.

[00:14:53] Roy Notowitz: When you’re hiring for your own team, what competencies do you look for? What do you think makes a great recruiter or talent acquisition professional?

[00:15:03] Alyssa Kessler: Good recruiters have a very high emotional intelligence, are empathetic, are strategic, and a little bit competitive. 

Uh, obviously I think to have a high emotional intelligence, I think you have great communication skills. I think also, like, you kind of have to be fairly business savvy to really understand how the organization works and tick, and you want to dig in and, and learn more about it to really be, like, a strategic talent thought partner.

[00:15:29] Roy Notowitz: So where does the competitiveness come in? Why do you think that’s a key element? 

[00:15:34] Alyssa Kessler: It can be a grind, especially in this job market. You kind of have to have a bit of a fire in your belly to like, not settle and find the best candidate. 

[00:15:44] Roy Notowitz: And how do you evaluate hiring expertise or improve hiring and selection within your organization? You did give some examples around training for bias and interview prep and things like that, but can you speak a little bit more to that? 

[00:15:58] Alyssa Kessler: Thankfully, at Trove, talent is really seen as the key to our future success. We have some pretty big growth goals and our people are really the key to making that happen. So, across the organization where I’m at currently, hiring managers are really bought in to the importance of running a really smooth and strategic recruitment process so that they can bring the best person onto their team. Functionally, it comes down to running an efficient and structured process. Outlining what diversity means for innovation and team dynamic upfront is really important. Highlighting competencies and writing down interview questions to really dig into these predetermined success factors are really important.

So really getting ahead of the process, really outlining and spending more time upfront with the hiring manager is really important. Recruiters on our team really help elevate this by facilitating pretty rich dialogues with the hiring managers throughout the search. The hiring managers know how they can get most out of that process — having recruiters being able to facilitate these conversations. You know, the TA team has a very active audience where I’m at right now to facilitate a really super rich and robust process. 

[00:17:05] Roy Notowitz: So you’re much more than just order-takers, you know, getting a job description and going and finding a person. You’re really consultative and really helping to add a lot more value in that process.

[00:17:15] Alyssa Kessler: Yes. And I think really seen as thought partners within the organization. Like, we send emails at the end of every week. We are in the talent market. We get to see trends that are happening. We are adding value, not just like, “here’s a req, we’ll fill it,” but like, “hey, I’m in this for product, and I see what’s happening. I see what Amazon is doing, or I see how different companies are crafting this role so that we can maximize this as much as possible and then share that back to the hiring managers as well.”

[00:17:43] Roy Notowitz: Conventional hiring practices and traditional in-office work patterns have been challenged by the restrictions of the pandemic. So we talked about one example around, just how interviews happen, but how has this changed or influenced your talent acquisition strategy in the short term? 

[00:17:59] Alyssa Kessler: What is cool about Trove is that we are really thinking about the future of work and what this will look like. What does community look like? What does culture look like? And we are a fully remote corporate office, although there’s no more corporate office, so it’s called the hub team, and our people team is really working on coming up with these strategies around building community and culture at work. I have been a part of other organizations that were not as progressive on remote work flexibility, and I can say, even with a ton of brand cachet, top talent still declined our offers more than I’d ever seen before. So I don’t think it’s going away. If you really want top talent, you’re going to have to be flexible.

And then you also have to be doing the work figuring out, like, what does a successful onboarding process look like? How do you build community remotely? Being able to talk about that in the recruiting process will be essential to bring folks on, because I think folks want to work remotely, but they also want to do it in a really healthy remote environment that’s, like, doing remote, right. Not that you’re just, like, put on ice out on an island. 

[00:19:04] Roy Notowitz: And I still think there’s some people who want to be in-office or headquarters as well, or have some sort of experience like that. And that’s fine too. I’m hearing from my team that, more often than not, the relocation and finding people who are mobile, as it relates to where they want to live, is very challenging right now. 

[00:19:24] Alyssa Kessler: I think another thing that’s important too in, like, the remote work conversation is that leadership has to be good at it. I think it takes a lot more work for leaders to be successful remote leaders, because you have to be super intentional in your approachability. That’s also something that I share a lot with candidates working at Trove is that our leadership is super approachable. They’re a Slack chat away. They feel very native to a remote work environment. So I think that also helps, like, seeing an open environment with leadership remotely matters.

[00:19:54] Roy Notowitz: Are you seeing, or having challenges in specific disciplines or in different disciplines? Which jobs do you think are the hardest to fill right now? 

[00:20:02] Alyssa Kessler: Oh yes. Well, everyone has tried to digitize their brand experience. And I think everyone’s looking for top diversity talent. So across either digital marketing, growth marketing, data, anything in the digital landscape and then top diversity talent is really competitive and moves really, really fast.

[00:20:26] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. So if anyone out there fits that description, please contact us because we want to talk to you. Yeah, no, for sure. Us too. And also I think product creation jobs have always been another discipline that’s been challenging, but lately, a lot of digital and growth and e-commerce roles have been in demand for us as well. In what ways has the experience of the pandemic shifted candidate expectations when you’re talking to them?

[00:20:56] Alyssa Kessler: I’ve found that candidates lead with compensation more than I’ve ever seen before. I think they know that they are driving the talent market, which is great, like, being empowered, like, that is awesome. I also think, for me, it can be a bit of a turn-off working at mission-driven brands, because it’s not just about the money here. It’s about providing a solution that can really help change a big problem. And if you lead with that, I question sometimes your motivation and that, like, authentic connection to what we’re doing.

[00:21:29] Roy Notowitz: So what aspects of this remote work and community and remote leadership do you think will be lasting? Do you think it’s going to be something that is forever now? Or do you feel like in two years there’ll be some sort of pull or gravity towards being in the office again?

[00:21:47] Alyssa Kessler: Well, I think that’s the question that everybody’s trying to figure it out right now, right? I think there are some companies like Trove that have just committed to a remote work environment and then committing to, like, figuring out how to do it right. I think there’s going to be some companies that are going to commit to going hybrid remote, and then figuring out, in that, what’s going to work best for them. I do think that is a kind of a harder nut to crack in some ways, because, like, what does growth look like for your internal employees? For the folks who are remote and have an on-campus leader compared to those who don’t? So, I think there’s a lot of variables in that environment, and I think there’s going to be companies that, like, everybody come back into the office and let’s just double down and create a really great environment here. So I think there’s just going to be a lot of different office, quote unquote, environments moving forward.

[00:22:36] Roy Notowitz: What’s your assessment of the talent and job market currently? You know, you obviously have a pulse within the industry in your own ecosystem of talent, but just bigger picture. What are you hearing from other talent acquisition leaders and what’s your assessment of the market?

[00:22:51] Alyssa Kessler: It moves really, really fast. And I think that candidates have a lot of opportunities at their hands, which allows them to leverage higher compensation. I do think they want, from what I see, companies that are mission-driven, but I also think that if you don’t facilitate a recruiting process that really helps the candidates reflect on the decision they’re making, then they can be pretty squirrely and don’t necessarily have buy-in to the offer that they’re taking.

So I think it’s important for talent acquisition folks to really be able to get into those motivations and that authentic connection and help the candidate reflect on why they’re making a change and what they’ve expressed that they want out of their next step and how that aligns with their personal values, because otherwise there’s going to be another opportunity coming up pretty quickly and they could get swooped up again.

[00:23:48] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. And I’ve seen this happen too. It’s great to have that conversation at the beginning of the recruitment process, and, obviously, you’re challenging the candidates to reflect and consider this, but, more importantly, it’s just to continue to have that dialogue throughout the process because, inevitably, as they learn more, think more, as it becomes more real, if they haven’t really thought about it in a meaningful way, that could be challenging when it comes down to the offer stage. I’d rather eliminate them earlier in the process versus getting all the way to the end.

[00:24:18] Alyssa Kessler: Yeah. Or they can get into something where they thought it was the right decision, and then they’re in it for six months, and another bright and shiny opportunity comes their way that gets sold to them in a different way, and they have no real connection to it. They hadn’t had any real buy-in and they didn’t have to necessarily, like, change their life. They’re in the same office, so like, why not take another opportunity? 

[00:24:42] Roy Notowitz: They’re just at home working for a different company. And the speed thing is really interesting too. Our velocity around the number of jobs we filled in the last year, two years has doubled. So can you speak to that a little bit?

[00:24:53] Alyssa Kessler: Well, I think this goes back to what I was saying a bit before, is that before the pandemic, like, you got on a plane, you flew out, you had to take time off work. Like, you had to align on campus interviews, and that took a lot of time to schedule and get people out. Now that doesn’t have to happen. Like, you can go from your initial interview to that final interview within the same week, because you don’t have to move really to have those conversations. Because it moves so fast, we risk not being as intentional in our decision-making process and the candidate’s decision-making process. So how do you move quickly and not lose candidates, but still be super intentional? 

[00:25:32] Roy Notowitz: That’s exactly it. Actually, that was probably the biggest shock for me at the beginning of the pandemic. Maybe about two months after the lockdown, I was really concerned that people would not be able to make hiring decisions remotely, and that hurdle cleared really fast and nobody looked back. So it’s, it’s just, that’s been one of the biggest, things, I think. Do you have advice for anyone who might be thinking about making a career move?

[00:26:01] Alyssa Kessler: I guess all I have to say is that, like, a form of activism is also choosing where you work. So there are going to be a ton of opportunities out there right now, and there is a ton of money being thrown around, so you can choose to be a part of a solution and that’s pretty darn powerful outside of just the materialistic, financial component of it. 

[00:26:20] Roy Notowitz: Okay. So what’s exciting at Trove right now? Why should someone listening to the podcast jump at the opportunity to work there?

[00:26:28] Alyssa Kessler: Trove is in such a cool stage right now. So we have about 120 people on our hub team. So every hire really matters. It kind of has to be the A team if we want to achieve these big goals we have around powering recommerce for these major brands. And the team that we are bringing on right now is really setting the foundation for this growth and for all the impact that we can have. So that’s really exciting. And there definitely feels to be a ton of momentum there for the people we brought on. The leadership that we’ve attracted is great. And honestly, people are just really kind and smart here. 

[00:27:05] Roy Notowitz: And how would somebody interested in working at Trove learn about current or future openings or connect with you?

[00:27:12] Alyssa Kessler: Yeah, go to, or find me on LinkedIn and let’s talk. 

[00:27:19] Roy Notowitz: And Alyssa, thank you so much for taking time to share this. You had some really great insights and it actually kind of makes me proud that you started your recruiting career here and all that you’ve accomplished and how capable and what a great leader you are. It’s just really impressive. It’s meaningful for me to hear you talk about all this. 

[00:27:40] Alyssa Kessler: Thank you, Roy. Noto Group is always part of my family, too. 

[00:27:44] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire, visit for more details about what you heard today, and if you’re enjoying the podcast, you can leave a review on Apple. It helps others discover our podcasts, and we love hearing from you. How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search. To find out more about Noto Group visit and you can also sign up for our newsletter there. This podcast was produced by AO McClain, LLC. To learn more about their work, visit