How to Set Your Candidate Experience Apart From the Pack

Seven recently hired talent acquisition leaders explain how and why they chose their new employer.
Quinten Dol
November 17, 2021
Updated: March 24, 2022
Quinten Dol
November 17, 2021
Updated: March 24, 2022

With the “Great Resignation” stressing an already tight tech labor market, differentiating your candidate experience is more important than ever. And no one is better placed to evaluate the candidate experience than talent acquisition, human resources or people team professionals who recently started work at a new company.

Unfortunately, many companies lose option-rich candidates through a poor candidate experience. Take Lizzie Maher, who recently started at e-commerce site Minted, for example. During her job search, Maher experienced first-hand the frustration that comes from being “ghosted” — that is, left hanging without ever hearing back from a recruiter.

“I had always assumed these companies cared a lot about their reputation,” she said in an interview with Built In.

By contrast, her recruiter at Minted always looped her in on what the next steps would be after each phase in the interview process — a factor in her ultimate decision to join the company.

To learn more about how to build a stellar candidate experience — and attract the kind of talent you want in your organization — we checked in with seven recently hired professionals and leaders working in talent acquisition and HR teams across U.S. tech. Read on to learn from their experiences.

 

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Keith Pescosolido
VP of Recruiting

Company background: Founded by Arianna Huffington in 2016 to combat worker burnout, Thrive Global’s services have only become more sought-after during the pandemic. The company’s app uses “microsteps” to guide employees through journeys to improve their finances, focus, health and other areas. Thrive Global raised an additional $80 million earlier this year. 

 

As a talent acquisition professional, you’ve probably seen every move in the book. What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

Arianna Huffington herself reached out to me to catch up informally and chat about what they’re building at Thrive. Right there, I knew she cared about recruiting because when the CEO puts the time in, it trickles down throughout the entire company. It’s a team game. Thrive’s mission is to end stress and burnout and to have a huge impact on people’s daily lives all over the world, and that passion comes through when talking to every executive.

 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

I look for several key components when thinking about a move. Does the leadership team care about recruiting? Are they willing to put the effort in? In the end, the recruiting team can bring in great people, but those potential employees are going to be joining specific leaders and teams. Has the leadership team done this before, and can I show them off to attract talent? What’s the mission and problem they’re looking to solve? Who are the current customers? What does revenue look like today? What’s the size of the current team? What type of investors are backing the company? And what is the goal for the future?

 

“Like any ambitious five-year-old, we’re growing fast — and we’re going to need a lot more Thrivers to get where we’re going.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

Our mission is truly to help change the future of how people work. Employee well-being is more important than ever right now. Who couldn’t get behind that? To do that, we’re putting together an amazing team of leaders. And it’s all being driven by Arianna, who’s a proven founder and wants to see us double in employee headcount in 2022. Like any ambitious five-year-old, we’re growing fast — and we’re going to need a lot more Thrivers to get where we’re going. We’re hiring across our engineering team — from mobile to back end to infrastructure, web and data science — along with our product and design teams, business development and sales. 

 

Lizzie Maher
Talent Acquisition Partner

Company background: Independent artists use Minted to sell everything from stationary and art to home goods and digital products. Users browse the platform and buy items directly from artists, a business model that has helped co-founders Mariam Naficy and Melissa Kim raise around $300 million since they started Minted in 2007.

 

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

Being a recruiter, it’s incredibly humbling to go through the interview process as a candidate. I was able to put myself back in the candidate’s shoes recently while interviewing for my new gig. I was shocked by how many big-name companies ended up completely “ghosting” me after the second or third round of interviews because I had always assumed these companies cared a lot about their reputation. My candidate experience with Minted was absolutely wonderful, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the recruiter, Amanda, would get back to me with next steps or feedback after each interview. She reminded me how important this is to candidates, and this is something I am making an effort to be even better about moving forward.
 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

I spent the last five years of my career working on extremely lean recruiting teams where I was able to touch just about everything in the recruitment and onboarding process. It was fast-paced, exciting and full of opportunities to learn something new each day. I knew that in my next role I wanted to work on a larger team that was fleshed out so I’d be able to focus solely on recruiting while having full support from HR business partners, people operations experts and a total rewards manager.

 

Being respectful and responsive throughout the application and interview process unfortunately isn’t standard anymore and we want to change that.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

This is a very unique time for everyone in the hiring space and I think we’re all trying to figure out how to set ourselves apart while trying to attract a lot of the same talent. One thing our team is constantly trying to improve is the candidate experience. Being respectful and responsive throughout the application and interview process unfortunately isn’t standard anymore and we want to change that. Our recruiting team has committed to trying our very best to ensure that candidates don’t slip through the cracks or get “ghosted.”

 

Shane Steiner
Senior Lead Technical and Corporate Recruiter

Company background: Tala seeks to empower what it calls the “global emerging middle class” by offering loans to individuals and small businesses in underbanked communities. The company uses phone data to produce a credit score — tracking how often a user pays a phone bill, for example  — for users in countries like Kenya, Mexico, India and the Philippines. Tala recently raised a whopping $145 million in funding and claims to be onboarding some 12,000 users per day. 

 

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

My amazing VP, Lisa Fernandez, simply gave me her cell phone number and stayed in touch throughout the hiring process. This old-school and less-utilized approach truly exemplified the caring and thoughtful actions that Tala tries to create for all their candidates.

 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

A mission-driven organization that does more than just make money. Tala is truly changing the lending and financial landscape for the underestimated in emerging markets.

 

We are a female-led and diverse company, and a mission-driven organization that is backed by PayPal Ventures.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

We are growing immensely, leveraging our partnership with Visa and expanding our reach within crypto and blockchain. Also, we are a female-led and diverse company and a mission-driven organization that is backed by PayPal Ventures. One of my favorite perks about working here is our companywide shutdowns, appropriately called “Sloth Weekends.”

 

Amy Kruglak
VP of People Operations

Company background: Eversound seeks to help senior citizens with hearing loss reconnect with the world. The company creates headphones and other audio equipment that allows users to take part in community events, religious services, exercise programs and, of course, hang out with family. Founded in 2015, Eversound has raised $18 million to date, including a $3 million investment last month.

 

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

Sharing the company’s operating playbook during the interview process — this helped me to get very excited about the mission of the organization and the focus on achieving goals and milestones.
 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

I have two primary filters. The first is no egos and no jerks! I want to be part of a team that works collaboratively and with a strong team-focused framework. Secondly, I need to work at a company that has a clear mission. As an HR leader, I find that it’s easier to be the chief people ambassador if I have a connection to the problem we’re trying to solve.

 

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to develop people operations with a very clear focus on employee engagement and retention.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

As an early-stage startup, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to develop people operations with a very clear focus on employee engagement and retention. Over the next 12 months, our goal is to review the entire employee life cycle — from initial engagement with us as a candidate through termination — and work to align our processes and systems with our core values of teamwork, altruism and dedication.

 

Courtney VanWinkle
Head of Talent Acquisition

Company background: Wonderschool seeks to fill America’s childcare and preschool shortage by helping teachers to start up their own education facilities at home. The company helps educators acquire licensing, set up a home classroom, set pricing, build a website and connect with parents, along with school operations beyond the initial start-up phase. Wonderschool recently made its first acquisition, announcing its purchase of childcare business management software company Moxit in September. 

 

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

The fact that there weren’t any “moves” being played during my interview process. I was struck by the genuine sense of transparency and empathy I felt from each and every person I met with. I remember being so impressed by the unified conviction with which everyone spoke about the Wonderschool mission and the role they played in achieving it. When it finally came time for me to meet with Wonderschool CEO Chris Bennett, I realized that the company culture I sensed is reinforced from the top down. Chris’ leadership style is one that resonated with me on a very personal level. There are so many exciting aspects to what Wonderschool is doing, but as an HR professional, the people-centric culture was the thing that really sealed the deal for me. When I received my offer, my response was an instant “yes” because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to collaborate with and work alongside all the exceptional individuals I met during my interview process.

 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

I firmly believe that there is nothing more satisfying than working for a company with a strong mission. I feel inspired when I am supporting a growing workforce that is making a positive impact. Aside from the mission, I also find it important to work for a company where the leadership team champions diversity, equity and inclusion — not only within their workforce but also in terms of how the company designs its products. I found all of that and more at Wonderschool, which feels like a breath of fresh air in a world that is too often driven by promoting DEI-related optics rather than truly embodying them.

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

Wonderschool is a startup in a rapid growth phase. We currently have affiliated Wonderschool providers in more than 530 cities across the U.S., and over the next year, we will be expanding that number exponentially. As we scale our reach, we have prioritized the overall well-being of our workforce by offering benefits that include parental leave policies for all of our employees, regardless of their tenure. We celebrate all families and realize that the moments in life that matter most require some focused time away from work. Along that same vein, we also offer a flexible PTO policy, monthly wellness stipends and we even observe companywide “mental refresh days,” which essentially function like an extra paid holiday. Being a part of a startup means we operate at a very fast pace. However, in order to avoid burnout, we feel it is paramount to go above and beyond in supporting our workforce in a personal and compassionate manner.

 

Robert Dawson
Chief People Officer

Company background: Bluebeam creates software for the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Its signature software brings building engineering and planning processes into the cloud via an interactive design and collaboration platform. Founded in 2002, the company was acquired by building software company Nemetschek in 2014. Bluebeam continues to grow, recently bringing on both a new chief people officer and director of talent acquisition.

 

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

The personal touch. The recruiter made me feel like I was a part of the team, even before I was a Bluebeamer. The thorough communication and updates as well as the authentic and welcoming behavior gave me insight into the special culture at Bluebeam. And it turns out, that is exactly what I’ve continued to experience since joining the team!

 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

Like most, I look for an environment where I can bring my whole self to work. A place where I can be myself, where inclusion and a sense of belonging is a priority – and more importantly, where every individual feels like they’re part of something big and special. A place where I can do purposeful work alongside great, caring people.

 

We are shaping our future by modeling our values, and by developing strong partnerships to promote an authentic culture of trust, excellence, respect, well-being, equity and diversity.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

Our purpose at Bluebeam is to build a better life for those who build our world by continuously disrupting the status quo and unleashing human ingenuity. That’s exactly what we’re doing within our people team. We are shaping our future by modeling our values and by developing strong partnerships to promote an authentic culture of trust, excellence, respect, well-being, equity and diversity. We are investing in and supporting the growth of our people to achieve their full potential and creating a highly engaged global team driven to exceed our customers’ expectations.

 

Joe Finch
Director of Talent Acquisition

What part of your new company’s interviewing and hiring processes stood out to you?

The differentiator for me was Bluebeam’s authenticity and level of transparency throughout the process. There was such a genuine, positive vibe with everyone I interviewed with, and they spoke candidly about not just the successes but about the challenges as well. Also, everyone I met with was extremely smart, and I knew I would be learning a lot surrounded by so many intelligent people.

 

What do you personally look for in a potential employer?

I want to know that their values align with mine, and that the work they are doing is meaningful and contributing to making the world a better place in some way. I also want to know that the organization respects both me as a person and the role that I play at the company.

 

We have unique, meaningful products that are helping to build a better world, and from a company culture standpoint, every employee has their own perspective and style that can’t be duplicated.”

 

What are your team’s goals over the next 12 months, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the hiring space?

Our team goals are to be a world class talent acquisition team capable of accelerating our hiring to meet the needs of our business both nationally and on a global scale. The easiest way to stand out from the competition is to just be comfortable being who we are. We have unique, meaningful products that are helping to build a better world, and from a company culture standpoint, every employee has their own perspective and style that can’t be duplicated. Our go-to-market strategy in talent acquisition is to simply show candidates that it’s OK to truly be yourself at Bluebeam.

 

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