Ana Recio
SVP of Talent SoFi

Ana Recio is SVP of Global Recruiting for Salesforce. In this role, she leads a global team of more than 350 people responsible for hiring about 8,000 people annually. Recio has 20 years’ of experience leading talent acquisition teams at pioneering tech companies including Yahoo!, MobiTV, EMC, Documentum and Sybase.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Ana from SoFi about bias mitigation strategies and tactics.

Some Conversation Highlights:

Ana: So, bias mitigation strategies and tactics. You’ve obviously seen this from a lot of different levels. Let’s start with just bias and the things that you’re seeing today in biases. And so, paint the picture for the audience of just, okay, so here’s some biases that you might not be aware of. Here’s some things that are going on in the workplace. One of my favorites is online degrees versus offline degrees, or traditional universities that people don’t realize that they have these biases against one, or for the other, in both directions, right? So, what are you seeing in terms of biases?

William: We see all sorts of biases, which is why bias mitigation strategies are needed. We see biases predominantly in, there’s an assumption that if you’ve worked at a marque named company, that you somehow are going to understand scale, or that you’re going to be able to develop faster or contribute faster, because you’ve seen what a larger established company, how they may have operationalized something.

Tune in for the full conversation.

 

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Listening time: 32 minutes

 

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Music:
This is Recruiting Daily’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 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

Anna:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Anna on from SoFi, and our discussion or our topic today is, biased mitigation strategies and tactics. Can’t wait to talk to Anna about this. So, without any further ado, Anna, or excuse me, Anna, A: make sure I pronounce your name correctly; B introduce both yourself and SoFi.

William:
Hi, William, so great to be here. My name is Anna Recio and I am the senior vice president of talent at SoFi, which is a very fancy way of saying that my team and I, we oversee talent acquisition. We oversee employee experience, learning and development, and my favorite, which is diversity, equity and inclusion.

Anna:
Oh, very cool. So, and SoFi? If anybody doesn’t know what SoFi does, we will just tell them.

William:
SoFi does personal wealth management. So, this is a online platform where you can get your money right. So, everything from your personal banking, to investments, to financial planning, as well as retirement or college planning. So, everything in one platform, one stop shopping.

Anna:
I love it. So, bias mitigation strategies and tactics. You’ve obviously seen this from a lot of different levels. Let’s start with just bias and the things that you’re seeing today in biases. And so, paint the picture for the audience of just, okay, so here’s some biases that you might not be aware of. Here’s some things that are going on in the workplace. One of my favorites is online degrees versus offline degrees, or traditional universities that people don’t realize that they have these biases against one, or for the other, in both directions, right? So, what are you seeing in terms of biases?

William:
We see all sorts of biases. We see biases predominantly in, there’s an assumption that if you’ve worked at a marque named company, that you somehow are going to understand scale, or that you’re going to be able to develop faster or contribute faster, because you’ve seen what a larger established company, how they may have operationalized something. But, there’s obviously, some failure in that insight, in that many of the individuals who joined these companies, once they were established, they weren’t there for the development of these practices. So, they have the benefit of working in these environments, but they don’t necessarily have the benefits of knowing how those structures were built. And, yet you see time and time again, I’ll see, you say, “I only want people from these five companies.” Because, they assume that those skills are inherent as a result of being part of those companies.

Anna:
I love that because that’s the hot company bias. And, it could be Google, Facebook, whatever the hot company is, that they, I love that you mentioned scale, but it’s also that they somehow, it’s almost like how we look at some of the great schools in the world, the London School of Economics, Harvard, whatever it may be and the bias for and against. I mean, it actually cuts both ways, right? It’s getting anyone, but someone that’s been to Harvard, it’s, wait a minute. Well, that’s same… I mean, it’s not the same bias, it’s a bias, but it’s, “Well, there’s good people that haven’t attended Harvard, as well.”

William:
Of course, it’s funny. Well, we saw it, and I’ve seen this now a couple companies is, there’s an assumption that they might have, the individuals have to have enterprise experience, for example. And, the way it manifested is I would have recruiters come to me and say, these executives only want to see people with these profiles, yet I know that I’m bringing them really talented people who have the skills. And so, I in essence asked them, “So, how do you know they’re not right? How do we know that maybe, hiring people from these marque companies truly does yield a better hire, a better enterprise hire, right? And so, we started this incredible arduous task of really assessing who were the top 100 salespeople in the organization?

William:
Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their background? And, this took a long time, well over a year of analysis because how do you even determine what great looks like, right? And so, there was all sorts of variables that we had to keep in mind across the globe. But, we came away with that all top 100 had three things in common. Well, first I have to tell you that out of the top, 66% of them, which is two thirds of them did not have any prior enterprise experience. Astonishing, right?

Anna:
Yeah. You taught him. You, essentially, so, but you taught him enterprise experience.

William:
That’s exactly right. And so, what the common denominator was, and this was really enlightening. It was individuals who had come from a monthly cadence of basic and monthly quota, instead of a quarterly or a yearly one. It was individuals who understand the practices, who had been users of the systems, so they didn’t necessarily have to have sold it before, but they have to had to work in these environments where they’d used these systems before. And, it was individuals who had been trained in solution selling, in that type of, basically, that approach. And so, once we had this empirically set up, then it allowed us to really establish competencies, and then to go back to the business and say, “I know you want… I know you think that you’re going to hire somebody better if they come from these companies. But, the truth is that these are the success attributes.” Now, I got to tell you, William, people weren’t lining up saying, “I’ve seen the light, you’re right.”

Anna:
Yeah. They’re trying to figure out how wrong you are. Yes.

William:
Thousand percent, right. They were, “Absolutely not. Still get me this.” So, we had to get a few brave souls that were willing to try our approach. But, what it did is, our recruiters were able to now assess based on different criteria. And, it really did broaden, you hear recruit, talk about this all the time, it just broaden the aperture. We were no longer bound by having to go fish at these fields, same three ponds everyone else is fishing. And of course, we brought in great people and I mean, I can go on, and on, and on about how we start to really prove the quality of higher around this. Because, what we started doing is, six months after these people had started… First of all, once we knew their assessment, and we knew where their strengths were.

William:
We were then able to proactively help them and train them right away in areas that we knew that there was deficiencies in. So, that in itself, just understanding the competencies was super enlightening to be able to provide great onboarding experience. But then, six months later, we were able to ask them, how are you doing? Where do you need more help? And, we were able to ask their hiring managers, do you feel like you’ve made a good decision here? And, how’s this person doing? And, it was night and day, in terms of the experience. I mean, that’s where we really were able to prove the model. And so, I’m a huge… I mean, no doubt does, do we see incredible bias, but the way to mitigate it for us was really getting back to this or these competency assessments.

Anna:
Which, gets us to a number of different things. First, she gets you to data. So, it’s not an opinion, and thus, it’s not my opinion, your opinion, his opinion, her opinion, et cetera. You’re looking at the data of what works in your organization. So specifically, in different parts of your organization, so you can carve it out and say, “Here’s the DNA of what works here for us and what success looks like.” And, it levels a playing field. What I love about this is it just, basically, it doesn’t matter if they have a degree or don’t have a degree, or went to the university of Michigan, or male, female, trans, this, that the other, it’s just, here’s, the competencies, or the skills that we need from these folks.

Anna:
This is what success looks like. So, I love it on so many levels. The hardest folks to, retrain is probably not the right way of saying it, but just get them to reimagine how this looks like. Was it, and has it been hiring majors, sources, recruiters, executives, I know it’s…. I feel you want to say, all, but, what was the hardest convey of this data driven, competency driven model?

William:
I honestly think it’s hiring managers, because they’re the ones that are on the front lines, right, of these scenes. And, they’re the ones who, they have limited head count and they want to hire the Messiah. I mean, they want to bring on Jesus Christ, if they would. That’s the one I want to hire. And so,-

Anna:
And, they want them yesterday, by the way.

William:
Of course. You better walk on water. Let me just tell you right now, whether-

Anna:
We can’t wait for miracles. We need the miracles to start, day, week on. Sorry.

William:
And so, they want, into their minds the assurance of somebody with that pedigree, as you talked about. From that great marque school, and then of course, reinforced by these great marque companies, what they fail in missing is the critical thinking aspect, is obviously if you went to these marque schools, you’re clearly very bright, but that’s not the only determinator to being intelligent. And, no doubt, like I mentioned before, a lot of these companies, they’ve already, the innovation is not being done at this level. And, these engines are really well established long, long, long before these individuals arrived and contributed. Where we really find that there’s a difficult barrier to entry is that those early career secret rules. If you’re senior and you have a track record, obviously, you’re able to speak to your experience and really substantiate your experience.

William:
Which again, I think does address some bias, but if you’re early on in your career, and perhaps you don’t have a four year degree, or if you do, it’s not from one of these fancy marquee, Ivy League schools, then how do you differentiate your background? And then, that’s where it really does become super biased because it becomes about who you know, who can get you in the door. It really is… There’s no way to really differentiate your experience versus somebody else’s, unless you going back to this competency based interviewing investments.

Anna:
It’s interesting that you mentioned, sorry to interrupt, Anna, the both hiring managers is, one of the tricks that I’ve recently established with hiring managers is to not use the word bias. So, hear me out, and then of course shoot it all down.

William:
[inaudible 00:11:07] me more about this.

Anna:
So, I’ve eradicated bias from Alexicon. And, when I talk to hiring managers, I say, “Well, you have a preference,” and preference somehow, I mean, it’s a synonym, but preference somehow makes it seem, oh yeah, well, yeah. I have a preference for Mexican Twitter or text mix, it doesn’t seem near as weighted, as bias, you know what I mean? Loaded bias, “Oh my God, you’re a racist.” But, preference, it’s somehow power… It’s the same stuff, exact same stuff. It’s just packaged differently. So, I wonder, what’s your take on that? A, and B, I had hiring managers already asterisk before ask the question, because that’s been my struggle, as well.

William:
I love the word preference, because it’s much softer of course. But, at the end of the day though, I mean, if your preference is still with marque name companies, we’re still back to square one.

Anna:
No, it’s just getting emotionally and intellectually over to this place of trying the competency model and trying data driven recruiting decisions versus non, if I say that. I love that y’all put them on a learning path. And, that’s a part of it, right? So, you figure out what you do have and why that’s going to make sense is it relates to the DNA, and then you say, okay, well let’s round out the things that you don’t have, let’s get you on this career path, or upscaling, et cetera. Let’s get you on these paths to learn. For you all, where does soft skills fit into some of this? Especially, on the upscaling side?

William:
Well, that’s a totally part of the assessment, the competencies, right? So, if the soft skills are, affected communication, or sense of urgency, or ability to truly problem solve, you could build assessments that again, that you could literally, test people for. And so, by doing this, you have a good idea. And, I’m just going to give an example of a call center. If you need an individual who is really good at diffusing this hot, hot, hot, hot situations, then you can assess, or is this person great at taking the charge out of an emotional conversation? And, you could assess for that. And, you could also train for that, which is really important. I think, the problem is that we often let our hiring managers dictate these job descriptions, and these job descriptions aren’t anchored back to what is actually the success criteria of, required in the role. And so, we end up interviewing based on what we think we need or what we see in ourselves.

Anna:
Or, it’s literally with other biases, the last person that did the job.

William:
And, that’s exactly right.

Anna:
Right. So, it’s, Jane did the job. She was fantastic. Jane’s moved on, let’s hire another Jane. It’s, “Well, wait a minute. What skills did Jane have?” Why don’t we look at that? Go ahead. Pace your thought.

William:
Oh, you raised such a good point here, because you’re exactly right. People want to hire on what the incumbent last had, but what they don’t ask themselves is why are the incumbent leave?

Anna:
Right. Ooh, ooh. I didn’t even think of that. That’s great. Yes.

William:
That’s my hot one, because I’ll say, going back to the example of Jane, well, Jane left because she wasn’t learning because you hired somebody who’s done the exact same job somewhere else, and they’ve come back and all they’re doing is recreating what they’ve already known, but they haven’t had a chance to actually apply and influence. And, you haven’t given a chance to really spark curiosity. And, in our environment, what worked at their former company may not always work at ours. So again, it goes back to, why are people leaving your organization? I have found, and I have implemented competency based interviewing at three companies. I interview, I did this at Yahoo. I did it at Salesforce and Salesforce globally. And of course, we’re doing it at SoFi now. And, we have found that for the groups I have adopted, not only are we mitigating bias, or we are flushing out preference, as I’ve learned from you today, are we lining on preference?

Anna:
Stolen.

William:
That’s going to be my new way of positioning that. But, people are staying longer. They’re staying longer because they’re-

Anna:
Yeah. That’s why I was going to ask you, the relationship with retention.

William:
Right. Because, now we can develop them. Now we are teaching them something. Now we are refining skills that we knew from the very beginning that they’re going to need. And so, it really does change the relationship.

Anna:
Which makes sense, because that’s also what folks want when they’re coming into a job. They want someone’s going to invest in them. They want someone that cares about upskilling and internal mobility. So, you’re hitting some of the things that candidates today already care about. But, now instead of, after onboarding and dealing with it after then, it’s, we can bring, we can pull all that stuff into town acquisition, and have those discussions right away. A couple quick questions. One is, as we think about it, a competency based assessments, do y’all build your, you’re big enough to where you could have your own I/O psychology team, and all that other stuff. So, we probably do. But, do you build your own assessments, or do you buy things that are already readily available out there?

William:
I’ve done both. And, I in full disclosure, I’m also on the board of a criteria that also does assessment of these skills based assessments. So, at SoFi, we are adopting a criteria because frankly, they’ve already done it, so…

Anna:
Yeah. Why reinvent the wheel.

William:
Right. And, I mean, if you can’t afford the psychologists and the whole nine yards to do all the capabilities, then to, what’s the advantage of a criteria is that they’ve already done this work for you. And, they can tell you again, empirically, not just in your company, but across the industry, what are the right competencies and skills that you should be assessing against for these core roles in your organization? What we have done is we’ve adopted criteria, which is fantastic. But then, now we’re taking that a step further. We’re doing self-assessments internally, that now are determining our leadership attributes-

Anna:
Oh, nice

William:
…that we’re training against, which is fantastic. So, I could now take my leaders in my managers and executives, and company and say, “Hey, these are 22 areas that we think develop great leaders. Let’s see how you’re doing it against them. And then, let’s develop a personal path for you that we now can basically, create this journey.” So, that again, that investment is there and that people feel like there’s a plan, there’s a vision. And ultimately, that’s what breeds trust right, in your employer is, okay, they’re making an investment in me.

Anna:
What I love about that is you’re taking a competency based model. And, instead of it just being housed in one part of the people operation, you’ve basically said, we’re going to hire to it. We’re going to promote to it. We’re going to fire to it. We’re going to do all, trained to it. You’re going to do everything related to this competency model. And, it goes all the way to job descriptions, it goes to everything. And, it infiltrates every aspect of HR and people operations, so that, again, and you can change these things. But, I love the proliferation of using a great competency model. And then, it goes everywhere. It travels around the organization so that everyone gets it. When we build a job description, before we build it, we don’t go to Indeed and rip one off of somebody else’s that looks like a position that’s similar. We go and build it. Hey, I’m guilty. My hands are bloody here. My hands are bloody.

William:
Me, too. I, oh, that sounds like us. Okay. We’ll go with that one.

Anna:
It sounds like something I’ve done twice, at least, today. Really quickly just to, because I know people are going to ask, where do you, on the town acquisition side, where do you add your assessments in terms of funnel? Do you put, I suppose competency based funnels, do competency based hiring, do you put them further out and get less candidates or do you bring them further in? And just, I’m more curious than anything else.

William:
We do them right at the very beginning. So, of course, right. It’s a very passive market. So, we talk… Our sourcers talk to our candidates, our recruiters, we tell them about the organization, about our philosophy, about why this is important, and why this becomes such a major investment in them, in terms of our employer brand and our proposition back to them. So, people understand that we’re not necessarily trying to screen them out. That, what we’re trying to do is get a better understanding of their strengths so that we can truly find a job that they’re going to stay at in the long term. And so then, we introduce the assessments, and then we come back and we give them the results. So, there’s a personality piece. So again, turns into a coaching thing, right? So, you don’t just take this assessment, and then it becomes a black hole. You actually get to learn a little bit about yourself and about where you should be, where you shine the brightest, and maybe some areas that you might want to think about and make personal investments in. Whether you get the job or not.

Anna:
I love it. Drops mic, walks off stage. Anna, thank you so much for your time today and your wisdom. Absolutely, appreciate it. It’s just such a great topic to explore and you all are doing some great work. So, thank you.

William:
Oh, anytime, William. I had so much fun. I’d love to talk to you about it more sometime. Thank you.

Anna:
Absolutely. And, thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast, until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

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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