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Fine tuning candidate experience - William Staney [Interview]

Fine tuning candidate experience - William Staney [Interview]

HR blogs
Sneha Moorthy
March 8, 2022
Human Resource Management Platform
Fine Tuning Candidate Experience - William Staney [Interview]

About William Staney

William Staney, is the founder of Proactive talent. He is also the co-founder of Talent Brand Alliance. He is a very well known keynote speaker in the HR and recruiting space. With prior experience in building Glassdoor and Twilio into global brands, he is a very well known name to talk about the recent trends and evolution of human resources. Making recruiting better for a lot of people worldwide, we have Wiliam Staney to share his thoughts on certain very relevant matters. 

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming William Staney today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of PeopleHum -  peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month. 


Welcome William, we’re thrilled to have you!


Hi. Thanks for having me.


Our pleasure!

So William, if you could tell us a little about what exactly is Proactive Talent and what kind of differentiators do you provide?


Yeah! So Proactive Talent started about five years ago, after about a decade in talent acquisition leadership and I just really started to understand that a lot of things were changing over the last decade in the recruiting industry. And there weren't a lot of great vendors as a T.A (Talent Acquisition) leader that helped me solve these problems holistically. 

If I had an employer brand issue. I said I wasn't getting quality candidates that I really wanted, I could go to an agency, help me target that ad better, or I can go to a 3rd party headhunter or contingent search firm and they'll go find me the person for a very high price. And there wasn't really a provider that looked at the whole problem. Alright because advertising isn't always a problem and throwing in a contingent recruiter isn't always a solution to the problem. So I started Proactive Talent. 

We had our second child and I took sometimes about three months off of work. And during that time, it's really just thinking about, what I wanted to do next. I've been building this career of building modern recruiting machines and I realized that I'm just gonna build the vendor partner that I would wanna have. And so Proactive Talent is recruiting an employer brand consulting firm. And we really focus on everything Talent Acquisition.

In Talent Attraction we've got three-course services, which are, Employer brand strategy. So helping develop EVPs, really tell that company's story and in a consistent way. Recruitment marking, which is our agency of recruit services. So we work on programmatic advertising to running campaigns, and that's what is really special.


Wow, that's amazing.

So, when you talk about recruiting and employee branding. What exactly helps attract more talent? What is the most important thing that organizations forget when they're trying to attract candidates?


Most of our clients fall in a similar bucket. Even companies that have a really great culture and employee experience, the one thing is, not a lot of companies were good at tooting their own horn or thinking and flexing the muscle of what's good to share externally, right?

Because there's a lot of really great companies that have awesome cultures and maybe their employees talk about them a little bit. But there isn't really a consistent message on how you go to the market to talk about the experience of working for a firm. And I think that's a thing that just most companies struggle with because when you live in the story, it's hard to take a moment to stop and then, and then tell that story as you're writing it.

So, I'd say that that's the biggest thing that they forget to really think about their culture with intention and then build a messaging framework that's authentic and real and really get to the heart of what makes them unique as an employer.

"they forget to really think about their culture with intention and then build a messaging framework that's authentic and real and really get to the heart of what makes them unique as an employer."


Right! So basically, building a genuine story around the company, and that would really help attract candidates and that's what candidates are looking for. 


Yeah. I mean, we're really talking about employee value proposition here, but it doesn't always have to be that way. I think when you put the term EVP on it, people think it has to be this six months, twelve months research thing. And that's just not true.  I think it just takes, sometimes an outside perspective to come in and show you, even if it's just validating what you know or even just going through the exercise of yourself as an organization and interviewing employees and surveying them and really trying to synthesize down in a unique way.

And I think that's why I look at a lot of companies' employees' value propositions and I could literally remove their name, put their competitors' name and it's still true. That's not enough. You have to really hone in on what's unique about you.

And that means looking at your competitors and where they're positioning is in the market. And then looking at your own and saying, okay,
what's the lane that we can swim in, I think that's really, really important. It creates this core foundation that everything else that you do is an employer stems from whether it be your HR policies, to how you recruit, to your employer brand! 


Right, so it's about looking at the market as well, and then kind of boiling down to what are your unique points.

What are your Unique Selling Points and why do candidates come to your organization?


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, every company has something that's unique about them because no other company has the people that you have at that moment, right? And even if you have an identical product to your competitors, you're different. And there's something unique about how you work in the collection of personalities together in your company.

I really see companies as communities and communities are organic, living things, right? Like that you have to nourish and communicate effectively with, and mobilize and activate. And so, I think when you look at it that way, it becomes a little bit more clear.


Yeah, these are not these living museums. They're breathing. And there's so much going on in places. That makes a lot of sense.

And when you talk about candidates hiring candidates, we still see that the number one source of hiring is still referrals! And something which was very astonishing because we've come a long way in the cycle of recruiting but this recruiting has not changed in the last 10-20 years?


It has changed a lot, and a lot of that spurred by technology. But with technology and advancement comes new problems, right? And I think one of those problems with recruiting, as you make it more and more efficient and data-focused and start using AI and machine learning, you still need the human touch. You have the machines to do the machine work, but the humans do human work.

"You have the machines to do the machine work, but the humans do human work."

And the only thing that will not be automated is relationships. And so, in a way, while the industry is changing from technology and just how globally connected our economies are, it's almost like going back to the old days where we didn't have as much administrative burden as we did in the eighties and early nineties and even early two-thousands, right?

And now we're in this era where recruiters don't have to spend most of their day doing administrative stuff. Sourcing doesn't have to take you weeks to find the contact information of somebody and get them on the phone. You can find it immediately with the latest tools. The hard part of recruiting is knowing how to make a connection with another human being and help connect them to the right company at the right time in their career. Recruiting is a time game, it always will be.

"Recruiting is a time game, it always will be."

And so yes, in some ways, recruiting has changed so much. But in other ways, we're getting right back to where we started with which is those relationships and so I think it's gonna be you really focusing on leveraging technology, right? And allowing humans to do things that make sure that we don't insert bias or discrimination into our hiring processes.

And when you rely almost solely on employee referrals, you create a bubble culture of the same type of people, and you have to get outside your sphere of influence. And the only way to do that is to build a brand that attracts people outside that sphere of influence and leveraging employees not just to share job opportunities, but to share your culture and your story, and just raise the awareness of who you are as an employer, and so, yeah, there's the new but there's really core human side of this business that we need to get back to and technology is really enabling that.


Right! So you can use technology as an enabler, but you will never have, humans not be a part of the process. You need human intervention to complete the recruitment process.


Of course, right, because I mean, think about a job, it's a relationship between you and your employer. Can you imagine going dating and just totally interacting with a chatbot, and never actually meeting the person that you're gonna commit to a relationship with?

So it's insane to think that where you work is attached to your identity, it's the people you spend more time with than your own kids. It's a big decision, and it's a relationship, and it has to be human. And we can automate the right things. Like recruiters shouldn't have to spend 100 hours sitting through resumes. Yes, we could do some good matching to limit, so they're reaching out to the right ones at the right time. Technology can enable us to be more efficient and more productive in our work, but there's no shortcut to human connection.

"Technology can enable us to be more efficient and more productive in our work, but there's no shortcut to human connection."

It has to be from one imperfect human being to another one to try to find the right opportunity that is mutually beneficial. 


Absolutely. Maybe you can use technology and you can use chatbots for candidate engagement.


Yeah, like early in the process when I think the use of chatbot in career sites to answer those questions that recruiters have to repeat. I was telling my recruiters if you notice you're doing the same thing over and over again and it's just this barrier for you, we got to find a way to automate that, or make it more efficient or make it require less of your time to optimize it. Right?

That's a big thing that we do at Proactive Talent, with our clients is we go through an audit, their whole recruiting process and strategy, and find where are your bottlenecks? Where are the things that are taking up a lot of your crew's time that just aren't adding value? 


Absolutely! Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, kind of automates the task that is a very routine and they're very mundane. But you know, have recruiters in the center of it, so that they can build the connection and have the culture fit in place and really enhance the experience. 


Yeah, I think it goes the other way too, for candidates. You can't have a candidate experience that's overly cumbersome. I mean, even as we swing from a candidate-driven market back to an employer-driven market, which is exactly what's happening right now, we still have to focus on candidate experience.

I refuse to think that we should go back to the point where we're making people go through hoops for us to learn about them and consider them for a position. You just can't be an employer nowadays and have people go through an hour-long process, seven different interviews. I mean, we have the ability to very quickly assess people the right way in a way that respects their time and allows us to fairly evaluate them for the position. 

So but I'm probably worried that as we get back on the employer-driven talent marketplace that companies don't focus as much on candidate experience. And that's a shame, because candidate experience is as you know, an employee experience, it's a keystone habit for a company.

When you focus almost meticulously on just candidate experience, every other KPI, every other form of measurement of your culture and your recruiting improves because when you focus on candidate experience, you're making sure that your hiring processes is efficient and you're making good use of everyone's time involved.

"When you focus almost meticulously on  just candidate experience, every other KPI, every other form of measurement of your culture and your recruiting improves because when you focus on candidate experience, you're making sure that your hiring processes is efficient and you're making good use of everyone's time involved."

You're making sure that your hire managers were following up, that you're recruited, falling out with candidates. You're doing the right things, not always the most efficient things, but the right things that make and ensure great experience and improve everything.

And so I worry about that. And I think I hope that it doesn't go that way because there's been so much improvement in that area. 


Absolutely. I think organizations say that a lot, employees how they asset, but if the tone focuses on recruitment and candidate experience, then they're just not laying the foundation right. It's not strong enough, right?


Yeah, I would go even further, I would say employees aren't even just assets anymore. Employees are your company. Without employees, you don't have a company.

"Employees are your company. Without employees, you don't have a company."

And so they're not even just an asset. They're not just this other operating count that you pull from or a piece of computer equipment. Like they are human beings that together make your company even possible. Right? And they should be treated as such. Yeah. 


And then you have organizations, you know that claim, 'Oh! We saved millions of dollars on recruitment', and then you're just like, 'hey, you were not supposed to save on that.'


When they tell me that I start picking apart and I go. Oh, Did you save a bunch of recruitment? What's your turnover rate? Oh, are 50% of your people going out of your door? Cool. Hey, how much does that cost you? How much did you spend on all those people that are churning through your business to train just for them to go away? And you have to spend that money again and recruiting? Yeah, maybe your cost per hire is down, but you're having to rehire more people.

So actually, your cost of hire doubles because you're hiring four times as many people because you're bleeding talent because you're not thinking intentionally about who you bring in to the organization. You're just a button seat mode and that is just so thinking and so inefficient and such a waste of so many, so much time and resource for your training team, your leaders, your interviewers, and the candidates' marketplace.

So people that are trying to reduce resources from recruiting and try to do more with less. I mean, I think it's always great to be lean but if you're doing it at the detriment of candidate experience, if you're doing it at the detriment of a really focusing on the quality of higher, then I promise you, in the long run, you're spending more than if you just did it right in the beginning.


Absolutely. It's just simple arithmetic. It's simple math that if you mess that up, it's like...


You're absolutely right, it should be simple math, but we are also human beings and we're flawed individuals, even in a collective. Look at how our world is responding to this pandemic right now, it is completely reactionary. We knew that a pandemic was possible for many, many years. In fact, this is very kind and it's hard for governments to go, 'Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and spend 400 billion dollars'. They want to be reelected into their prospective countries' governments, right? 

And you don't get elected saying I want to spend so many dollars, I'll prepare a world, and guess what? It's going to cost trillions upon trillions upon trillions upon trillions of dollars globally and years to recover from this. But if we had it, society had thought proactively about that. So you see the analogy here, the hiring is the same way. If you're not thinking about hiring until boom, 'we need that', it's gonna be more expensive to hire.

But if you think intentionally about your business, you have a good 3-5 year plan and know-how you need to intentionally grow the right way. You set up a hiring plan that's tied into your business strategy and then build a recruiting strategy to fulfill that business need at the right times. And you're thinking proactively about the resource in your building, a community of talent beforehand so that when those opportunities open up, you get a little warm push from right, it's hard. It's easy to say that. It's another thing to do it and that's just because we're flawed, short-sighted thinking, human beings who are afraid of change.

"It's easy to say that. It's another thing to do it and that's just because we're flawed, short-sighted thinking, human beings who are afraid of change."

Oh, and that's just the battle that we always have in almost everything that we do is human, including that's a battle that we fight on a daily basis. That's why I started my firm is because we're getting coming to think more proactive about hiring.


Absolutely, I think that's wonderful because your organization, it's not about being reactive because situations like these will keep coming in and you've got to be prepared. You cannot be so short-sighted that you do not see what's gonna come next. And as organizations, that's a critical and a very key element. Right?

And, especially during this crisis. What is your advice to organizations who are still hiring? What would you tell them? 


Yeah, I think I got the gist of the question that you're asking. You're talking about hiring during a pandemic, right? And I think it goes back to what I was talking about a little bit earlier. And our first impulse is to freeze. It's sort of like fight or flight. When something traumatic or big happens, you're sort of like ‘Haw (Gasps) And you're like so do I move? Do I attack and fight? Or do I go and hide? And I think a lot of people are scared right now and there's a lot of flight and a little less fight. 

But there are a lot of companies that are fully in the fight and they're blowing up because of this pandemic. I think Zoom or food delivery services is like Instacart and Postmates and things like that, they gotta fight, really fast to ramp up. And so I think what's really important for coming, is to think about right now is...

"This is when your employer brand is either shown to be an emperor with no clothes or truly a king or queen because it's not anymore about what you say about your employer brand or when you're recruiting folks. It's what you're doing."

What you're doing to accommodate candidates who are at home with their kids and working from home and have been inside their doors for a month, right? And having the empathy that it takes at this moment right now to hire people in a respectful and empathetic way. It takes not just thinking about how do we still achieve these revenue goals,  beyond it again and goes back to what I said earlier, just humanity, right?

I think right now you have to do whatever you gotta do to take care of your people, right? I'm an employer. I employ 33 people right now, and I look at that as a huge responsibility, that I've got 33 families and that is a personal thing for me. If I hire somebody, I'm inviting you into my tribe and to be a part of it and share its success and share its failure.

"If I hire somebody, I'm inviting you into my tribe and to be a part of it and share its success and share its failure."

That is a deeply personal, no relation to me and professional one, but it's a bit so when I see these employers that cog in a wheel, that easily let go. Remember how their employer made them feel during this time. And every candidate is gonna remember what the experience was like when they got laid off in trying to find another job, for the rest of their lives at this moment, because this is a big moment that we're having as a world right now, and when they're big moments, your memories are vivid.

How about you, you're in the U. S. Almost, everybody remembers exactly where they were when 9/11 hit. Who they were talking to, what job they had, what school they were at. I was a senior in high school, and I remember exactly where I was. That's what this pandemic is going to be like too. And so you gotta think it is a company how I'm treating people right now? You're gonna be branded that way. Yeah, for now on. So think about that. 


Yeah, I know a lot of candidates are just going to point out to all these big brands and big organizations, and, they're going to watch them like hawks and be like, hey, what did you do during the crisis where you're helping people? Were you empathizing with your employees because we didn't see that much on the Internet? So it will definitely, you know, have an impression. 


But I also understand a lot of companies don't know what to do. We've never tried to hire during a major global pandemic before like this, right? Not in these modern times, right? We haven't seen an epidemic like this in 100 years, over 100 years. So, that's not easy, right? And there I can tell you, kind of what I'm doing and maybe that helps others as well, but we've completely stopped any outbound sales for one right now. I don't think it's appropriate. 

People aren't in a buying mood in a buying pattern right now, and I just have to accept that as a business owner, right? And that's okay. So instead what we're doing, we're completely repositioning our posture towards resources and support. So all of our marketing, Jim Shroud, our VP marketing does a video 10-minute video every two weeks. Just giving people what's going on with the Covid-19, Coronavirus, and how that's affecting hiring in various aspects and how it's affecting work. We are doing 50% off for all hospitals and health care providers to help them staff up during this time. 

It is essentially cost right, pro bono work and we are sharing tons of resources, we're partnering in getting on a podcast like this. To help talk to an hour of my time every day to talk to CEOs or heads of town or heads HR to think through their strategies and go-forward plans for free.  I think more companies can do this right now.

I'm still talking and doing stuff, but this is a case for every other small business on the globe right now as well as especially, and in hiring and recruiting. Some of us are not going to survive this right, And that's okay. So what can we do? You're just going to get to this place just knowing like I don't have control. So all I can do with resources is what I have at this moment and that's what we're doing. We're going the ladder out. 


Yeah, you just really have to make the best of your resources at this point in time. And you don't kind of really help out people. And if you're hiring, that's a great thing. Because you must have done something great. 


Yeah and think about the small businesses. If you are one of those companies that are hiring rapidly right now, you need the help anyway, right? Maybe don't go to the big RPO, Big you know, $1,000,000,000 agency. Maybe get a scrappy, small business to help you on that project. That could really use that work right now. Right? Maybe, just think about outside of just yourself and anything about the greater ecosystem and what's worth protecting right now. And I tell you, it's small businesses.


It is the small businesses, they need all the help they can and they will definitely help a lot of other people around them. And it will create a very proactive ecosystem. If at an individual level, organizations just understand how to kind of, cope with this, and make sure that you know the talent brand remains as is and remains very strong. Right?

And you've looked at Glassdoor, right? How important you believe brands like Glassdoor are in talent brand building? Do you believe that Glassdoor is an enabler or a detractor in talent building? Because there are negative comments, and it's very sensationalised that prevails. What's your take on that ?


As a former employer Glassdoor. I will tell you that that Glassdoor itself, will always be a thing. Whether it's Glassdoor, Indeed reviews, Comparably, Fairy God Boss, there's a bunch of all now. It's not just Glassdoor I think the question to be asking is, does my reputation exist? If Glassdoor does it, yeah, it does. In fact, it existed always before Glassdoor was ever even a thing. 

Glassdoor just happened to be the first yelp of employees' experience. But there's Blind app, there are all these new technologies that allow people, we'll just live in the age of the Internet and how you treat employees gets out no matter what. And I'll tell you a little secret. It got out before too, just maybe not at the scale that it can now. But it did when you have bad employee experiences and people who had a bad experience with your employer are always inherently more incentivized to go yell about it on the Internet.

"When you have bad employee experiences and people who had a bad experience with your employer are always inherently more incentivized to go yell about it on the Internet."

And that's everything on the Internet. If you had a bad pizza experience, you're gonna go to Yelp. Oh, man, that pizza was cold and it was an hour late, and you just feel like you just gotta tell other people, so they don't make the same mistake, right? That's how it is gonna be for everything.

Whether you're hiring a plumber or you're interviewing for a job so, glassdoor isn't important anymore than a Ford and GM are important. Well, Ford goes out of business. I can still buy a GM car, right? So I don't think glassdoor is important.

I think reputation management and properly thinking about what your reputation is as an employer to improve that reputation of time to actually incentivize the people who are having it, me-time at your company, or people who are having a great time at your company to also leave reviews. And we thought we helped companies build these types of strategies, and it can be really effective. It's just about a moment in time awareness. It's about your executive team talking about how Glassdoor is a place where we actually listen to what you say as an employee, and it helps us recruit other people. 

Please leave a review there, not a positive view, just an honest review of your experience. You need pros and cons to make a decision.

"You need pros and cons to make a decision."

So when I see a company that has just as many pros in there like I don't have any cons. I'm like, well, then, do you really work there? Because I've never met a single company that doesn't have cons. They all do every one of them, including my own, right? Nobody's perfect. Like I said before, right? 

Companies are just a community of a collection of human beings and human beings are imperfect. And it's the same thing here with reputation management. It's just very important to monitor it, encourage it.

And here's the other thing is, we can just go in and see just an employer getting pounded with a bunch of negative reviews. They take that with a pinch of salt too, right? You know, if there aren't both sides of the coin, it's hard to make a decision.


Yeah, I think it would be too good to be true if you just have all the good comments, of you know one company it's just not real, that just not genuine, so yeah, I agree with you, you have to see both sides of the coin and the candidate is smart enough to find that out.


Yeah. I mean, Glassdoor was smart. They were the first to create a marketplace for doing this for an employer perspective. But I mean, wouldn't you if you're the first to market in, you own that property, you're gonna charge rent, right? Like that's the capitalist economy that we live in. 


Yeah, that's just how it is. That's how it works. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense.


That’s how the world works, the entire world. 


Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's how the world works, we must live in it. And we must make the best of what we have and strive for it and hopefully make a difference like you are doing. So you know, that kind of brings me to the end of the interview, William.

I just would like to ask you if you have any important sound bites that you like to leave our viewers with. 


I would leave you with, at this time, if you're recruiting, it's a really stressful time for our profession right now. It's a scary time for our profession right now, but we're gonna make it through this. We always have. Really.

We have gone through these moments and times many times before and it changes our society, and it changes the way that we work. But we are adaptable and just be kind to each other. 


Absolutely. That's wonderful. Just be kind to each other. Spread it around because this too shall pass as everything else has. 

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Well, I had a wonderful conversation with you, William. And thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and you sharing your views with us. It's been a learning experience for me and I really hope that we can stay in touch and do more of these. 


Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation as well. 

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October 25, 2021

A very inspiring list. Thanks for putting this together


October 25, 2021

This is such a great list of women leaders! More power to you all

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