Be honest with people if you make a mistake or when you forget to follow up.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Allison O’Brien.
Allison O’Brien is the Head of People at Kin Insurance. She brings over a decade of HR experience with a deep focus on recruitment, employer branding, and culture building. Allison has worked at several high growths, tech-forward companies, including Groupon, Vivid Seats and now, Kin Insurance.
First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with recruitment during my master’s program. Right away, I saw the value that hiring the right people could bring to an organization. I loved the idea that I could make an impact on a company by bringing in the right talent. I also liked the puzzle aspect of recruiting: digging through the layers of requirements, soft skills, and candidate needs to find the perfect match was exciting! While it may sound cheesy, I’m also a people person and recruiting paid me to talk to people — I was sold!
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
While I don’t have a specific antidote to share, I can say that the most important lesson that my career in HR has taught me is that you can learn from anyone, regardless of someone’s years of work experience, the level at the company, or industry knowledge. Good ideas, new ideas, different points of view, and suggestions can come from a variety of places and people. If you only try to learn from more senior individuals or folks in certain industries, you are missing out on an opportunity to learn from others. Keep an open mind, ask others opinions, and you may be surprised by what you learn.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
It’s true — we are in a talent market like we’ve never seen before. Candidates are receiving multiple offers, quickly, with great perks. My team and I honestly believe in focusing on the basics when it comes to attracting and recruiting candidates. That’s why we emphasize Kin’s culture and transparency. We want candidates to know what they can expect when joining Kin.
Technology has also allowed us to find candidates in new and efficient ways, but finding the talent isn’t difficult; it’s what we do after we engage with someone that’s critical. I rely on these five techniques to fill our talent pipeline:
1. Internal intake meetings. When a new role opens, we meet with the hiring manager and usually a member or two on the team to truly understand what’s needed. We recognize we are hiring a person, not a list of requirements, so we dig deep to understand the technical and interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the position.
2. Honest interviews. We have a list of questions to help us better understand the candidates’ skills, backgrounds, and interests. We pride ourselves on being transparent about what it’s like to work at Kin, what our expectations of employees are, how they may be able to grow during their tenure with us, and how Kin is disrupting the insurance industry!
3. Candidate analysis. People join companies for many reasons, like pay, recognition, growth, or a deep connection with the company mission. We want to understand our candidates and what makes them tick. We also want to understand where they are in life, where they are in their career, what’s important to them now, and what’s important to them in the near future. That helps us better understand if they are a fit for Kin. We have a responsibility to make sure the candidates’ needs align with the company’s needs because when they do, magic happens.
4. Follow up. From a candidate’s perspective, we understand there’s nothing more frustrating than a recruiter ghosting you. We make it a point to follow up in a timely manner, even if we don’t have an answer on the next steps in the hiring process. We respect our candidates’ time and make this type of communication a strong priority.
5. Transparency. Once we get to an offer, we want to be transparent with candidates about Kin’s culture, what to expect on day one and beyond, and the perks and benefits that we offer. As an early-stage startup, we don’t always have the luxury of paying top dollar for candidates. In particular, we offer a great culture, one where every voice is heard. At Kin, we empower everyone to solve the company’s challenges. We value internal growth through training, job expansion, and promotion. We highly value benefits and provide comprehensive benefits packages that are highly subsidized by Kin. Plus, leadership is extremely transparent on the business and where we are going. Most importantly, we have fun!
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
We don’t have a magic wand or a new trick up our sleeves to find talent, and the insurance industry, compared to more “exciting” industries in tech, may actually have a limited number of candidates. But we’re starting to see more candidates interested insurtech, especially with so much attention starting to shine on the space lately.
We use the tools most recruiting teams are using, but I believe our approach to reaching out to talent is unique. We make a point to highlight to the candidate why they may be a good fit for us, how we are disrupting a long-standing industry, and what our company values are. We hope that when people hear of the exciting work happening at Kin and how we value our people, they will be excited to learn more.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Being in the recruiting space and having been fortunate to work for several amazing companies, I’m passionate about businesses offering great opportunities and providing strong wages. There are many studies that show when people are employed in good jobs with good pay, everything around them improves, like quality of life or pride in their community. How can we not want to make sure our communities have access to great jobs and enjoy those benefits?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my first managers/mentors in recruiting would always use the phrase, “Do you want to burn your credit card?” To be honest, it took a while for that full meaning to sink in, but he was right: you only have so much “credit” with others. Don’t waste that credit. Be honest with people if you make a mistake or when you forget to follow up.
I think about that phrase a lot, whether I’m working with new people, new candidates during an interview process, or with a new vendor. In short, start from a place of good intention on both sides. Be honest with each other, and if you make a mistake, admit it.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
The list of people I’d want to meet is long! I love live music, regularly attending 20–30 concerts and shows a year. Having the chance to meet any talented artist and learn about their approach to writing and performing music would be amazing.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!