Candace Bajgoric
Head of People & Culture Dooly

As a People & Culture leader specializing in emerging and growing companies, Candace is skilled at establishing solid HR foundations while creating a positive, engaged, fun atmosphere throughout. She brings a down-to-earth, optimistic, people-focused approach and is passionate about building an exceptional company culture where employees can perform at their top ability while being excited to show up to work every day.

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On this episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, William speaks with Candace Bajgoric about recruiting, engaging and retaining engineering talent.

Candace is head of people and culture at Dooly and an expert in helping emerging and growing companies establish solid HR foundations and creating a positive, engaging and fun atmosphere.

Listening Time: 30 minutes

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This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one over-complicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Candace on from Dooly, where we’re talking about recruiting, engaging and retaining engineering talent. So much to unpack. Can’t wait to do it, especially with this audience. It’s not a very easy audience with engineers, so it’s going to be really, really great to learn from Candace.

William:

Why don’t we jump right into it? Candace, would you introduce yourself and Dooly?

Candace:

Great, hi. Thanks for having me. I am excited to be here. I am Candace Bajgoric. I am the Head of People and Culture here at Dooly. I’ve been here for about a year. Previous to this, I worked at two other smaller tech startups doing similar things, growing the team, working with the engineering teams, et cetera. Dooly is a connected workspace for revenue teams, so the tool itself is used by revenue teams to connect with Salesforce, to connect with our teammates and make sure all their information is in one place and updated in a nice, clean workspace.

William:

I love that. I love that. That’s a cool… I haven’t looked at the application, but that sounds like a really cool application to get sales team, and really everybody in that sales ecosystem, because there’s obviously not just sales people, there’re all kinds of folks. That’s cool. Very cool.

Candace:

Yeah, absolutely. I can’t wait until we get the recruiter version.

William:

I can’t wait for you to get that either.

Candace:

Yeah, I always say just when are we going to take this and bring it to my people? I think it’s going to be such a useful and interesting tool that we just don’t have in our ecosystem today.

William:

100%. Just connecting sourcers, recruiters and hiring managers, if we could just get those folks on the same page that would be fantastic. Whenever you need to make that, or if they aren’t quite hearing you, please get me on the phone because I will reiterate what you’ve said. There’s nothing that gets folks like that on the same page. I can’t wait for you to make that product.

Candace:

We’ll let you know.

William:

Why don’t we start with the recruiting and engaging, and retaining engineers. We’ll start with the first side of it, so the recruiting part, finding engineering talent. So, that’s sourcing. Then taking them through some type of process, and then ultimately hiring them. Tell us what you’re seeing in the marketplace today.

Candace:

I’m sure that everybody listening to this today knows that this is an outrageously competitive market. It’s been such a change. I think it’s always been competitive, but over the past six to 12 months, I noticed a huge change in just the availability of people. We’ve seen this Great Resignation that’s happening across jobs in general, but it seems to me that when we speak to engineers, we’re seeing every one of them having 10 to 50,000 job opportunities per engineer. So, it’s definitely a super competitive market here.

Candace:

I’m based in Canada, so I’m sure that the listeners are coming from all sorts of different places, but we are hiring a remote team, as I’m sure many people are. Hiring a remote team for us means we’re competing in areas where we might not have hyper localized teams where they’re connecting with that broader engineering local community. So, it’s just looked a little different with the remote world and with people moving jobs. It’s definitely been much more highly competitive than I’ve seen in the past, for sure.

William:

[inaudible 00:04:11] I was going to ask you about the impact of remote or work from home. Again, now the world is your talent pool, which is good news, but now a lot of those folks also look at the world as potential employers. You mentioned that engineers, obviously like data scientists, there was a couple of job classifications that are like this. You mentioned that they were saving a bunch of offers. That kind of gets me to speed. How has it impacted your own team’s ability to then either make a decision, make a decision quickly, communicate quickly? What has it done to change behaviors on your recruiting side?

Candace:

Yeah, it’s a great question. Definitely, it’s put a lot of pressure on the interview process to make it happen as quickly as possible. There’s such a fine balance between us moving as fast as we possibly can, and really respecting the candidate’s time and capacity to really interview. Say you’re looking for a new role, and you’re interviewing at five to seven different companies, your schedule is really jam packed, especially if you’re still working, as most people are.

Candace:

So, you try to be as respectful of that time as possible, while really making sure you’re trying to maintain that strong vetting process. We’ve had so many conversations internally about where can we skim off pieces of the interview process that don’t serve a purpose both for us and the candidate. We think that the most important piece, it’s really this matchmaking, recruiting. So, which pieces are important for us to vet this person, and which pieces are important for the person to really understand the company, what value we bring to them, how we are competing in kind of the employer market.

Candace:

And also, just answer their questions and make them feel at home. That’s really been a tough balance, and we’ve had to be so careful with how we shape each element of the interview process, and what that experience looks like for the person. But emailing back and forth, keeping your… It’s just a burden on recruiters in general to really be so fast and keep their inbox clean, keep their ATS clean, keep all of these things moving really quickly. Yeah, it is so much a balance between your needs and the candidate’s needs.

William:

It’s interesting, because you mentioned a really, really good point about, listen, we can be as aggressive or want to do the interview tomorrow, et cetera, but if that doesn’t fit them we might actually put them off by being aggressive, or being in our perception, just being responsive. It’s almost like they need to drive like, “Okay, when would you like…” it’s like you want to show interest, and in this case you want to show tremendous interest, but you also don’t want to drive them away with your interest.

Candace:

Yeah, and I think the other thing is its important that that process reflects how you want them to operate internally, and what it means to work at your company. If you’re pushing them, pushing them, pushing them, responding to their emails within a minute, pushing them to interview tomorrow, and that’s not how they want to work, and that’s not how you normally operate with your company… Maybe it is, and that’s a great reflection, but really it’s needs to reflect what your day to day looks like so they know what they’re getting into.

Candace:

Yeah, you might scare them away, or maybe if you move too slow they might not have the expectation that that’s [crosstalk 00:07:39].

William:

They’re chill. They’re super chill. Yeah, it’s going to be a great organization. They’re super chill, so I can just respond in a week or so. It’s like, no we’re just trying to be respectful.

Candace:

I agree.

William:

Have y’all figured out, or have you got a way to know… Because not everyone thrives in a remote environment, or a work from home environment. If y’all got, no secret sauce of course, but just if y’all got a way to kind of identify engineering talent or some engineering talent that you know will thrive in a remote environment, or in an again, work from home environment?

Candace:

That’s a good question too. I know some companies who’ve been hiring remotely for so long they’ve had different ways of doing that, doing trials over longer periods of time, or giving people projects that take periods of time, seeing how they work independently, that kind of thing. I would say that today, we really focus a little bit less on that because people have all been working remotely over the last year/year and a half. So, they have a sense of how well that’s worked for them, and asking questions just around that experience, what the positives are, what the negatives are, and kind of listening really carefully to those answers to hear if it’s…

Candace:

I had a really tough time connecting with my coworkers, and say they worked in office with those coworkers and ended up having challenges with that. That’s going to be person who is going to have an even harder time stepping into a remote space. I think we’re kind of coming out of a time when everybody has had this experience, and really can do some self reflection and think through what that’s meant for them. We’ve put less emphasis on making sure that we’re putting experience with the interview process that vets that.

Candace:

The one thing I would say that we’ve experienced is just, for us, we have a team that’s primarily in the North America time zone, and we’ve had a few people work outside of that time zone and just really struggled because the core is in one location to really engage those people. So, we’ve learned some lessons around what works with our culture and what doesn’t, and I think paying attention to those as well, what are people’s experiences like, and how can you make those better is really key.

Candace:

We haven’t put anything formal in. No secret sauce coming through me on this one.

William:

Here’s the secret recipe to all the things that we do well. No, no, no. I don’t want that. Last question on the recruiting part of this is, how do you look at either gaps in employment over the last two or three years? Or how do you look at those that move from job to job more frequently? Again, no judgment on either of those, by the way. It’s just how does your team typically look at those things?

Candace:

I would say anybody who took a look at my LinkedIn profile before listening to this would see that I have had many gaps in my employment. I have had two kids, and I spent the last year living abroad before I joined Dooly with my kids in Europe, and taking career breaks for those. I think that for myself, I’ve really seen them provide a lot of experience, context, and I would say just life experience that I bring to my job day to day.

Candace:

I tend to see explained, and the rest of my team as well, tend to see well explained career breaks as being a positive rather than a negative. That’s anything that has an explanation or where somebody can kind of bring some learnings or draw something from that, that makes them a well rounded person. One of our values here, we really focus a lot on empathy. I think that those kinds of things build that in people. So, we see those as positive.

Candace:

I’d say hopping around from job to job can be a challenge. It can always be an indicator of something that’s going on in someone’s life, but as people have seen I think in the engineering world, because it’s so tight, this market, that the average amount of time that people are spending in roles is quite short. So, it’s normal. Before, we might have seen one to two years on a resume as being a really short amount of time and thinking this person doesn’t really commit to a role.

Candace:

Now that’s almost the average. I don’t have the data in front of me, but I remember seeing something around one and a half to two years as the average amount of time that engineers or technical roles… People are spending in technical roles in a company, and that is almost expected. So, that kind of time period seems almost normalized, whereas before I think that would have been an aberration. So, depending on the role, depending on the team and what the explanations are is what’s key for us. That’s really what we focus on.

Candace:

I don’t throw a resume out the window just because somebody took a year off to go traveling, or to have a kid, or whatever that looks like.

William:

That makes sense. Even transitioning from one role to another, some of that I think is historical bias. Some of it’s just not recognizing the market for what it is. It’s a tight market. It’s going to be a tight market. We don’t produce enough engineering talent to fulfill the needs we have today, much less the needs we have tomorrow. So, if someone wants to move on, you almost want to get the best version of them while they’re there. If it’s 18 months, fantastic. I think moving mentally, for all of us, over the model of “That’s okay. That’s fine.”

William:

Which gets me over to engagement, the second part of our topic. What are your rules of engagement as it relates to the dos and don’ts with engineering talent?

Candace:

I would say that the biggest things I’ve seen are giving people engagement in the planning process, and be able to bring their own expertise to the table just in terms of the actual work they’re doing. So, seeing engineers step into a team and then never have a say over what’s important, never being able to actually provide some expertise into the planning process or into the product. I think that’s really important to make sure that those feedback structures and that planning is really built in so that you’re giving people the opportunity to contribute beyond just, hey you wrote these lines of code. Good for you.

Candace:

They can bring that to the table, and it’s important to listen to those things too because obviously that helps your work [inaudible 00:14:09] be better as well. I think that’s a really big one. I think for us, having engagement be kind of at the forefront of our conversations with our managers and with our directors, and making decisions that are based around that as being a priority. As an example, giving space for people to attend conferences, making sure growth plans are in place, making sure that they see a path forward and that they have the information, and those conversations where they’re actually that progression happen inside the company, I think that’s really key.

Candace:

Then of course, there’s the culture piece. I think that that engagement really starts from the recruitment process, kind of as I was talking about, is making sure your recruitment process reflects how you operate internally. I think making sure that you are matchmaking in the recruitment process, that you’re representing yourself properly, that when someone steps inside the company that that matches their expectations before they joined. That’s super important, especially with these shorter tenures, that they know what to expect, that you’re not dressing things up before they join, or making them think that it’s going to be one way, and then having them step into something that’s not.

Candace:

There’s nothing harder than getting somebody back from disengagement. So, if you can keep that right from the beginning, that’s really important. We really try to be consistent through that whole process to make sure people’s expectations are met.

William:

I love that you mentioned culture. I want to unpack that a little bit. With culture the way that [inaudible 00:15:40], if you will, a lot of culture back then was kind of location-based. It was catered lunches, and all the stuff. With work from home or remote, and if your teams are even more remote going forward, how do you convey culture?

Candace:

I think it’s hard. I think for companies that built all of their programs and their community around in-person processes, the transition is really challenging. I think if you’re thinking remote first and you’re thinking, “This is how we’re going to be forever,” you end up building this kind of into the way that you operate day to day in your work. We’ve really been… I’d say we’re still trying to get better at the social aspect. There’s two parts of the culture piece, is how do we work day to day, and then how do we socially engage people?

Candace:

Companies balance those in different ways. I think we’ve really put a lot of emphasis on making sure that our values and the way that we work is shaping our decision making day to day, so making sure that we’re focusing on basic communication, and making conscious decisions about how we are going to use our various communication tools, what do we expect out of people and their type of communication? How do we want people to interact, and keeping those values at the core of that, and giving people permission to act in certain ways, or helping shape those things.

Candace:

I think keeping that is really important. In terms of the social aspect, which I think comes back to your point about so much of that was location-based, I don’t think that we have really solved this yet. I think Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and people don’t want to play games on Zoom with their teams anymore. They just don’t. I don’t even want to do that, and I love doing that.

William:

Yeah, I know. I’m right there with you.

Candace:

I think that the companies that I’ve seen in the past that were remote first forever, they did usually rely on in person meetups and kind of building that social capital in these in person interactions, and then using that over time until the next meetup. You build up this relationship and then you’re able to rely on that trust and social capital you built over time. That’s where we want to get to. In the meantime, we try to build in as many of these casual interactions as we can.

Candace:

Slack is a great place for that, and we’ve really seen that… We have these communities of people who have like-minded interests. So, rather than making it this forced, “You have to show up to this place,” here’s this thing that you’re going to do now. Everybody has to come and have fun, or else. These more casual interactions where people can really create their own communities internally, that’s been our approach so far. One thing that we’re aiming to do this quarter is to hold a virtual Hack-a-Thon. We’ve always done those in person before. This will be the first one we’ve held completely virtually. So, that’s going to be I think a great way to get people working on something fun that’s kind of outside of their day to day.

William:

I love that. This will be kind of retention and engagement related, but I wanted to ask what are important benefits to this talent? We’re talking a lot about wellness and financial wellness, mental health, all kinds of stuff like that. Some of it, total compensation kind of is a lot of different things, so some of it’s just money and that’s fine. No judgment. What have you found is important to this group of folks?

Candace:

I think this comes back to who your company is. For us, we have to really rely on the things that we do well, or the way that we’re different from other companies. I think if you’re a Google of the world, or some other very large tech company, you can just offer people essentially unlimited amounts of money and benefits, and whatever that looks like. We need to meet people’s needs. We need to make sure that we’re competitive and realistic about what people need to live in the world.

Candace:

So of course, we want to pay people well. We want to have total comp packages that make sense. Benefits are important. I definitely see, for us, the things that make us stand out are really about flexibility, the remote work environment. The fact that we can say we’re going to be remote forever [crosstalk 00:20:16] is really big for us. I think when you’re a small company, the opportunity for impact, the opportunity to work in a place where you’re going to be able to know all of your coworkers and really be able to get your ideas heard, and get them across and participate, those are really important things.

Candace:

I think the total comp packages have to be there. Of course, I think the best total comp packages are the ones where people can just say, “This is enough for me to not have to think about it. I make enough that I’m not worried about it day to day. My benefits are enough that I don’t worry about my health or whether my family can get taken care of.” Then make the work and the day to day something that really engages people. That’s been our approach. As a small company, I think that that’s the area that we have the most leverage.

William:

I think remote forever is a really powerful tool for a lot of folks.

Candace:

Yeah.

William:

There’s not that many that are making that statement, so I think that’s definitely a competitive advantage. You mentioned continuous improvement or continuous learning and education. That is one thing I know about engineers myself, is they’re always tinkering. They’re always kind of wanting to get better. What does that look like from an engagement and retention strategy? How do you make sure that you give them the stuff that they want, that might not be the stuff a company needs, but maybe things that they desire?

Candace:

I think often those things overlap. Sometimes they don’t.

William:

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Candace:

For sure. I think the first step is just having the structure and process in place, but those conversations happen in the first place. In a lot of small companies, large companies they have their bigger bureaucratic processes, but in small companies those often get forgotten. I think for a company of our size, just having the structure in place that everybody has a growth plan in place, everybody’s had a conversation about this. Us as a company, are aware of what people want or what they need, and combining the company’s needs with those opportunities.

Candace:

If you can provide that confluence of things, great. If you can’t, how do we provide the external resources to help those people stay engaged and still feel that growth while they’re getting their job done. I’ve seen some really interesting things from other companies, and I’d say for us giving people the opportunity, time, space to attend conferences, to do extra things on the side so to say, we provide money for courses or for whatever that looks like. I think the first thing is just capturing that and understanding what it is, giving people time, giving people space, and then giving them that opportunity to do those things.

William:

I love that. Okay, so now there’s a measurement question of course. With recruiting, engaging, and retaining, how do you keep an eye on measurement knowing that you’re either doing well or not doing well in all three of those areas?

Candace:

I think that when you’re small like this, a lot of these are individuals. You do have a good sense of how those individuals are communicating and operating, what their relationships look like. The larger you get, obviously the more that your kind of disconnected from the day to day with those teams. I think that that’s when making sure that you have performance processes in place, that you have 360 feedback, that you’re talking to employees and not just managers.

Candace:

I think sometimes we think, “Oh, we’ll talk to the managers. That’ll help us understand the team,” but no. The people on the team help you understand how your manager’s doing. So, that’s been really important. Of course, of our overall metrics we look at things like engagement. We look at things like are we hitting our recruitment targets? How many tickets are they solving? How fast are they moving this product? These kinds of things are important.

Candace:

I do think making sure that you actually listen to employees and understand how their relationships with their managers look is really important too, and building that feedback structure has been big for us.

William:

Part of HR, people ops, is counseling, whether or not it’s us going to counseling or just counseling others. There’s a good argument [inaudible 00:24:47]. You deal with frustration. So, your team on the recruiting side, they’ve chased a person. They feel like it’s good. The offer is literally there. They even said, “Yes,” and then it falls apart. This will also be the same question for managers that lose talent, but let’s do the front end first. How do you coach your recruiters in terms of dealing with frustration when it comes to engineering talent?

Candace:

That’s a great question, and it has definitely been a challenge. There’s a lot of disappointment, personal challenge, “Did I do something wrong?” This kind of thing. I think really looking back and asking questions around what exactly happened, are we following the process we have, really understanding if we fell short or if this is a signal from the market that we’re doing something else, either our packages are not matching what people are expecting, or whatever that is. I think first step is really understanding the reasons behind that. That [inaudible 00:25:59] for the team, having them fully understand what the market looks like today and that some of this is just truly not your fault.

William:

Right.

Candace:

Everybody’s experiencing this, and that we can do the best we can with what we have, and then take a look at what we could be doing better. Not necessarily from an individual perspective, but from a company perspective. I think looking at those systems and looking at your offerings, and making sure that you’re keeping an eye on the market has been really important. Four months ago, we were interviewing for a Director of Engineering candidate and the ranges, and the expectations from candidates are different from what we’re looking at today as we screen engineering manager candidates. Four months.

Candace:

Four months, and it’s completely different. I think that it’s really important for us to think, “Okay, this is not a recruiter problem. This is a changing market problem. How do we keep up?” I do think a lot of it comes down to that, and working really closely with them to understand what they’re hearing from candidates and making sure that we’re adjusting on the fly. [crosstalk 00:26:59] those things.

William:

Yes. It’s funny that you… Guilt being associated to losing a candidate. That’s true, like all recruiters. Engineering, because it’s so hard in technical talent, because it’s so hard to lose that talent, I can see where people would take it almost personally. At points, not all the time, of course. Last question, and this is just same question but really kind of geared towards the manager’s part of working with talent, and that talent being a bit more transitory than maybe it was before. How do you counsel those folks?

Candace:

It is definitely difficult as well, to see people leave your teams. It’s helping them understand again… Just bringing back to the kind of reality of our situation, so making sure that we’re understanding that the market is moving fast, that we’re looking at statistics. You can bring this to the table and help people understand the reality of it, that it’s not all personal. Again, that guilt can come into factor. Making sure that they’re understanding that this is a pattern across the whole market, and not them.

Candace:

Definitely, again coming back to what was happening before this person made this decision, could we have done something differently, let’s look at what was in place for this person, let’s look at overall what we’re doing for the team as a whole, and talking through those real systems issues to see what it is exactly that’s leading to that. We’ve been really lucky so far in that we’re in a really high growth space, so we haven’t had a huge amount of attrition. We haven’t seen some of the attrition that some of the other teams I know out in the world are seeing.

Candace:

We’ve been a little bit insulated from that, and from those conversations. But really making sure that we’re being proactive about what would it look like if someone were like “What would be the reason someone might leave us, and let’s take care of those in advance,” has been really more of our approach.

William:

That’s smart. That’s smart. Because again, it’s coaching internally to change that’s happening externally, and things you can control and things that maybe you don’t have control over. I love it. Candace, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for coming on the RecruitingDaily podcast.

Candace:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It’s been great. I love talking about these things, and thinking deeply about them, it’s a nice opportunity to do that. So, thank you.

William:

Awesome. Awesome. Thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

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William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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