Ryan Newman, Chartboost’s Head of Talent, is a human-centric and emotionally skilled person who understands the positive impact of a great candidate experience. I recently sat down to chat with him about the attributes of great recruiters, handling scandals, the future of recruiting, and more.

Ryan took an unusual path into talent acquisition. He completed a marketing degree, did a post-university tour of the Czech Republic, and then became a management trainee at a car rental company. That’s where he dealt with a customer who managed a recruiting agency. That customer saw Ryan managing a hectic office and handling customers in heated situations. A few weeks later, that customer’s boss called Ryan to ask if he’d come work in recruiting. That was 12 years ago. You just never know, right?

Sales skills aren’t the only thing you need.

Ryan’s uncommon background gave him a clear view of what works in the field. When I asked him what attributes make a good recruiter, he quickly mentioned that there’s always been a lot of focus around people who can hustle, who bring a sales-oriented style to recruiting. People in the industry want to know if you can sell it. Can you pitch on behalf of a company and get a candidate to bite?

Despite this penchant for sales styles in recruiting, that’s not the skill set that made someone pick up the phone and recruit Ryan into the field, and it’s not the only thing  Ryan looks for today in his own recruiters.

He says that providing brilliant customer service is what really matters. Keeping a calm head in hectic times and always addressing people respectfully and kindly creates a positive experience for everyone. Communicating well in a fast-paced environment that’s full of uncertainty, like recruiting, is incredibly important. That’s what Ryan’s customer saw in him when he was managing the car rental office, and it’s what he seeks out in his own hires.

Ryan says that regardless of whether or not you hire someone, a candidate should leave with a positive feeling about their experience. Because who knows … maybe you’ll want to call on them years down the road when you find the perfect match for them. Or maybe you’ll want to hire their best friend next week, and their recommendation will make all the difference.

The top attributes of successful recruiters

Ryan has been Chartboost’s Head of Talent for almost three years. In that time, he has hired recruiters based on their authenticity and empathy. As he puts it, candidates don’t want to feel like they’re being sold on something, so having a recruiter who accurately represents a company to a candidate matters. He wants to hire people who will help usher candidates through a process instead of squeezing them into a job as quickly as possible. Ryan only hires people who understand people.

And how does he spot those folks?

“If I feel like I’m being sold and pitched to during an interview, that tells me how I’ll be represented if I hire this person.”

Hiring well is about seeing emotional intelligence and empathy in your recruiter candidate. Ideally, we should all look for someone who can be swift and efficient without making anything feel rushed.

When I asked Ryan about the best experience he’s ever had as a candidate, he told me about interviewing for a company in an industry he knew well, where he was confident he was a great fit. And he was right. The interview was great, and he received an offer and a reasonable amount of time to consider it.

What made the experience stand out was that within a day or two of receiving the offer, he also received a goodie bag delivered to his home with a handwritten card signed by everyone he’d met throughout the process. The message from the coordinator who had set everything up was, “Congratulations on the offer, Ryan! I think you’ll be a great fit here and I hope you’ll choose to join our team.” The gesture really moved him, and made the company outstanding in his eyes. It told Ryan the company cared about its people and fostered an environment in which everyone was encouraged to show love to the newbies. And that’s an inviting scene for a potential hire.

The entire team welcomes new hires at Chartboost

Does he now do something similar at Chartboost? Absolutely. When a candidate accepts an offer, Ryan’s team sends along a care package and a handwritten note from the interview team, welcoming them aboard. They also let everyone involved in the interview process know when an offer was made, and send along the prospect’s email address so everyone can extend their congratulations. It’s not mandatory, but if they want to reach out to the candidate, they can.

The whole idea is to show the candidate they’re wanted and welcomed, and to give them an opening to talk with people who would be their teammates. As Ryan puts it …

“It’s nice to feel responsible for landing a new hire when you’re the recruiter, but candidates say yes for a variety of reasons, including connecting with the team they’ll get to work with every day. A recruiter can extend their congratulations, but in some ways, those words have more influence when they come from potential teammates.”

Managing scandals.

There have been several well-publicized HR incidents at large companies recently. I wanted to know how Ryan would suggest a company handle a harassment scandal, and still retain or re-establish its appeal to candidates from underrepresented groups.

Ryan says the standard track companies take is going out to underrepresented groups with recruitment efforts. They visit colleges and put out press releases about the importance of diversity at their company and they launch internal investigations that are well publicized.

That’s all necessary. Still, Ryan says it’s about more than recruiting people from diverse backgrounds. There are serious cultural changes that scandal-rocked companies need to make internally. They need to come up with incentives that encourage people to be good ambassadors, and create cultural initiatives that are welcoming. They also need to enforce zero-tolerance policies against anyone who is not tolerant and inclusive. There should be no second chances on that front. Ryan put it perfectly:

“You can bring new people into a company, but it’s pointless if that company is toxic.”

In terms of making female candidates feel safe, Ryan would turn it back to staff, once again. (Notice a trend here?) Hearing reassuring words from a recruiter alone is not enough. Casual visits and follow-up lunches between the candidate and employees are a great idea. It lets the candidate get a sense of the vibe and culture at a company. What’s more, the team they’d work with is uniquely qualified to explain why it’s a good place to work (if it actually is!). For female candidates in particular, connecting with a female staffers can be incredibly beneficial. Having someone who relates to their concerns and who can explain what it’s like on the inside is truly valuable.

Trends we don’t love.

I wanted to find out what’s happening in recruiting and HR that isn’t on Ryan’s list of favorites. He had an interesting take on current trends.

Ryan loves data. He really does. It contains valuable information, you can create a great story from it, you can use it to make a case for hiring new people, and you can accurately demonstrate successes or failures with it. But he cautions us all to remember that behind every number is a complex person. Being data driven is critical, but people can get lost in the numbers and pass-through rates without taking time to think about why things did or didn’t work.

I have to say, I agree. The quantitative aspects of data-driven recruiting are important, but the qualitative side matters too. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’re dealing with people, and they’re really complex.

And let’s not forget sample sizes. Large companies like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google can do some really interesting statistical analyses, but when a sample size is smaller, it’s hard to pinpoint actual trends.

Data quality is also a little tricky in this sector as not everyone tells the whole truth when they provide feedback . As Ryan reminded me, if someone takes an offer from a “more interesting” industry, that may be their evasive way of saying the salary you offered was too low, or that the interviewers were rude. People are careful about what they say to recruiters, and that’s understandable. So remember, if you don’t have perfect data coming in, you’re not going to have perfect data going out.

Are resumes a thing of the past?

Resumes have been around since the 1400s. I asked Ryan what he thought of this ol’ school data collection method, and what other forms of data could help him learn more about a candidate. A video? A cover letter? Here’s what he said:

    • Resumes are an imperfect system, but they can be a time saver, and they’re sticking around. They’re a simple way to assess whether people are likely worth a recruiter or hiring manager’s time.
    • Some of the emerging marketplace tools focus on what a candidate wants to do next, and understanding their hopes and goals is definitely helpful.
    • Cover letters get dismissed by a lot of people, and that’s because generic ones definitely fall short. A good cover letter explains why a candidate is applying to a company for a particular position.
    • You can ask candidates to solve a problem. You can ask engineers, for example, to do a simple coding exercise. That said, it’s hard to ask people to invest any of their own time unless you’re already delving into a process with them. Maybe large companies with a massive draw can get away with that, but not smaller ones where you’re trying to attract folks.
  • Videos could be  valuable, but only if they’re done for customer-facing positions. It’s not fair to expect engineers to behave like sales people. They just won’t be as comfortable  on camera and it will become a roadblock to getting them on board. Also, putting someone on camera isn’t necessarily a good way to avoid bias.

Necessity and inevitable change.

Every expert has a sense of what will change and what will stay the same in their field. When I asked Ryan about this, he said we’ll continue to see new tools and services that help recruiters become more efficient. There are already tools emerging to help us follow up with candidates at the right time with the right messaging.

Still, the value of having a personal connection is immeasurable and will never disappear. People don’t join companies because they’re impressed by low-touch, technical hiring processes. And recruiting is about more than just skills matching. It’s about an entire experience, and that’s not something an app can generate. At the end of the day, we all want to connect with good and highly skilled people.

Ryan, I couldn’t agree more. Nicely done, Chartboost!

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