Kari Marquis
Chief Client Officer, Americas First Advantage

Kari Marquis is an industry veteran well-versed in leading customer-focused teams in human resources management systems. With more than 15 years’ experience as a leader in the space, Kari has lent her expertise to large enterprise and multinational companies and now serves as Chief Customer Officer for First Advantage. Kari first joined the organization in 2016 as a Vice President of Enterprise Sales and moved on from that role to serve first as Vice President of Sales—Staffing and then as Senior Vice President of Customer Success. In these roles, Kari and her team have improved First Advantage customer engagement, retention and satisfaction across the board.

Prior to joining First Advantage, Kari spent more than 10 years at HireRight, where she led Operations, Sales and Account Management efforts. Earlier in her career, Kari managed large civil litigation law firms.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to Kari from First Advantage about how many HR hiring teams are frantic to hire.

Some Conversation Highlights:

I know on one of your previous podcasts recently, one of your guests was mentioning standardizing interviewing processes. That your company really wants to have standardized hiring processes. It’s the same with the screening and the onboarding process. You want to have that as standardized as you can to protect your brand. We found when we surveyed our customers, a lot of them were looking at social media, even though it wasn’t a standard part of the hiring process and they were doing it through their own personal accounts.

And we’ve had to say, “Bring your whole hiring process up above, on the table, and build the social screening process into your policy, your screening and onboarding policy.” And we have that service that we do offer. We find that some customers look at it, to your point, to make sure that the candidate isn’t doing something out in the public that could potentially conflict with the brand and the hiring policy.

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Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 28 minutes

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Announcer (00:00):

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 overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your 3-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 Tincup (00:34):

This is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Kari on, from First Advantage, and our topic today is, Many HR Hiring Teams Are Frantic to Hire. So can’t wait to talk to Kari, and get into this topic. Kari, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and First Advantage?

 

Kari Marquis (00:53):

Sure, absolutely. Thanks for having me, first of all.

 

William Tincup (00:55):

Sure.

 

Kari Marquis (00:56):

Kari Marquis. I’m the Chief Customer Officer here at First Advantage. My primary role at First Advantage is really just to lead a culture of customer-obsession and customer-centric vision within and throughout First Advantage. We’re the market leader in HR technology, enabling customers to, and companies to hire smarter and onboard faster, which is really relevant in today’s times.

 

William Tincup (01:28):

I love it.

 

Kari Marquis (01:32):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (01:33):

I saw First Advantage’s Booth at HR Tech, and the messaging was so much different than I remembered years ago, pre-COVID. Because y’all have a storied history and obviously a publicly traded company. A lot of great success. But I love the way you broaden it out, and say like, “If you thought of us as this way, we’re not that way anymore.”

 

Kari Marquis (01:55):

Yeah. And that’s one thing that attracted me to come to First Advantage. It’s the ever-changing landscape of the HR space we play in.

 

William Tincup (02:03):

Yeah.

 

Kari Marquis (02:03):

Integrating technology into that. And now ever more than ever before, technology is so important in the HR space, and in servicing our customers. Yeah. We had a great booth this year at HR Tech.

 

William Tincup (02:16):

You did.

 

Kari Marquis (02:16):

We look forward to many years to come at HR Tech, one of my favorite conferences.

 

William Tincup (02:21):

So what are you seeing from your customers, in terms of how they’re kind of looking at hiring differently now than they did, obviously we can say during COVID and even pre-COVID. How’s it formed right now? What trends are you seeing or some issues that you see kind of popping up?

 

Kari Marquis (02:41):

Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ve been in this industry, the background screening, and monitoring, and risk mitigation industry for about 20 years. And these are definitely interesting times for us than in different times. The situational tailwinds right now that are happening when we talk with our customers, and specifically HR. When I say, “Customers,”-

 

William Tincup (03:04):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (03:05):

… it’s really the HR talent acquisition teams that we work with. It’s highly emotional and I think you and I talked about the emotion that we hear is that they’re frantic to find, and frantic to fill.

 

William Tincup (03:21):

Yeah.

 

Kari Marquis (03:22):

And so if you think about the low unemployment, there’s high demand in a lot of different industries, and a huge amount of job changing and switching happening. It’s just really interesting times. And I know at HR Tech, you and I talked about kind of coming out of that great resignation that was happening kind of post-COVID, and what that meant for our customers is great onboarding.

 

William Tincup (03:49):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (03:50):

So the amount of strain and pressure that are coming out of our HR contacts within our customer base, the amount of stress and pressure coming out of there is just immense. And we’re having to meet those demands and solve for those problems.

 

William Tincup (04:07):

It’s such a weird time. When you read popular press, at least historically, it would sound like we’re an employer-driven market, where employers can do anything they want and hire. There’s thousands of candidates for every job and this, that, and the other. But it’s not that way. It may appear that way. It may appear in certain jobs, of course, that way. But really it’s still very much of candidate-driven market.

(04:35)
I’m not sure people recognize that, especially Gen Z and some of the younger Millennials. They just won’t take a job. If they don’t agree with it or it doesn’t align with their values or other things, they just won’t… They don’t feel compelled to have a job, like maybe I would at their age.

 

Kari Marquis (05:01):

Exactly. Yeah, exactly. We handle a lot of high volume hiring-

 

William Tincup (05:06):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (05:07):

… customers within our verticals. That is exactly a demographic that we have to come and meet and deliver on their demand. We find specifically within that high volume hiring space, that candidate, to your point, they won’t tolerate a slow paper process that doesn’t “feel”-

 

William Tincup (05:31):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (05:32):

… a certain way. It has to be technology driven, mobile friendly. It has to meet that demand and it has to feel good-

 

William Tincup (05:41):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (05:43):

… and be almost a non-event. We were talking to a customer that mentioned she needs it quick and fast, and it needs to be inspirational. And we painted a picture, we said, “Imagine a world where we put your candidate through the processor standing in line at Starbucks or something like that to get a cup of coffee. And they answer through text, and by the time they pick up their cup of coffee, their process is completed. And it was a really just unique experience.”

(06:14)
And she said, “That’s exactly what we need,” because that candidate probably has five other job offers, and they have that freedom, to your point. So we’re still seeing that.

 

William Tincup (06:26):

At a period during COVID, what I was seeing in high volume is they would accept multiple jobs. And then the story was they’d go to the first day or two and if they didn’t like it, they just wouldn’t go back.

 

Kari Marquis (06:37):

Exactly. Exactly. We are the first touchpoint and a lot of these candidates’ experience with the potential new employer. So you have to meet a certain standard and-

 

William Tincup (06:48):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (06:48):

… a certain level of experience or, again, they just won’t tolerate it. Out of that pressure, a huge pressure comes that innovation and we’ve really had to just meet that demand and change the way we’ve done things or thought about things that are unique in our industry in order to satisfy our customers and please those candidates. Yeah. Very unique times.

 

William Tincup (07:13):

We live in interesting times. What’s interesting is you said background screening in your experience. One of the things I’ve seen it morph into is more identity verification.

 

Kari Marquis (07:27):

Mm-hmm.

 

William Tincup (07:27):

Background screening, still. It’s always going to be important. It’s just risk if you-

 

Kari Marquis (07:33):

Exactly.

 

William Tincup (07:34):

… don’t do it. Right? Do we explain that, or do you feel that we need to explain that to candidates? Like, “Okay, this is what this is”? Or “This is what this process is and what it entails.” Do they need to know how the sausage is made, in terms of verifying their identity?

 

Kari Marquis (07:53):

Yeah. Whenever you have to explain your product to someone, I feel like there’s a flaw in that design of that product.

 

William Tincup (07:59):

Right. Right.

 

Kari Marquis (08:01):

We build dynamic intuitive situations where you don’t really have to explain. You guide them through it.

 

William Tincup (08:08):

Oh, cool.

 

Kari Marquis (08:09):

It’s interesting you mentioned identity and fraud, risk mitigation. It’s-

 

William Tincup (08:14):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (08:15):

… so much more now than just background screening.

 

William Tincup (08:18):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (08:19):

It’s having that facial recognition and that identity. Where if you’re doing a remote hiring or a remote interview process and that individual shows up on the first day, it should be the same person you were interviewing with, you would hope. And so we’ve had to build products to meet just the new environment. And then also monitoring. Once you have them onboard in your organization, how are you making sure that they are not having any sort of behavioral issues that don’t align with your company culture, and safety, and risk profiles?

(08:53)
So it’s a holistic candidate, an employee life cycle that we’re meeting, and it is so unique.

 

William Tincup (09:04):

I think most people don’t understand that if you do the identity verification pre-hire, which is great and you should check. Everyone knows that. But if you don’t monitor going forward, they could do stuff on social. So there’s all of that exposure for your brand and for your company. But then there’s also illegal. Somebody could get popped for a felony and they don’t necessarily have to disclose that, and now you’ve got risk associated with that.

(09:34)
I think sometimes people look at that and they’re like, “Well, that seems a little Big-Brotherish.” I’m like, “Well, first of all, you’ve got a brand and a company to protect. And, again, if we think about it from a recruiting perspective, this is what candidates want to know. They want to know about the company. If they see negative stuff that could have been easily prevented, then why wouldn’t you do that? I know you have to explain this or talk to your customers about this stuff. So I’m sure you get a lot of the same types of things coming at you.

 

Kari Marquis (10:04):

Yeah, exactly. I know on one of your previous podcasts recently, one of your guests was mentioning standardizing interviewing processes. That your company really wants to have standardized processes. It’s the same with the screening and the onboarding process. You want to have that as standardized as you can to protect your brand. We found when we surveyed our customers, a lot of them were looking at social media, even though it wasn’t a standard part of the process and they were doing it through their own personal accounts.

(10:36)
And we’ve had to say, “Bring your whole process up above, on the table, and build the social screening process into your policy, your screening and onboarding policy.” And we have that service that we do offer. We find that some customers look at it, to your point, to make sure that the candidate isn’t doing something out in the public that could potentially conflict with the brand and the policy.

(11:08)
But we’ve found a lot of customers use it if they have two equal candidates and they look for someone who’s doing charity work or really promoting characteristics that do align with that brand and-

 

William Tincup (11:22):

Oh, that’s a good point.

 

Kari Marquis (11:24):

Yeah. It could be used on both sides of the spectrum, and also the monitoring. But it is interesting. And that is a product that wasn’t in the market 10 years ago, that is very widely adopted in many of the company’s policies now.

 

William Tincup (11:42):

It’s great, because I automatically went, it was kind of cynical and negative. But you’re right. There’s a lot of positive things that could come from it that maybe people don’t even know. They live their life on Twitter. They deal with their personal life on Twitter, and you wouldn’t know that unless you see it. And they’re doing great stuff, or they’re doing really, really interesting things. So I love that.

 

Kari Marquis (12:00):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (12:01):

I wanted to ask about remote, hybrid and flexible kind of work environments with maybe the non-hourly folks that you work with, or maybe even hourly folks that you work with. Because of COVID, it’s changed the mix of how we look at talent and how talent interacts, especially in a corporate environment. How talent interacts with the company. Has that impacted in the way that we look at what y’all do in the process?

 

Kari Marquis (12:34):

Yeah. A couple of things. I think those identity products and the fraud and identity products are becoming more and more popular. We also really had to look at our products and design for the contracting workforce.

 

William Tincup (12:51):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (12:51):

So a lot of companies are now relying on more contracted workers as they’re looking to flex either way up, down, faster, slower, whatever it may be. So how do you screen a contract employee versus a direct hire? So we give best practice guidance and solution in that avenue as well. And that’s a very popular conversation that we’re having with our customers. So it’s just being nimble and dynamic and then again, just keeping our finger on the pulse, communicating with our customers, engaging our customers a lot through customer collaboration events, product roadmap discussions, to make sure that we’re ready to change on a moment’s notice.

(13:35)
I know all of our HR partners had to do during COVID. They had to be really nimble and quick and change policies that sometimes hadn’t been touched in 20 years. So just really, really interesting times.

 

William Tincup (13:49):

We put frantic into the title. I think one of the things that you and I kind of thought about is this consumerization of technology. The experience that candidates desire. And if we don’t meet them with where they desire, whether if it’s mobile and text, and within seconds and things like that. Then we’re just going to miss them. They’re just going to move on to kind of the next thing.

(14:12)
And so I wanted to kind of peel back frantic. Are they frantic? Is it frantic to interact with candidates? Frantic to make the decisions? When we say frantic, what do we think we mean?

 

Kari Marquis (14:27):

Yeah. I think the stress level in… The contacts that we talk to day-to-day within our customer base and even the executive team over the HR space that I interact with, the emotions and the temperament. I use the word frantic, because I’ve heard that word-

 

William Tincup (14:47):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (14:47):

… many times from our customers.

 

William Tincup (14:49):

Me, to.

 

Kari Marquis (14:51):

I think if you take the last two years and you put them together, if you think about any organization and the emotions and the stress that HR has had to go through. Again, creating new policies through COVID, sending 100% of their workforce home in some cases only to 12 months later, have to bring everyone back, flexing up in certain areas.

(15:14)
Now if they had to go through downsizing, now they have to restaff entire organizations within 30 days. I think the time period at which the stress has maintained continues. And now we’re seeing still having to do massive hiring events, expansion into some markets that they haven’t been in, hiring certain types of employees that they’ve never had to hire. If you look into transportation expanding into contracting workforces-

 

William Tincup (15:46):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (15:46):

… and things like that. I’ve never seen HR have to go through so much change and so much rapid pace within a condensed period of time. It’s wonderful to watch. It’s the business processing and the innovation happening within HR is amazing to watch and really inspiring overall. The frantic, again, just comes from those emotional conversations, where we have customers call us saying, “This is a new set of problems that was thrown on my desk Friday afternoon.

 

William Tincup (16:22):

Oh, yeah.

 

Kari Marquis (16:22):

What do you recommend? What’s your guidance? What should we do?

 

William Tincup (16:25):

Yeah.

 

Kari Marquis (16:25):

What direction now?”

 

William Tincup (16:26):

“The CEO now wants half of the mix to be gig workers.” “Oh, okay.”

 

Kari Marquis (16:30):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (16:31):

Yeah. “We’ve never hired a gig worker before.” “Oh, okay. Good, good.”

 

Kari Marquis (16:34):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (16:35):

“How does that work?”

 

Kari Marquis (16:36):

And they’re figuring it out. Again, it’s a great time to be in HR. I think I mentioned to you before, a great time to be an HR tech. Because a tech in this space is solving more problems than ever before. But you’re really seeing HR leading a lot of these organization strategies and a lot of emphasis. And, again, pressure being put on HR and talent acquisition teams, like I’ve never seen in my career.

(17:03)
It’s fun to play in right now. It’s a fun space. It’s interesting to watch. Your podcasts are always really interesting because you cover so many topics that are relevant. But the pressure and that frantic emotional state is still there. We’re still seeing it.

 

William Tincup (17:17):

Yeah. I think we’re always quietly innovating. So I think both in technology and in the profession, it was kind of a quiet. You know, kind of went along behind the scenes, et cetera. But when they’re forced into the limelight in February of ’20, or March of ’20, literally HR had to rise up, if they weren’t already there, and then communicate everything that was going on.

(17:48)
The first thing, there’s so many people that I can think of that just rose to the occasion. The profession rose to the occasion. It also kind of created some burnout as well, because it was so much with the pandemic. There was just so much going on where people were just taxed. Now we’re hopefully, a little far away from some of that burnout. Have you seen some of those folks be reinvigorated by all this innovation? Or are they – Yeah.

(18:20)
… overwhelmed by it? Like what’s…

 

Kari Marquis (18:23):

It’s overwhelming. It’s almost stress in a good way.

 

William Tincup (18:26):

Right, right, right. That’s a good way of putting it.

 

Kari Marquis (18:29):

Exactly. It’s feel good stress, if you will. I think we all saw this the last two years. The sense of community that has been built through that stress and pressure is really neat to watch as well. We’ve created a lot of social and networking events for our customers to come together. We just asked, as the conduit, to bring our customers together if it’s a topic, or a webinar or something like that. Or we have our annual collaborate event where we bring all of our customers together, and give them topics and just let them go.

(19:07)
We learn so much from them, and they learn so much from each other. We’ve even seen really nice personal friendships be developed in our product steering committees and things like that. People come together, and it’s almost like a… I don’t want to call it a therapy session. Different companies, even from different industries, find that they’re trying to solve for the same things.

 

William Tincup (19:31):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (19:32):

And it’s really a neat thing to watch, and what comes out of that. That mind-share that comes out of that is just great to watch.

 

William Tincup (19:38):

They’re flexing different muscles, for sure. And it’s really interesting to see them thrive in this way. Kind of like I said, this good stress. It’s really kind of fascinating to see the profession flex its muscles. And also, again, consume all this innovation from tech, process, change management, digitalization, all this stuff that’s kind of coming at them. It’s been really, really fascinating to see HR and TA actually rise up.

(20:08)
I wanted to ask you a question about speed, in terms of, when we were talking before. The candidate’s expectations, in terms of like, “I want to receive a text.” “I want to think in seconds, minutes and hours.” “I want it to happen fast, so that can make a decision fast.” It’s just really kind of based on consumer technology. Right? Have you seen that on the HR side, too? That they want things to happen faster?

 

Kari Marquis (20:36):

Yeah. They want it to happen faster, and they need it to happen faster-

 

William Tincup (20:40):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (20:41):

… to meet their business objectives. Yeah. So it’s no longer a nice to have. It’s a must and a need to have. Yeah, absolutely.

 

William Tincup (20:47):

Yeah. That’s fascinating. From a workflow perspective, y’all sit on the very, very front edge. Right? Well, I don’t want to assume that. Because I guess they could place you further in the funnel, or further out in the funnel. Let me ask that and not assume where you’re placed. Where do you see First Advantage being placed in kind of their recruitment funnel?

 

Kari Marquis (21:09):

Yeah. It’s different. So we have a verticalized go-to-market strategy. So we serve any industry you can imagine. And it does vary by industry so-

 

William Tincup (21:20):

Interesting.

 

Kari Marquis (21:21):

… I think the majority of the time, we are upfront, in the early stages of the interview,-

 

William Tincup (21:26):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (21:27):

… recruiting, onboarding. Sometimes even the application part of it. And then again, you see some industries like healthcare, where we weave ourselves throughout the life cycle of the employees. So from the first day they step foot in that hospital or that facility, all the way through off-boarding and potentially movement within that organization. So it does depend. We can bend and flex at any point.

(22:03)
But I say the majority of times we interact with candidates is really upfront when they are candidates within the lifecycle or categorized as candidates before they come onboard as employees.

 

William Tincup (22:15):

Dumb question alert. If we’re doing a background or an identity verification on them, do they get to see like a credit report?

 

Kari Marquis (22:25):

Oh, yeah.

 

William Tincup (22:26):

Do they get to see what’s on their credit report? I’m saying credit report. That’s not it, obviously. Do they get to see what’s being reflected about them?

 

Kari Marquis (22:37):

Absolutely. So they get to see it. You mentioned credit report. Not too far off.

 

William Tincup (22:43):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (22:43):

Our industry is governed by the FCRA, so that Fair Credit Reporting Act. So we do have to meet certain guidelines and compliance standards. They’re aware in our whole process. Using that technology, it’s really transparent. In some cases, we rely just, again, based off the need to deliver almost instant results.

 

William Tincup (23:09):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (23:09):

We rely on a lot of that data that sometimes they can link to us and provide to us, and contribute to part of their dataset. So, yeah. The candidate is involved. Again, that experience is a big part of it, especially-

 

William Tincup (23:23):

Right.

 

Kari Marquis (23:23):

… with that new generation coming in. They want it to feel and look, and be consumable. So, yeah, absolutely.

 

William Tincup (23:31):

I can see people being really curious. Again, before you go forward in the process, I’d want to know why. If you don’t go forward in the process, I’d want to know why. If I were a candidate, I’d just want to know why. What’s there? Just with a credit report, I’d just like to know, “Is there something on there that’s either incorrect? Or is there’s something I need to change, or address, or whatever?”

(23:53)
I think that’s fascinating. And I didn’t know that y’all were governed by the… Was it the FRCA?

 

Kari Marquis (24:00):

FCRA? Yep, absolutely.

 

William Tincup (24:03):

See, I learned something already. So I love that. Fantastic. You talked a little bit about onboarding. Because coming from the candidate experience into the employee experience, what are you seeing right now innovation-wise from your customers, in terms of how they onboard talent that’s maybe different than what you would’ve saw, a couple years ago?

 

Kari Marquis (24:26):

I was joking with a customer, last week. She can onboard an entire customer using their smartphone. So all forms, all processes,-

 

William Tincup (24:34):

Wow!

 

Kari Marquis (24:34):

I-9, all those things you historically think as like a paper. They have to come into a location. The industry has had to innovate to make it quick, almost instant. Customers love that instant word these days. But onboarding a candidate completely through their mobile device, and in some cases same day. If you think about it, job fairs or things like that, where someone walks in. Has to complete a quick short tech process, and then they start the job within an hour or two.

(25:08)
We’re having to do that in some cases. So onboarding has to be quick, easy, streamlined, efficient, and using that various tech stack in order to make that happen.

 

William Tincup (25:20):

Do you see anything in the world of pre-boarding where they’ve accepted the job, but they haven’t started the job officially? Do you see anything in between those two things?

 

Kari Marquis (25:35):

We’re seeing more training. Companies inserting various things to introduce a new employee into their culture early on, even before day one.

 

William Tincup (25:46):

Oh, that’s cool.

 

Kari Marquis (25:46):

The use of video or some sort of interactive experience is happening. So there’s a lot of neat technology. I know there’s a few conversations like that happening on stage at HR Tech, as well as how do you really immerse the person into your culture even before day one? And that’s both ways. Right? It benefits the company, but it also benefits the candidate to see, “Is this a company and a culture that I feel like I could be a part of, that I can contribute to?”

(26:18)
I think it’s happening early on. And it goes back to that experience, I think that that individuals are looking for these days.

 

William Tincup (26:26):

Drops the mic. Walks off stage. Kari, thank you so much for being on the RecruitingDaily Podcast.

 

Kari Marquis (26:32):

Thanks so much, William.

 

William Tincup (26:33):

Absolutely, and thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.

 

Announcer (26:38):

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Authors
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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