Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 2 months ago

Empathy: The Only Way to Win with Candidates and Employees


Interviewing isn’t The Hunger Games. The goal of interviewing is to hire, says this week’s guest Nate Smith. And yes, he agrees it’s somewhat ridiculous to point this out, but he believes he has to. The Founder and CEO of Lever says too many hiring managers, especially in tech, interview as though they were proctoring an exam. Too often, people look hard for evidence of how a candidate *won’t* fit, verus how they will. 

Empathy is the better way. At best, an interview is uncomfortable, says Nate, whose company does all it can to make the process feel more natural. Candidates can use keyboards, editors and languages with which they're familiar. They can search Google. 

That replicates how a candidate would go about their tasks at work. Nate asks, rhetorically: Don’t you want to know how a candidate will perform in your actual work setting?  

“Look for every example, every bit of evidence, that this person would be amazing on the team,” says Nate. “And when you find that amazing person, it's really important that, during the interview process, they've been falling in love with your company.” 

By the time you extend the offer, then, they’ve already decided: Yes. 

At Lever, empathy isn’t just a must for hiring. It pervades every part of the company’s culture. Listen in to find out empathy fosters trust, deepens relationships and attracts and retains exceptional talent.  

Episode Highlights:

  • Empathy is about centering what you say and do around what matters to the individual
  • How to run an empathy-based interview
  • Advice for recruiters: Stop telling candidates how great your company is. Instead, say this: “Tell me about you.”  
  • Why understanding a candidate’s preferences allows you to tailor your offer to show how you can meet their needs 
  • The role of empathy in helping employees grow in the directions they want 

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Welcome to technically people, a communityconversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform builtin. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard buildinghuman centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear conceptsthat will stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most futureforward way to approach my people leadership? We all knowthe future of work is a waiting around, so let's get on with the show. Hi, everybody, welcome to the show. I'm your host,Tiffany Myers, and I'm happy to introduce our guest, Nate Smith. Sonate is the CEO and he's the founder of lever. Lever is a talentacquisition suite. It provides ATS and crum capabilities in one product. Lever putsempathy at the center of everything that it does. It was built on thatfoundation, and so today nate is going to share how it does so withrecruitment, with hiring and with retension. So, nate, thank you somuch for being here with us today. Thank you, tivity. So,last we talked, you shared with me something that is pretty unique about oneof your tools, which is lever and nurture, and it's just seemed tome that it has a lot to teach people about best practice in recruitment today. Can you talk a little bit about that? Absolutely, what we lookto design software, we're actually really trying to think about not how do youbuild software that just automates things, obviously that's really useful, but also softwarethat develops deep human connection, develops relationships between people, and it's a reallyhard challenge to build software that feels human, but it's so much more effective,especially in the world of recruiting, where really building relationships is fundamental tothe role and to what you're doing to bring value to the company. Andin order to build great relationships, a lot of what you need to dois to be empathetic. So when you think about how do we develop relationshipsoutside of work or even with our colleagues, a lot of times we think aboutasking them what's important to them, understanding a little bit about them,maybe a little bit about their history. Do we take that same approach whenwe're talking to candidates? What does this person really care about? And oneof the ways you can do that is through tools like lever nurture, whereyou can actually bring a variety of voices to bear. You can have arecruiter, hiring manager, someone that person might work with on their team.All send emails in an automated fashion and that really engages candidates. It makesit show that you care about them as people, you want to build arelationship with them and you really understand the kinds of connections to the company thatmight be of value to them. Yeah, and it's really imperative in this outrageouslytight market in terms of talent. Engineers are not responding to generic emails. So you're talking not just about the fact that you have a TAC capability, but you're talking about changing the conversation. When you think about harder to fillroles, it's even more imperative that you go the extra mile to havea great candidate experience and we find that empathy is a big part of that. If you send an email to someone that says hi, I'm contacting youfrom a company has a really great brand, or we've raised a lot of money, or we're growing really quickly, we have a really fancy office withPing Pong, you sound just like everyone else like that is a completely undifferentiatedstatement. These days, everyone has a great culture and a great growth rateaccording to them. What's different is when you talk to someone and you listenand you say hi, like tell me about you and you genuinely care toknow, and then you can share with them something that's truly in response towhat they bring to the conversation. That actually stands out. Yeah, absolutely, and so I think we can move on to talk about how the interviewprocess. Once we get past that different...

...way to connect with candidates and thesourcing, the interview process is really human centered at Levernton and it's also basedon this astonishing revelation that an interview is not like the hunger games. Itis not actually a competition. This is actually some feedback, I've found isreally important for folks who are a bit more technical in background, in particularwhen you are coming from a role where you know, you think it's yourjob to help make sure that we're hiving really high quality people. Sometimes youmight think of that as giving a test, like I'm giving this person exam andI have to be fair in delivering that exam and, you know,evaluating how people do according to that. Well, really, what is yourgoal? Your goal is to hire people. You want to hire people that you'regoing to work with. And so does it really matter if you proctorran exam? Know, what matters is you do find out who's going tobe a great fit for the company. Absolutely, you do have a wayto assess whether their skills are going to translate well into being successful in thisrole and you want to be looking for every single example, every single littlebit of evidence that this person would be amazing on the team. And thenalso when you find that person who is amazing, it's really important that theentire time they've been getting to fall in love with you and fall in lovewith your company. And that doesn't happen when you put on a stone face, when you're you approach it and you say, I'm just going to bereally objective and I'm not going to tell you how. I think that doesn'tbuild relationships. The way you build relationships is a process of giving and sharingand asking and listening. And I always say don't be afraid to compliment peoplein interviews. That's a crazy idea to some people. is like if someonesays something and you're like wow, that was really impressive, like I've actuallynever heard anyone answer that question before that way. So interesting, like saythat make that person's Day, enjoy it, like let them have a laugh,really have a human connection. And when it comes time to try andto hire that person at the end of the process and they've got six differentoffers from a bunch of companies that are bigger and have more money, theonly way you're going to win that candidate over is if they just genuinely believethat this is what they want to do with their life a little bit morethan those other options. And you also do something that might, you know, be shocking to the people who think that interviewing is a site to thefinished which is that you replicate experiences that feel most like I'm doing my workat home or I'm able to work with with the coding language I'm comfortable using. Absolutely I think there's no reason to make it hard on people artificially,and in fact what you really want to do is find out is someone goingto be successful when they're in an environment that's as close as possible to likethe real working environment. And when you're at work, you use Google,you take notes, you use the keyboard your accustomed to, you use theA language that you're most familiar with in a million ways. You customize yourexperience to yourself at work and an interviewing process can be really unsettling for thecandidate when everything is totally different from their, you know, normal real life orthe way they normally are at work. So we really struct ourselves to thinkwhat's every single way we can think about to just make stuff a littlebit more natural. Let people bring their own keyboard and if they're doing anin office interview, why not? But let people use the editor they're familiarwith, what people use the language they're familiar with, because the great peoplethat you want to have on your team, those skills will come through when peopleare unable to do their best work. Hmm Yeah, so bringing in yourown keyboards like text version of bringing your own Bankie, feel a littlebit more comfortable in a super uncomfortable context. So exactly every little thing you cando makes a huge different. You...

...know, and this is actually somethingthat is starting to happen a little bit more, we just did a podcastwith educated, which is a company that creates online learning for engineers in particular, and the founder said that some of the fame companies are actually giving candidatescourses before the interview to help them do well in the interview on whatever skillit is or whatever coding language they'll need to be using. So it seemslike it's a good idea at any time. But I don't know. I justecho your your principle, which is don't you want your best candidates torule? You want the job by the time they reached the end of thecycle of interviews? Don't you want them, if they're the best, to wanta team up with you? Yeah, it's a lot like when you haveemployees and you're thinking about performance reviews and compensation. You want to thinkabout how do I retain and motivate my very best talent. I think thatapplies the interview process as well. If you can say I want my verybest, most qualified candidates to have the best experience possible, what would youdo and how would that be different than if your thought was how do Iweed out the people that aren't good enough? Yeah, but it is like performanceevaluation in terms of how that is shifting as well, where you knowit's no longer about looking at what went wrong in the past, but focusinga little bit more on looking into the future and what the possibilities are there. So I think there's a lot of trending along the same lines. Iwanted to just ask you about something I thought was really interesting when you toldme about it, which is this approach to interviews that you were inspired by. Top grading, which is at least the way that you've modified it,is a method that helps companies understand patterns across a candidates career over time andhow helpful that can be. So explain a little bit more about this.So top grading is an interview format instead of methods that's been developed and there'sa top grading organization and that trains people bon on how to do interviews.We've adopted some of that learning to inspire an interview format that we call thecareer trajectory. I'man we also use it throughout our process in terms of howwe think about creating structured interviews that get to the heart of people's motivations,how do people make decisions, how do people work with others and other patternsof behavior that you can evaluate for an interview. But it's hard because whenyou ask questions like what are your strengths and weaknesses, you're going to geta prepared response and someone, when they're answering a question that way, isprobably overthinking their answer. They're trying to create a story that sounds good toyou and the typical my biggest weakness is I work too hard. It's like, come on, no one's learning anything right. So one thing that wethink is really important is that you get to the heart of those questions,though. It's really important to get to the heart of what are someone's strengthsand weaknesses. We do all have them, and the way that you can dothat is by putting things in context. If you go and work through someone'slife and chronological order, if you talk about the people, you talkabout the jobs they had and exactly what they were doing in the Daytoday,you're going to get more accurate representations of what really happened and then you candraw your own conclusions about what that person strengths and weaknesses are a lot moreaccurately from hearing about their past behaviors as well as their motivations in the waysthat they've behaved in the past. So it's primarily a way of getting morehonesty and more ability to really get to know someone truthfully. So, justlike so nate, my biggest weaknesses, I'm just I'm like just too perfect, just too perfect. But anyway. So there's also another element to this, which is recruiting. Is a sales role and I think it's your pointof view, you've expressed to me that we're not necessarily leveraging all of thetools in the sales arsenal and that if... know people's patterns throughout their career, you can then make an offer based on okay, you know someone hasleft a job for another because that new job helps them grow or learn.So they're very learning focus. So you can then underscore, you know thatyou as well are going to give them learning opportunities. Do I have thatright exactly? People do often repeat prior behaviors. They often repeat prior decisionmaking, and that's something you can use to your favor when you're figuring outhow can you present the opportunity to the candidate in a way that's most appealingto them. So if you can hear in they're telling you a story aboutwhy they moved from one job to another, some insight into what motivated that,you can then use that information to describe how your job also has asimilar motivation. Alternatively, you might find out, wow, so someone's takena job throughout their career for these other reasons, but they've told me nowthey're thinking about the future differently, and then maybe you can talk about howthis is different from what they've done before. So once you really get to knowsomeone on that deeper level, why they've thought things, what they've donein order over time, you really could you could almost say back their story. You're able to craft a really great narrative around an offer that's more thanjust here's the salary, here's the benefits, here's the location and what team you'llbe working on, because you really want to stand out from the crowd, and it's so it's just that offers them so particular and unique to theindividual exactly. So, all right, we know we've established that lover caresa lot, that you care a lot about empathy, and then I canextrapolate what that means, which is that you are also looking for empathic employees. So tell me how, in an interview, you can determine that.There's a lot of different ways and again, it's more important that people show thatthey're empathetic than that they say they're empathetic. If you say are youempathetic, everyone's going to say yeah, of course. But how do youactually observe empathy? And I think one of the ways that you can dothat is and how people work with each other. It comes out the most. So we have, for example, in our engineering interview process us aninterview format called the project interview, and in the project interview we ask youto talk about and describe the details of a project that you worked on withother people, and when you do that we learn a lot about your technicalskills. We learn if you were the person who was more of the architectand came up with the plan for what you built, or maybe you werethe person who you just wrote the most code. You were the person whobanged it out. Everyone relied on you because there's no way the project wouldhave gotten done on time if you hadn't done so much of the grueling workand you were really persistent. Or maybe you were the person who was pushingthe team to be creative and you brought new ideas and you came up withreally clever solutions and no one else came up with. We can also askquestions about what did you observe about other people? Did you go to thisperson that you worked with really closely for their expertise and learn from them?Did you teach them? Did you ask them what they wanted to learn inthis project and then customize what you did a little bit to help them beable to work on the thing that they want to work on? There's somany different ways that people can show empathy through their behavior that, once youget into some of those situations and how they literally interact with each you canask fact based questions to get a really great understanding of who really demonstrates empathy. So let's shift a little bit and talking about engagement and retention because,as everyone who is listening right now knows, we have the great resignation barreling towardus, which is has people leaders extremely concerned and focused on. Okay, how can I modify my approach to...

...retention? So tell me about lover'sapproach. Yeah, well, controversial opinion. I frankly am not a huge believerin engagement surveys. I think the challenge is that when you get themback, what are you going to do? There might be some concrete things inthere. Maybe you could get a soda machine or a Ping Pong table, but who's going to stay at the company longer because you got some sortof perk or maybe you added a couple more vacation days to the calendar?I'm not saying that those things aren't important or they don't matter, but isit really going to make the difference in terms of your retention of employees?I just don't think it's a big enough thing to give them. I don'tthink it's important enough to actually make the difference and Change People's minds. Sowhat is big enough? And I think the thing that is big enough isopportunity. If someone feels like the thing they're doing is cataholding them forward intheir career, they're learning faster, they're getting to have more impact, andwhen you go back and you tell that story about how the company was successfula couple years down the road, or you talk about a really dramatic eventthat happened as the company went through crisis, can you articulate a story about howyour role had impact? That's how our employees are thinking, and sowhat we want to be able to do is again have empathy for that individualand ultimately find opportunities for them to be that engaged, to feel like theybelong, to feel like they their work has impact and to feel like they'relearning so that they're delivering more and more value to the company they're at,but it's also setting themselves up for a great career down the road. Andwhat's the best way to do that? Well, a lot of times thebest way to make sure people have that level of impact in that level ofcareer acceleration it's internal mobility. So talent acquisition, I would argue, isactually the very most important thing that we all can do to retain our employeeslonger. And sometimes the subject of I'm bored in my job can be taboot. So what do you do? Well, what you can do is you cancertainly create a culture around the fact that people can apply for roles internally. That's a feature of lover is there's an internal job site. You canpromote that in your company, you can say this is something we value andcare about and then you can find out when someone who you think is anamazing employee says I need a new opportunity, lean in and keep that person around, because if you don't, they're going to be gone, you're notto backfill them and you're also going to have to still hire for this otherrole that they might have been a great fit for. So ultimately, myanswer to what do we do about the great resignation? And let's check inwith our employees. Let's ask them are they still learning or they still growingand if the answer is no, offer them a new job. Hmm,I think this idea of the subject. I'm getting a little bored here.I don't feel like I'm growing. It is often taboos. So I imaginethat your response to alleviating that stigmas that it has to be systemic and culturaland you have some very transparent that you want people to be applying to otherroles internally. By the way, I would like a soda machine. You'retelling me, okay, you got to soda machine. I would like Dietsprites in there every week and I don't know, maybe some bubbly so okayours. Even in the way that you are using okay ours, you aredoing so in a way that ties into empathy and also a way that boostsengagement. Okay ours are a great system and a lot of companies have chosento use it to help make sure that the company internally is more focused onwhat it's doing so that it can be more successful. And some of thebest attributes of OK ours are that it's both top down and bottom up.In other words, you set okay ours at the company level typically, andthat can then be expanded into Ok ours at department level, team level,individual level, and then you can see...

...if those things all tie together,and that's really important. You can also have have Ok ours that come aboutbecause, for example, a team says this is a really good goal,we want to do this, and then the department sees that and says thatis a really good goal, let's make that a department goal. Or thecompany even brings it all the way up to the top and says we wanteveryone doing this. This is a great idea. So I think it's areally powerful system to connect the company across different levels and it also is aforcing function for collaboration, because different organizations can say I'm doing this, thisother team is doing this. If we're all doing those things, are weactually aligned and are we going to get our goals done? Are we takingout too much? IS THEIR GAP? Are we not doing enough. Sothat's got you know, why Ok ours are great in general and in particular. One thing that at lever we try and focus on is that it's easyto get lost in all that detail. It's easy for people to create reallygreat goals and make them measurable and they've got all these kars and they knowhow they're going to measure them and there they get going and then they completelyforgot why they're doing what they're doing. So this is good empathy. Thingis you need to realize that it's a lot for people to keep all thesedifferent goals in their head all the time and you need to remember, asa leader in particular, but really everyone on the team can help with this, that bringing people back to why did we do this to begin with isa really important part of the objectives and you can get really lost in thedetail forget to do that. So one thing we do, it's a simplething, but I think it's really important, is we have the okay ours ona slide at every all hands along with a lot of other dashboards,and look into how the company's doing and I just read through the objectives everytwo weeks and I say here's the objective. I read it and I say,here's why we did that, here's how we're doing it against that,and that keeps people from getting too lost in all the detail and brings themback to why do we even do this to begin with? Yeah, yeah, I feel like understanding that I'm part of something bigger might matter more tome than Diet's bright or we'll get you there, tiffany. So how aboutwe move a little closer to the end of our recording today and get yourget needs two minute takeaway. So, if you had to share a couplekey points that you want listeners to either understand or do about all the topicswe dove into today, what would they be? What I'd really want peopleto take away is that, number one, empathy is something that you should workinto every context of your work relationships, from bringing people onto the team tomaking sure they feel connected to what the team is doing and continue tobe engaged over many years with a company. The second thing I would underscore isthat in the interviewing process, your goal is to hire people. Soremember at every single step, from initial reach out to close, you're tryingto discover is this person a great fit for my team and how can Iget them on my team? And then the final tip I would say isit's really important to stand out from the crowd, and one of the bestways you can do that is by being empathetic and basing everything you say inwhat matters to an individual. Yeah, that's right. Lets me, me, me. I just think it's really striking that the idea that your goalis to hire people as a recruiter is maybe not as intuitive, but it'sjust because so many other things get in the way. Right. Absolutely so, nate. Tell me how our listeners if they wanted to learn more aboutyou or in touch with you, how can they do so? Absolutely LeverDot Com is where you can go to find out about all things lever.We've got an upcoming number of Webinars, a customer conference that's open to absolutelyeveryone, happening in mid September. We'd... to see you at one ofour virtual events. Great Lever Dot Co. Nate, this has been really afun conversation. Thanks so much for exploring your take and lovers take onjust how powerful empathy is going to be in the few future work place forour listeners. Thank you for tuning in. I'll just remind you to subscribe tothe show by visiting technically peoplecom. Would love a five star review ifyou like what you're hearing and you want to hear more conversations like it.So I will be back with you next week, where we'll have another conversationabout shaping a human centered and a pathic future of work. Built in isa tech recruitment platform that's in constant dialog with leaders about the future of tech. Built in's PODCAST, technically people, expands those conversations to help fellow futuristscreate and lead exceptional workplaces, environments that inspire in Demand Tech professionals to joinyour company and thrive. To learn how built in can help your company attractbest in class professionals, visit employer's dot built incom. You've been listening totechnically people, a community conversation about the future of work. If you wantto hear more cutting edge ideas about creating human center workplaces, subscribe on yourfavorite podcast player and you'll never miss an episode. And if you're over themoon about what you've heard, we'd be honored if you took the time togive us a five star review. So signing up until we meet again inthe future.

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