This week we are talking about talent acquisition with Radina Nedyalkova, a former Talent Partner at Linkedin and Airbnb now leading Vox Advisory.
Following our first interview about remote work with Andrew Gobran at Doist last week, we are now covering an area which is fundamental for organisations of any type and scale – hiring!
When it comes to hiring, Radina brings a wealth of experience. Prior of kicking off her entrepreneurial journey within the HR ecosystem, Radina worked within the talent acquisition team at LinkedIn (the largest social network for professionals) supporting hiring strategy across both US and the EMEA, and most recently within the Global talent team at Airbnb.
We talked about how less established companies can attract and retain talent in a world dominated by tech giants (and their rich packages/perks), what not to do during the interview process, how to identify if a candidate is a good fit and how to evaluate them fairly, and how to evolve your hiring practices.
I'm really grateful that Radina shared some of her learnings with us, and I hope you can all benefit from her experience.
Radina, could you tell us a bit about your background?
In a nutshell, I am a psychologist-turned-recruiter-turned-entrepreneur 🙂
My background is a mix of agency and in-house HR and Talent acquisition, which gave me a broad perspective in all things related to attracting, managing and developing people. In the last 6 years I have worked in multinational organisations like LinkedIn and Airbnb here in their EMEA HQs in Dublin.
Most recently I established my own talent advisory where I consult and train startups and SMEs. My focus areas are soft skills such as emotional intelligence (EQ) and interview skills, as well as creating internal employee experience programs, leveraging LinkedIn, setting up the best practices and tools for the success of the team.
You have been working with multiple tech companies, and hiring in tech is getting particularly tough. With a high demand and a limited pool of talents, how can companies attract candidates, specifically if they don’t have an established brand?
The reality is that the so called “war for talent” is over - in fact, the war has been won by the candidates some time ago. The employers have to revisit their value proposition and ensure they stay competitive in a hyper competitive environment. Big salaries and solid benefits is not enough anymore - especially if we talk about Generation Z.
Even the big companies struggle to get the right people on board at the right time. Which basically means that, in order to attract the best team members, you need to think outside of the box - whether it is relocation, remote work or flexible job options for example. It is mission critical to also put an effort into training the whole team on how to source and interview, develop a strong culture and promote the values in a creative and inspiring manner.
Different companies have different hiring process approaches. What are the bad practices that you observed that can compromise the interview experience and eventually have companies missing out on a potential great hire?
This is a great question and it is exactly what I am preaching to my clients. It is absolutely fine to have a company-specific approach to hiring that is based on your unique culture, pace, industry and business goals. However, the one thing you cannot make a compromise with is the candidate experience.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of (large international as well) companies that do not provide feedback or even a courtesy rejection letter to the applicants. I find this quite unethical and unappreciative of the amount of effort and time one has put in the recruitment process. A simple template and an automated response (most ATS provide this) could go a long way not only to ensure a proper closure, but to nurture the relationship with brand ambassadors and potentially prevent damage on your employer brand.
Evaluating candidates, depending on the role, can be a subjective process. Some managers value more track records, others cultural fit, others potential to grow into the role. Is there a standard criteria or methodology that can help the hiring function to evaluate candidates the right way?
There is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach to getting the right person. Again, the evaluation should depend first and foremost on the job criteria (soft and hard skills), the specific culture/values and the industry (tech vs manufacturing for example).
It is also important to align the expectations of everyone in the interview panel prior to the kick off, as things can go in a wrong direction if the team is torn between the must haves and the nice to haves.
Related to the subjectiveness part of the process, what role does personal bias play here? What are the risks and how would you suggest to mitigate them?
This is always a tricky element - regardless of what people say, every recruitment process is subjective. We cannot eliminate 100% of the biases, however we can ensure that people are treated fairly and the communication is honest and transparent, particularly in regards to sharing feedback. Being human means that you rely on a set of values/beliefs, experience, behavior and cognitive capabilities (thoughts, emotions and feelings). Hence why, one of the best ways to mitigate the risk of unconscious bias is to incorporate different elements as part of the interview process on top of the standard interview: e.g. video interviews, homework or assignments, presentation on a topic, role play, assessment centre, personality test. This way you can combine data and impressions.
Are there any common traits that can help the hiring manager or hiring function identify with ease if the candidate is a good fit for the company and role?
I personally believe that it is critical to evaluate the top skills for the role (must haves) along with the skills that add value to both the role and the team (nice to haves). Having a structured approach with elaborated questions focused on a deep dive into the competencies, asking for specific examples and uncovering potential/coachability is a good combo - it takes time and effort of course, as well as mutual understanding of what the team can make a compromise with. The so called A-players possess quite strong soft skills such as the ability to influence, outstanding communication competencies and self-awareness for example.
What’s your view around in-house vs outsourced recruiting? What’s best when, and how do you balance the two approaches?
Again, this decision depends on the sense of urgency, the specific industry and the in-house capabilities + budget. Larger structures can afford a combination of both to ensure maximum results in a short span of time. They might also have volume roles that would stretch the in-house recruitment team, so they would need additional support. Nevertheless, this might not be ideal for smaller companies whose brand is still not that well developed/known - in such cases, I think it is better to keep everything internally and develop brand ambassadors from the team.
How do you train, grow and evolve your hiring function?
Self-awareness → Skills for success → Profile of hire → Ongoing support and recognition → Clear expectations and path. Ideally in this order 🙂.
I have seen leaders that miss the first step and it doesn’t bring the desired outcome. Every person needs clarity and support, all else is small tweaks depending on the individual goals, budget and creativity.
Are there any resources on the subject that would you recommend our readers to check out?
I am a fan of the alternative resources - books focused on self-improvement are not always the holy grail. I like podcasts, audio books, metaphors from Aesop’s fables and TED talks, but as a true psychologist, I also believe in the power of working with a professional coach or counsellor. It’s highly unlikely to be a successful leader if you haven’t worked on yourself first.
Where can people connect or find out more about you?
LinkedIn is probably the best channel - I open the page almost 35 times a day 🙂. I am always happy to connect with like-minded professionals, as long as there is a personalised message.
If you have experience revolving around startups, people and culture, ping us on Twitter @HumaansHQ or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to learn from your journey and share your learnings.
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