Top Tips from Real Recruitment Operations Practitioners
In my last blog on RecOps, I hinted that new Recruiting Operations practices may have been influenced by the shift in developer culture towards DevOps. My intention was to imply that the new term RecOps has developed a different meaning to the old title of Recruitment Operations. Upon reflection, my implicit point was too subtle to really highlight this emerging nuance 🤔
I wanted to find out from industry leaders what their thoughts were on this new direction in RecOps practices. We’ve interviewed five Recruitment Operations experts from leading organisations with modern Recruiting and Talent Operations functions. Organisations we consider to be practicing the ever ambiguous RecOps.
Along with similar terms for new job functions like SalesOps and CustomerOps, RecOps came into play around the emergence of new infrastructure and data technologies. These developments have brought powerful tools into many fields, meaning that the application of data and automation has effectively forged new data-driven roles.
We were lucky enough to hear about some amazing leaders’ journeys in this space, Jaqui Maguire, Director of Talent at top ATS Greenhouse; Erwin de Wildt, Booking.com Recruitment Operations Analyst; Jonathan Barker, Head of People Operations at Status; Max Butler, Recruiting Operations Manager at Lime; and Maricris Paviera, Human Resources at Honor. They were kind enough to share their experiences in this emerging practice to help you in your recruiting work.
1. How and why did you get into Recruitment Operations or take on Recruitment Operations tasks?
Jonathan Barker: Around 2010-11, I was managing a team of around ten recruiters and spending most of my time trying to pull data, analyse trends, estimate annual delivery, etc. I was spending a huge amount of time on this personally as I wanted the recruiters to focus on candidates and offers meaning that I focused more on the operations and analytics side of things. However, I had no experience of doing this, and lacked the technical skills at the time. I began talking to peers with similar sized teams and one of them (much smarter than me) had already identified that we needed a RecOps type person to support the teams. So we clubbed together our headcount and budget, and he fought to hire a dedicated RecOps person. That person then ended up helping us to implement new reporting & analysis methods that ultimately increased our productivity.
Erwin de Wildt: After around 4 years of experience in recruitment I was looking into other options and directions you can go while staying in recruitment. Booking.com had a team responsible for the Recruitment operations that managed the knowledge systems and everything else that surrounds recruitment and allows our recruiters to be (even) better at their work. This really appealed to me, being able to bring out the best in others while also staying informed about the latest developments in recruitment, bringing that into our company. When a position became available in the team I was allowed to grow into the role as an analyst in the direction of project manager.
Maricris Paviera: I used to work in Education and I wanted a career change but I still wanted to help people. I use the term Talent Ops which is still very much helping people connect to jobs, it is a very fulfilling field.
Jaqui Maguire: At Greenhouse, we don’t have designated Recruiting Operations. At our stage, we’ve decided to keep operations as a part of everyone on the team’s responsibility. That said, as the Director of the team, I do my best to be a central point to keep things consistent and aligned.
Max Butler: More and more recruiters are being asked to run reports and extract insights to understand what is working and what is not. Most recruiters don't have that experience and often they end up spending too much time on "side projects" which jeopardises filling jobs and candidate experience. In terms of roles within recruitment, sourcers are the marketers generating the best leads, recruiters need to be elite talent partners, managers should manage, enable, and grow their team, and recruiting coordinators need to create the best experience for both candidates and employees. This is where I see RecOps coming in. Our job is to be a bridge, reduce friction, and provide data for better decision making.
2. What does RecOps mean to your organisation, if anything?
Erwin de Wildt: As mentioned before, Recruitment Operations manages a very wide area of topics: compliance, GDPR, analytics, sourcing support, job postings, assessments, interviewing tools, recruitment ATS systems, onboarding, department processes to name a few. As the center of excellence we drive and advise the business on when and how we can innovate.
Jonathan Barker: To me, RecOps means the infrastructure behind recruitment, i.e. the structures, processes, reporting and analysis that help optimise recruiting. Specifically, it's a small group of "non-target/offer"-driven people who increase the productivity of the overall team.
Jaqui Maguire: Recruiting Operations should reduce friction in the hiring process by creating and upholding the systems and processes that are needed to have efficient and productive hiring.
Maricris Paviera: Talent Operations means bringing the best fit candidates to your company, it means creating an amazing candidate experience, bringing human connection to candidates and creating change in the organisation by bringing in the best talent.
3. What are the most important operational recruiting metrics to your organisation? How & why do you measure them?
Max Butler: For us, it’s offer accept rate and quality. To identify offer accept rate, we measure how many offers were extended and what percentage accepted or rejected in a given time frame. Then match that with rejection reasons. Quality means how many candidates passed a certain stage in a given time frame. We want to understand how many interviews it takes to extend an offer.
Erwin de Wildt: As a rapidly growing company there are many metrics that are important to our organisation. Typically the number of hires is a big one. Another is the percentage of internal moves compared to external hires. Recently, the focus is increasingly put on time to hire, candidate experience, quality of the candidates and the efficiency of getting the right hires quickly, in order to make the recruitment process as enjoyable as possible: even when rejecting we aim to inform candidates with constructive feedback.
Jaqui Maguire: At Greenhouse, we track 5 KPIs to measure the health of our recruiting organisation. Success in each of them depends on strong recruiting operations:
Qualified Candidates per Open Role: Do we put enough qualified candidates in the pipeline?
Days to Offer: Are we moving people through the process quickly?
Candidate Satisfaction: Do we have a positive candidate experience?
Offer Acceptance Rate: Are we closing candidates we want to hire?
Hires to Goal: Are we hitting our hiring goals?
Maricris Paviera: We do new hire surveys and candidate experience surveys, from these surveys we can learn how to make a better process for our new hires and candidates. A candidate is like a customer even if they don't get hired its important to leave a good impression on them because you never know if they might tell people negative things which may deter others from applying.
Jonathan Barker: Firstly, Hiring success, i.e. did the hire actually turn out to be a great employee. We measure this through identifying the percentage of hires that perform well in their role at certain milestones—3 months, 6 months, etc. Candidate experience is also important to us. To measure this, we use the Greenhouse Candidate Survey. I'm most interested in the scores from "Overall, I found the interview process to be challenging" and "Overall, I have a more positive impression of the company having gone through their recruiting process", since I think that interviews and assessments should be intellectually challenging and interesting (to mirror the actual work we do) and I believe recruiting has the potential to be a great ambassador and marketing tool for every company.
4. Where in your recruiting operations have you been able to affect the greatest change?
Jonathan Barker: The biggest effect I've seen was in a previous role, in helping to test, track and analyse the success of changing recruitment processes. For example, if a recruiter believed they'd identified a better way of screening candidates for a particular role, our RecOps person would help them to build out the new process, A/B test against the previous process over time and then, if successful, work on a plan to upgrade all processes with the new approach. Essentially, they helped to scale one amazing idea that was used by one person and roll it out to a team of 50+ with a 50x impact.
Maricris Paviera: I was able to assist with creating a red-carpet candidate experience, by giving out swag, doing company tours and overviews gave candidates and new hires a 5-star welcome to the company.
Erwin de Wildt: You would expect that the greatest experience is by implementing some fancy AI system that solved all our problems. This is not where I have made the biggest change. In order to be a well-running recruitment organisation, everyone needs to be able to do the basics right. By making sure everyone uses all the technology we have available and become more technically savvy it will improve efficiency across the board.
Jaqui Maguire: Having a structured hiring process that tracks information along the way is, in my opinion, the foundation to strong recruiting operations. With a structured hiring process you can track progress and changes for all parts of your recruiting funnel. This means something different for every search or solution you’re working towards, but it always means the ability to communicate. You can communicate more transparently with hiring managers, executives, and candidates, which leads to better partnerships and better experiences across the board.
5. Which parts of your processes do you apply automation or use 3rd parties to automate and why?
Jaqui Maguire: Not surprisingly, we rely heavily on Greenhouse for this! It’s a great way to track every step of your recruiting process and collect the data your recruiting operations needs.
Erwin de Wildt: We have a certain level of automation for a number of roles where we used external parties to make an assessment for certain skills we are hard pressed to judge ourselves. For example our customer service and the many languages we need for it. For other topics like GDPR and making sure ‘overdue’ personal details are removed, we use automation to our benefit.
Max Butler: We apply automation at the skill assessment and assignment stage. We integrated HackerRank to quickly send off tests, or set up coding interviews within the ATS. This provides better communication, immediate results, benchmarking of data, and making a quick decision on advancement or rejection. Ultimately this automation provides better decision making and a positive candidate experience.
Maricris Paviera: Using an ATS system to keep track of emails and calendar invites, calendaring and scheduling interviews is a tedious process but with automation that allows recruiters and recruiting coordinators to focus on the candidate experience with more detail rather than labor over manual tasks.
Rather than automation being the recruitment holy grail. The advice seems to be that automation has helped teams in fairly subtle and unique ways. Automation remains a tool to tidy away some administrative tasks. But don’t aspire to have full automation this remains a recruitment mirage that even the most forward-thinking people haven’t attained. The application of automation must be unique to every business and its challenges, so to borrow from the Ben O’Mahony school of thought, start by thinking, where is your bottleneck?
You rarely hear the explosion of HRTech being described as a good thing, bloating and excessive money are usually brought up. But with these HR tools being used to tackle each business's unique challenges, it becomes clear why we don’t have a standard set that fits everyone. This matches up to the advice that you need to focus on your business problem first before you can start to choose a solution. What are you doing too slowly at the moment or not at all?
If you’re a recruiter and you’re curious about getting into RecOps, it’s clear you’ll need some technical skills and a passion for data. Pipelines and funnels seem to be handy too, so maybe take a part-time plumbing course as well?
It appears you can be operationally effective by fully utilising your ATS. Speaking to your ATS support and investigating the integrations and automations can put your teams on the path to success. Most modern ATSs have some form of analytics—this is a good place to start thinking about your gaps or bottlenecks.
I’d like to offer a special thanks to the experts who have taken the time to share their experience and insights. Sharing knowledge with their peers in the name of improving the field of recruitment is a noble endeavour. Thank you very much.
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