We’re excited to release a new live podcast miniseries from HR Tech in Las Vegas, “Inside Interviewing: Going Beyond the Resume.” William Tincup teamed up with Greenhouse to interview HR leaders on what “going beyond the resume” means to them.
Get insights, experiences, and advice from global experts firsthand by listening to the full series here.
Unlocking Empathy and Communication in Hiring
In this featured episode, Donald Knight, Chief People Officer at Greenhouse, shared a “right in the feels” experience when a candidate asked Donald what he personally does to create diverse and welcoming environments. His mission? Have every candidate feel seen, valued, and heard. He and William also got real about combatting bias, ghosting fails, and seeing people beyond their resumes. Donald stayed vulnerable with his own experiences facing discrimination in interviews.
Throughout their heartfelt and insightful chat, Donald emphasized the importance of humanizing recruiting and building genuine candidate relationships. There’s more candid convos where that came from when you listen to the full podcast series. William talks global recruiting with leaders from across the industry.
Listen to the Full Series
There’s more where that came from. William speaks with an array of experts from every corner of the globe.
You can listen to it all right here.
Enjoy the podcast?
Thanks for tuning in to this special episode of Inside Interviewing: Going Beyond the Resume. Of course, comments are always welcome. Interested in what Greenhouse has to offer? Check out their website.
Donald is a commercially-focused HR Leader with a proven record of driving financial results, business growth, and asset value through the development and delivery of people strategies. He has lived/worked abroad and excels in finding/optimizing talent on a global level. Maximizing returns on talent investments allows him to elevate human performance while delivering significant cost savings.
Donald is a high energy innovator with a reputation for moving businesses into the future through organizational transformation. He connects with people at all levels of the organization, and is a firm believer in people analytics and cross-functional partnerships. His passion for building high-performance teams and company culture allows him to drive change where it matters.Follow Follow
[00:00:00] William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and we are broadcasting live from the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas at the Greenhouse booth. We are lucky to be here and it’s just an amazing kind of array of 500 vendors and a bunch of people going to content. And we got Donald Knight on right with us right now, so why don’t we do some introductions? Donald, tell us a little bit about what you do.
[00:00:32] Donald Knight: Yeah, I would say first and foremost. Big RecruitingDaily fan. Big William Tincup fan. If you don’t know, find him on all socials at William Tincup. He’s amazing. Um, Viva Las Vegas. Yeah, Donald Knight, Chief People Officer for Greenhouse. Uh, Ice Cream Extraordinaire. Uh huh. Um, and… Connoisseur. Connoisseur. Mm hmm. Yeah.
[00:00:54] William Tincup: That’s true. That’s a real thing. That is really a thing for me. That is really a thing. And when I first met Donald, he told me [00:01:00] that. I’m like, oh, okay, yeah, whatever. No, that’s a real, that’s a real bit, like, he actually knows, if you’re going to Topeka, he knows the place in Topeka that you should go.
[00:01:10] Donald Knight: I really do. Believe it or not, I didn’t know you were going to bring up Topeka, this is great about podcasting. I actually used to live in Fort Riley, Kansas, which is like an hour and a half from Topeka. And my favorite soft serve ice cream was at this place called Sirloin Stockade. I couldn’t stand eating at the restaurant, but I loved their soft serve.
[00:01:30] Donald Knight: Their soft serve was amazing, so if you’re in Topeka, go there for your nice soft serve.
[00:01:36] William Tincup: See? I knew that you’d know somebody. I just picked a city literally out of random. And you know, you know a place. We should do like a Yelp for ice cream.
[00:01:46] Donald Knight: Dude, that’s, that’s my, my next life will be traveling the world and being the Anthony Bourdain of ice creams.
[00:01:53] Donald Knight: That’s, that’s my goal.
[00:01:54] William Tincup: I think at one point you’re going to create your own. I think you’re going to get to a certain point in your life, you’re going to be like, you know what, [00:02:00] I’m just going to create my own. I
[00:02:02] Donald Knight: might have to do that. I might have to do that.
[00:02:04] William Tincup: I’ve known people that have collected candles, you know, been done that a bit, and then one pour soap, and at one point they’re like, you know what?
[00:02:11] William Tincup: These other people are doing it. Why don’t I just
[00:02:13] Donald Knight: do it myself? I mean, you’re on to something. I think I might be able to do this. We’ll get Greenhouse to sponsor it.
[00:02:18] William Tincup: There we go. See? There we go. So, a candidate question. So, at any point in your life, or a candidate has asked you a question and you’re like, that is a really really thoughtful, that’s a really cool question.
[00:02:33] William Tincup: What question was that?
[00:02:35] Donald Knight: Oh, um… I would probably say there’s a young lady out there. Her name is Minji Liu. Minji, if you’re listening to this, I didn’t know I was going to get this question. Um, but you made an impact on me during our interview process. Um, Minji was very big on making sure that the environment was truly inclusive, William.
[00:02:57] Donald Knight: And what she talked [00:03:00] about was her experiences as a Korean woman being a part of the Asian Pacific Islander. Uh, community, how like she really hasn’t felt comfortable being her most authentic self all the time. And so what she said was, when it comes to IDEA, which is what we call our team, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Allyship, like what do you personally do, Donald, to make sure that that environment is full of inclusion, diversity, equity, and allyship?
[00:03:33] Donald Knight: And for me, like I’ve always had people ask me about questions around D& I, and like, what does a company stand to? But like, to ask me what I personally do to create that environment, it really resonated with me. Um, and what I tried to tell her was, and this is where it got a little emotional, um, I told her, I’ve been in companies that were suffocating environments.
[00:03:56] Donald Knight: Um, places… Not necessarily toxic. No, [00:04:00] not… Suffocating. Exactly. Yes. Where… I couldn’t be my full self where I couldn’t, um, talk about the things that were most important to me or show up in a room and, and really lend my voice on conversations that I believe I, I, that could influence the company in a positive way.
[00:04:16] Donald Knight: And so ever since then, I’ve been focused on creating oxygen in every environment I go into. Oh, I love that. Yeah, and the idea is, like, I want people, when they experience me, to feel seen, valued, and heard. Right. That’s why, like, prior to this, I talked about Ashley, and, like, I try to make sure I create that type of oxygen for people.
[00:04:35] Donald Knight: Right, right. And, it’s at that point that Minji got a little emotional, and she was like, I’ve never had a leader say that they want me to breathe in every environment I’m in. I’m like, oh, yeah. Like, when you come here, you’re gonna be seen, valued, and heard. If you have the opportunity to work with us, we’ll make that happen.
[00:04:51] Donald Knight: And I was like, listen, I’m not the hiring manager, but like, I’ve enjoyed this conversation, so if we don’t work together here, we’ll work together somewhere. We’ll find, it’s the ice cream deal. I am [00:05:00] happy to report that Minji is our director of people development, and she has catapulted the way that we develop greenies up and across the organization, so shout out to Minji.
[00:05:10] William Tincup: So before we get into some of the other interview things, I gotta ask you, because we talked a couple months ago. Uh, more or less, more on the DEI stuff. Do you, do you feel like, uh, DEI is under attack now? I mean, you know what I’m saying? Like… Yeah. I don’t know if it’s the Supreme Court ruling or, or other things that are going on.
[00:05:32] William Tincup: It just seems like we’re making some strides now. I don’t know if they’re real strides or… Okay, we’ll put that aside for a second. But it seems like we were moving in a better direction. And then all of a sudden, it seems like there’s a retrenching, and I don’t know if that’s just me and kind of my optics of what I’m seeing and hearing, or is this really, like I, I see some of my friends that are in DEI change their titles, and I’m seeing that in LinkedIn, it’s like they’re changing it to [00:06:00] inclusion, because it’s more of a defensible position than diversity.
[00:06:03] William Tincup: I’m like, why does that even matter, like why, why is it, like why do we care? It’s because they’re getting pressure, and I’m like, where are you getting pressure from? So, I’m asking a question, just kind of what, cause you, you obviously both lead it, but you talk to a bunch of folks, with your customers, y’all have so many different customers, that you got a great vantage point as well.
[00:06:25] William Tincup: What do you see
[00:06:26] Donald Knight: there? Um, this is, this is, I didn’t know we were going to go here, this is good, this is great. I didn’t either. Um, listen, I, this is safe space, I can, I’ll be real with you Tincup, I think any time progress has been made on this planet. Yeah. There has always been a group of humans who wanted to halt said progress.
[00:06:46] Donald Knight: Yeah. Anytime progress has been made. If you think about women in the suffrage movement, and for them to be treated equally and be able to work and be able to, uh, really be able to contribute formally, because for the [00:07:00] record, women have been contributing to the success of this planet forever. Day one.
[00:07:03] Donald Knight: Right? But the suffrage movement marks an acknowledgment of their contributions formally. Right. Right? Same thing with the Civil Rights Movement. Right. People of color have been contributing to this planet forever. They were. Yep. The Civil Rights Movement was a formal way to start acknowledging, but anytime you see progress made on this planet, there’s always going to be a group of people who try to halt that progress.
[00:07:27] Donald Knight: They wanted to go backwards? Exactly. I believe where we are in society, in this experiment called humanity, I believe what we’re seeing is the last great halting. Like, this is the, because you think about it, like, when everybody was home during the pandemic. They’re holding on to the strings.
[00:07:44] William Tincup: Exactly. Yeah,
[00:07:45] Donald Knight: got it.
[00:07:45] Donald Knight: This is, this is, when, when they saw, like, in the pandemic, we saw what happened. There were companies that were making profits and revenue left and right. 100%. Because of the amount of creativity and diversity in their companies, right? Right. We also saw socially so many [00:08:00] different events that occurred.
[00:08:01] Donald Knight: That’s right. That you couldn’t say you didn’t see, because everybody was at home. No. Right? That’s right. And so what happens, in my opinion, is… There’s this group who is doing everything they can to try to hang on to the lack of progress, right? They wanna make sure that the lack of progress right. Remains status quo.
[00:08:20] Donald Knight: Um, today is national coming out day. Yep. And we had a conversation earlier today with a phenomenal panel of greenies. And I won’t share what was shared in that conversation just because I respect, um, their individual stories and how they’ve, you know, basically had to traverse life and finally get to a point where they felt comfortable literally being themselves.
[00:08:43] Donald Knight: Through the
[00:08:43] William Tincup: oxygen
[00:08:43] Donald Knight: and creating space. Exactly. But we’ve, their progress as a community has also recently been under attack and people trying to halt the progress that has been made. The beauty that I find, William, is… There’s forums like [00:09:00] this where we can talk about it and really, like, elevate the conversation to say, oh, no, like, this is, this is what’s supposed to happen.
[00:09:06] Donald Knight: Anytime progress is made, there’s people who want to halt it. This is, it’s, I’m… This is
[00:09:11] William Tincup: a good indicator. This is… This means we made it. This
[00:09:13] Donald Knight: is the indicator. Ah. Right? I like that. The way I, the way I say it is, my grandmother… Used to make tea the old fashioned way. Now, for some people listening to this, you might not know what the old fashioned way of making tea.
[00:09:26] Donald Knight: She used to have a tea kettle. She’d put the water in it, sit down. What would happen when the water was boiling and you were ready? It’d just keep boiling. Right. But what would happen? What would be the sign that you know it was boiling? Beep. Beep. Yep. It would make the noise. Oh yeah. If you don’t get the noise, the water’s not ready for the tea.
[00:09:44] Donald Knight: That’s exactly what’s happening right now. This is the noise. This is the
[00:09:47] William Tincup: noise. I like that a lot. Listen to me. Because I was getting depressed about
[00:09:50] Donald Knight: it. Oh, no. But this Progress Tea, you better get ready. Everybody’s going to be able to have a sip soon. This is the noise. I love that. It’s boiling. It’s boiling.
[00:09:58] Donald Knight: The progress is [00:10:00] boiling. You gave me
[00:10:00] William Tincup: optimism because I was getting really down about it because I was like, we’re going backwards. And it’s sliding backwards and we’re going backwards and all the progress that had been made in the last five, ten years of a lot of the social movements, we’re just going backwards.
[00:10:14] William Tincup: I’m like, I don’t want to go backwards. I want to go forwards. Yeah. I And, and, I just, I was getting depressed about it, so thank you for that.
[00:10:20] Donald Knight: Oh, yeah, man. If you want some Progress Tea, we got you. We got your tea. We
[00:10:26] William Tincup: got the tea for you. That would be a wonderful greenhouse giveaway. It’s tea. People would be like, what is this?
[00:10:31] William Tincup: It’s Progress Tea. Progress Tea, man. It’s Progress Tea. Yeah. So, um, let me ask you a couple things about interviewing, because we are doing this podcast, and a lot of things we’re touching on, like we did similar earlier in the year, but not as much as, uh, about bias. So, you know, I don’t know if you taught me this or not, but I asked somebody, and they answered, I said, what’s the difference between preference and bias?[00:11:00]
[00:11:00] William Tincup: And their bit was, preference is how you justify bias. Hmm. I’m like, oh that hurt. And so I’m like, that actually really hurt. They’re like, oh no, that’s just how you justify it. And I’m like, so what do you think of that? When you hear that, what’s that?
[00:11:17] Donald Knight: Yeah, I think, um, I think we’ve gotten to a point where people don’t feel comfortable about the bias that they know that they have, and so they label it in a way that’s more accepted because bias typically has a negative connotation in many communities.
[00:11:34] Donald Knight: I try to… For me, I try to disarm that. I have a bias towards ice cream. I don’t like gelato. I don’t like sorbet. I have a bias towards ice cream. I am who I am. And
[00:11:47] William Tincup: if you mention Baskin Robbins to me, we’re not friends. It’s just not going to happen for you.
[00:11:53] Donald Knight: The reason I lead with that is because similar to that is like, just the acknowledgement of alone is [00:12:00] so disarming.
[00:12:01] Donald Knight: Right? Right. For us to know who we are and where those biases are It’s okay. None of us got the control where we landed on the planet anyway. So like, there’s a, there’s natural biases that we have. That’s okay. The, the dilemma is when you make a choice or you prefer to not evolve your biases that adversely impact those around you.
[00:12:22] Donald Knight: So some
[00:12:22] William Tincup: of it’s awareness. Oh, yeah. And then the other part is, okay, you know, you have awareness. Change. Exactly.
[00:12:29] Donald Knight: Acknowledging. So I have friends that… Eat sorbet or eat gelato when they come to my house, I make sure I have some for them. Sure, no hate. Right? I still don’t understand why they eat that stuff.
[00:12:40] Donald Knight: But, but I don’t allow that bias to be like, when you come to my house, there’s no way you’re going to have your dessert of choice, right? Right. Another one would be like, I have a good friend, Karen. Uh, she’s a phenomenal chief marketing officer. If you don’t know who she is, she’s phenomenal. Karen with a C.
[00:12:56] William Tincup: With a C. C A R I N, yes.
[00:12:58] Donald Knight: She, she drinks decaf coffee. [00:13:00]
[00:13:00] William Tincup: I don’t even, I don’t even
[00:13:01] Donald Knight: understand what that is. I didn’t even know decaf and coffee could be a thing. I didn’t know that was a thing.
[00:13:06] William Tincup: It’s like alcohol free, alcohol free beer. Right. Like why would you drink it? So what are you doing? For the
[00:13:10] Donald Knight: taste?
[00:13:11] Donald Knight: Exactly. But I, I know Karen likes decaf and I don’t, but here’s the thing, when I’m around and she’s around, I always make sure. She has access to decaf coffee because I don’t want that bias to
[00:13:22] William Tincup: then well part of that’s just being aware like you’d be having Your eyes being aware exactly being empathetic that they have something that’s different and in creating that space and then acknowledging Yeah, I don’t agree But that doesn’t we’re not we’re not talking about agreement talking about being empathetic and caring enough to then provide for the other person
[00:13:41] Donald Knight: Agreed we I think as leaders we have a responsibility to create that space and the leaders that don’t like It’s because they haven’t seen, it’s learned behavior, they haven’t seen other leaders create space for people with differences.
[00:13:53] Donald Knight: And so for me, I think, like, that’s something that we have to, um, uh, take full responsibility over, and [00:14:00] as much as we can, help create that environment for others, regardless of their differences. And look, here’s the thing, if you like gelato and sorbet, I’m actually very happy that you do, because if everybody liked ice cream, I wouldn’t be able to get any.
[00:14:12] Donald Knight: Like, it’d be sold out all the time. Like, I don’t want that to happen, so, if you don’t like it, it’s okay.
[00:14:17] William Tincup: Keep liking that stuff. It’s great. It’s good for me. Exactly. Um, alright. So, two questions left. One is your take on ghosting. Oh. Today. Oh. Candidates ghosting, interviewers, interviewers ghosting candidates.
[00:14:31] William Tincup: Like, what’s the bit? What are you,
[00:14:32] Donald Knight: what’s your take on it? Yeah, so, I got two takes. First take is, we just came out with our candidate survey. Right. It showed that 36%. of candidates still say ghosting is around, still happening. That’s a big number. I can’t imagine why companies would want their first impression to be with a candidate and it be a positive one where you let them join the process.
[00:14:55] Donald Knight: Right. And then the last impression that you make is ghosting them. Right. Like my grandfather used to [00:15:00] say, the only thing more important than the first impression is the last impression. 100%. Right? So you could have turned those people into referrals. Yep. You could have turned them into customers. You could have turned them into raving fans, but instead, you turned them into…
[00:15:13] Donald Knight: It’s a Kid Blanchard reference. Nice for you. Good for you. There you go, man. So, I, I think that, that’s, that’s one part of it. It’s still, it’s definitely present. I think the second part is, you know, humans have to stop being lazy. 100%. Like, if you don’t want to move forward with somebody, like, be responsible enough to let them know.
[00:15:31] Donald Knight: Let them know. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s absolutely okay. Humans are very resilient. And they will find the organization where their time, talent, and treasure is going to be valued and create impact. But like, this idea of being lazy and not giving people some level of direction on the future of, uh, their potential candidacy with your company, like stop
[00:15:52] William Tincup: it.
[00:15:52] William Tincup: That’s just, it’s, I grade harder on the, uh, the recruiting and hiring manager side than I do the candidate. For some [00:16:00] reason, I don’t know why, but somehow I grade them harder. And a lot of this is, it’s avoidable. Again, if you have an emergency, okay, communicate that you have an emergency. That’s fine. We all have emergencies.
[00:16:12] William Tincup: But if you just don’t show up and then don’t communicate, um, that’s just unacceptable. And I don’t care if we’ve been, it’s always been around. Like someone told me that earlier. They’re like, it’s really not that big a deal. It’s always been around. It’ll always be around. I’m like, yeah, I don’t. I don’t really, uh, I don’t subscribe to that.
[00:16:28] Donald Knight: I agree with you. Disrespect has always been around. That doesn’t mean that we should do it. Sexism
[00:16:33] William Tincup: has always been around. Exactly. Turns out. Uh, doesn’t matter. We should still keep doing it. Uh, duh. Alright, so the last question is, not necessarily a horror story, but, um, a story in which you didn’t have a great candidate experience, either personally or someone that went through your process.
[00:16:51] William Tincup: So I’ll give you one for me, taking a person through. The process, we’re pretty far into it, executive level, we [00:17:00] go to lunch, and uh, he takes out his teeth, and just puts them on the table, and it didn’t freak me out, uh, but it freaked all my team out. Like, it freaked everybody else out, so, like, we didn’t hire him, ultimately they couldn’t get past it, cause, like, all they thought about was his teeth.
[00:17:18] William Tincup: I’m like, the teeth and his, you know, his competence have nothing to do with one another? Like, so it shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be judging a man on his teeth. Yeah. Oh, they couldn’t get past it. It was always a bad experience. What have you had, again, either personally or coming through your
[00:17:34] Donald Knight: process? Yeah, that sounds like a chewy situation.
[00:17:40] Donald Knight: I think, I think that, um, the one that I would talk about, I’ve had a couple unique experiences. We’ll go off,
[00:17:49] William Tincup: we’ll do after hours
[00:17:50] Donald Knight: later on. But I think, I think the first one is, like, for those that are listening, I am a proud father, proud husband, older brother, son, and I’m [00:18:00] also a black man. And I remember showing up to an interview, um, and I was like, hey, I’m here to interview, and they, they were like, uh, okay, um, are you sure?
[00:18:14] Donald Knight: I’m like, um, I believe so. I wanted to say, no, like, I just woke up this morning and thought I’d randomly walk into a building and
[00:18:22] William Tincup: say I’m interviewing. I did that, but when I went to the University of Alabama, my mom was on me to get a job, so hard. I took the whole summer off, drank the whole summer, the whole bit.
[00:18:30] William Tincup: And so she was on me every day, get a job, get a job, get a job. So finally, I went, literally, door to door, campus to campus. I went in each office, and I would say, yeah, I’m here for the job. So, I got, I got a job. That’s amazing. At a library, literally, because the guy walked in, he was the head of the library, and he goes, hey, what’s going on?
[00:18:50] William Tincup: I said, no, not much, man. He’s like, what, what can I do? What can I help you with? I said, I’m here for the job. He’s like, what job? I’m like, whatever job you got. You know, you know what we need? We need somebody that [00:19:00] does this. I’m like, I can do that. That’s amazing. So, I’ve actually showed up for that bit. Just to get my mother off my back.
[00:19:08] Donald Knight: That’s good. It’s a different bit. Mine is not so exciting. So they asked you if you were there for the interview. They asked me if I’m there for the interview. I’m like, yep. And they’re like, uh, I don’t think we have you here. What’s your name? I was like, Donald Knight? And they’re like, oh, you, okay. Yeah, we do have you.
[00:19:26] Donald Knight: Sit here. Let me go get the hiring manager. I end up not taking the role. They offered me the role. I didn’t take it. And the reason I didn’t is because first and foremost And to be evaluated or reduced to just my name. Yep. They sent you a signal. Oh, come on. Like, that told me everything I needed to know about that environment.
[00:19:45] Donald Knight: And listen, like, I know, I know we all have, you know, we have means, we have people that are, that we’re responsible for, gotta make ends meet, I, I get that, but like, I, I look forward to the day where humans do not have to work at [00:20:00] locations that they do not want to work at. 100%. In that particular instance, I knew, I don’t want to work here.
[00:20:06] Donald Knight: Uh uh. Like, if you’re evaluating me off, off my tan. Yeah. As opposed to the merits of who I am. Well, imagine. If you’re reducing me just based on the way that my name is spelled. I’m not, I’m not. Imagine all
[00:20:20] William Tincup: the people they filtered out. Yeah. Now that’s the dark. Yeah. That’s the dark stuff there. All the people they filtered out based on just their name.
[00:20:27] William Tincup: Exactly. That’s, that’s no good. No bueno. Listen, I could talk to you forever, but you gotta like. Stuff to do, so I’ll see you later on tonight, but thank you so much for coming on the podcast. No, William, thanks for having me, man. Always a pleasure. Vice versa, and thanks for everyone listening. Until next time.
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.