John Vlastelica on ways to improve hiring efficiency, quality and diversity.
John Vlastelica is the founder and CEO of Recruiting Toolbox, a consulting and training firm helping companies recruit and hire better; with more speed, efficacy, and diversity.
John and Roy dig into current and future trends in recruiting, common mistakes that companies make in the hiring process, and how clarity and alignment can make all the difference in attracting and retaining top talent.
Listen to the podcast
Highlights from our conversation
- How John and his team help client companies (2:46)
- The components and importance of a holistic talent strategy (3:45)
- When companies need to start thinking about talent strategy (6:20)
- Trends, challenges, and opportunities facing talent acquisition leaders (11:56)
- Where companies are falling short in talent acquisition (13:41)
- How John and his team help companies determine what good looks like in hiring (15:54)
- Ways in which companies can inventory their processes and personnel to enhance the recruitment process (19:25)
- Helping companies avoid false negatives and improve their hiring decision quality (22:41)
- John’s predictions for the future of recruiting (25:33)
- Hiring advice for smaller companies without talent acquisition leadership (30:42)
SHOW TRANSCRIPT – PODCAST WITH John Vlastelica
[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 CEO of Noto Group Executive Search. You can learn more about us at notogroup.com. As a go-to firm for purpose-driven companies, my team and I have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they’ve tackled the challenge of building high performance leadership teams.
[00:00:31] Roy Notowitz: In this podcast, I sit down with some of these very people to spark a conversation about how to achieve success in hiring and create purposeful leadership for the next generation of companies.
[00:00:42] Roy Notowitz: Today, I’m joined by John Vlastelica, the founder and CEO of Recruiting Toolbox. I’ve been a big fan of John for years. His firm consults with HR and recruitment leaders to help them hire better. John and his team support many global companies like Pepsi, Adidas, Google, Peloton, LinkedIn, and many more. In this episode, John and I dig into so many important and timely elements as it relates to hiring right now in this environment, including current recruiting trends, the importance of holistic talent strategy, and the most common areas where companies fall short in recruiting.
[00:01:21] Roy Notowitz: John, welcome to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.
[00:01:24] John Vlastelica: Thanks, Roy. I’m excited to be here.
[00:01:26] Roy Notowitz: You know, I really have always appreciated your contribution in elevating leadership and professionalism in talent acquisition. It’s been a joy to watch your team grow and thrive. So, let’s start with your career journey. What was your path to becoming an entrepreneur and ultimately the founder and CEO of Recruiting Toolbox?
[00:01:45] John Vlastelica: For me, like a lot of people, there was a little bit of an entrepreneur in me from a young age. I was one of those kind of business geek kids who read Fortune Magazine and Business Week. Bought my first stock at 17, and I helped to run the student store, and I was part of FBLA and DECA, which are student organizations focused on business. And I actually placed third in a national entrepreneurship competition.–
[00:02:05] Roy Notowitz: Wow.
[00:02:06] John Vlastelica: –my senior year in high school, and then went on to college to become a business major and ultimately got into the HR side of things on corporate HR. And I remember the day I bought recruitingtoolbox.com — I was working at Amazon at the time — and I remember thinking about how, someday, I was going to, you know, take the leap, and leave corporate, and start my own business. And specifically was thinking about the kind of business that didn’t exist, or I didn’t see out there in the marketplace, that someone, as a corporate talent acquisition leader, would like to hire. For me, the path to being an entrepreneur was really about building something that I felt like wasn’t in the marketplace, and then doing it in a very corporate-practitioner-as-a-background-way.
[00:02:46] Roy Notowitz: How do you and your team help client companies? What are the things that you do and how has that evolved over the years?
[00:02:52] John Vlastelica: Recruiting Toolbox is a consulting and training firm. And, you know, we help startups to really big companies improve who they hire and how they hire. So, we help companies define their hiring bar, and then we train up interviewers and hiring managers, and then we train talent acquisition teams — so, recruiters and TA leaders. And so we’ve been hired by Nike, and Slack, and Google, Adidas, and Columbia Sportswear in your neck of the woods there, and a whole bunch of companies around the world; about 350 companies in 30 countries have hired us. And all of our focus is really on improving speed, quality, and diversity, so it’s pretty high impact. Our typical projects are beginning, middle, and end in 90 days. So, love my job. My team is all former practitioners, so we have a very real world, no bullshit approach to helping companies improve how they hire.
[00:03:37] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I’ve heard you say you don’t recruit, you help companies recruit better.
[00:03:42] John Vlastelica: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
[00:03:44] Roy Notowitz: So, let’s start with talent strategy and why that’s important. What are the components of a holistic talent strategy? And how does TA strategy tie to the business strategy, and how do you help companies figure that out?
[00:03:57] John Vlastelica: The, the word strategy is kind of overused, and I cringe when I hear an HR person talk about strategy because there’s usually a PowerPoint involved, and, honestly, you could cover up the company logo, and it’s the same stuff that everyone has on there around number of hires, maybe by geography, maybe some new initiatives around the employer brand. Maybe you’re launching a bigger college program. Maybe you’re going to implement some new technology or something. And, from the business point of view, that’s not really strategy. And so, we tend to think about talent strategy through the lens of the business, which means that anytime you are building strategy, when we train TA leaders, how to run a quarterly business reviewer, or to, you know, build a discussion with the business about their priorities around talent. We always say, start with what’s going on in the business first. Talk about where the growth area is, where the pain is, where the problems are, where the gaps are, and start your conversation there, so that when you’re sharing things specific you’re going to do operationally — bets you’re going to take — it feels to the business like you are helping them win in their job and not just deploying generic talent acquisition best practices. Because that’s what a lot of strategy looks like to me; it’s just a bunch of best practices that are getting deployed.
[00:05:05] John Vlastelica: And so a lot of the strategy work when you are talking to a business leader who might be pounding on the table, “Roy, recruiting is broken. Now we have hundreds of openings or we have 10 openings.” And, you know, a lot of our clients are saying, “Let’s step back. Is recruiting broken? Or are we not paying market wages? Is recruiting broken? Or do we have a retention issue? Is recruiting broken? Or do we not have work that’s appealing to this kind of talent that we’re going after?” And so really trying to ask those questions that kind of dig into the root issues and the problems is a big part of it. Most business leaders think all of the problems in recruiting are top of funnel. “If we could just source more people, just show me more candidates,” and it’s really disappointing because TA has the ability now through some of the tools we use to really diagnose root issues in the funnel a lot better, and I would call even some pre-funnel work around not having, you know, well defined hiring criteria, not having a alignment on that. And then some post-funnel work around onboarding and stickiness for employees, and engagement, and performance and all the things, like you said, in a diversity context are true for all the stuff we do. And so, I get very frustrated because I think there’s a perception that most recruiting problems would be solved with just more sourcing or better sourcing. And that’s actually not the problem that’s preventing us from getting speed, quality, diversity out of our hiring process.
[00:06:20] Roy Notowitz: In thinking about your business, and just companies in general, what’s the size or scale where companies need to start thinking about these things? I mean, I would say starts from day one, but I’m curious what your thoughts are and what types of clients you serve best?
[00:06:39] John Vlastelica: Yeah. I mean, for us, a company needs to have an HR leader before we’re ready to work with them. Someone has to be able to take the work we do and run with it because we are not moving in as your recruiting team.
[00:06:49] Roy Notowitz: Right.
[00:06:49] John Vlastelica: We’ve worked with companies, I would say, as small as maybe 40 people, and then companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. It’s interesting. I think some of the work begins day one, like you said. I think it’s really important to get aligned on our core values and how we’re going to interview and select in people that will compliment our culture and have some degree of fit on being naturally motivated to do the kind of work we do. It’s important that you don’t have a fundamental problem. And then, getting aligned on what good looks like. There’s work, even when you’re small, to just say, “What is our company point of view on things like pedigree? Does it matter? What is our company point of view on what’s trainable? What’s not trainable?” Getting really aligned on that as something we’ve helped some really small companies do, and it served as a great foundation before they start scaling. Bigger companies will do some similar work. We just helped LinkedIn define their hiring bar, and they’ve been around 20 years, and some companies even larger. It makes sense to get a little clear on some of these things so you can be a little more prescriptive when you’re onboarding a new hiring manager or a new recruiter. Being more prescriptive as a CEO or a C-level leader for your business unit on kind of what good looks like and the trade offs you will and won’t make. I call those hiring principles. Getting really clear on hiring principles early is a huge part of kind of strategy work.
[00:08:02] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I mean it’s a constant evolution, right, of different business models evolving and changing, as well as perhaps the values are sometimes not defined up front, but get more clear over time.
[00:08:14] John Vlastelica: Or you acquire a new company, and it’s got a totally different culture. They’re really good at hiring junior people, and they think everyone should be a generalist. And now they’re joining a much bigger company, much more specialist-focused than generalist-focused, and that really has a huge impact on who you target to hire, how you source, how you screen, how you interview, how you select, how you pay. Those kinds of things need clarity. I think that’s your job as an executive to do some of that.
[00:08:36] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. And that’s an interesting thing because not every executive is great at hiring. They might be great at finance. They might be great at marketing. They might be great at sales or operations, but I’ve noticed that there’s different levels of competency and capability or thoughtfulness around that hiring bar and just recruiting in general. So have you seen that and what are your thoughts about that?
[00:08:57] John Vlastelica: Oh my gosh, if I see another Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal article with CEO’s favorite interview questions, half of those are terrible. I mean, they are so poor at predicting success. They are so loaded with affinity bias and all kinds of just ridiculous assumptions that you’re going to get inside someone’s head and be able to determine if they’re going to be a good performer at your company by asking about some things that some executives ask about. I think that there’s people in senior roles that have largely just copy pasted what was done to them when they were being interviewed, or, what they did 10 years ago, or their boss told them to do, and they don’t really have a real strong sense of what I’m listening for and how this question is in service to understanding the primary question of an interview, which is, “Do I think this person would be successful here at our company?”
[00:09:40] John Vlastelica: Which is different than were they successful at Google, or Pepsi, or REI, or wherever they worked before. And I think that’s one of the fundamental challenges a lot of people don’t appreciate it at all levels is you’re in the translation business. You’re trying to take a look at what this person did at their last company, and then you’re trying to answer the question, “Do I think they could repeat that kind of success here?” And to do that, you really have to understand what’s different about here than some other places. So we do a lot of hiring manager and interviewer training. And we typically have a separate training for executive level folks because it’s just a little different. They’re not doing high volume hiring and interviewing and such. And it’s a little different.
[00:10:16] Roy Notowitz: Preparation is really important, right? Putting time and energy into thinking about it versus just reading something five minutes before. So, and I also agree on the pedigree thing. There’s, you know, people who are amazing and can be super successful who don’t have that resume pedigree. And, likewise, people who could be, you know, a terrible fit with great resume pedigree. So that’s one, one area that I think people are getting a little bit wiser, smarter about.
[00:10:43] John Vlastelica: But it’s interesting to ask why people have held onto that. And, you know, it’s funny, I was talking to a CEO coach for one of the well known social media companies, and I was asking him a little bit about some of the coaching he was doing with some of the executives at some of these companies. And one of the things he said is, “John, do you know why this company only likes to hire out of these other FAANG companies and only wants to hire people out of these schools? It’s because they’re using it as a proxy. They’re actually really bad at interviewing, and they know that those companies do a good job of interviewing, and so they outsourced interviewing to Facebook or Google or something like that. And I think that’s really interesting to think about how do you bust the proxy?
[00:11:19] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.
[00:11:20] John Vlastelica: I mean, it’s fine to hire people out of companies like that, of course, go for it. And top schools, sure. But the question is, what does that represent? And then are you creating a fair opportunity for people that didn’t have access to those companies or those schools by focusing on their skills and capabilities? Not just dismissing them outright because they don’t have the right keywords or the right companies on their resume.
[00:11:38] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, the same thing with references sometimes in terms of predictability or validity. Different companies, different scenarios, different perspectives, not always necessarily calibrated to what it is that you are actually needing and looking for. That’s another area that’s similar to that resume pedigree that people sometimes fail. So, what trends, or challenges, or opportunities are talent acquisition leaders at the companies you work with focused on currently? What are the things that are top of mind for them?
[00:12:06] John Vlastelica: There’s a lot more holistic thinking now. So, people are starting to put much more investment into internal mobility, onboarding, diversity, analytics, compensation, performance. All those areas need to be connected. And, not just for the reason you shared earlier, where you might bring people in, they have a bad experience, and you lose them, but, I’ll give you an example of something I talk a lot about in our TA leader training. If your onboarding is terrible, and you and the hiring manager know this. It’s terrible. And I don’t mean the HR part where you learn about the culture and, you know, how to sign up for benefits, all that. I mean the part where you’re like you’re a new salesperson coming in, and there’s not much going on. You are going to be really restricted to that hit-the-ground-running kind of candidate, right? You’re going to hire someone who you think ticks all 10 out of 10 boxes because they have to hit the ground running, and there’s going to be no one to mentor and coach and help onboard them. If, however, you can make onboarding better, it allows you to widen the aperture a little bit and consider talent that maybe you couldn’t consider. And so I love the way LinkedIn’s CEO coined this term from “hit the ground running” to “hit the ground learning.”
[00:13:06] Roy Notowitz: That’s awesome.
[00:13:07] John Vlastelica: And I really like that. Now, if you’re a tiny little startup and you’re hiring your first whatever, you know, you’re not going to be able to hire hit the ground learning. You might need an expert to come in — a senior person. They will mentor other people. But I think about if you have an existing team of 10 and you’re hiring your 11th person, wouldn’t it be interesting to bring some outside-in perspective, different industries– like Adidas, we did some work with, and they were talking about hiring people that design shoes out of other industries for the first time ever. And I remember thinking to myself how cool that was, but also, how important that person had support when they showed up on day one because they don’t come out of the “shoe design business.” You know what I’m saying?
[00:13:39] Roy Notowitz: Right. Yeah. So where do you think companies are falling short when it comes to talent acquisition and talent strategy?
[00:13:47] John Vlastelica: Yeah. So I have four things for you. The first we talked about, you know, getting your hiring bar defined. There’s so much sourcing, and screening, and interviewing, and selection decisions where you have this highly variable bar based on how the hiring manager thinks about a particular skill or something. And that is just crushing to your ability to scale quality across your organization. The second thing I would say is that, at bigger companies, there’s a lot of talent acquisition teams that, particularly in this kind of economy, are just overloaded. Way too many reqs. I described them as being in the “red zone,” but the business wants green zone recruiters. They want recruiters that can be full talent advisors, and they want the strategy, and the consultation, and the headhunting support. And they want the relocation and immigration support. And they want to think about onboarding and help them pick the right interview team. They want all the things that aren’t just transactional source and close, and yet, we fund recruiting teams that are often in the red zone, not by their choice, but because we just don’t fund them enough. The third thing is workforce planning sucks. I was in focus groups yesterday and this leader said, “You know, I really want TA to be more proactive, like, the first time we’re seeing a candidate is three weeks after we open a new req or something.” And I put a little smile on the Zoom and I’m like, “Hey, question for you. How well do you plan? How well do you know your needs in advance? How do you communicate those to the TA? How do you communicate those to your CFO so that your CFA will support TA actually funding proactive, you know, recruiting work?”
[00:15:09] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. Building pipelines and things like that.
[00:15:11] John Vlastelica: All those things.
[00:15:12] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.
[00:15:13] John Vlastelica: And then the fourth thing is one of the things that kills talent acquisition strategy is we don’t have executives role modeling some of the stuff they need to be role modeling. My mom used to have the saying, “More is caught than taught.” and so I think a lot about how often executives will talk about this big focus on diversity, and widening the aperture, and then they’ll hire another straight white male from the same company, from the same university, over and over again. And they’re not seeing the disconnect between what they say and what they do. And so I think those four things, the bar, the kind of red zone stuff, the terrible workforce planning, and the poor exec role modeling are common root issues we see across organizations of all kinds of sizes.
[00:15:53] Roy Notowitz: That’s great. I’m going to dig into one of the things you said a little bit, and that is how you help companies determine what good looks like. How do you work with them to do that?
[00:16:02] John Vlastelica: So there are three primary deliverables around what we call our hiring bar consulting, and some companies do this stuff on their own or have it, but they don’t have it written down. One of them is converting your values or core competencies into interview guides that explain what we’re listening for. Not just, “Here’s some questions you can ask,” but calibrate on, “What does a good answer sound like? What does good look like for that particular competency?” So you might say, “I want someone really adaptable, who’s customer obsessed, who is very inclusive as a leader.” What do we mean by that? And when I ask people on an interviewing team what we mean by some of those things, they might have wildly different understandings of that. And so ,getting that defined and then aligning people on that. Part two is coming up with something we call hiring principles. And this is kind of the federal level company point of view on things like, “Hey, if we have a trade off to make between speed and quality. Do we hold out for quality? Or do we just push for the button seat? When we’re making a hiring decision, do we need unanimity? Do we need total consensus? And, if not, what are the kinds of things that are okay to take a chance on? And do we give every interviewer veto power? Or can a hiring manager counter her team and say, ‘I want to hire this person?’ despite the fact that four out of five of you think this isn’t a great hire for the company.”
[00:17:12] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.
[00:17:12] John Vlastelica: “When we’re hiring, are we thinking about hiring for the particular job today? The needs now? Or do we have a long-term orientation?” And yeah, at Amazon, when I built the Bar Raiser program, that was one of the fundamental roles of this Bar Raiser person who was not the hiring manager, didn’t report to the hiring manager, not a recruiter, but an outsider who had some veto power, who made sure we were making good, long-term hiring decisions. It’s not optimizing for the short term pain of the hiring manager who needs to get a butt in the seat, but really thinking long term.
[00:17:40] Roy Notowitz: That’s awesome.
[00:17:41] John Vlastelica: And then the third thing is, we talk a lot about who we hire, how we hire as part of the bar, but then looking at your process mechanisms. Do you have a way to make sure that you have a mechanism for getting your interview team aligned and a structured way to make hiring decisions that isn’t just a quick 30 second thumbs up kind of thing and two sentences of feedback. But are you having rigorous hiring conversations based on evidence and facilitated? And, going back to Adidas, that’s one of the things that we were building for them and a bunch of other companies is how do you build the capability so that someone has expertise around facilitating hiring decisions that isn’t just the hiring manager.
[00:18:15] Roy Notowitz: And it’s a conversation, not just a rating tool.
[00:18:17] John Vlastelica: It’s not just a rubric and a form you fill out or feedback you put in a system. It’s a conversation. And so getting clear on that really helps shorten the length of those hiring decision meetings because people are so aligned up front. So, a lot of our hiring bar work is around defining the company point of view on this. Not necessarily a recruiting toolbox, best practice point of view, but what is your company point of view? Which is a combination of current state and aspirational. And then what are the mechanisms we’re going to put in place to make sure that we actually live these principles? That’s the hard part. I could write hiring principles in 42 minutes, right? But, making sure I have the buy-in, and they’ve been socialized, and the executive teams are aligned on this, and then we have mechanisms to actually deploy these and live these. That’s where we need so much leadership. That’s hard work, actually.
[00:19:02] Roy Notowitz: A lot of stuff you’re talking about is creating a common language, a common filter, a common understanding of these things. And, just to talk about process a little bit more deeply, I always think: as many people as needed, but not more than necessary in an interview process. But, you talked about the Bar Raiser Program, and that’s really fascinating and unique, and, at the time, very cutting edge. What are your thoughts about how companies can look at their process and the people in the organization and involve those that can really add value?
[00:19:32] John Vlastelica: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I am not a pro-Bar-Raisers-for-every-company kind of guy. I don’t try and copy paste Amazon stuff into other companies. That’s a different company, different scale, different culture. But, I will say, you know, you probably already have people who are well respected, well trusted. You know, “If Roy says no on this hire, we really need to listen to Roy because he goes deep in his interview. It’s going to be based on evidence, not bias. He’s really thinking long term. He’s not just thinking about the short term.” And so we should formalize that and then figure out how do we create more people like that through training, and mentoring, and coaching. And so, I do think, you know, the Bar Raiser Program is an example of a way to build accountability and quality control mechanisms in a more decentralized way where you have individual people that are sitting in on interview teams that aren’t the hiring managers that have influence over the hiring decision. You need some mechanism, and, in an ideal world, that would be the recruiter who operates as a talent advisor who is facilitating a hiring decision, who does not have a short term incentive to get this req closed, but has an incentive to hire, you know, long-term quality and bring diversity into your organization. So isn’t hyper focused on speed. But, to be really frank here, most recruiters are really great at sourcing and closing, they’re okay at screening, and they’re pretty terrible at interviewing, relative to their other skills. They just don’t flex that muscle very often. The whole interviewing mid-funnel section is typically something not a lot of recruiters play a big role in.
[00:20:49] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, and I would say, not only just their own interviewing, but maybe thinking through the process in terms of: who’s involved, and what questions are they asking, and what are they listening for? And trying to learn more dimensions of a candidate, versus just the same interview questions. How are we learning about candidates? How do we really get to know them and understand their capabilities? And make an informed decision where there’s just so much more clarity because you’re able to compare and contrast how somebody makes decisions, or how they influence, or how they lead in a way that’s meaningful.
[00:21:23] John Vlastelica: I think, historically, hiring managers that do the most hiring in our companies, they have a general risk aversion — the “don’t take a chance, I don’t want to get in trouble for making a bad hire.” If that’s your culture, that creates all kinds of problems, and, typically, your time to fill is very long. But there’s this focus on avoiding false positives, you know, hiring someone that’s bad. What’s been really nice to me over the last five years is I think there’s now, you know, maybe not equal focus, but a bigger focus on avoiding false negatives where we say “no” to someone we should have said “yes” to. And I think our funnels get so fat — the number of candidates we have to talk to, the time to fill gets so fat — because we have a lot of false negatives going on, or we haven’t defined what good looks like to start with. I joke with people, like, if I were to architect the perfect, terrible recruiting process, I would make sure we did not define and align on what good looks like. I would include a much larger interview team than we need. I would not assign focus areas. I would require consensus. And then I would have a culture that is risk averse. That is where you can have the fattest funnel. You’re going to miss out on tons of great talent. Diversity is not going to get hired. You’re not going to hire a challenger mindset. You’re not going to hire anyone that’s outside of a norm. You’re going to try and hire for hit-the-ground-running, and your time to fill is going to be ridiculous. You’re going to take a hundred days instead of 45 days. It’s, it’s just going to be terrible.
[00:22:38] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. So let’s talk about false negatives. How do you help companies avoid false negatives and improve their hiring decision quality?
[00:22:46] John Vlastelica: You know, a lot of false negatives come from being misaligned on what good looks like. There’s been a lot of training since George Floyd’s murder and some other stuff in the United States around biases — unconscious bias and such around diversity. But, it’s talked about still in this way that’s like, “Here’s the definition of affinity bias, or here’s the definition of confirmation bias.” And what we see is some people are aware of biases, but the biases get embedded in language we use. So we still hear things like, “Is Roy an A player or a B player?”
[00:23:14] Roy Notowitz: Mm, yeah. Oh, that makes me cringe.
[00:23:17] John Vlastelica: Or is he a good culture fit? Or is he high potential? Or what’s Roy’s executive presence? These are examples of, of adjectives or labels we use that are not well defined. And, even if they’re well defined in your mind, there’s variation. And this creates a lot of false negatives. This creates a lot of opportunities to say, “I’m not sure he’s the right culture fit.” And someone else nods their head, even though we have no idea where culture fit is in that context. And culture fit, to me, is just another way of saying affinity bias. Are they like us? Or like me, specifically? One of the ways that we help companies with that is defining what good looks like and getting clear on removing some of that language from focus areas and interviews. There’s so many things that create false negatives, but one of the other things I get worried about is just generally having the wrong people on the interview team and not being conscious, which you brought up. You need to have an interviewing team that’s conscious, not just who’s available, or who will work with this person, but really think about who has the expertise to go deep in this area, and then assemble a team that will get you the coverage you need to answer the question: not, “Were they good at their last company,” but, “Will they be good here?” And what’s trainable, what’s not trainable is a classic, one of those kind of hiring principles we talked about earlier, I think getting clear on what’s okay, “Yeah, he doesn’t have X, but so what?” And I’ve seen leaders who literally get that specific about, “Oh, you’re a Mac guy, we’re a Windows shop. I’m not really sure this would work.”
[00:24:38] Roy Notowitz: Right.
[00:24:38] John Vlastelica: And I’m thinking, “What on earth are you talking about?” And so I see some people put all this weight into something that is ridiculously easy to train or onboard on–
[00:24:46] Roy Notowitz: Right. Minuscule.
[00:24:46] John Vlastelica: –which creates all kinds of false negatives, right?
[00:24:48] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. Another example would be, some people are really capable as interviewees.
[00:24:54] John Vlastelica: Yep.
[00:24:55] Roy Notowitz: And some people don’t have as much experience, or haven’t done it lately, or they’re trying to access their memory for different examples to support their strengths, and some are really articulate and able to lay that out easily, and others need a little more, I think, understanding, maybe different questions to help extract their capabilities.
[00:25:15] John Vlastelica: Yeah.
[00:25:15] Roy Notowitz: Just because somebody is not great at interviewing doesn’t mean they’re not a great candidate, potentially.
[00:25:19] John Vlastelica: I think you’re right. Eye contact, handshake, level of respect, interrupting. Some of those are cultural issues on top of that that vary by gender and by culture. And so I think we have to be really careful about declining people for some of those reasons as well.
[00:25:32] Roy Notowitz: Right. How are you envisioning the future of recruiting? Is there anything that you think will be significantly different five years from now?
[00:25:41] John Vlastelica: I get asked to comment and write for some of these future of recruiting reports that come out, and it always makes me laugh because, you know, almost 98 percent of the stuff in there is the same stuff we said last year. It doesn’t feel like it changes that much. I will say though, this year I’ve been at a few conferences, and talked to some clients, and there’s a fundamental shift with AI that’s happening that is going to have a bigger impact than, you know, some of the job boards and applicant tracking systems, and CRMs, and sourcing tools, and assessment tools we’ve seen. It’s so fast. It’s already deployed into so many of our tools. It has the potential to create just mass personalized spam. Like, personalized spam. I think about now with the ability to have AI help you create, you know, tailored messages. And then I think about employers that are going to run their job descriptions to say, “Make this more appealing to Roy. Not just this category of candidate, but specifically look at his background and make this sound appealing to him.” And then, you know, you’ve got the personalized outreach going on where we’re mentioning things to you that make you think this is tailored to you. And then you have the candidate on the flip side running their resume through some personalization thing, and they’re doing messages, quote, cover letter type things to you, kind of explaining why they’re perfect for the job. And, and then you have these tools. I was watching this video. A couple of days ago where this woman, she was being interviewed live on Zoom, and she had her phone open, and there was an AI tool listening to the questions being asked, and it was prompting her on how to respond. And so we might actually see kind of old school stuff where take home tests have to go away because anyone could cheat. We might see white glove, personalized candidate experience. We’re flying people in to interview again to make sure we’re actually seeing the person that we’re going to hire. And we might see more kind of oral exam kind of things versus some of the assessments we do online.
[00:27:26] John Vlastelica: And we might also just see a very slow, inefficient process be used as a differentiator from the AI generated machines that some of the big corporate TA functions have. And so I think one of the things I expect to see in five years is the rise, or the return, of influencing relationship building. Those are going to be the differentiators. And there’s a lot of young recruiters, I’m not making fun, but that have grown up in an era where you can just, like, text and email. And you don’t really have to do some of the stuff that OGs like you, Roy, do. And, of course, executive recruiters have always done that, but a lot of the, you know, younger recruiters know a world where you do everything on, online and through LinkedIn, and what do you, what do you think? What’s your reaction to that?
[00:28:06] Roy Notowitz: I agree. Like, even candidates that reach out, a lot of leaders reach out, say, “Hey, I’m thinking about my next move.” And they’ll send me an email, and they won’t include their phone number. I’m like, “Can you please send me your phone number?”
[00:28:17] John Vlastelica: Like we’re going to do this through email. Exactly.
[00:28:20] Roy Notowitz: I think one of the things for AI on the search side is that it works for some roles we’re working on. It helps us find people we wouldn’t otherwise find. And, in other situations, it’s clunky and doesn’t work so well. But I think it’s going to get better and better as time goes on. I still think there’s a role that a human needs to play, especially at the executive level.
[00:28:37] John Vlastelica: For sure. If you’re a recruiter who is largely a processor, an overpaid admin, a scheduler, you know, “I post things, I receive them, I share them with managers. Who do you like?” I mean, all of that’s getting automated right now. That was even happening before, you know, OpenAI came on the scene and freaked us all out with Chat GPT. I think that’s going to accelerate. And I think the recruiters that are left standing and the ones that are paid good money are going to be the ones that have those relationship, interviewing candidate experience, white glove kind of skill.
[00:29:06] Roy Notowitz: Well just have access and relationships to be able to get to those people who maybe privacy and other reasons would be harder to get to. The other thing I’ve seen, even in the last five years is we’ve been able to double the amount of work that we’re doing with maybe only one or two additional hires, right? So the efficiency, the velocity with the tools is just really accelerated.
[00:29:28] John Vlastelica: Yeah. I like the framing of the co-pilot. There’s someone there to help you be more productive. I like that a lot, but I’ll tell you, Roy, I think most talent acquisition teams report on and are measured on time to fill, and I have the saying that I might need to change, but you know, “Speed is the love language of hiring managers,” right? Speed is their love language usually. And we report on speed, and we talk about speed. I really wonder, you know, some of the tools are going to drastically speed up these AI tools around searching, and screening, and scheduling, and all those, but I do wonder if we’re going to now shift a little more to quality as the way we talk about what success looks like and retention, and development, and promotion paths, and diversity, and other things because everything’s going to go a little faster with some of these tools. And then the question is: what’s left? Like, it’s going to normalize that everyone has Calendly links to schedule or whatever the tool is. And, and I’m here for it. I love technology. I am so psyched about AI. I read and listen to all kinds of things outside of the talent space. And I’m totally a geek at heart. But I also know that one of the reasons I’ve had success in my career is not my ability to do some of the things that are Boolean search strings was never my big strength when I was sourcing. It was always the relationship side of things, and I think that’s harder to teach, and it’s frankly going to be the differentiator.
[00:30:41] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, that’s awesome. So what advice do you have for smaller emerging companies that can’t hire a talent acquisition leader or team? How do you recommend they set up successful hiring frameworks and incorporate technology tools and best practices?
[00:30:56] John Vlastelica: One, I think you really have to get your leadership team together, if you haven’t done this already. Talk about the skills and competencies that you expect any hire to have — kind of federal level thinking. So don’t think at the job description level to be successful at your company. And really articulate those and translate them into something that you can actually interview on. If you’re a smaller, emerging company that doesn’t have a talent acquisition team to help with this, I think you do want to make sure that you have not just trained your interviewers on how to interview your company way and make the kind of trade offs you want, but you have mechanisms for getting the interview team together so that they’re not all literally walking into the conference room or starting the Zoom without having looked at the person’s background, not really understanding exactly what the job is. I get so nervous about how, how expensive hiring mistakes are, how much time we put into that, and then how little time we prep. So that, that prep and alignment work is really huge. And then, you know, making sure that there’s a lot of very passionate, small company, you know, CEOs that just honestly have a wonderful arrogance that if they just hear how amazing we are, everyone’s going to be dying to work here. You know, as a CEO or C-level exec, you might really believe so much in your company, it confuses you that people aren’t lining up, but obviously top talent has so many choices, and just remember top talent is interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them. So you need to make sure you don’t have the one-way interview experience, the one-way recruiting experience where I’m deciding if you’re good enough here. They’re trying to decide if you’re good enough for them. And I have this chart — it’s called the hiring manager maturity model. And it talks about how hiring managers evolve and improve from these, kind of, sometimes passive aggressive, like they’re the victim of everything, to the real talent champion. And one of the things I talk about is how top talent goes to the most engaged, you know, most effective hiring leaders. And those that treat hiring as outside of their day job. Like if you’re a small company, you are the recruiter, like whatever your job is, you are the recruiter. And if you see recruiting as something that you’re doing as a favor for your headhunter to give feedback on a candidate or something you’re going to do in like 15 minutes on Saturday morning, you are absolutely thinking about it the wrong way. You have to see that as part of your day job and create a culture where everyone recognizes we are all recruiters. The culture helps us recruit, and we all have accountability. Even if we hire our first recruiter, our first HR person, we have to have that kind of commitment. And you have to role model that. You can’t just say it. You can’t just say, “Do as I say, not as I do,” kind of thing. You have to actually do it.
[00:33:21] Roy Notowitz: Right. So what new or exciting things are you and your team working on currently?
[00:33:27] John Vlastelica: I’ll give you a few quick examples. So PepsiCo hired us — they just revamped their employer brand — and we have helped them build some new training that is custom built, that is designed to help them deploy their brand so that when a candidate is going through– if you think about a classic kind of customer journey, but now think about a candidate journey. What are all the critical touch points where we can reinforce the opportunity? There’s some federal messaging that’s, “Join PepsiCo,” but then there’s the kind of state and local messaging by region, whether it’s supply chain, or software engineers, or marketing, or truck drivers, or whatever it is. And then the local stuff is for this particular opening.
[00:34:00] John Vlastelica: And so we’ve been working with their VP of talent and just finished up our first round of training on that. It’s been received really well, you know, a lot of money is often spent on making your career site look good, and your job description has a better intro to it. You have some testimonials somewhere, or your Glassdoor ratings look good, but then how do you actually get hiring managers and recruiters to incorporate that messaging into their conversations? And not feel like I have five minutes left in the interview, let me sell you now, and let me read a doc, but actually have it feel like it’s naturally part of the lived experience at your company. And then we built out LinkedIn’s license-to-hire program recently. So, that’s a certification for hiring managers that goes beyond behavioral interviewing, legal do’s and don’ts and bias training. It’s really here’s how to learn how to hire the LinkedIn way based on the hiring principles we did with them. And then we actually have a high-end fashion retailer in New York City. And their CEO reached out to us and said, “We’re a 40 person company. We do very high end stuff. We’re in New York. We have one store, but we really want to invest in hiring well, and I know you’re expensive, and I know we don’t have a big HR team, but would you be willing to have someone on your team work with us?” and I thought this would be a really interesting project to have the CEO of a smaller company, but a high end company, personally work on this without having a traditional HR leader in place. And so, to me, that’s kind of interesting just because most of our clients tend to be big consumer brands, big technology brands.
[00:35:22] Roy Notowitz: That’s cool. I’ll be interested to, to hear how that takes shape. So how can people find or access some of the content and resources you’ve produced? You’re prolific. There’s a lot of stuff out there. What’s the best way for people to access your content?
[00:35:36] John Vlastelica: I write a lot for LinkedIn’s talent blog. So, if you go to LinkedIn and go to their blog, and I copy all those over to our Recruiting Toolbox blog. So blog.recruitingtoolbox.com — all those articles are there. I have four resource sites I’ll share with you. This is where I’m taking podcast interviews like this, presentations, articles I write. So for recruiters, we have talentadvisor.com, which has a talent advisor diagnostic tool and a bunch of things that help you, as a recruiter, think about how you can show up differently to the business. A lot of very practical, how-to stuff. Recruitingleadership.com is the same kind of site, but leveled up for leaders of talent acquisition. So, all kinds of content there. On diversity at widentheaperture.com. These will all take you to recruitingtoolbox.com, but they’re just short little URLs. Widen the Aperture has a bunch of info on diversity, and then barraisers.com, I mentioned, it has a little bit of the history of Bar Raisers and a little bit of what a Bar Raiser is, and some podcasts, and interviews, and such. But mostly, it’s got some pros and cons information. So, if you’re thinking about the current model where you have the hiring manager and three to five interviewers interview someone and make a decision, I really want to have an inspection and accountability mechanism. I want more quality control, more visibility. What’s happening in there? There’s some very frank pros and cons, information that dissects, you know, Bar Raisers, Google hiring committees, and some pipeline interview models that might be interesting for folks.
[00:36:53] Roy Notowitz: What’s the best way for listeners to get in touch, contact, or follow you and the work of your team?
[00:36:58] John Vlastelica: So we have a company page on, you know, LinkedIn and Facebook, of course. I do speak at most large talent conferences, and recruitingtoolbox.com has a Contact Us page and all that, if anyone’s interested. But, you know, if someone’s listening and wants to connect on LinkedIn, I’m pretty open to connecting with people. If you add a little note, and I’m happy to connect.
[00:37:13] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I’ve always appreciated your thought leadership and the friendship, and it’s been great to be able to talk shop with you.
[00:37:21] John Vlastelica: And it’s really fun because we both embarked on our entrepreneurial journeys, you know, within a few years of each other.
[00:37:26] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.
[00:37:26] John Vlastelica: It’s been really fun to follow your success as well, Roy, and I’m super excited. So yeah, thank you for the opportunity to chat.
[00:37:33] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire. Visit howihire.com for more details about the show and what you heard today. And please spread the word about the latest hiring trends and insights by sharing this podcast with your friends and colleagues. How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search. To find out more about Noto Group, visit notogroup.com, and you can also sign up for our monthly jobs newsletter there. This podcast was produced by AO McClain LLC. To learn more about their great work, visit aomcclain.com.