5 reasons why it’s hard to solve the recruiting tools conundrum

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of recruiting tools to help improve the end-to-end recruiting process.  The solutions are out there, but why does it have to be so hard to be able to use them? Why do enterprises only leverage a fraction of the excellent offerings on the market to optimize the full hiring and candidate experience?

Here’s why:

  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools
  2. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.
  3. ATS companies have traditionally been slow to innovate and resistant to 3rd party integrations
  4. Point solutions can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies
  5. Point solutions/3rd Parties need to prioritize who they partner/integrate with


  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools

Recruiters and coordinators have more than enough to keep them busy, the last thing they are looking for is one more thing to do or tool to use. Adding another step to their process without a significant improvement to their productivity or business results will be met with significant resistance.  Unless it is drop-dead easy to see the benefits, adoption will not happen.  Here are the pet peeves that drive recruiters and coordinators nuts and cause unnecessary friction in their daily work process:

  • Needing to sign into multiple systems to manage the hiring process. Tools need to be one click away with single sign on (SSO).  Don’t make them sign in to each tool and ensure ease of access to an application via a simple click on a button, tab, link, or icon.
  • Double entry of data that already exists elsewhere. Information that already exists in your ATS should not need to re-entered or copy/pasted. As will be discussed in #2, integrating data between tools can be non-trivial.
  • Poor usability. Given the overhead burden put into the process due to compliance, traditionally, usability has been compromised to make sure that all the ‘cover your butt’ features have been crammed into each step in the process. The latest generation of ATS companies have included the consumerization of recruiting tech into their design, but still, there is a long way to go to make most tools easy to use and mobile-friendly.
  1. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.

For nearly every company the ATS is the central database for all job and candidate information.  While some larger companies have created their own master HR database, they are more the exception than the rule.  Nearly every significant task for sourcing or selection uses information from the ATS database as the content source. As mentioned above, recruiters and coordinator know what information already exists for a Job or Candidate and they have no interest in re-entering data that they know already resides in another system.  Doing so is frustrating and naturally causes frustration and increases adoption issues for new tools. Thus not being able to easily synch data between tools can be a deal-killer for recruiting teams.  Given the importance of the data stores in the ATS database, ATS companies exert tremendous power over what is possible for your team to adopt.  The constraints your ATS puts on your capabilities and the implications of access to job and candidate data are something to seriously understand for your hiring and candidate experience process.


  1. ATS companies can’t build everything themselves and they traditionally have not been open to 3rd party integrations

Taleo and other first-generation ATS companies started as products to apply supply-chain management operational efficiencies to recruiting. Furthermore, government-required compliance reporting acted as a catalyst to accelerate large enterprise adoption.  While these systems had appeal to HR executives by focusing on organizational productivity and keeping themselves out of jail, they did not focus on the real ATS customers and users:  candidates and recruiting teams.

Given these design priorities, the end-user experience primarily focused on work-flow management and exhaustive data capture – none of which resulted in a great user-driven experience. In recent years, much of the focus has been on getting some of the table-stakes such as a decent search function to treat the database like a CRM tool.  Also, basic performance issues and creating mobile-friendly tools.

If job or candidate related information needs to be used or updated by a 3rd party tool, then it requires some integration to allow for data exchange.  The challenge with first-generation ATS systems (e.g. Taleo, Kenexa/Brassring) is that they are pretty much closed system with poor (non-RESTful) APIs to allow for easy integration. Even worse, these incumbents charge multiple tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being an integration partner, deterring any small or medium sized company from working with them.  Newer ATS companies (e.g. Workday, iCIMS and Greenhouse) are much more open, simpler to integrate with and trying to become ecosystems, but the challenge for developers is the effort needed to create custom integration points for each platform integration (similar to creating an app for both iOS and Android). Aptitude Research Partners just published a phenomenal review of the current prominent ATS systems and details the strengths and weaknesses of each platform.

  1. Point solution tool companies can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies

You would think with all the resources of Oracle and IBM, Taleo and Kenexa/BrassRing would be leaders in talent acquisition innovation.  Instead they are not only laggards, but they also seem handcuffed to their old-school enterprise software mentality and business models.  Social, mobile and cloud are not in their DNA which has caused them to be slow in reinventing themselves and their platforms. An easy example of this is the emergence of the recruitment marketing category with companies such as Jibe, Smashfly and Phenom. In recent years as both the economy and hiring have rebounded, a solution for nearly every recruiting task has been created.  Whether it is for job description optimization, big data applied to resume analysis or a new twist on social, mobile sourcing there’s an app for that.  By not having a one-stop-shop platform provided creates the need for a ‘best-of-breed’ recruiting technology strategy and then a plan to figure out how to make all these solutions to work together. For leading edge companies with sophisticated talent acquisition organizations like Google and Amazon, they have responded by building their own integrated platforms to match their unique recruiting methods. However, most companies do not have the resources or skills to build their own recruiting ecosystem themselves.


  1. Tool companies need to prioritize with whom to integrate

 In an ideal world there would common standards that any recruiting tool company could use to integrate into any ATS ecosystem.  While the HR Open Standards consortium is making progress, there is still a long way to go to meet the needs of most recruiting technology companies.

With over 200 applicant tracking systems, none of which have a dominant market share, having a fragmented ATS market is forcing recruiting tool companies to individually choose which ATS company to choose as an integration partner. Without common standards and well supported APIs / partner programs, only a few ATS companies will likely have the scale needed to support a deep ecosystem. Companies like iCIMS, SmartRecruiters and Greenhouse are trying to get there, but there is still a long way to go to make a full suite of recruiting tools as easy as plug-and-play. Until adding any recruiting tool to your ATS is as simple adding an app like your iPhone or Salesforce, there is no effortless solution.

The good news is that recruiters have some powerful tools available to them to solve their acquisition challenges .  However, unless these new technology solutions can overcome the hurdles that the dynamics of the incumbent enterprise platforms create, it will take many years for talent acquisition professionals to be able to fully take advantage of them.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

The only two recruiting metrics that matter

It’s been over two years now since we started Great Hires and since the beginning I have been bombarded with all the different ways to measure recruiting success. While many of them are interesting and good indicators of how efficient an organization is at sourcing and hiring top talent, in the end I have concluded that organizational leaders only need to focus on two strategic metrics: Quality of Hire and Candidate Experience.  Everything else is details.


Let me explain, as I learned very early on in my career, the two primary outcomes a business leader is solving for are a) building organizational capacity and b) building the business.  All other metrics are either efficiency metrics on measure input values. This is similar to baseball where there are several dozens of statistics collected on every player.  As the book Moneyball pointed out, it is on-base percentage that is a significant predictor of wins and yet most experts focused on other statistics (e.g. slugging percentage) which did not correlate with the ultimate outcome objective of a baseball team.

Hiring and retaining great talent is clearly what a talent acquisition function is all about and directly responsible for building organizational capacity.  If you were to pick a single measurement for how a TA organization contributes to building organizational capacity it would be Quality of Hire (QoH).  While Cost-Per-Hire (CPH) and Time-to-Fill (TTF) provide good operational indicators for the effectiveness of the hiring team (similar to hits and batting average in baseball), the ultimate objective of recruiting is to bring on qualified personnel into the organization.  Rarely will you hear organizations willing to compromise on QoH in order to drive down their CPH or TTF. It is only when they are looking to optimize the process while at a minimum keeping the outcome measurement fixed that hiring teams should then focus on CPH, TTF or any other recruiting efficiency metric.


Now, there is no industry standard for how to measure QoH since each organization is unique and there are multiple leading indicator metrics which can provide a reasonable proxy, but none is exact.  Whether you believe the hiring manager satisfaction, one year retentions or staged (e.g. 2 weeks, 2 months, 1-year sometimes called First Year Quality) employee performance evaluation is right for your company, it is not an exact science. However, what matters is having consistent, multi-dimensional metrics which provide a holistic representation of hiring success.

By now you might agree that QoH is the most important measurement for recruiting, but you are probably asking yourself ‘Why would Candidate Experience be the other metric that matters?’. Very simply, in most cases it impacts business results. Keep in mind that 95% or more of the people that apply to your job won’t get hired and 75%-80% of the finalists that you brought in to interview won’t be joining your organization. If these candidates either buy or influence purchases for your company’s offerings, you might want them to still like you at the end of the process. There has been a lot of research that shows that both a negative and positive candidate experience directly impacts a company’s bottom line. Consumer-brands like Starbucks,  Delta Airlines, Hilton Hotels and others have specific use cases detailing how their focus on improving their candidate experience had a positive business ROI.


And what about all those other commonly used metrics, do we just ignore them?  Absolutely not.  If you work in the talent acquisition function or are a hiring manager you definitely care, measure and prioritize factors like TTF and CPH.  They make up the trinity of Cost, Quality & Time.  And you optimize for all three. Always.  As a TA leader you are solving for each of them by leveraging people, processes and tools.  In addition, you need to be able to measure individual recruiter performance, and these input & process metrics provide good indicators to understand differentiated individual and department performance.

Similar to baseball, your primary objectives are to having a winning team that also makes money.  In addition, while there are plenty of measurements which will help you “peel-the-onion” on where to focus and prioritize, you need to know where to start.  When it comes to talent acquisition metrics it starts at the top and they are Quality of Hire and Candidate Experience.  Focus on these first and use the other metrics to optimize the process or their inputs.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

3 Steps to Systemically Build Your Company’s Candidate Experience Competency

Over the past couple of years I have spoken to many companies about their candidate experience efforts.  When I ask them to describe their strategy usually they either talk in generalities saying it is ‘a priority’ or they describe specific tactics they have implemented.  However, very rarely do I hear a cohesive, integrated organizational strategy which includes cross-functional engagement.

In many cases, a company has an identifiable problem or a galvanizing event (e.g. a top-talent rejection) which triggers a renewed focus on investing their candidate experience. For Scott Weaver at Cumming Corporation, a 2015 Candidate Experience award winner, the metric that stood out was ‘time-to-fill’ and his team was looking to move faster.  As a professional services firm, every day a req goes unfilled is lost revenue for their organization.  Their candidate experience journey started with a process improvement and optimization project.  For many other organizations, it starts with solving a specific activity during the recruiting process. However, many companies, like Cummins,  are realizing that they need to take a more holistic perspective on the end-to-end candidate experience.

candide experience award 2015

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Gerry Crispin about where a company should start if they wanted to systemically build a stronger Candidate Experience-focused organization.   He described a 3-step framework on how to build a sustainable candidate experience competency.

Step 1:  What’s important?

Company OKRs

If the candidate experience is not listed on the priority list for either the organization, HR or the Recruiting Function, then the Candidate Experience really isn’t ‘important’. It is just one of the many things an organization does that they try not to screw up. What do I mean by that?  It means that everyone generally knows that the Candidate Experience is one of the aspects of recruiting and everyone tries to do well.  It is no different than Product Quality or Customer Service.  But if you do not have it clearly listed as a goal or objective at some level in the organization, then it is just another strategy based on hope. And hope is not a strategy.   And it certainly isn’t part of the corporate culture.


The first step to developing sustainable organizational Candidate Experience capability is to make it a priority by including it in your company or department’s objectives.  Without organizational alignment, buy-in and engagement, it is just a bunch of individuals who are ‘doing the right thing’ but not necessarily with the support of their leadership.

Candidate Fairness

According to Gerry Crispin, one of the biggest drivers of delivering a good candidate experience is the perception of fairness by candidates.  “If candidates think the fix is in then their perception is reality.” Examples include not hearing from anyone after applying or being told they would hear back in two weeks, the no one follows up or answers their call.  In addition, Crispin sees the following drivers what drives the best candidate experience-driven organizations:

  1. Setting proper expectations (for both the job and the hiring process)
  2. Listening
  3. Accountability
  4. Perception of fairness
  5. Closure

At Cummings Corporation, increasing transparency to candidates to the process has been a big focus that helps with perceived fairness. Improved communication with both the hiring team and the candidate has allowed them to go faster. For Scott Weaver’s recruiting team, this starts when an application is received and candidates immediately receive an email describing the process in detail. The email includes specific expectations about what happens next and how to get answers if there are concerns or unexplained delays.   Their philosophy is about treating the candidate with respect, but without over-investing precious recruiting team resources.

Step 2:  How are we doing?

Once you have everyone bought in that the candidate experience is a priority, you need to know where you stand.  Gerry Crispin says collecting data is a critical starting point. “First and foremost you need some form of baseline.  There is no point in starting to work on your candidate experience capability if you don’t have some sense of where the context is going to be.”   Determining a baseline measurement on where you are starting from will help you track your progress.  Ideally, everyone you tough from the beginning of the sourcing process to onboarding are part of your measurement.  And there are many milestones during which you can measure the candidate experience (as described in detail in the Talent Board’s CandE report ), but to start, Gerry Crispin recommends just measuring the Net Promoter Score of the finalists and the candidate you hired.  Over time you can expand your measurement to candidates earlier in the process to include the application and screening process.


Ultimately, the most important recruiting metrics is quality of hire since it is the process outcome for the talent acquisition function.  But to measure the quality of the entire process, candidate experience metrics are the best indicator of how the various stakeholders are committed to bringing on the best talent.


Step 3:  Priorities to Improve

The insights you gather from baselining your candidate experience metrics will point you to where the issues are.  Once you see all the different areas that need work, you will need to pick your spots and prioritize which to work on first.  How you choose to address these priorities will depend on what you think the best plan of action will be; whether it is people, process or tools.
improve process

At Cumming, they looked at the 16 touch-points they have with candidates, mapping their journey and benchmarked themselves after the hospitality industry for how to deliver a concierge-like experience.

Given the number and complexity of milestones, from sourcing to onboarding, just picking one or two areas to improve can be resource and time intensive depending on the size of your organization. Both from a financial and change management perspective.  Throw in any change in technology and you quickly realize that systemic change will not happen overnight. However, small, incremental tweaks can make a real difference, like removing unnecessary fields in your application process or tailoring your rejection emails to give candidate better insight into why they were not selected to move forward.

From several of the Candidate Experience Award winners I have spoken with, improving their candidate experience capability is an ongoing investment, but at any time they are clearly prioritizing where they point their limited resources to have the biggest impact on their overall outcome: hiring success for both hires and their company.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Recruiting Coordinators: The unsung heroes of talent acquisition

If you ask the average hiring manager what a recruiting coordinator (aka candidate success coordinator, talent acquisition operations specialist etc.) you will probably get a perception that they are just someone in HR or a recruiter.  Most people on a job’s hiring team think stuff just magically happens when a candidate arrives for their interviews and are clueless that a talent acquisition coordinator is working behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. Then the cherry on top is that recruiting coordinators tend to only get noticed when things go wrong.   But the truth is that recruiting coordinators are the secret weapon of hiring success and they do not get enough credit for the value they add in the recruiting process.


Recruiting Coordinators + Candidate Experience = Hiring Success

Recruiting coordinators are focused on giving candidates a concierge-like, white glove experience. Beyond greeting candidates, making them feel comfortable, giving tours, providing water, coffee & snacks, coordinators also set up all the technology whether it is a projector, dialing into Webex, or recording a presentation.  However, that is just table stakes for the role.  Talent acquisition coordinators are like the Chief-of-Staff for a job (Note: “a job”, not the hiring manager, recruiter or candidate).  Their role is to manage all the logistics for the recruiting process, including travel arrangements and expense reimbursement.

It’s very easy to think interview scheduling is pretty simple. But the reality is that finding a date and times when everyone on the Hiring Manager’s interview list is available is non-trivial.  When you factor in how everyone’s schedule appears as ‘busy’ in Outlook or Google calendar and is likely out of date, the battle has just begun.  No one sees the relationships a coordinator needs to build with executive assistants to sweet-talk them into finding a mutually agreeable slot to interview a candidate.  Then factor in that over 50% of interviews get moved, rescheduled, rooms changed, or have last-minute interviewer cancellations…who has to deal with the consequences of each change? You know who.


Of course being a coordinator requires you to strike the right balance for all stakeholders (hiring manager, recruiter, interviewers and candidates).   Coordinators are the front line troops for the candidate experience.   Being thoughtful of putting together an interview schedule where the candidate stays in the same interview room and having interviewers come to them is much more candidate friendly than having the candidate go from office-to-office or building-to-building to find each interviewer.  In addition, making sure the candidate and interviewers have the latest information is no simple task. Between resumes, travel information, interview guides, the latest schedule, company information etc. there is a huge amount of information that needs to be distributed and tracked.  When something gets missed or forgotten, who do you think gets a call or email?  You know who.

 Untold Recruiting Coordinator Stories

Here are a couple of examples of where coordinators go above and beyond to deliver a great candidate and hiring experience.

Kari Scheidt from Salesforce describes the importance of the coordinators relationship with the candidate. She explained how coordinators can be an advocate for the candidate to the hiring manager or interviewers, especially when the candidate has shared something important the team should be aware of in their decision process.  Kari highlighted the importance of candidate empathy with a story of super-hero effort that most hiring team’s don’t see. One winter day, Salesforce was flying in a candidate from the east coast which was experiencing horrendous storms.  The candidate was freaking out that they would not make their interview.  Despite all the flight delays and being oversold, she was able to beg the airlines to find a way to re-route the candidate and get them to the interview on time.  The candidate really appreciated the effort that was taken to go above and beyond to make it all happen. “People forget that the way you are treated as a candidate is how you think you will be treated as an employee.”


John Tran, a Talent Acquisition Ambassador at Yahoo!, takes great pride in seeing someone he brought in as a candidate and then helped onboard, turn in a superstar.  Many times, it all starts with a tour John gives to prospective hires of the Yahoo! campus to help reinforce the emotional bond they already have with the Yahoo! brand.   Once hired, he enjoys seeing their success and relishes the feeling that comes with having helped pave the way for folks he helped hire to accomplish great things in the company.

At a previous company, Phyllis Yoshimoto (currently a talent coordinator at Pharmacyclics) woke up one morning to find out a top candidate had received several offers and her company needed to act fast if they wanted to still be considered. At 8 am she confirmed with the candidate, who was based in Seattle, they could fly to the Bay Area that day for a slate of interviews.  Phyllis was able to both coordinate the candidate’s travel and pull together the full interview schedule to start at 2 pm that day.  In the end, it all went perfect and the hiring team was able to make an offer to the candidate that day.  The candidate accepted and turned into a great hire.

What you can do to help your recruiting coordinator

So now that you understand the importance and value of your recruiting coordinator, here are 5 things you can do immediately to help coordinators be even more successful:

  1. Make sure your hiring team responds back in a timely manner (within 24 hours) to attend an interview
  2. Prepare your interview team on which competencies to evaluate and questions to ask
  3. Provide timely feedback about each candidate
  4. Pass along any insights your learn from the candidate that would help with any information to be distributed to the hiring team or logistics for the interview day
  5. Reinforce to your hiring team the importance of the candidate experience, and that showing up late or being disrespectful to a candidate has a big impact on the entire recruiting team

Finally, if you don’t do so already, thank your recruiting coordinator every time you make a hire.  They are truly the unsung heroes of talent acquisition.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

7 Things I learned examining 199 recruiting startups newly added to AngelList

Several times a week I get asked if I’ve heard of some new recruiting startup, and I jokingly respond that there is new one started daily and it is impossible to keep track. Well, it turns out I was off by a factor of about three.  There are 2800 companies that are tagged as Recruiting Startups on AngelList , of which 199 were added in August and September 2015.  I decided to take a look at each of these recently added companies to see what trends can be gleaned from them.  After ignoring 31 firms that weren’t really recruiting-related, here is what I found about the remaining 168 companies – so almost three per day.

AngelList Recruiting Companies

1.       Is recruiting broken?

One theme I saw consistently in either the company description or on their website is some form of the statement “recruiting is broken” and their mission is to either reinvent how companies and candidates find each other or improve the process. Inefficiency and friction plague end-to-end recruiting. Companies are trying new methods to match candidates with companies like having candidates bid on being able to apply to a company or a tool for candidates to supply a form for recruiters to complete about the role before being allowed to contacting them.  Who knows if any of these companies will truly reinvent talent acquisition, but at least there are many that claim to be trying.

2.       Niche marketplaces are very popular

Nearly half (80) new companies reviewed are trying to bring recruiters and candidates together more effectively. In particular, niche market places for any type of narrow market you can identify is being created.  Examples include two marketplaces for the cannabis industry:  Hemployed and Greenseek;   hyper-local job boards   and sites for professional specialists to connect like healthcare and cyber security experts.  For any marketplace, the challenge to is to get enough traction with both job posters and candidates to have a reasonable size marketplace and achieve some level of network effects. If nothing else, each of these sites should at least appear in the top 3 organic search results for ‘{name of the niche + jobs}’.

3.       Big data is a big deal for sourcing candidates

Fifteen different companies using some form of big data and secret sauce algorithms to find the right match for your job. Terms like AI, machine learning and predictive analytics showed up several times.  Each of these companies claim to be able to look at resumes, LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub and other social sites and crunch all the data and then be able to spit out the winning candidates using their magical secret sauce tool.

4.       Next generation digital resumés:

Given the dominance of LinkedIn, many candidates feel there are better ways to project themselves online and provide a more accurate portrayal of their capabilities.  There were seven new companies trying to integrate great visual design, multi-media and social media to give candidates more opportunity to showcase their personality and experience.

5.       Not another ATS company

As if there aren’t enough Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) companies already out there, another seven declared their intent to reinvent managing the recruiting the process from job req to onboarding.   While this industry segment is not yet a complete commodity, given how poorly most companies rate their ATS, the level of competition is so high that taking a truly different approach will be the only way any of these companies stick around for a meaningful amount of time.

6.       Point solutions solving specific needs

The companies that interested me most were the 20 or so companies trying to solve well know challenges in the recruiting process in a more efficient manner. Whether it is targeted skills assessment, new tools for interviewing or a new wave of mobile social recruiting and referral apps, several of these new companies are trying new ways to leverage your personal network to find the right match.

7.       AngelList can be challenging when looking for real recruiting startups

Many companies have their industry misclassified or Recruiting is clearly a secondary element to their primary strategy and therefore shouldn’t really be tagged as such. In particular, College Admissions should be a distinct tag, separate from College Recruiting.

It is also amazing how many typos and grammar errors there are in company descriptions. Finally, if you are service company like a placement firm, you really should not be putting your site on AngelList;  many companies or people are using Angellist for SEO juice/ link building rather than using Angellist for its intended purpose: to connect startups with investors and potential employees


The good news for recruiters is that there is a lot of innovation taking place in the space and a handful will surely bubble to the surface and be successful. The challenge for companies and talent acquisition folks is being able to pick from the many solutions out there that match their specific needs.


Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Should you have Bar Raisers at your company?

‘If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants.’

– David Ogilvy from “Ogilvy on Advertising”



Recently companies like Amazon and Google have challenged the traditional methods of giving full control of candidate offers to the hiring manager.  In order to remove hiring manager bias in the process (such as trying to solve a short-term hiring need), other hiring team members are given the power to either make offers or veto the hiring manager offer recommendation. At Amazon, these individuals are called Bar Raisers.

What are Bar Raisers?

Bar Raisers are involved in each step in the candidate selection process. They help with filtering and screening candidates.  They help the hiring manager and recruiter select interviewers with a range of experience for on-site interviews. Bar Raisers work with the hiring team to define the competencies and divide and conquer them across the team to ensure full coverage of the evaluation criteria.

The main raison d’être for Bar Raisers is to ensure that a new hire is accretive and not dilutive to the overall organization capacity.  Bar Raisers have the power to veto a hiring manager’s offer if they believe the candidate would not ‘raise the bar’ at Amazon.  Of course, they must have well-substantiated reasons for such a decision. Bar Raisers can also help find a different opportunity for a candidate elsewhere in the company even if they were rejected by the interview team or hiring manager.

At Amazon, Bar Raisers can spend 10-20 hours per week across several jobs on top of their daytime job. There is no explicit reward system for Bar Raisers in their performance management process, but it is considered a prestigious role earned by only to a select few.

Is your company ready for Bar Raisers?

First off, does you company have a problem with the quality of your hires?  Do you feel that you are making too many bad hires? If not, then there may not need to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

If you do have concerns with your quality of hires, what are the sources of the false-positive signal that led to the offer? Was it the wrong skills or a company fit issue?  If it was a skills issue, does your company have a structured interviewing process? Do your hiring teams define the skills or competencies required for the job ahead of candidates being interviewed? If it was an issue with fit, have you defined your company values and cultural traits that you are seeking? Once again, without some structure for the hiring team on what to evaluate, inconsistency is bound to permeate your hiring process. If your hiring process does not plan ahead with competency and culture/value fit evaluation, then your organization may have more fundamental issues that Bar Raisers alone would not be able to solve.


When it comes to interviewing, almost everyone thinks they are an above-average interviewer.  Most hiring managers and interviewers have an inflated view of their evaluation capabilities. Having candidate selection experts who are regular employees solves a real problem by bringing experience, best practices and consistency to every job req.

When hiring managers have an immediate need that needs to be filled, they are much more focused on their short-term goals than the overall health of the company.  Hiring someone that partially solves a near term problem for the hiring but then creates downstream organizational issues. Bar Raisers are specifically responsible for ensuring this short-term pressure is minimized.

In fast growing organizations that are hiring thousands of new employees each year, it is very common for a relatively new hiring manager to be less familiar with the company culture and organization work norms.  Bar Raisers ensure that new hires will fit in well with the company’s values and adapt well to their new environment.


What is average? In a company with thousands of employees, determining if a candidate would be in the top 47% vs the top  53% is very subjective.  Given a natural bell curve distribution, being able to make that kind of judgment call with such accuracy is very difficult even for someone who is familiar with hundreds of employees. This leads to the next concern…

Are bar raisers really above average at picking winners?  Another large high-tech company is testing their modified version of the Bar Raiser program, but will not give Bar Raisers veto power until they have collected statistically significant data which proves that a Bar Raiser has shown to have a better hiring recommendation-to-good-hire batting average than hiring managers and regular interviewers.  While it is nice to assume that Bar Raisers are better at drafting great team members, each Bar Raiser will be different and you may find that not all Bar Raisers have the golden touch.

One additional item to consider is to ensure the proper context of the specific functional role and business team.  Google now has over 50,000 employees.  It is very difficult to see how an ad support specialist in their customer operations group is raising the bar for the company compared to a software engineer working on the next big idea. In large companies sometimes you just need someone who wants to come to work and do their job really well without bigger aspirations or greater organizational impact. This is good for both the company and the employee, even if the role does not require someone to be an above average contributor when compared to the entire organization.  Not every role requires demonstrated leadership and creativity skills in order to be successful.


Introducing a Bar Raiser program is a big investment for both the company and the Bar Raisers.  The key to hiring great employees is ensuring consistency in how the job-specific competencies and cultural fit attributes are evaluated. This can be done in many ways. At Procter & Gamble, a ‘promote from within’ company, all managers are expected to be able to have these abilities – so the responsibility is shared amongst the hiring team. Picking the best practices that are right for your company’s stage in its lifecycle and your specific culture is most important.   What is probably most important is senior level commitment to a structured candidate selection process and ensuring that there is a data-driven system in place to continually improve your hiring capability.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Four Sources of Bad Hires

Making a bad hire sucks. And usually you have no one to blame but yourself.  In hindsight, 99% of the time, you could have figured it out before making the offer. So why does it happen?

A lot has already been writing about how expensive a bad hire is to an organization when you add up the hard costs of salary, sunk recruiting & training costs plus the lost productivity and/or revenue.  And it is easy to place the blame on needing to fill the role quickly.  But when you look at the underlying causes of a bad hire, it has more to do with what you are looking for than making a hasty decision.

No one ever plans to make a bad hire. In fact, at the time of the offer most people feel like they are making a well thought-out decision.  However, within a short period of time (2-6 weeks) you realize that you made a bad choice.  Surprisingly, more times than not, there was a voice of dissension to making an offer to the candidate which you had ignored. Whether it was that little voice in the back of your head that you didn’t listen to, or a member of the interviewing team that raised flags that were either trivialized or not sufficiently followed-up on…now that voice you either ignored or rationalized starts telling you ‘I tried to warn you’.

When you have a bad hire, there isn’t usually a single item that is wrong with a hire unless the role is very technical and the person clearly does not have the technical chops for the job.  While it typically comes down to ‘skills’ or ‘company fit’ as the cause, that is too general a classification to be very helpful. Instead, by peeling the onion on the most common ways a bad hire fails, you can then adapt your candidate selection process to address the issues at their core.

From my experience, the reasons someone does not work out falls into four buckets.  In some cases, multiple buckets are at the root of the person not being right for the role. Here they are:

1.       Lack of technical/functional expertise:  Yes, I’ve kinda done that before, ahem.

Unless a new employee is brought in at an entry-level position and is expected to be trained for the functional role they were hired for, they are expected to have some basic technical knowledge required for the job. Whether they are a sales person who has sold before, a developer who has coded before or a designer who knows how to design, there is a repertoire the hire brings with them in their competency portfolio.  But each specific role has a different emphasis on specific functional skills. For example someone who is considered a consumer marketer may know search-engine marketing and display ads, but that is very different from television advertising and market research.  A Rails developer may know how to write decent code, but also needs to know how to write tests and make sure their code fits the architecture of the entire system – which can be different for every product. While some of the principles for a function are transferable, the differences and nuances of a specific role may cause an experience worker to struggle to be proficient in areas they have had limited past hands-on experience. The good news is that this could be the case of ‘right person, wrong role’ if the organization is big enough. But the key is that every functional job is different and being able to prioritize the specific traits for that job are critical to ensuring the right alignment of experience and skills.

2.       Inability to develop  domain expertise:  The hammer who thinks everything is a nail

It is very common to hire someone with functional expertise in one industry and expect them to be able to apply them in another industry.  But many times it can be a struggle to adapt to these differences.  In my career, it is amazing how often I have seen someone who comes from a different industry who does not have the ability to recognize difference between markets and customers and blindly tries to re-apply practices from their previous industry to their new one.   This is where an individual’s ability to take the initiative to understand the nuances between domain and industries is important. They must also have the analytical skills, patience and perseverance to figure out why something seems to work in one industry but not the other.  The awareness to go back to first principles to compare and contrast company- or industry-specific models are not skills everyone has.  In my experience, people who have demonstrated the ability to adapt well to a new domain typically have had at least two completely different career experiences, which made them adept at being ‘multi-lingual’.  People who have had a past life in moving between two industries, working in different countries or roles in very different functions, tend to be able to mentally wear different hats. This gives them an appreciation to better diagnose a situation before prescribing a thoughtful solution instead of the generic ‘this is how we did it at X’ statement.


3.       Can’t deliver results – Look at all the effort I put in!

Let’s begin with the end in mind. If someone can’t deliver results, they are a bad hire. If someone doesn’t have the drive to focus on the achieving their goals and working a project from beginning to end they aren’t going to be successful.  But knowing the ‘how’ to deliver the ‘what’ is critical. At most companies, this involves teamwork, influence, tenacity, and some form or leadership or functional excellence to play nice with the rest of the organization. This is where fit, adapting to the cultural norms and using soft skills to get stuff done make a big difference.  If someone doesn’t play nice with other or doesn’t have the talent to figure out how to leverage existing company systems and practices, they will struggle to be successful. It is very much like sports where an athlete’s statistics look good on paper, but when you are looking for them to perform on the field, they disappoint.  Despite all the activities and energy they may (or may not) put towards the inputs, the output isn’t there.    Evaluating passion, ownership and drive are not always part of candidate evaluation feedback forms, but it is an intangible worth measuring.

4.       Lack of self-awareness – {silence}

If there is one trait I have seen in nearly every bad hire I have made, is that the person was        mostly unaware of the cause of their ineffectiveness. While several of them knew things weren’t  going great, there was a lack of inward analysis and curiosity to try and discover why. They did  not have the ability to look retrospectively on themselves and reflect at what is transpiring. If  they did seek guidance, they simply didn’t (or weren’t able to) apply the feedback.  Instead they       just keep repeating the same methods over and over and seeing the same outcomes.  Not being            able to self-identify the problem or apply feedback is one of the most frustrating aspects for the     hiring manager, because now you have two problems to solve. The first is the competency gap      between the new hire and the job and the second is expending a large amount of energy      preparing and delivering the reality check to the person. This is a big time and emotional           investment.  Ugh. There is nothing more draining than having a conversation with someone who             is oblivious to their performance.

If you’ve made a bad hire before, at least one of these items probably crossed your mind (or was pointed out to you by a hiring team interviewer) before you made the offer.  It is perfectly reasonable to ignore a flag that was raised if it can be fully dissected and weighted against the role’s critical success factors.  But if a debate about the qualities of candidate is identified by a single voice of dissension, you may be missing a potential bad hire’s Achilles Heel even before making the offer.

In my next post, I will discuss how to address each of these buckets/ issues during the candidate selection process so you can catch bad hires before the offer is made.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Four career paths to financial success


Recently I’ve been asked career advice by both recent college graduates and experienced workers still in the early stages of their professional life.  Since I have had broad experience in different types of companies and roles, these young guns are either seeking insights into a specific industry (or company) or starting their own venture.  Almost every one of them is very ambitious and is trying to find a way to make a lot more money than they do today.  To frame the conversation, I begin the discussion with a simple framework which postulates that there are basically four routes to make a lot of money in your business career.  Here are the four options I discuss and the implications for each one:

1.       Work at established companies and work your way to executive level roles

While this may sound a little old school and take several years, working your way up the corporate ladder is still a great way to make a lot of money. Note that I used the word ‘companies’ not ‘company’.  This does not in any way endorse or recommend working at a single company for your entire career (although if you find the right fit that can help accelerate your progression to the executive ranks).  It just means that working in established companies gives you the opportunity to be financially rewarded as you climb towards the top.  Staying focused on a particular industry like packaged goods, technology, defense, financial services etc. can lead you to the executive level faster . All you need to do is read a public company’s annual report to see the kinds of compensation packages the executive team earns.

As I compare myself to my peers with whom I started my career, so many of them are now VP level or higher at well known companies (such as GE, Pepsi, Kraft and Viacom) with tremendous compensation packages. The key is that they became functional or business experts and either stayed in one industry or had transferable skills to adjacent industries. Most importantly, they stuck with their career path and did not jump roles at the drop of a hat. Instead, at one point in their career they stayed at a single organization for many years, climbing the ranks to reach a level with large responsibility and scope. This dedication and commitment pays off if you are a solid performer throughout your career. Even average to slightly above average performers tend to keep climbing over the course of several years as they become expert specialists in their function for their industry.

2.       Work as a professional service provider

Examples of these would be as a management consultant, investment banker, lawyer, accountant, real estate agent, doctor etc. In these types of professional services roles, if you are good at what you do and work very hard you will get paid very well.  The tradeoff is of course the lifestyle you lead and the dues you need to pay when you are first starting out.  Most of these roles require very long hours each week and many require travel. In addition, you typically start at the bottom of the organization and it typically take 7-10 years to achieve a level of success  where you can finally have a some control over your work life and the financial rewards start to scale. On balance, if you are willing to put in the years and accept the lifestyle, this is probably one of the best risk/reward choices to make if you are focused on the financial benefits of your career choice.

I have several friends who are lawyers, management consultants and accountants who after many years working for companies like McKinsey, pwc or Accenture left to start their own firms. While it took time and persistence for their practices to take off, they now run successful firms of their own and are reaping the financial rewards.

3.       Become truly world-class at something  for which there is real market demand

This can be anything: a scientist, a mathematician, a public relation manager, a designer, a software developer, athlete etc.  If you are one of the best in the world at something – you can make a lot of money either working for a company that specifically needs your skills in order to succeed or creating your own invention that you can sell directly as a one-person company.  You can also make additional income as a professional speaker or writing books in your field of expertise.  The obvious challenge is you need to be truly world class at what you do, and typically this takes years and years of dedication and passion. And it is very possible that the financial reward will be uncertain until there is confirmation that there is indeed a market for your area of expertise or you are viewed as truly world-class. But once you are considered world class there are many ways to monetize your abilities.

4.       Try being an entrepreneur.  

As a rule of thumb this is the biggest risk, biggest reward option.  There is a lot already written about what profile makes a good entrepreneur and various types of companies an entrepreneur can pursue (small business, franchise, tech startup etc.).  Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur based on personality, risk profile and skill set.  Given the large standard deviation in possible outcomes and the commitment required to have a reasonable chance of success you really need to know if this path suits your competencies and mindset.

My general advice is to only pursue starting your own venture when you have some level of expertise in a specific area that can be applied to your venture. Really having some unique skill sets combined with understanding the market, customer need and how to solve them usually requires some deep knowledge of a function or domain. While there are some very notable exceptions (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook), this is by far the exception and not the norm and experientially knowing how to solve a problem better than what already exists should be your starting point.

As I tell the folks I talk with, you don’t have to make a commitment to any of these options. You are not necessarily locked into any one, but there are tradeoffs as your career progresses and you close some doors to opportunities.  You can still do quite well financially trying out two or three of these options, but in order to be on track to a certain level of expected wealth, picking a lane will enhance your chances. What is most important is that you understand the trade-offs for each one option.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.