How we opened the top of our hiring funnel – and got better hires

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Today with more than 40 million unemployed Americans and recognizing generations of racial bias throughout our workforce and education systems, namely for people of color and other minority groups, not having equal access to quality career and education opportunities. How can we best use assessments to help eliminate bias?

For answers to this question, acting general manager of JFF labs Stephen Yadzinski talked with assessment acceleration partner Vervoe, and their partner TriNet a global leader providing businesses with HR solutions.

This interview was recorded as part of Horizons, JFF’s flagship event.

Listen to the full interview

JFF · Vervoe & TriNet | Assessments and Remote Hiring to Mitigate Bias

Grant Weinberg: My name’s is Grant Weinberg. I’m the vice president of talent acquisition at TriNet, I’ve been with the organization just coming up to two years.

Omer Molad: My name is Omer Molad, I’m co founder and CEO of Vervoe, a skills assessment platform that shows employers how candidates do job related tasks.

Stephen Yadzinski: That’s awesome. Grant, just to open this up – so if you could tell us a little bit about TriNet, you know, your hiring talent needs, but also your partnership with Vervoe.

GW: Sure. So TriNet is one of the largest PEO’s in the industry. When I joined 18 months ago, we were looking at how we could increase the quality of the hires that we were making. And one of the ideas was to open the top of the funnel, but also increase the quality of the talent at the top of the funnel.

And so we were looking for a more agile pre-assessment and I came across Vervoe. I think it was at a SmartRecruiters event in San Francisco. And from there started the discussions with a Omer and his team.

SY: That’s terrific. How have you been working with Vervoe for how long and, and what are, what are some of the specifics of where you’re working together?

GW: Sure. So we’ve been working with Vervoe for just over six months now. We identified the biggest need, in our sales organization, of course, it’s fast recruiting. You need to speed up the time to hire, but also the quality of hire. And so we had also rolled out a new profile for our sales force and it was a perfect opportunity to partner with Vervoe to build that assessment, or that profile into the assessment platform.

And so we’ve used it now for the last six months across our sales organization. And recently we expanded it into our human capital partner space as well.

SY: And Omer over to you a little bit. Can you talk about the process of kicking off with TriNet and some of what’s involved with set up for getting Vervo online?

OM: Sure, so in terms of kicking off I mean, as Grant said, typically, companies want two things. They want to hire great people and they want to save a ton of time while they’re doing it. And one of the advantages that we have is that we can deploy almost instantly. And so instead of spending a ton of time trying to figure out how to optimize the assessments, we have assessments that are pre-prepared but can be customized to context.

And so when we work with companies as large as TriNet or even larger, we can still be in market hiring within days. It’s just a question of getting the right assessments for the right roles. We want to figure out how to make sure that we’ve got everything in context. So we often see companies hiring for what would on paper look like the same role, but it’s slightly different because of their context. And we want to make sure that we’re really testing candidates in the context of not just the role, but the company.

That’s really the only thing that takes time out. Other than that, we’re ready to go pretty much day one.

SY: And then Grant a question over to you, on sort of- you were talking about the top of the funnel, sort of widening the top of the funnel. I’m wondering how Vervoe has impacted your, your diversity numbers.

You know, some sort of expanding beyond the resume evaluation. How has it affected those aspects of your hiring process and what are you seeing so far?

GW: Sure. So I’m going to speak about it in two contexts; one pre-COVID, and now post-COVID as I see it. So the pre-COVID, as I said the top of funnel, there was war for talent.

And so we didn’t want to overlook anybody that was coming into the top of funnel by merely looking at a resume and making that judgment call. And so using Vervoe pre-COVID gave us an opportunity to bring more people in at the top of the funnel and really test to see whether they had the skills.

And as we know, some people are very good at writing resumes. Other people are not so good at writing resumes. Other people don’t care about their resume because they think that they, once they get an interview they can sell themselves into the job.

I see post-COVID, the value of Vervoe is, as we’re now going to have the opposite effect where the funnel is going to be almost overflowing, the opportunity to use Vervoe to scale and help us really understand and assess that talent pool, and ensure that we’re not missing top talent and also being fair to all the talent that’s out there that is looking for work as a result of the pandemic.

But I think it’s a win-win in both kinds of talent markets.

SY: And what kind of scale are you expecting sort of post-COVID, how is that shaping up for you?

GW: Yeah. So when I refer to scale post-COVID, I’m referring to the candidate pool expanding, it’s expanding massively, right? So, you know, any organization now that is posting a job is seeing a 10X plus application rate, especially in things like sales where it’s a high number and volume function.

Again, it’s helping the talent understand very quickly, are they the right fit for TriNet? It’s helping us understand are they the right profile? And it also prevents the recruiters from being bogged down with really having to speak to hundreds of candidates in order to protect the candidate experience, also identify the candidates that we need in the role.

SY: And in your work with smal-l and medium-sized businesses, I’m wondering how you, what your point of view would be around smaller organizations being able to leverage a solution like Vervoe.

GW: So, yeah, so I think it works both ways, right? So small organizations are going to have less internal resources, so anything that they can use technology to automate and speed up the hiring cycle and improve the quality of hire is going to be an asset for them.

And similarly, if you’re a bigger organization, you’ve got the other challenge. You do have resources, but also the scale of the top of your funnel is that much greater.

SY: And what’s been the impact? Before your partnership with Vervoe and after, are you seeing higher quality talent, are you dropping portions of the interview process, or are people’s retention affected? Are you able to see some trends yet?

GW: Yeah. So, unfortunately, it’s still early days too, just to see the kind of qualitative impact, but what we have of the talent we’re bringing in, so the sales folks- they’re coming in, they’re ramping up. And so we’ll start to see in the next few months, see the impact.

I think for us, what we’ve certainly seen is a much better engagement and candidate experience, where just from the assessment the feedback we get in the comments that Vervoe sent over to us, we’re able to see how candidates are appreciating understanding TriNet.

I mean, PEO, it doesn’t sound overly complex, but when you get into the complexity of, of TriNet’s business, it’s payroll, it’s benefits, insurance, HR consulting. And so for a candidate to understand the complexity of that side of that sell, beyond seeing us as a technology sell where it’s HR services has been a huge advantage.

So we see them coming in, we see them performing better. Those that make it through to the, the face to face interviews. We see better performance out of them. And again, you know, the engagement and the experience is positive.

SY: And Omer over to you for a question. Grant’s talking about speed and scale. We were on a call with somebody earlier and they said, you know, the future of work just sped up to us really quick with COVID and everything. What is Vervoe seeing from, from your work, from your relationship, here in this partnership, but also others in terms of meeting that demand? What does it look like for Vervoe in terms of a post-COVID world and being able to support employers as they source talent and develop folks internally?

OM: Yeah. Grant actually touched on this earlier, that in that sort of post-COVID world has seen a couple of really significant changes. The first is that unemployment has doubled or tripled depending on the country. And so way less companies are hiring right now. But the average number of applicants per role has gone up by an order of magnitude – in some cases, it’s double, in some cases five times.

Then the other thing is, there are physical constraints at the moment in terms of the inability to conduct assessment centers, inability to conduct onsite interviews. And so some of the companies that weren’t necessarily incentivized to think differently about hiring are now forced to do so.

They’re taking the first step, which is to go digital. But what that does is it opens their eyes to looking or thinking differently, not just about the medium, but also about the method, the selection methods. So if I’m going to go digital, well, maybe I don’t just go to Zoom or Skype or whatever.

But actually, maybe I need to think differently about how I organize my flow and my process. And that opens the door to have conversations, strategic conversations, about, well, the thing that you were doing before on structured interviewing, actually, that’s not very predictive.

So have you thought about doing something that’s not just more efficient, but actually predicts performance? And, you know, Grant talked about this earlier, that you’ve got these sort of, this dynamic around not missing out, not excluding people at the top of the funnel based on their background, based on their resume and actually understanding who can do the job.

And so that’s the quality part, but at the same time, you’re making everything much more efficient. So you’re saving time. So when you think about it like this, the time-saving is generally banked by the recruitment team., so they benefit from the time saving. But the organization as a whole benefits from the increase in quality.

What Grant’s described is a very natural process: the increase in engagement from the candidates is typically a leading indicator of the quality. So you see candidates that are more engaged, cause they’re opting in, they’re buying into the process and the role, they’re saying “this is for me”, they’re going to be more engaged. That leads to an increase in pastor rates and eventually see an increase in quality six and 12 months down the line. That’s a very natural process to follow.

And I’ll just finish up by saying that the encouraging thing for us is seeing such an increase in demand, because companies are now opening their eyes and, you know, it’s a shame that it took a pandemic to cause this, but sometimes that’s just the way the world works and people are now opening their eyes to a fundamentally different way of thinking about recruitment.

SY: You know, that leads me to a sort of two questions and I’ll, you know, unfortunately I have to do it in sort of an order, you know, thinking about a shift to remote work with talent management, generally. Omer, if you could touch on sort of how assessments are facilitating the shift to work and then Grant, I’m curious about your perspective on that as well.

But if you could touch on that, just, I think you did already a little bit, but if you could expand on sort of, as companies are, you know, reenvisioning how their workforces function, you know, just to how we get our work done day to day, how assessments can play a role?

OM: Yeah. Sure. So maybe I’ll, I’ll start and I’m sure Grant have something to add.

From our perspective, we don’t see any connection between meeting in person and predicting whether someone will be good at the job. There’s no scientific connection. It feels good to meet someone in person. It helps to generate rapport. But really what that tells you is that are you gonna like them and actually, likeability is a massive cause of bias in the hiring process.

And what hiring should be about is: is someone going to be good at the role and are they going to contribute positively to the team and the company? And there are proven methods to determine those things, to answer those questions. And so it doesn’t really matter. Physical proximity is not really a major factor.

And when you use technology, you’re able to deliver assessments at scale. And it wouldn’t matter if people are in the same city or on the other side of the world, what’s more, you can access a global talent pool. And I think what companies are seeing now and again, some of them have been forced into this situation is that, you know, it turns out when you give people freedom to work from an environment that is comfortable for them, it turns out they’re not going to sort of – they’re still going to be very productive. In fact, more productive. They’re not going to sort of cheat and try and not work. And if they do try to sort of get away with not working, well, there’s a more fundamental problem, which is that probably weren’t happy with their role to the beginning.

And so what this, this has really done is given people permission to think differently about how they organize their companies, not just in recruitment, but how they organize the workforce. I think it’s wonderful. Again, it’s a shame that it took such a shock to the, to the system for this to happen. But I think overall it creates opportunity.

GW: Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, Omer, you hit the nail on the head. I think the biggest challenge you have is the bias, the unconscious bias that we have in the workplace. And I always say I’d much rather, for my own team, I’d much rather a manager respect my recruiter than love my recruiter or like my recruiter.

Because if they respect them, it means they’re doing the right things. They challenging them and ensuring they think the right way. If they like them, it normally means the recruiter is doing what the manager wants them to do. And so similarly, when I look at, when we looked at the assessments for us, we wanted to know from a sales hiring perspective, who was really sitting in front of us.

And you know, a lot of the times you meet people and especially the extroverted folks are very good at positioning themselves. And so starting with the assessment gave us a real “who is sitting in front of us” and what are the able to contribute both from a work perspective, but also a fit to the team.

What we saw in addition to that is especially when you dealing with a very busy work day, where you trying, and now you can’t pull candidates into physically into your location, but still, you know, for a candidate to be able to invest half an hour, 45 minutes or even an hour through an assessment, they really feel that they’ve been objectively assessed by the company and get a pretty quick decision on you’re a fit for the role of the company, or you’re not a fit for the role, but you might be a fit for the company in some other function within the organization.

I know that experience is going to be a game-changer for everyone because candidates are no longer going to be dragged in three, four, five interviews and think that they’re doing really well. And then a decision gets reached that, you know, somebody in that process didn’t like them when they met them.

And so, you know, we see a lot of the bad behaviors in the interview process being mitigated by, um, having this kind of assessment for us to use. I think again, you know, we had to pivot very quickly from being predominantly an in-office organization to a remote organization.

And you as talent acquisition leaders, you worry that – is your organization going to embrace this? How long is it going to take them to embrace it? You know, I’ve been super proud of how we’ve pivoted as an organization, by how comfortable our managers have gotten. I think, especially in the sales organization, because they’re getting qualitative data to help them, making an objective hiring decision and that decision has been a lot easier.

SY: So do you think there will be any companies left that don’t leverage assessments, like at a massive scale relative to their hiring priorities and needs?

GW: So, I mean- this will be music to Omer’s ears- I think pre, and we had this discussion when I was in early discussions with them, there were a lot of organizations that were moving away from assessments.

They saw it as a barrier and even my recruiting team, right. When I told them we were bringing in the assessment, you can just imagine it was hard enough recruiting. Now I was putting another barrier in.

I think, now that we’ve pivoted to a different world, the ability to see one layer further down without physically meeting the candidate is going to have a huge benefit. I would expect companies to embrace this more because they want to get beyond the person on the Zoom call. They want to get that next layer down into, “can they do the job?”.

OM: Can I just make a comment on that particular point? One of the things that we’ve focused on so heavily is thinking of the assessment, particularly in the context of what we do, which is skills assessment on the job tasks on the job skills, is thinking of it as an opportunity to succeed. Not, not a point of friction, not an exam.

If you’re a great product designer, if you’re good at sales and someone says to you “prove it”, you know, you’ll say “great!”. You know, if someone says to me, can you prove that you’re passionate about whatever – I will. I am passionate. So I’d be happy to take the opportunity.

And so really we see it as an opportunity for them. The language we use is “an opportunity for candidates to showcase their talent”. If they want the job and they have confidence, then why wouldn’t they embrace an opportunity that’s fair, under the same circumstances as everyone else, to actually prove it.

And sure, there’s a little bit of adjusting. You’ve got to do it using technology and takes a bit of getting used to it, different to what people were used to doing several years or decades ago, but generally speaking, it’s an opportunity to succeed, not a barrier.

And that’s how we think about it. And the word assessment sounds very cold, but you know, an opportunity to showcase your talent as opposed to we’re now going to put you through all these screening hurdles. That’s how we think about it. And then what happens is people are actually good at the job and passionate about the job and about the company.

They’re the ones that get through and that’s the way it should be.

GW: I’d like to, I just want to make one comment. I think it’s really interesting when we think about the recruiters is saying, well, this is another barrier that we’re putting in. I think now we’ve probably seen that the barrier was dragging them on-site multiple times. Right. And trying to get availability from the candidates where here they can, you know, they can even take a lunch break and go and do this assessment if they’re in employment, which is a lot easier. They can do it in the evening or before work. And so I think you’re going to get a better selection of the talent pool, because there is flexibility on how they can demonstrate their skills and suitability for the roles.

SY: That’s awesome. Right. Do either of you have any last thoughts that you want to add?

GW: Well, more than happy, I’d like to share an example of where Vervoe’s really come into its own with our usage at TriNet. In anticipation of today, I asked my recruiting team, our sales recruiting team if I could share any examples of the impact.

So one of the examples was, you know, a really great candidate made it through the – we have a two by two interview process. They’ve done the Vervoe assessment. They met the various stakeholders, but one of the stakeholders had a question about the candidate. Everybody was positive, but they had a question about the ability to do the job.

And so there was discussion about maybe we don’t move forward with a candidate, you know, somebody else said, Hey, why didn’t we do a backdoor reference? Which of course, is, you know, something we just do not want to see in the business.

And it was actually the recruiter that said, you know, why don’t I open the Vervoe assessment to you? And, you know, we don’t normally do that for various reasons. And so the recruiter, first of all, shared a couple of the responses to some of the questions.

And by the time that the interview panel had seen the quality of the responses that the candidate given. And again, this is standard, right? Every candidate gets asked the same question and therefore it’s pretty simple to work out what a good or bad answer is. And so, you know, quickly after reviewing that data, the decision was reversed, then they’ve hired that candidate. And so far that individual is tracking towards being a very high-quality hire.

I think that’s another piece where recruiters now have an additional tool, that it’s not them just trying to influence the business that this is a good hire. There’s now qualitative data that they can use to either support or mitigate a concern that the hiring manager has.

So we’re very happy with the Vervoe is the bottom line.

SY: Fantastic. Well, Omer, do you have any final thoughts?

OM: Well, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to top that. I kind of feel like saying nothing, but what I’ll say very briefly is actually just build on what Grant said, which is, you know, people come to us often because they want to an efficiency gain. They want to save time. They want to save money. They want to streamline the process. But they end up staying with us and loving what we do because of stories like that, because they hire that person that they otherwise would have screened out because they’ve removed bias because they’ve found that hidden gem, that would have been screened out of the process at the top of the funnel, but has now made it through and it forces them to think differently. And all you need is one example, one story like that. And you realize that there’s more to this game.

And, you know, I just want to thank Grant for saying that- most of our customers have a story like that. It’s hard to sell that when we’re trying to sell what we do. But when you feel and experience that for yourself as a company, you know, that there’s more to recruitment than the sort of traditional resume phone screen, the interview process. And just really happy to hear that. Thank you.

SY: Thank you, Vervoe. And TriNet for joining JFF labs today. to learn more about assessment technology, check out the JFF website.

Related articles

Everything You Need to Know About Skill Testing