This post draws from Data-Driven Recruiting Episode 65, where CodeSignal Co-Founder Sophia Baik talks with Ariana Moon, Director of Talent Acquisition at Greenhouse, about TA strategy, structured interviewing, assessing “soft skills,” and more. In this excerpt from their recent interview, Baik and Moon discuss how Greenhouse uses data to shape their hiring processes, their recruiting tech stack, and their DE&I partnerships to diversify their pipeline.
When it comes to the day-to-day recruiting funnel, what does it look like at Greenhouse and how do you structure the interview process?
While our interview processes varies by role, we’ve been transparent on our website about the typical structure that we tend to follow. If anyone’s interested, you can check out greenhouse.io/interviewing-at-greenhouse.
To give an overview, generally we have what we call the “demand gen” part of the hiring funnel, which is all the activity our team does to get great people into our pipeline. Then we typically have an initial touchpoint over a call. After this stage, it’s common for folks to progress to a conversation with either the hiring manager or someone on the direct team that they would join.
From this point, there’s usually a take-home assignment that we ask candidates to do, which serves as an opportunity for the candidate to surface an actual work product, and then we invite them for an onsite interview. In my experience, this structure is common across many companies, so I wouldn’t say that we do things that differently in this sense.
In addition to paying close attention to the number of candidates that are entering and converting through our interview stages, we also focus on how different demographic groups are converting through those same stages. This is part of our commitment to DE&I. We use our own product to track the demographic data we collect from candidates when they enter our process.
Questions that we might ask include: Are certain groups falling out of certain stages in our pipeline disproportionately to other groups? If so, do we have a hypothesis around what’s happening? And once we have the hypothesis, what can we do? What actions can we take to create a more inclusive and fair hiring process?
Here’s an example of how this might show up in the work that we do. In one of the high-volume searches we were running, we did a deep dive into the demographic data. We saw that once candidates passed the initial screen and got to a stage where they were speaking with people from the team that they would join, there was a pretty big drop off of our BIPOC candidates, which was leading to a dramatic decrease in their representation after that stage. This was sobering to see, so we drilled in deeper and we asked ourselves “what is happening here?”
Because the demographic data is purposefully anonymized in our product, you can’t attribute it to candidates. So, what we ended up doing was pulling a report on the reasons candidates were being rejected in each stage of our process, and we overlaid that information with the demographic trends.
One of the things we discovered was that a lot of candidates were getting rejected by our hiring teams due to lacking certain interpersonal attributes, which might be more commonly known as “soft skills.” Why was that important to discover? Because interpersonal skills and how you assess them can be highly subjective.
For example, if I were tasked with assessing whether someone was passionate about a role, I might have a very specific idea of what “passion” looks like. It might be someone who speaks enthusiastically and is constantly verbalizing their passion for something.
If that’s my definition and expectation, and I talked to someone who didn’t demonstrate passion in that way, I might say like they didn’t demonstrate this attribute. But passion can show up in many different ways, especially when you take different identities, life experiences, and cultural experiences into consideration.
Ultimately, we realized that we were using a lot of jargon in how we assessed candidates and asked questions, and so we more deliberately established the understanding that there are different ways of defining and embodying interpersonal attributes. We used this information to make our language more inclusive—especially for people who are making career or industry switches, because the language that we use at Greenhouse is not necessarily the language that folks use elsewhere.
This is a true example of the kind of data-driven recruiting we’re talking about. You see how your funnel is performing, you look at your data, and you work on optimizing. You take the scientific approach of having a hypothesis, finding a way to test that hypothesis, coming to a proposed solution, and seeing whether that changes the activity in your funnel.
There are a lot of hiring managers and recruiters who think, “I want to trust the interview process and not do much to it.” But an interview process is something that we as humans create, and we carry our own biases with us.
Instead of having a rigid process that we don’t iterate on, we take the opposite approach at Greenhouse—which is to get into the weeds of how we’re creating interviews and see what patterns we can see in our pipelines. Is the data pointing to potential inequity that’s happening based on how we’re asking questions and how we’re behaving? If you want to take a proactive and hands-on approach to make your hiring process inclusive, it’s about this kind of constant measurement and iteration.
We really want to make sure that our interview process is as transparent as possible, and that it’s guided by our structured hiring approach. Having a consistent and equitable interviewing experience for everyone involved means that when it comes to hiring decisions, they’re based on data and evidence—not a whim or a gut feeling.
Yeah. Hiring on a gut feeling perpetuates biases we have, and you’ll tend to hire people who fit the same mold. So it makes a lot of sense to not be afraid to take an objective perspective around, “how can we be better?”
When you’re busy with hiring, it’s easy to simply take call after call without reflecting on your process. But it’s important to take time to think about how we can improve and have the humility and self-awareness to admit that we all have biases and need to be proactive in identifying and correcting them.
I think acknowledging that we all—whether we’re a hiring manager, an executive, a TA professional—have our own biases is a really important step that needs to happen before taking action.
At the moment, I’m actively hiring for my own team. I’m constantly asking my teammates whether they think I have any blind spots, or whether they disagree about anything regarding my assessment of a candidate. It’s so important to build a culture in which people feel comfortable raising dissenting opinions.
I like that you mention humility – I think humility is key for all leaders to have. If you don’t have that, it’s really hard to start the conversation around what change you want to see and what actions you want to take around that.
You pointed out that there needs to be a culture of not being afraid to share and receive feedback. Because otherwise, people tend to close up when others say, “you might be biased.” Often the reaction is, “no, I’m not,” and they become defensive about it—rather than saying, “okay, help me understand what you have observed” or “what do you think is going on?” It’s important to have a curious mindset and ask, “how can I improve? How can we make things better?”
I think it’s really important to make sure that whoever you’re talking to about creating more inclusive behaviors knows the conversation is a safe space, whether that’s a hiring manager or an executive. When my team shows hiring managers the trends in their candidate demographic data for their job searches, we’re not trying to say, “Hey, hiring manager, you’re doing XYZ wrong, which is why this is happening in our pipeline.” Instead, we approach the conversation as, “this is a challenge that we’re trying to figure out together,” and that safe space allows us to have a more productive discussion. When it comes to the leaders at your company, there can be a lot of anxiety around questions like, “what is the data saying about me and the decisions that I’m making?”
In order for us to open up that conversation, there needs to be acknowledgement that we’re working on this together. This is not a conversation where I’m highlighting problems—
—or blaming you for something. You’re in it together as a team.
Let’s shift the topic to talk about tools. As Greenhouse is a company that is very invested in hiring great people and developing the tools to do so, you probably have a good perspective on why you chose the tech stack you have today. First, what is your recruiting tech stack like?
A lot of our tools are focused on effective sourcing, especially because we place a huge emphasis on doing our part to make sure we reach out to underrepresented prospects to diversify our hiring pipelines.
I also want to mention that the Greenhouse Hiring Cloud is made up of over 360 integration partners. As the TA team at Greenhouse, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to partner with these awesome integrations.
I want to highlight a few tools around sourcing that have been invaluable partners to us.
We currently use Gem as our main sourcing tool, as well as Entelo, another sourcing partner. We use other tools like TopFunnel, specifically for technical sourcing. And obviously, we use LinkedIn. In the past year, tools like Zoom and DocuSign— tools that support us in the virtually interviewing world have been super invaluable.
Greenhouse’s Hiring Tech Stack
Black Professional in Tech Network
People of Color in Tech (POCIT)
I also wanted to shout-out CodeSignal as such a core part of our ability to do technical interviewing well. The Technical Talent Acquisition Manager on my team, Will, loves this platform—he says he can’t live without it. CodeSignal has done amazing things to help us run structured, remote-friendly interview processes, so a huge shout-out to your team.
There are other DE&I focused organizations and partnerships that I want to highlight—which I know are not traditional tools to talk about, but for us are critical and have done tremendous things to help diversify our pipelines and who we hire.
#HIREBLACK is a huge one. This is a community of amazing black female-identifying professionals. I’ve been in touch with the founder, Niani Tolbert, and she’s been an incredible partner who’s helped us hire folks from her community. There’s also the Black Professionals in Tech Network, which we started partnering with recently to help build internal allyship with our Black community and help our senior leaders build more diverse networks. There are groups like People of Color in Tech (POCIT) and so many other DE&I-focused partnerships that help us reach more communities of color around the world.
Again, I don’t think this is a category that traditionally fits what people are looking for in a tool. But in terms of enabling recruiting success, these organizations have been very tied to our ability to achieve what success looks like to us.
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