Mark Simpson
Founder & CEO Pillar Follow

On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Mark from Pillar about how and why your CEO doesn’t care about hiring the best people.

Some Conversation Highlights:

Yeah, ultimately the decisions about hiring the best people come down to the hiring managers, but the agenda is probably set throughout the organization and that’s set with the culture of the organization, the values of the organization that everybody stands up and signs up to and believes in, and the mission of the organization. I think if you start there and that then filters through to both interviewers and how they’re assessing and selecting the right candidates that fit into that culture, that fit with those values, and ultimately hiring managers who are making the decisions for their teams and actually getting those offers sent out and bring those members in.

So there is sometimes the potential to just bring warm bodies into organizations, particularly with some of the growth that’s happened in technology companies, in particular, over the last few years, whereas now I think we’re seeing a little bit of a pivot from that into actually creating high performing teams and much better teams through selecting the right candidates. And this is for the benefit of both the company but also the candidates, the employees that are coming into the company as well. There’s sudden spikes in first year turnover, for example, which aren’t good for either the company or people that are working within the company that are being turned over.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 29 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 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 Tincup (00:34):

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Mark on from Pillar and the topic today, which is fantastic… I can’t wait to actually go through this, is your CEO doesn’t care about hiring the best people. So why don’t we just jump in. Mark, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Pillar?

 

Mark (00:56):

Yeah, William, hi there. Thank you. First, thanks very much for having me on. I’m honored to be here. I’m Mark Simpson. I’m the founder and CEO of Pillar, and at Pillar we believe that people are the most important part of our business. We are on a mission to help companies grow through hiring the very best talent. And we have launched an interview intelligence platform a few years ago focused on the hiring process and hiring more efficiently, effectively, and equitably.

 

William Tincup (01:25):

And I’ll tell you, if I ever say Pilar, it’s only because I went to business school with a gal named Pilar. She was in my group and so when I look at the name… It’s obviously Pillar, but if I ever say Pilar, that’s not a slight. It’s just me remembering her.

 

Mark (01:47):

Don’t worry, we’ve certainly heard it more than once before. You wouldn’t be the only one.

 

William Tincup (01:52):

It’s a beautiful name. Both Pillar and Pilar.

 

Mark (01:56):

I agree.

 

William Tincup (01:58):

I’ve had this thought. So when you and I went back and forth on email on this particular thought, I thought about some of the best teams in sports, whether or not you watch World Cup, or football, or whatever the team sport is, and it’s sometimes not the best, depth wise… the team with all A talent wins. I could go through World Cups for the last 40 years and tell you just examples of where that’s played out. But this, your topic… What’s interesting to me is that the CEO doesn’t care about hiring the best people. So let’s rip that apart…. people are our most important assets… Why wouldn’t they care?

 

Mark (02:49):

I think every CEO, nowadays and for the last however many years now, goes out and stands up in front of their companies and says that people are the most important part of their businesses. They do, don’t they? I’ve done it certainly before.

 

William Tincup (03:08):

Oh, me too. Absolutely.

 

Mark (03:09):

If you actually analyze where the CEO appoints money, and spending, and so on and so forth, it’s quite often the HR teams that are last on that list. And this is where there’s a divide between what the CEO says sometimes and the actions taken within it. You look at companies which are very, very efficient in lots of areas. Things like, I don’t know, marketing to attract the very best prospects of the company, and lots of tools in sales to assess those prospects and close them into customers, and a lot of money pours into those areas. But for decades now, really, talent acquisition teams have not seen the same level of investment and have really played second fiddle perhaps to some of the other areas of a business. I think that’s slowly changing now, which is good and about time, and hopefully we’ll continue to change and continue to pivot into being more of an agenda item and CEOs investing more in bringing the best people into their companies.

 

William Tincup (04:28):

I want to get to the investment and budget side here in a second, but do you think that it, say either subconsciously or otherwise, that they think that they can get there with B talent?

 

Mark (04:39):

Potentially, yes. If you really break it down, I think every CEO would like to say and would like to feel they have the best team out there. But the actions they take to create those teams don’t quite represent the words that they say. So I think that there are plenty of companies with good talent in them and they grow very nicely. The very best companies actually do focus more on talent and they truly do have great talent within their teams and it’s been an agenda item for those CEOs for many, many more years than just recently.

 

William Tincup (05:24):

I think you’ll unpack this a little bit, but I think when you look at talent, just like you look at a product… Like you have a wonderful product in the marketplace and you’ve obviously invested heavily in making the product really, really great, that’s a competitive advantage, right? Because if you get compared to anybody, or any other product, or the status quo or whatever, you’ve got a really sophisticated product or competitively you’ve got an advantage, why is it that we don’t look at talent in the same way that we do features and functionalities of product?

 

Mark (06:03):

Well, I think some companies do, but I just think those companies are very few and far between. They tend to be the companies that really stand out in the market and you can name the obvious ones that are really high performing. The Googles of this world and the like are known to attract, and maintain, and retain really top talent. And that is because they have had more of an investment, and more of a focus, and more of a differentiator within talent acquisition teams and within bringing in great talent into the business.

(06:44)
You bring the sports analogies and I think that there are… It’s about bringing in the best talent and the best talent doesn’t necessarily need to be the most famous talent or whatever it is, but it’s the best talent for the roles in which you’re recruiting for at the moment to work amongst a team and that team work cohesively together. And I think with transparency through the hiring process, a good way of selecting great players to be part of great teams, the performance of companies that really focus on that are truly exceptional compared to those that don’t.

 

William Tincup (07:26):

Love that you brought team into it. Because again, an A player let’s just say, on another team… we’ll use Google as an example and we’ll use Facebook as an example. Why not? So somebody that’s great at Facebook, just a wonderful backend developer or whatever, wonderful at Facebook, you drop them into Google inside of a team, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be great on that team. So where do you think in… And again, that CEO’s mindset of where do they think that that team dynamic gets sorted out? Is that a hiring manager or the manager in particular that sorts out what type of player will be most successful in the team?

 

Mark (08:12):

Yeah, ultimately the decisions come down to the hiring managers, but the agenda is probably set throughout the organization and that’s set with the culture of the organization, the values of the organization that everybody stands up and signs up to and believes in, and the mission of the organization. I think if you start there and that then filters through to both interviewers and how they’re assessing and selecting the right candidates that fit into that culture, that fit with those values, and ultimately hiring managers who are making the decisions for their teams and actually getting those offers sent out and bring those members in.

(08:57)
So there is sometimes the potential to just bring warm bodies into organizations, particularly with some of the growth that’s happened in technology companies, in particular, over the last few years, whereas now I think we’re seeing a little bit of a pivot from that into actually creating high performing teams and much better teams through selecting the right candidates. And this is for the benefit of both the company but also the candidates, the employees that are coming into the company as well. There’s sudden spikes in first year turnover, for example, which aren’t good for either the company or people that are working within the company that are being turned over.

 

William Tincup (09:44):

So spinning off of the hiring manager, they’ve got to have a deep understanding of what they want in the role, what they can communicate. And again, what we see oftentimes is a laundry list of all the things that… They worked at DARPA, they worked at NASA, they have two PhDs. Okay, so it’s a laundry list of things. How do we reconcile the best person for that team? The manager’s trying to look at the team and say, okay, the best person for this team with the skills and the requirements for a job description or a job rec that gets translated to recruiters, how do you reconcile that or how does that get reconciled?

 

Mark (10:29):

I think if you look at a good recruiting process, having a good idea of what you want as a success after the first year that that role has been filled is a great place to start, then pull back into the skills that are needed for that role.

(10:50)
Once you’ve done that… And I think that companies are getting actually pretty good at that part of things. There’s been a lot of investment, the majority of investment in that top of funnel part of talent acquisition and going out, and trying to attract people into the funnel, where a lot of companies have fallen down over the last few years or where maybe there is more opportunity now, is actually when you get into the middle of the funnel where having a coordinated interview process so you’re not asking the same person five different times, by five different people, through five different interviews, the same questions. It’s actually coordinating the questions, it’s making sure you take the time to sell your opportunities to those candidates and it’s making sure that you are getting someone who is going to fit as part of the team, not just be able to functionally do the role.

 

William Tincup (11:51):

So interviewing the… One of the parts of our thing is hiring the best people, which gets me to, okay, well hiring the best people, obviously, you’re going to have to source that talent, take them through a litany of recruiting, and getting up to a point where they apply, and then you interview. And this gets back to what you do at Pillar, is what’s the best practices for interviewing top talent or the best talent? Do you got any guidance for folks around, okay, is there different ways… Again, C in detail, if you will, versus A talent? Is there a different way to interview that talent?

 

Mark (12:36):

Yeah, there’s not necessarily different ways to interview, but I think there are certainly different ways to assess the talent that is being interviewed. So I think that if you’ve attracted talent into the pipeline, once you get into it, you’ve got to realize that the purpose of the interview is twofold. One is that you are trying to assess whether it’s worth getting married to that person for a period of time and you’ve also got to sell that person on getting married to you as well. So a fundamental level, when you’re giving candidates the right information that they need and the reality of the role so that they can be successful in it, I think is as important as whether the candidate has the right skills for that role itself. You get a very, very short amount of time, if you think about it, to make a decision as to whether the candidate is right or wrong.

(13:38)
So say you’ve got a 45 minute interview or an hour long interview and you’re spending maybe 40 minutes assessing the candidate, and 20 minutes answering the candidate’s questions, and selling that candidate, and you do that three times. That’s two hours with someone, that’s all you’ve had. Then make a decision as to whether that candidate is the right person for the role or not. So coordinating those two hours of questions to try and select the best candidate between the three interviewers so everyone’s asking something different, and people are assessing, and then sharing that information back from the candidate’s words is something which teams could do more of in order to be able to make better decisions in terms of which candidate is going to fit best with the team and which candidates have the right skills for the role. So that coordination, that sharing and everyone being on the same page, is a fundamental part of what Pillar can help with in making sure that you’re bringing the right people into the organization.

 

William Tincup (14:43):

And you’ve said it, I think implicitly, but it’s speed too. Ultimately, and I’ve said this to folks before, that it’s response times. If great talent actually does seek you out and say, “Yeah, I think I’d be interested in this role”, if it takes you 72 hours to respond, typically, that talent has moved on.

 

Mark (15:10):

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, William. The best candidates don’t even come onto the market. The next tier of candidates, we’ll call them the best candidates that come onto market, the top 10% of those are on the market for 11 days. Most recruiting cycles are four to six weeks. So you’ve really got to work hard to give yourself a chance of securing those people who are on and off the market very, very quickly. So speed and coordination of that, I think, is absolutely crucial. You’re right.

 

William Tincup (15:48):

So what’s interesting about… First of all, it’s great stats. I think that’s the message back to the C-suite in general, both finance, the CEO, the board, everybody there, is we have 11 days. From soup to nuts, we have 11 days with the best talent. And now that you know that, again, I think that would be shocking for most CEOs, maybe not tech CEOs, but most CEOs, I think that’d be shocking. What do you mean by 11 days? Because I think they think of talent as a faucet and you just turn on the faucet and talent comes out, turn off the faucet and talent goes away. But 11 days is that aperture in which you have an opportunity. It doesn’t mean you’ll win, but you have an opportunity with that talent. If true, if all of what we’re saying is true, how do we carry that message back to the C-suite, especially the CEO?

 

Mark (16:41):

Yeah, something we help our customers with all the time is just making the C-suite aware and becoming a highly prioritized agenda item in their weekly discussions, and I’m pleased to say it is happening more and more. We do see it more and more. The world has just changed so much and I think that everybody recognizes the change the world has gone through, both from things like work from home, and Black Lives Matters, and DEI, and everything that’s happened over the past few years. I do think the C-Suite is more open now to listening to those conversations than ever before because employees are, and rightly so, more empowered, maybe more demanding, and the same is with candidates as well. So they have to start listening now and I think we help our customers a lot in that messaging and making sure that it is in an agenda item yet.

 

William Tincup (17:47):

So getting back to budget, because I wanted to come back to budget. If we say something is important, then typically we put time, money, and resources behind it to reinforce that it’s actually important. You and I both know that we say that talent’s important, especially the recruiting of talent is important, yet year after year we see not the investment in tools, and process, and people, and all the things, to actually make that work. So as we’re carrying this message to the C-suite around 11 days, that gets their mind thinking about, “Okay, it’s milk. You have 11 days and the milk’s expired.” Okay well talent, great talent especially, you have 11 days and they expire and you can’t get them. You can get other people but you can’t get them. How do we carry that message as it relates to budget? And what I’m looking for, and I don’t know if we can answer it on this podcast, but I’m looking for is how do they know how much to spend?

(18:52)
Because when we first thought about this, I thought, CEOs don’t know what they need to invest, so instead of investing in a way that we want them to, they just don’t know what is it, price per employee, or per a hundred employees we should be spending X on talent acquisition. I don’t think that there’s a metric that they feel comfortable with and then it freezes them in terms of spend. Because it’s like, in their minds, are they overspending in talent acquisition, or are they underspending, or does it matter? So the question, I guess, is when we carry back to them the message of 11 days, we’re also going to be carrying back to them a message of, okay, we need to invest more so that we can be faster, get higher quality hires, et cetera. How do we do that mathematically or with some type of rigor around data?

 

Mark (19:50):

Yeah, so there are two elements I think that that can help teams in build up the case to CEOs for how much they should be spending. One is just benchmark data, and you’re right, the data out there on how much it should cost per hire and those sorts of things is very varied and all over the place. But there is data out there and if you can hunt through and find similar types of companies yourself, that can certainly be very helpful. The second area which we see happening more and more is just giving more transparency and clarity into what is now needed in order to be able to attract and then secure the top talent.

(20:38)
So building up a very, very clear vision and a very clear picture of your talent acquisition tech stack, for example. We have examples of this that we share with customers as a basis which they can then adapt and alter. We just look at the key areas of investment needed in order to create the perfect process and the ideal way to secure those people who are on the market for 11 days. And if you can build up from the top down in terms of comparisons and then the bottom up in terms of what is now needed in a modern town acquisition tech stack, you build a much stronger case for yourself and actually have something to go of, which then monetary figures for your organization can be plugged in quite easily.

 

William Tincup (21:32):

Yeah, it’s interesting because cost per hire, historically, has been that hire, that particular hire. If we’re filling in a director of demand gen, it’s okay, what recruitment costs, what training costs, onboarding costs, any opportunity costs with them not being there, et cetera. You can get to a number for that hire. And I think one of the things that you just did, which I love, is that you’ve broadened it out of, okay… And what I wrote down was, what’s the ROI on an exceptional talent acquisition?

(22:04)
So how do we, as you said, build a business case for exceptional talent acquisition, which is technology, and process, and people, and all of the other things. It’s the tools and resources to be successful. So I think, again, cost per hire or even time to fill some of the more historic things… There is a lot of dat,a actually, out there. It’s just, as you said, it’s very… You throw a dart and find different numbers, which I think confuses the C-suite. They’ll see $17 and $17,000. It’s like, okay, which one of these do I believe? And so I think if we flip that into, hey, the talent acquisition that we want to create, both in technology, and process, and people, et cetera, here’s the total cost of ownership for all of our talent acquisition and here’s what we get back.

 

Mark (23:07):

Absolutely, and it is that. I maybe majored on a little bit of the talent tech stack, but obviously it’s the people around that that are required both internally, potentially externally as well, that are required to acquire and attract all that talent as well. So I think you had it exactly right there, William, in the technology and the people are the two most important elements of that.

 

William Tincup (23:35):

So let’s go back to… Something that I get asked all the time is, and I’m sure you do too, is who is doing this well? And my answer, at least historically, has been you’re never going to know who’s doing as well because they’re not going to tell the story. They have no interest in… It’s like the conference scene and the conference circuit, if you will. They have no interest about going out there writing books and telling everyone else how they’re doing great or exceptional TA because they see it as a competitive advantage and they’re using it as a competitive advantage. First of all, blow that apart if I have that wrong.

 

Mark (24:18):

No, you have that right. I think that, now, more and more people are willing to shout about the good work they do and you do see that happen. I also think there’s a good amount of reading between the lines that people can take out of things as well. And in the craziness of the last year by [inaudible 00:24:39] and think back and you have a lot of talent acquisition teams that were just saying they can’t hire great talent, they struggle to find great talent, they struggle to secure it. Their candidate acceptance rates are at all time historic lows. They’re the people who probably haven’t yet optimized or perfected their processes. It’s maybe the quiet people in the corner that are disagreeing quietly and maybe sitting there very smugly and thinking, yes, it’s tougher, but we are still attracting great talent. We’re still growing how we want to grow with it within our organizations. Those people are the people who you probably want to turn around and talk to more.

 

William Tincup (25:20):

So the last question I have in regards is… And just your perspective is… Because there’s a relationship between TA and HR. Typically in a corporate environment, there’s an HR budget and TA is a part of that budget. Sometimes TA has a direct dotted line relationship with the CEO or the C-suite, et cetera, and sometimes it’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line to the HR leader, people ops leader, CHRO/HRD, et cetera. Do you think that impacts the actual message of, again, this 11 days. That’s just great data and maybe the return on exceptional town acquisition, et cetera. Structurally, if they have to go through HR to convince HR, and then HR has to then go convince the C-suite, does… First of all, do you see that happening, A. B, is that why some of this is stymied in terms of why we’re not hiring, why the CEOs don’t care about hiring the best talent because they don’t know how important it is?

 

Mark (26:33):

Yeah, so we do see it happening. We do see, very, very often, talent acquisition going through HR, and then HR surfacing that at the C-suite level. I think it’s those talent acquisition teams that work very closely as business partners with the other titles of that C-suite, the CMO, the CTO, the Chief Revenue Officer, can potentially get more voices at the table than just the Chief People Officer. But Chief People Officers now I think are becoming great partners in surfacing the urgency and the needs of that.

(27:20)
I think it’s more understood now more than ever before probably, just some of the challenges of attracting and securing the best talent. So naturally, it has had more of a seat at the table over the last couple of years than I think it ever has before. And I think it’s just making sure that that trend continues and it’s really an entire C-suite problem because DMO needs to have great talent in their teams as much as any of the other titles around the table. And if it’s an entire sort of C-suite problem, it will continue to get the attention that is needed.

 

William Tincup (27:58):

Yeah, I’ve had a lot of DEI leaders tell me that DEI is not one person’s responsibility or department’s. It’s everyone’s responsibility. One person might lead and do all the analytics, et cetera, and reporting, and transparency, but it’s everyone’s responsibility. And what’s fascinating about what you just said is, I was thinking about maybe the reason the CEOs and the C-suite is starting to pay more attention to talent is retention related issues. Is that people are leaving, or choosing not to come, one or the other. And so they’re probably curious as to, okay, what’s going on here? And you’re a CEO, you know… You’ve got a lot of stuff that’s going on, it’s not like talent’s the one thing that you have going on. You’ve got an entire wheel of other responsibilities.

(28:51)
Mark, this has been fantastic. I knew it would be a great topic, but this was absolutely excellent. Thank you so much.

 

Mark (28:57):

Well thank you so much and thanks for everyone listening.

 

William Tincup (28:59):

Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcasts. Until next time.

 

Announcer (29:04):

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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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