Will is founder and CEO of Prelude, a technology company building a better hiring process, improving interviewing by removing friction, increasing transparency, and creating more joy. Prelude helps candidates and teams see the best in each other.Follow Follow
Storytelling about Prelude With Will Laufer
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 153. This week we have storytelling about Prelude With Will Laufer. During this episode, Will and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Prelude.
Will is CEO at Prelude and an expert in all things process and candidate experience. His passion for helping companies deliver a standout hiring experience with seamless interview scheduling and candidate touchpoints really comes through during the podcast.
He founded Prelude four years ago, a platform focused on helping recruiting teams deliver and scale an incredible applicant experience. The company’s goal is to streamline and automate complex coordination processes and manage interviews more effectively.
A few things we talk about today: What has changed most noticeably about the candidate experience since COVID began, and how have Prelude teams and customers adapted? How have candidate expectations changed in terms of working with remote hiring teams? In what ways can we move teams to focus on quality, speed and flexibility?
There’s more, of course! You have to tune in to find out. Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 30 minutes
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Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Will on from Prelude, and we’re going to be learning all about the business case, the use case for how practitioners buy Prelude. So, let’s jump right into it. Will, do us a favor, do the audience in favor and introduce yourself and Prelude.
Absolutely. Hey, William, it’s great to be on your podcast. I’m big fan of the Use Case podcast and happy to be here. Prelude is a company that I founded four years ago, and we focus on helping recruiting teams deliver and scale an incredible candidate experience. We do that by helping teams automate and streamline complex coordination processes, improve candidate touchpoints, and manage their interviewers more effectively.
So, we got a lot to unpack there. What’s been the most noticeable thing that’s changed with COVID and remote and hybrid, et cetera, as it relates to the candidate experience? What have you found from your customers, and they’re talking to you, and they’re like, “Okay, well they used to come into the office and then we all get in a conference room and we’d go through this bit and we had this kind of steady little flow.” And yeah, on Thursday, everyone’s going to be working from home so that gets thrown out the window. What have you found? I mean, again, we’re still technically in COVID, of course, but what have you found and how have your teams and your customers kind of adapted?
Sure. Yeah, the past 18 months has just upended so much about, well, all of our processes, but certainly, for recruiting teams, it’s been a massive transformation. Like you said, it used to be that after a couple of phone screens, a lot of candidates would be brought on-site and we’d find them the right conference room with AV and stick them in there for half a day and have them meet with a bunch of folks from the team, and that’s totally gone out the window. There’s some advantages to that, interestingly. Teams have shared with me a lot of feedback that in this remote world, there’s a lot more flexibility. We can sort of meet the candidate where they’re at in terms of scheduling and sort of finding time for interviewers to meet with them over multiple days sometimes as opposed to sort of back to back for six hours.
On the flip side though, there’s some big challenges. The primary one that I hear from heads of recruiting that I speak with is just the personalization. The ability for the candidate to be in an office, meet folks in person, and that really provided a platform for getting a true sense of the company they might be joining, the culture they might become a part of, and that gets lost as we sort of think about every touchpoint, moving all the way through to an offer and having someone join a company being fully remote. It’s really hard to sort of maintain that high-touch personalization that I think many of the best recruiting teams in the world take so much pride in.
So, we’ve been working really closely with our customers and sort of trying to listen to the industry and saying, “Well, we want that back, and what can we do remote world to help teams deliver a sort of high-touch, personal feeling experience, even if we’re not able to shake hands and sit down together in a conference room.”
What’s the expectations? Again, you’re dealing with sources, hiring managers, recruiters, and candidates, and probably more personas than just that, but how have expectations changed in terms of remote? Your recruiter’s remote, your hiring manager’s remote, your candidate’s remote, all of them are in three, might be even three different countries, or all over the world, whatever. What expectations have changed in terms of… I’m specifically thinking about the candidate and thinking about how their expectations because we kind of understood the bit before. I mean, it was kind of a known. You knew okay, you’re going to come in. You’re going to go to the room. You’re going to go through this battery of this, that, the other. You’re either going to make the cut or you won’t. It was a known thing. Now, it seemed a bit like a free-for-all or the Wild West, but really because you interact and your clients interact, what expectations, what do you see kind of in candidates today, they just expect this to happen?
Sure. I think the expectations sort of catch up to the reality. And so, as we’ve found ourselves in this remote world, I think we see candidates becoming a little bit more demanding, to be honest. They expect an ability to have a really flexible interview process. I mean, we’re doing a ton of hiring here at Prelude as our team grows, and candidates can be very opinionated on how and when and sort of the order of kind of interviews that they want to participate in and staggering that back to back. And we talk to teams that say, “Hey, we know that candidates are hopping off of an interview with the hiring manager here and hopping right onto an interview with a hiring manager at another company in the same chair right afterwards.”
And just thinking about how as teams, companies, and cultures, we can build processes that kind of meet those higher expectations and new needs of candidates, how we can move fast enough for the kind of pace of remote hiring, how we can, again, reintroduce some of that personalization and high-touch feel that gets lost when we don’t have office meetings. And yeah, I think candidates, to be honest are a little bit more demanding, and rightfully so. There’s a ton of competition out there. It’s really hard for teams recruiting teams to stand out and candidates, I sense at least, have a lot more leverage maybe than they did even just a couple of years ago.
Yeah. I get the same sense. What I love about flexibility and speed is you’re ultimately, as a hiring major, trying to get quality too. Right? So, you’re trying to kind of marry all of those things together.
The trifecta, yeah. It’s tough.
Yeah, trifecta. If you can do that, how do you, and maybe you don’t, but how do you convince people to… On some level, it’s an IQ test and on some level it’s if you don’t do it, everyone else will, and you just won’t get that talent. You also have some folks that are just reluctant about change in general. How do you get them over the hump, intellectually or emotionally, over that hump to think about speed, think about flexibility because they’re already thinking about quality. We don’t even need to talk about it. Of course, that’s going to be on top of their mind, but flexibility might not be top of their mind.
Absolutely, yeah. There’s a lot that goes into building and delivering an incredible candidate experience, and it’s why very, very few companies, frankly, are able to do it, at least in a scalable way. And when I talk to teams, the first place I always start is what are you doing today. Tell me about your process. I think everybody’s starting position is our process is great, but let’s unpack that. What does that really look like? And a lot of times when we do unpack it, there a lot of interesting things that kind of boil up to the surface.
I think just the first and sort of maybe most obvious, let’s say, is that there is still a lot of administrative work that happens in really manual ways. And when we break it down and sit down with recruiters, sit down with recruiting coordinators and ask what’s going on behind the scenes to sort of get us to these hiring outcomes that we’re looking for, interview as many candidates as we need, there’s still just countless, countless hours every week spent, hey, this hiring manager canceled literally 30 minutes before the meeting, I have to scramble and find a replacement, and little just kind of tasks and requests like that end up being such a huge focus of the job still to this day. And when we talk to recruiters and say, “Is that the highest way that you can be using that time?” The answer is of course not.
I would love to be thinking about how to add more personalization in the experience or how to build out programs that help us find channels where we can source more diversely or just countless other kind of projects and programs that could and should be having a huge impact on the outcomes that we’re driving. But again, instead we often hear the today process is really mired in kind of manual and sort of, to be frank, pretty low-leverage work, kind of sprinkled in with all of the amazing sort of person to person rapport-building, relationship-building, and recruiting that teams are doing.
So, I think that the kind of entry point for us is to say, “What’s going on in your process today that could be better?” And I mean that objectively, right? If we gave those hours back to your recruiters, you’re telling me that there wouldn’t be things that they could do to help close kind of higher-quality candidates or move faster through the funnel? And the answer is of course there are.
So, that’s kind of the first kind of surface-level area we tend to look at, just an evaluation of needs and current process. I think as folks get comfortable with Prelude, the area that we sort of see customers gravitate towards is, well, this isn’t actually just about efficiency. We do live in this world where sort of we are looking for ways to add personalization in the process, and we do live in this hypercompetitive kind of talent environment where it’s really, really hard for teams to stand out. Every candidate that’s talking to us is talking to five or 10 other companies that are trying to tell a similar story. And of course, every company is unique and does have their own sort of unique personalities and culture and things that that can help them to stand out, but telling that story can be really challenging.
Once we sort of look at the existing process and all of what feels kind of slow and manual and sometimes outdated about it, we then look at what can be better. What are we not thinking of today that we can do to really deliver an incredible experience day in and day out to the candidates that we’re talking to? That’s where I think the conversation gets really interesting and creative and strategic, but those tend to be the two channels we focus on with teams, and at least by starting on just really digging into the current process, I think we often find there are a lot of cobwebs that are pretty clear ways that we can focus on improvement.
What I love about it is there’s no value judgment. You’re not saying there’s a good or bad or right or wrong, that type stuff. It’s just let’s look at what it is and then audit it, have an openness and maybe even a vulnerability. We’re just going to look at it. It’s not Sally’s process or Bobby’s process. It’s just a process. Let’s just go and take a look at it. And again, there’s no right or wrong. Let’s just make it better for everybody involved. So, I love the auditing, intellectually starting with that and getting them there. Now, I know you get asked this question at least a thousand times a day. How do they know that they’re doing it well?
Sure. That’s a great question. One thing I actually want to say, William, on the auditing point is that in addition to helping our customers find ways and parts of their process that could be better, could be improved, what I love about the auditing approach or sort of being consultative is the kind of inverse is that our team here at Prelude are always learning from customers. Believe it or not, it’s really fun for me to nerd out on how are you scheduling interviews today. Tell me about each and every click you’re going through it. It’s not most people’s idea of fun, but literally with every recruiting team we talk to, we learn about something new, and they’re often really awesome and creative ideas that teams are bringing to the table that we say, “Hey, how can we incorporate that into what sort of we offer, we suggest to teams that we work with today?”
So, it very much is a two-way street, and the sort of starting from a positional of listening, I’ve always found has been a really important way, not just to drive kind of improvements, but also to learn and improve ourselves. And just wanted to get that point in, but I forgot your question. Could you repeat it?
I love it. No, no, no, I love it because it’s continuous improvement, and oh, by the way, you’re going through growth yourself. So, it’s not just to make the product better which of course helps, but it’s also to make your team better to make you better, and to think of it like everything’s a learning experience. The question was something you get asked often is how does one know that they’ve achieved a certain level, that they’re doing well? How do they know that their candidate process is working?
Yeah, that’s a great question. You ask 10 heads of talent how they know they’re doing well, and you’ll hear 10 different answers, to be totally honest, and to some extent, I think all of them can be right. I think the most important place to start is just to start in the first place to pick some metrics that you think are really, really important and sort of drive towards improving those and seeing kind of improvement over time.
Some common ones that we kind of look at with teams that we partner with, again, in that kind of first-value area of what can we do better about our process today, there are just some efficiency metrics that we want to look at, like a time to schedule, time spent scheduling, kind of how much time we’re able to free up or efficiency that’s gained by the team. As an example NerdWallet is a partner of ours for many years, and we did some studies with them that showed they were able to improve their scheduling efficiency by over 75%, providing literally three quarters of the day back to coordinators to focus on developing interviewer training programs, and so many other projects that help move the ball forward.
So, starting with just picking some metrics that we can look at and sort of drive towards improvement. Again, some efficiency metrics come to mind first, but as we zoom out, there are a number of other metrics that we work on with teams and sort of track closely. One is surveying the candidates in your funnel, getting feedback directly from the folks that you’re there to support and hopefully, yeah, help to make a decision and join your company. If they’re not, sort of thinking creatively about how to get honest feedback from them is very, very crucial, and thinking about kind of what MPS looks like from candidates or what anecdotally they’re saying about the process can be super important. And then we look at other metrics, things like offer acceptance rates, time from first round to kind of close. There are a number of metrics. Like I said, you talk to 10 or 20 teams, you’ll get 10 or 20 answers, but just deciding what those are, picking a North Star and using that to drive change and improvement, we’ve seen as sort of a very successful tactic for teams that we work closely with.
Love that, all of that. Okay. So, you’ve mentioned a highly personalized a few times as we’ve talked. And so, it gets me to the opposite side of that of the frustration points for everyone involved. Right? You’re mitigating, or you’re trying to help people mitigate those frustration points. So, what do you see as, not historically, but some of the ones that you see more kind of in a COVID era, or even in a more transparent world, where do you see the frustration points today? We’ll start with candidates, but obviously, you can do recruiters and hiring managers as well.
Yeah, absolutely. The biggest frustration points we hear over and over and over again from candidates are the process feels slow. The process feels oftentimes opaque or confusing. We hear this constantly from candidates where it’s, hey, I don’t know how many conversations I need to have, how long this process is going to take. I don’t know that much about the team that I’ll be meeting with. I don’t know what comes next or how to prepare for this technical interview. There are just a litany of questions that I think, to be honest, a lot of times, recruiting teams do their very, very best to kind of answer or get ahead of, but it’s still really hard when we’re managing everything kind of over email in these pretty manual ways. It can be very, very hard to stay on top and sort of provide a very transparent experience to candidates.
So, I think speed of process, transparency, and then just understanding the story and culture of the company they’re thinking about joining. These feel like areas that candidates really struggle with as they go through kind of the typical recruiting process currently. And it won’t be a surprise, but those concerns tend to be mirrored on the recruiting team and hiring manager side. It’s like, hey, how can we keep up with our candidate load? How can we make sure that balls aren’t getting dropped and we’re not going a week without responding to a candidate? How can we make sure that we’re putting our best foot forward?
Look, these teams consist of unbelievable individuals with great personalities and deep cultural values, but it’s really hard to get that across in a single recruiting process that might consist of only a handful of crucial touchpoints with the candidate. So, really asking those questions of how can we be fast, how can this feel modern, and how can we be really transparent with candidates, I think it cuts both ways, and if we can solve those problems or if teams can solve those problems, I think they’re way ahead of the pack in delivering a really excellent candidate experience.
What do you think the impact of job descriptions… What’s the relationship or impact between job descriptions and the candidate experience?
Yeah, I think job descriptions are the entry point, right? First impressions definitely matter. And a lot of times if you’re not able to sort of convey what you’re looking for with that first impression, you don’t get a second one. It’s very much a crucial step in the process, and at least saying, “Hey, what are the crucial things we want to get across to candidates to make sure that the best and the best potential fits aren’t sort of removing themselves from our process before they get to see all of what we have to offer?” So, it definitely feels like an important area of investment in thinking about a holistic candidate experience.
So, let’s assume that all touchpoints aren’t… And you mapped out there’s 22 touchpoints. Again, that’s just a completely made up number, but you’ve mapped them out, and let’s just assume for a second, that all touchpoints aren’t created equal. What’s the most important touchpoint? And again, I know this is a tough question because everyone’s kind going to have kind of a different bit here. What do you believe in right now and today? Not pre-COVID and not even post-COVID, but today, what do you think? If you were looking at it and you were giving advice to a prospect, he’s like, “Okay, you can mess up these other 21. Maybe not be as effective, but this one, yeah, you can’t make a mistake here.”
That’s a great question that I haven’t been asked before. So, I’ll give you an off-the-cuff answer.
The off-the-cuff answer is, look, I’ll actually start with my standard caveats here. Every role and department and team is different and that might affect kind of which touchpoint makes the biggest impact. But here’s the one that comes to mind for me. It is the pre-onsite touchpoint. And in this day and age, onsite may not mean what it used to mean, right? Folks aren’t coming into the office, but we still have that sense of we’ve got a candidate here that we’re really excited about. We’ve gone through some screens. We’ve determined that based on their experience and sort of ability to add to our culture, this could be a really amazing fit, and the candidate on the flip side feels the same way. Hey, I’ve talked to the hiring manager. I’ve read up on the company and I’m really pumped here.
And now, we get to kind of crucial space where the candidate needs to go through a handful, a pretty complex set of processes where they need to talk to a bunch of different people on the team. These are behavioral interviews. These are competency-based interviews. These are culture-focused interviews, and it’s a big commitment on both sides, to be honest. And I see time and again, candidates showing up to these interviews way under prepared. And on the flip side, sometimes teams do the same, right? Everybody’s busy. We have a hundred priorities. Interviewers are coming to the meeting and not knowing who they’re about to meet with or what they’re screening for, looking for, or how to run a really excellent interview. That’s just such a huge waste where there’s so much potential at that point in the process, but it’s so hard to get that right.
So, to me, it feels like a really, really crucial step is what are we doing to coordinate that effectively, to make sure the candidates have all the resources they need, and the interviewers have all the resources they need to make sure that really crucial process goes well. And if it does, the rest is kind of tends to fall into place, right? At that point, we’ve sort of, on both sides, vetted and feel really bought into this potential. And of course, offers are really important. That’s a crucial step. We could have chosen that. Of course, early screens are really important. You want to be efficient with your time and make sure you’re optimizing for the right candidates, but that kind of centerpiece right around that final stage around onsite feels most crucial to me.
I love that. And I, of course, with my personality, I went to the very end with offers because I was thinking to myself at this point everyone’s invested so much time, energy, money, the whole bit on every side, everybody, it’s like this one can’t be low key send over a DocuSign. It just can’t.
It just can’t be.
You’re so right.
And no offense to DocuSign. I love DocuSign, by the way.
Yeah. Well, right, they help with so much, but that’s above their pay grade, making the offer process right. Look, I think you’re right, and that’s why that question is so hard. Recruiting is tough. There’s so many steps in the process that we have to get right to get candidates over the line and make sure they have a fair and positive experience. But hopefully, again, I think you could easily make the argument for offers. You can make probably a bunch of different arguments across the funnel, but my hope would be that if you’ve really kind of set things up transparently and sort of well, and the interview process has gone off without a hitch, you hopefully already know here’s where our head’s at. Here’s what we’re thinking. Comp’s not going to be a huge surprise at the end of the process, and again, hopefully the candidate is really, really excited about the team culture and vision by the time you get to that point. So, tough question, impossible to answer it.
You know, right but love those two points as just super crucial steps in the process.
Yeah. We went alpha omega, so we did both sides of it. So, years ago I did study on questions Millennials ask in a recruiting process, and it was a huge study, and it was fascinating on a lot of levels because they asked HR questions. It was interesting for recruiters to react to that because, at that point, they were asking what’s next which is historically internal mobility, how you going to praise me which is rewards and recognition, and how are you going to make me better which is training and development, learning, and development, et cetera. So, these are all hardcore HR-related questions that recruiters by and large weren’t necessarily privy to. So, that’s history. Let’s just put that in the past. What do you see from your clients? What types of questions are candidates asking today?
Sure. Yeah, that’s another really, really interesting and complex question. I think, again, we’re sort of seeing this world where candidates have more power in the process than they ever have before. I think it leads to change. I think it’s really good change. I think it’s great that sort of if we rewind 10, 15, 20 years, right, the sort of, I don’t know, meme of a candidate just being a resume in a stack, it really sort of definitely, we’ve all been through that. Feeling like a resume in a stack, feeling like every email we’ve received from a company is a template and has nothing to do with us, and feeling like we don’t know what to expect next, and it’s two weeks until we hear about the next step in the process, and that just doesn’t cut it anymore, and I think this is a good thing, but it does lead to a lot of, yeah, it leads to a lot more, I think, questions and kind of sort of asking for access to information from candidates than we’ve seen in the past.
And I also think you sort of the examples you just gave, William, around that kind of study and sort of what folks are looking for in employment, I think we’ve seen that shift where companies are really investing in employee experience, and I think it’s past time that we see the shift where companies also invest in the candidate experience because obviously every employee at some point was a candidate, and building teams and finding the best folks and sort of having an amazing process up front sort of will make us so much more successful in building great employee experiences once folks are in our doors and are working on our teams.
So, I really think that’s what it all kind of boils back to is just how do we invest in candidate experience in a way that does sort of show transparently who we are as a company, does answer those tough questions for perspective employees, and does set them up for kind of feeling like this is a place that will meet those needs that you talked about, coming out of kind of those survey questions which I think we definitely hear and see on the front lines all the time.
I love it. Last question. It’s a Prelude question.
And your favorite customer story of where someone has, without names, by the way, of someone that’s just used Prelude that you’re just like, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” And again, there’s going to be so many. You can pick one from the last week. Doesn’t matter, but just one that you’re just really, really proud of.
Yeah, definitely. Well, I could wax poetic about so many customers, but here’s what I’m going to say. I still feel proud of stuff to this day is that the Prelude platform helps with all of these different components of candidate experience, but one crucial and kind of foundational one is making the recruiting coordination process better and easier and more streamlined. And I’m going to touch on that one because we work with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of recruiting coordinators all around the world at companies of varying sizes, and these are folks that, to be totally honest, don’t often get the praise and kind of recognition that I think they deserve. They’re sort of unsung heroes who behind the scenes are making sure the trains run on time and making sure these interviews are able to happen without a hitch.
And so, for me, kind of the first time, and now we’ve seen this happen with many companies we work with, but the first time we were able to take some of the super manual and very administrative work off of their plates and hear about examples of coordinators who are able to take on projects, able to build new programs, and ultimately, able to move forward in their career to become full lifecycle recruiters, to start sourcing, to take on other responsibilities that help them move up and move forward is just… I don’t know. It was so, so, so exciting to me that our platform was able to play a small role in that.
And again, we hear that time and again with teams as they grow, being able to sort of invest in their own people to work on strategic high-leverage projects because they’re able to streamline some of the more low-leverage parts of their process. So, it’s always something I’m really proud of and wherever we can help recruiters and coordinators to kind of up-level on their careers, I think it’s a huge win across the board.
Drops mic. Walks off stage. Will, thank you so much for coming on the Use Case podcast and breaking down Prelude for all of our listeners. It’s just wonderful. You’re doing great work. So, thank you so much for the time.
William, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Happy to be here and thanks for the time.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.
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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.