Candidate experience is a hot topic nowadays.

It’s a nebulous definition with many meanings. The human element and authenticity is a factor you shouldn’t ignore. Many applicants really thirst for genuine interactions and it can make all the difference in your hiring.

Guest JD Conway, Talent Advisor of BambooHR, talks with us about the unique backgrounds of the TA industry, and how colorful and varied this community is.  JD notes that above all else, treat everyone with respect regardless of your hiring decision. Not just to prevent burning bridges, but because we need to change the landscape of the industry to foster stronger talent communities and provide authentic candidate experiences.

JD Conway:
We’re always making sure that everyone gets a phone call, especially if they don’t get hired. We talk to them about some of the reasons why they weren’t chosen, competitive pool, whatever it was. And we are talking to them saying: Hey, can we reach out to you in the future? Would you be open to it if we had this role open again down the road?

We have a much lighter rec load at BambooHR in order to build rapport, and we have really good hiring manager retention for that. If we have a lighter rec load, we can provide a better candidate experience or a better architecture for the hiring manager and the candidate and the talent acquisition partner. Everybody has a better experience.”


This HR Tech 2022 series is sponsored and made possible by our friends at Gem

JD Conway
Talent Advisor BambooHR

The job market can be pretty rough and tumble. So there's something you should know about my work: I'm invested in changing the very way companies and candidates communicate. And I love what I do.

Talent Acquisition is more than a job, or even a career. It's a craft. HR and Talent Acquisition have stood in the shadows for too long while other industries innovated and evolved around them.

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Introduction (00:01):

School is in session. This is RecruitingDaily Sourcing School podcast. We’re recording from HR Tech in Vegas. Thanks to our friends and partners at Gem. Sharpen your pencils and get your sourcing pants on because we have the scoop on sourcing news, recruiting tech, and all the hot topics that you need to learn about.


Here’s your professor, Mike “Batman” Cohen, with special guests Shally Steckerl and Mike “Batman” Cohen.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (00:28):

Yes. Here we are. This is the final podcast episode of Sourcing School from HR Tech, day two. And I’m pretty hyped normally, I think, if you know me, I know super surprised for those listening. I am super hyped for our next guest, it was JD Conway. JD, I’m going to let you in one sec. So I just met you an hour ago. And we have already gone through just about every topic of conversation you would never talk about to someone you just met and realize like, “Oh wait, are we good friends now?” And so if everything from our outlook on how to run things like inclusion, diversity, candidate experience, things from just general outlook on faith, things like family and work life balance, all the way through nerdy tech stuff. So this is going to be awesome. JD, why don’t tell people who you are, where you are, and something cool about you?

JD Conway (01:28):

Oh my gosh. All right. I am JD Conway. I’m over at BambooHR. I’ve been actually at BambooHR since 2015. Seen about 10x growth now. So we’ve had 1300 hires. I’ve been on the talent acquisition team and been the head of talent the last five years until really recently, and moving around to talent advisory roles and so forth. So yeah, I’ve been in the industry probably about 15 years, and in adjacent industry over 19 years. Gosh, it’s been a really long time.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:00):


JD Conway (02:01):

I say adjacent industries, executive outplacement, all kinds of things like that, back in the day.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:05):


JD Conway (02:05):

Something really interesting about me, I don’t know. I really live and breathe this stuff. I don’t know if it’s that interesting. I go crazy. Well, actually, we talked about this earlier, in college. In college, I studied ancient history and biblical Hebrew and things like that.


And so when you talk about the backgrounds of people that have gone into talent acquisition later on, I always love chatting about that and how weird everyone’s backgrounds might be or different or whatnot. And then how we ended up in talent acquisition. So, that’s something different.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:33):


JD Conway (02:34):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:34):

I’ve met one person in my life who went to school knowing they wanted to be a recruiter, and they said that, and I was like, “Excuse me.” She’s like, “My dad owns a recruiting agency.” And I was like “Not fair. That’s cheating.”

JD Conway (02:45):

There you go.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (02:45):

Yeah, that doesn’t count. Right. Okay. I love that. So podcast, we had to pick one of the topics we were talking about, right? And so I think the one we landed on was talking about candidate experience, which is broad enough that we could basically talk about all the other things within that, which I thought was a wise decision for us to make. So yeah, that’s a good choice.


I want to start with two questions for you. The first one is one I don’t know that it gets asked often enough so you can answer them together. One is, what is actually your definition of candidate experience? And two, what is wrong with candidate experience generally in the industry today? Hit me.

JD Conway (03:34):

Okay. I think the problem with definitions of candidate experience is that the definition is so nebulous with everyone, and it means something different to everyone.

Shally Steckerl (03:45):

Isn’t that the definition of experience?

JD Conway (03:47):

Right? And so the fact that it’s so broad, so what does that even mean?

Shally Steckerl (03:53):

It’s into it. Everyone has a different experience.

JD Conway (03:56):

Yeah. And so that’s one of the things that when I see people talking about candidate experience all the time, I look for much more than the basic. Okay, okay, yes, but how are you doing that? What are you actually architecting?


Right? We all see it as very important. It’s been talked about for the last decade as vital, or I think it was mostly prominent in 2016. Is there, I kept hearing it a lot more around that time. But gosh, I think that is the main problem. So for us on our team, we built something that is a lot more focused on quality of contact and the humanization of the contact itself. There’s a lot of systems and tools that we can use to outreach, keep things organized, to move things along, write CRMs and so on, so forth.


But there’s still a human element that a lot of people, I think are really, really hungry for, and an authenticity and an ability to be able to help people in their job search, even if they’re not chosen at the company. The amount of talent pool, or I guess boomerang applicants that have ended up as BambooHR employees is, I don’t know, probably at least 3% a year, maybe 10% a year. So…

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:11):

Let me rewind that. You were saying helping people who weren’t even becoming BmbooHR employees, Right? Tell me.

JD Conway (05:24):

So we’ve even had, back in the day, we’ve had a Glassdoor reviews where people have said, if this is how they treat people that they don’t hire, how do they treat people? How do they treat their employees, essentially? So what we’re trying to do is, at the back end of the experience, really at… Say you’re in a final interview, we’re always making sure that everyone gets a phone call. We talk to them about some of the reasons why they weren’t chosen, competitive pool, whatever it was. And we are talking to them about, Hey, can we reach out to you in the future? Would be open to it if we had this open again down the road. And we do actually contact them back. I mean, I think that’s the problem is the execution.


I don’t hear a lot of talk, I don’t often hear a lot of companies doing it. And I think the reasons are legitimate that it’s really time consumptive. You got to be really deliberate about it. Everybody has good intentions, but did you set up your organization to do it and to incentivize that? So it’s a requirement on our team to do that.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:24):

So I think you made a comment that was very poignant, but understated, which is, you said you have to set up your company to do that. So everybody says, “Oh, this is top down. Oh, this is top down.”

JD Conway (06:36):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:38):

What does that actually look like? And so some of it is to, So first off, super intentional, right? Right. Does cost a little money and it does take a little time.

JD Conway (06:47):

It’s time conceptive. Yeah.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:48):

Right. Absolutely. But beyond that, the company also has to be in alignment with that.


And so on of the things I talk about all the time is a company has to have their metrics tied to what they want their employees to achieve.

JD Conway (07:07):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:08):

Meaning if you want people to do X, Y and Z, you need to grade their performance on X, Y and Z. So we want really good camp experience, but we are judging you on the number of messages you send each week. Bingo. Bingo. That’s one of the things that I think has been missing is I don’t see enough organization. I think you have to do it when your organization’s really small. I don’t see enough organizations really stopping and saying, All right, how do we incentivize a talent acquisition team and function to actually do this? And so many of the bonuses and so on, so forth, all of the incentives are wrapped around sheer volume numbers for the most part.


And there’s got to be a lot more qualitative checks outcomes on it.

JD Conway (07:57):

Outcome. Yeah.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:57):

Yeah. Or outcome. Which, and this is going to sound, I know that I get strong pushback on this. I don’t think recruiters should be bound by the number of hires they make. Right?

JD Conway (08:08):

Oh, we’re not abandon this right now.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:11):

Slow clap. Slow clap. Right?

JD Conway (08:13):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:14):

And why? Because it’s not a controllable function.

JD Conway (08:16):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:17):

Right, it’s an inevitability. If everything leading up to it is being done consistently and effectively.

JD Conway (08:22):

This is why we do something also kind of crazy and her in that we’re measuring a lot of inputs as well. You have to measure the outputs and the outcomes. But what are some of the inputs that you’re doing? And we’re not talking volumes. We’re talking about quality methodology.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:36):

We just had a conversation similar to this that when talking about what do you hold your sourcers specifically for me?


What do you hold sourcers to? And for me, I track all of the, how many messages, how many pro I track that, what do I hold them to? Percentages.

JD Conway (08:53):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:54):

And not the same for everybody.

JD Conway (08:56):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:56):

So, hey, what’s your turn rate? Oh, well I have to look at 950 profiles to get 200 into messaging. Oh, okay.

JD Conway (09:04):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:04):

Fine. Somebody else may have to look at 500 to get 200 into messaging. You don’t compare those two. What I do compare, and Shelly literally spoke to this earlier, is a metric has to be a comparison of two numbers. I want to compare for them the number they’re at today and the number they’re at a month from now.

JD Conway (09:23):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:24):

Is that getting better? If so, that’s my SLA for that person.

JD Conway (09:27):

Yes. And according to the can…

Shally Steckerl (09:29):

Much better and better according to whom? And does better mean what? Because, those are all also part of that.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:34):


JD Conway (09:35):

I think that’s the problem is that I don’t see enough people solving for the complexity of this. But it is worthwhile. It is so worthwhile to solve it. And the outputs of taking time to solve it has such good yield for candidate experience. They return back. Your brand is continually an authentic, a very real one. You’re memorable, you’re very human. All these other things. If you’re able to improve, well, all the steps in the candid experience, we talked about the nebulousness of that term itself. But if you’re able to stop and really help people change the methodology, I just don’t know enough organizations to have the stomach and drive to do it very often. I think you got to start small and I hope that larger companies catch on.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (10:19):

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. There definitely tougher.

JD Conway (10:23):

Is that too grandiose?

Shally Steckerl (10:25):

No, It’s not. But so there’s an incongruity that I run into all the time, which is hiring managers say they want more candidates. They use those words, of course, more candidates.

JD Conway (10:40):

This person’s great. Who else do you have?

Shally Steckerl (10:41):

More, Is the operator board here? I want more candidates. But they don’t say how many more or what more means or more of what type. They just say more candidates.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (10:55):

Yes. Can you delve into the more of what type thing? That actually gave me a confused look when you said, What do you mean?

Shally Steckerl (11:02):

So I could just send them more candidates.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:06):

Oh, what’s the differentiation between this one and the more that I’m supposed to send you?

Shally Steckerl (11:10):

Yeah. I could send them some more. Candidates that use another a hundred resumes for you to look at. Are they the right ones? I don’t know. Cause you didn’t say more of what you want.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:18):

You got it.

Shally Steckerl (11:19):

Imagine if you’re hungry and you go to a restaurant and they bring your dinner and you eat your dinner. And then they’re like, So are you satisfied? And you’re like, “No, I’m still hungry. I want more food.”

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:32):

But what…

Shally Steckerl (11:35):

Would you like just more.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:38):

I’m not going to lie, that’s a rough example for me. Because usually whatever they would bring me would be totally fine for me. Seriously.

Shally Steckerl (11:42):

Yeah, sure.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:44):

But for most people.

Shally Steckerl (11:45):

Yeah. But yeah, I mean it’s just like you want, a buffet. Okay, maybe that’s why buffets are popular. But I mean it’s the same. So if that’s what they’re asking for and recruiters are responding to that, then don’t be surprised when recruiters start increasing the volume at the expense of the candidate experience because they want their hiring manager is to have more candidates. How many more and of what type… What are the qualities? What are the qualifications?

JD Conway (12:13):

And I think thus the problem if we can show hiring managers a different way, they have to experience their own experience. I’ve had to go to hiring managers the very beginning. They’re like, “What’s this crazy guy doing? What’s this whackadoodle JD doing?” Early days when I was doing technical, started as a technical recruiter at BambooHR and people didn’t know what I was doing. I was like, “Hold on, hold on. Trust me, try this out. I will save you aggregate time.” I’m not like, okay, great. Time to hire is a factor we should always be looking at.


But like I will save you aggregate time. Let me walk you through it and it takes time and TLC so one her radical thing is that we have a much lighter rec load at BambooHR in order to build that rapport. And we have really good hiring manager retention for that.


So they get really bought in. But then long term, if we have a lighter rec load, we can provide a better candidate experience or a better architecture for the hiring manager and the candidate and the talent acquisition partner. Everybody has a better experience.

Shally Steckerl (13:14):


JD Conway (13:15):

It’s stuff that people wanted to do.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:17):

So yeah, I’m intrigued to hear your thoughts as to how larger companies handle this. Cause I don’t think it’s possible. Personally. I don’t think there’s a way to do this. So what we do as a company, so if anybody who doesn’t know, I own Wayne Tech, we are sourcing on demand. So companies come to us and we’ll look for folks, we build a list, we clean all the data, we deliver it, we do all the outreach. But one of the interesting things, and I think the place where companies miss, and the reason is there’s no tool to do it. We have to do it with spreadsheets and web scraping.

JD Conway (13:46):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:47):

Is the data to have the conversation. Because a lot of times hiring managers say, I want more. I want more what Shelly said. And recruiters go, There are no more. There are no more. So what we actually do, and I reached her out which I think is funny. We provide every single contextual physical piece of data. So we make our hiring managers fill out physical intake forms so it changes it. So you have to commit to a thing in writing now. And then it makes also our intake calls like 10 minutes long. So it’s super easy to do that.


And then we save every bullion string. We write on every platform and we pull every candidate from every search into a spreadsheet. And that’s where we eliminate. Yes. So we can have a conversation with a hiring manager saying, Hey, this is the intake form you filled out as everything’s still accurate here.


Because if they say no to that, your SLA is a recruiter-

JD Conway (14:43):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:44):

-should have to start over for time to fill.

JD Conway (14:47):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:48):

Because they change what they’re looking for. It’s documented.

JD Conway (14:50):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:51):

Then hey, here’s all the platforms we looked on and here’s all of the actual strings we used. Are there any other platforms we should be sourcing on? Are there any other things we should be searching for that were not? Or vice versa?

JD Conway (15:04):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (15:04):

Yes or no. Okay, great. Here’s every candidate who came back in every one of those searches, and here’s the tagout reason of why we didn’t message these candidates. Are we off base with any of those?

JD Conway (15:15):

There you go.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (15:16):

And so now the conversation evolves into a, Nope, that’s what I’m looking for. Yeah, no, those are great searches on great platforms. No, you’re tagging out the right candidates for the right reason.


And then it’s easier to say, Hey, I don’t know where else to go. I can’t manufacture this.

JD Conway (15:32):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (15:33):

What other advice could you give me to find other folks?

JD Conway (15:36):

And once they’ve seen it and experienced it, that’s a repetitive motion for them, right?

Mike “Batman” Cohen (15:40):


JD Conway (15:40):

Like hiring managers go, Oh, I know how comprehensive these people are. I understand that they know what they’re doing and they’re asking the right questions. And I will tell hiring managers up front or historically have, I’m very far away from the day to day nowadays, but I have historically told hiring managers up front, “Hey, if you give me five hours over the next week in a couple of these dialing in motions, a very comprehensive intake and so forth, I will save you an aggregate of 50 hours in this hiring cycle.” It’s like, and then they go, Wait, wait, wait, wait, hold on.


And so then they experience it and it’s different and they go, All right, we’ll it you way.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:17):

I got it, I got it.

JD Conway (16:17):

We’ll do it your way.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:19):

Right. But JD, I was literally going to say this right before they, So where you’re all up in my head, which is how weird is it that people are willing to commit exponentially more time reactively to deal with stuff then fractionally proactively.

JD Conway (16:35):

It’s it just human nature, right?

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:37):


JD Conway (16:38):

It’s what we’re stuck with right now. And so that’s why I say if we let them experience it’s going to feel different. It’s going to, we’re have a lot more buy-in. And then you’re talking about larger companies. I think that might be the only way to do it is I’m a fan of Marty Kagan as a product leader, and everyone talks about minimum viable product, but minimum viable prototype.


If you can prototype in larger companies, in smaller departments, there starts to be this raving fandom that builds in hiring managers. Some people go, Well, what are they doing over there to create radio?

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:16):

Wait, how did they get those three hires last week?

JD Conway (17:19):

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:21):


JD Conway (17:22):

That’s one of the things that you see, it starts catching on, but it has to be, the pilot has to be truly reinforced. It has to be on the right. In a larger company, you have to have the right, How do I say it? You.


Have to have the right spotlight on it, otherwise it’s not going to get street cred down the road.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:38):

Yeah, I was thinking of the transparency right. Word for it. And it’s not, My dad’s in business, he always uses the word his rabbi, which is his person internally, and goes to bat for him, for people who may not necessarily believe in what he’s doing or know what he’s doing.

JD Conway (17:53):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:53):

Because you can talk about what you’re doing all day, but when somebody else is talking about what you’re doing, totally different.

JD Conway (18:00):

Who’s advocating? All the crazy stuff you doing. Right. Advocating.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (18:02):

Yeah. That was the word. My brain couldn’t come up. I came up with the rabbi, by the way, before advocating.

JD Conway (18:06):

Yeah. Well, and the only reason why I think I was able to pull it off in changing, it was like seven years ago, I started at BambooHR. It was only 130 person company. I had only X amount of hires I had to make in a year and stuff. So I could pilot a lot and I had close access to people that were experiencing something different and then we were able to build something systemic from there.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (18:28):

So Beautiful. Okay. Jd, we are at time, but we close the podcast same way every time.

JD Conway (18:35):

All right.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (18:35):

Which is just to say, and you’re the final one at HR Tech. This is the last one we’re left with. So like oh, oh, literally, no pressure. But this is the last phrase our listeners are ever going to hear from HR Tech 2022. Okay, good. Now that we’ve laid that out.

JD Conway (18:49):

I am sweating.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (18:50):

Yeah, no, I love this. What is one thing you want to leave our listeners with that can have nothing to do with what we’ve talked about? It can be what we talked about today that’s going to hit them in the heart, the soul, the head, something that you want them to really walk away feeling or thinking about after hearing us speak.

JD Conway (19:09):

No matter how long you’ve been doing this, please don’t get burned out. And please don’t get jaded in the HR industry. I see it happen too often, and what you can do for organizations, if you stick with it and remember the reasons why you got into this field, you can have a massive organizational impact.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (19:30):


Shally Steckerl (19:30):


Mike “Batman” Cohen (19:31):

That was beautiful. What a way to end this. Thank you so much, JD, really appreciate you. Appreciate your time. All the listeners. Thanks. This has been a blast, HR Tech, and we’ll see you next time on Sourcing School.

Shally Steckerl (19:42):

Thanks for having me.

Speaker 4 (19:45):

Oh Man, that means it’s over.

Speaker 5 (19:48):

You’ve been listening to the Sourcing School podcast. Live at HR Tech in Vegas, sponsored by our friends at Gem. We’re all HR, recruiting and sourcing news. Check out.


Sourcing School Podcast

Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.

Shally Steckerl

One of the pioneers of the sourcing discipline, Shally is the Founder and former President of The Sourcing Institute, where he has helped numerous F500 and mid-market organizations train and develop their talent sourcing capabilities for nearly 20 years. When it comes to innovative approaches to candidate search, Shally literally wrote the book. He is the author of the industry-standard textbook “The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook” as well as “The Sourcing Method: Tactics to Find Unfindable Talent.”

Michael Cohen

Mike “Batman” Cohen is the Founder of Wayne Technologies, a Sourcing-on-Demand and Recruitment Training Organization. Wayne Technologies On-Demand Sourcing is a revolutionary approach that provides the most actionable data available, is based on deliverables – not time, and is based on access to more recruitment tooling than any organization worldwide.


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