July 31, 2020
Rahul D’Silva, Talent Acquisition Consultant
Happy summer, HR Tech Family! This month, we’re honored to spotlight a talent acquisition consultant who has recruited everywhere from NYC to Tokyo. His insights are thought-provoking and mindful, and we’re so honored to get his opinion on improving the candidate experience and implementing D&I initiatives.
Please meet Rahul D’Silva, whose currently serves as a talent acquisition consultant for various startups.
My path to recruiting (like most things in my career) has been fairly opportunistic, and is still evolving. I first interviewed for an in-house recruiter job at Two Sigma Investments in NYC, right after I finished my Master’s in Creative Writing. But because of my writing skills, I ended up joining the Investor Relations team instead, focusing on marketing materials for investors and internal written content.
A few years later, I went to Japan thinking I would take a year off and teach English and write. I couldn’t get a job offer teaching English, even with my Master’s, so I started reaching out to recruiting firms for other jobs I could find in Tokyo, with no Japanese speaking ability (at the time). Robert Walters, a global recruiting firm, was interested in me for an agency/external recruiter role with them, so I networked like crazy, interviewed with a few different companies and got a couple of offers, and then joined a boutique recruiting firm and started recruiting in the tech space. I ended up living and working in Tokyo for the next 3 years.
There were quite a few differences. In Japan at the time (2012-2015), there was a lot more emphasis on face-to-face relationship building, so I did a lot more F2F meetings with candidates; in the U.S. I think it was already more acceptable to do phone/video meetings when first meeting candidates.
Additionally, in Japan at that time, there was a large prevalence of corporations hiring straight out of college and very long employment tenure thereafter. Because of this, it was harder to pitch roles to candidates because they felt that they had only been at a company for three years or five years, and wanted to stay longer before changing companies (or in some cases did not want to join a foreign-owned company). This and other challenges meant that the recruiting fees in Japan were higher than almost anywhere else in the world. The high end at the time was 35% of 1st year salary, the low end was 30%. I even signed a few startup clients at 33% while I was there.
I could (and at some point plan to) write a book on what companies do well and what they do poorly when it comes to hiring top talent and building a great brand. I think companies need to think about People and Recruiting/Talent Acquisition the same way they think about Sales and Marketing. There’s a clear process, a strategy, and also significant budgets allocated to those areas for salaries and tools, because they are seen as “revenue-generating” and have a systematic funnel process to getting customers.
Similarly, there’s a lot of work that goes into hiring and retaining top talent, but it’s often less visible within the company. If people are your most important asset (and the People team is the one that hires and retains your top engineers and marketers and salespeople), then you need to spend accordingly. This means being willing to allocate healthy budgets towards infrastructure and software tools. But it also means compensating employees in the People function competitively relative to other areas of the company; too often, I’ve felt that there’s a unreasonably large salary gap between teams, though I do see this changing slowly.
Looking at the actual hiring process, I think planning, communication, and transparency are some of the overarching themes. First, if you’re going to hire for a particular role, it’s important to work with the hiring manager and team to identify all of the following: what that person is going to be responsible for within the company, what’s required vs. nice-to-have in their potential skillset, interview lineup and what questions are going to be asked to each candidate, budgeting appropriately for a compensation package, etc. Interviewing people without having a gameplan and knowing (at least 80%) what you want for that role, is a recipe for a poor hiring process and a poor candidate experience.
Second, it’s important to keep candidates in the loop about their process; I think companies should aim for a week or less in between stages of interviews, and if things are getting delayed, should bias towards overinforming rather than underinforming the candidate. This is especially important to keep top talent interested, who are simultaneously in conversation/process with multiple companies. You might have a lot of funding and a cool product, but if candidates hear through their network or on Glassdoor that you won’t treat them well, they’re less likely to consider you for their next role.
Third, it’s important for the company to recognize and admit its shortcomings (DEI issues, recent leadership changes, product/sales challenges, poor Glassdoor reviews) and discuss them with candidates rather than avoiding or being defensive about these things. Candidates will find out, either during the process or after they join, which will impact hiring and/or retention.
I think it’s crucial for companies to think ahead a little bit before they start hiring. For example, I’ve seen too many startups grow quickly from a small team of 10 people to somewhere around 100 people, and then start thinking more about things like DEI or candidate experience or hiring process. Changing your company’s composition and diversity (and the mindset of employees) is much harder when you’re 100 people and have a large imbalance in gender or race or other areas, than when you’re 20 people and have this imbalance. It takes a lot fewer hires to move the needle in a positive direction when you’re smaller. So I think companies need to start measuring what they’re doing, what they want to be doing, and how to get there, much earlier on in their lifecycle.
This means allocating money to initiatives, and not just having existing employees lead initiatives like Employee Resource Groups, which add to their workload and are generally uncompensated. Leadership and the executive team need to be involved and on board with these initiatives, otherwise they tend to go nowhere; hiring a Head of Diversity doesn’t do anything if that person is not empowered to effect real change. And it needs to be 50% of a senior leader’s role (within the People team), or a 100% unique role to focus on these initiatives across the company.
Doing DEI well is not just about hiring new employees; it’s also about educating and working with current employees to influence mindsets, change existing systems, and counter unconscious bias. Companies should also build relationships with external organizations that have networks of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds; Black Girls Code, Out in Tech and Techqueria are just a few that come to mind. Companies can then partner with these organizations to increase the diversity of their pipeline and employee population, and to implement these new DEI initiatives.
I first learned about Fetcher when I was recruiting at ROOM; as someone who was used to doing everything manually, I was a little resistant to it at first but then saw the benefits of automating candidate sourcing and communications/outreach. The email customization for multiple iterations of candidate outreach is definitely very useful and a timesaver.
It’s definitely been a challenge to relax and unwind, as I’m setting up my own business this year which is a lot of work, and with the limitations/restrictions caused by COVID-19. I’ve had to give up some things I enjoy (like meeting up with friends regularly for meals and walks) but I’ve made an effort to prioritize other things. I have a morning routine which includes mobility/stretching, exercise using my TRX straps, and meditation.
I also have a dog now (since March), which has made a huge difference for my mental health and general wellbeing; she snores peacefully during my work calls, but I take breaks every few hours to play ball with her, run around the yard, and take her for walks in the neighborhood. I read a lot and block off time every night to read physical books. I’m also making lists of places to travel to and explore somewhere in the future!
Rahul, thank you so much for your generous, thoughtful responses. We appreciate all of your insights and tips. Thanks for being a part of the Fetcher Family!
Know a recruiter who we should spotlight? Tell us about them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Fetcher, our mission is to introduce companies to the people who will help them change the world. Our full-service, recruting automation platform automates those repetitive, top-of-funnel tasks, so you can focus more on candidate engagement & team collaboration. Simplify Sourcing. Optimize Outreach. Hire Top Talent. Learn more at fetcher.ai.