I’m constantly amazed at how small the world is…it really emphasizes the importance of making sure you treat people not just with kindness, but that they really feel like you’ve done your best for them.
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 Candace Nicolls.
Candace Nicolls is Senior Vice President of People and Workplace at Snagajob, where she leads talent acquisition, human resources, HR compliance, training and development, employee engagement, community support and facilities management. With more than 20 years of experience in talent management and acquisition, Candace is passionate about providing an awesome candidate experience. Candace is active with many of Snagajob’s community partners, including Rebuilding Together Richmond, Junior Achievement, Special Olympics Virginia, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Richmond, where she sits on the Board of Directors. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Candace holds SPHR, SRHM and SCP certifications.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Like a lot of people I know in recruiting and HR, I sort of fell into it. Not long after graduating from college, I moved to a new city where positions in my degree field were non-existent. I registered with a temporary service, and my second assignment was in their office… and I didn’t leave for 6 ½ years. I was able to move from a receptionist to a recruiter, and as my career progressed with other companies, I was able to concentrate on technical recruiting and management, which eventually brought me to Snagajob. A couple of years after I started here, I had the opportunity to move into a hybrid HR/recruiting management role, and as we grew, so did my responsibilities and our team. I joined Snagajob’s executive team in November of 2018, and here we are!
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?
Many, many years ago, a leader at the company I was with introduced me to the concept of “raving fans”- creating incredible experiences so you don’t just build customers, you build advocates. That was a real light bulb moment for me, and I’ve tried to approach a career that’s based on interactions with others this same way- you really have to differentiate yourself in today’s competitive talent world and relationship-building is a fantastic way to do so. I’m constantly amazed at how small the world is- you meet so many people in this industry, and I’ll still bump into people I met 15 years ago who remember me. It really emphasizes the importance of making sure you treat people not just with kindness, but that they really feel like you’ve done your best for them.
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? Please share an example of each idea.
First, we need to really understand what the role IS, and how it fits into the bigger picture of the organization. If we’re hiring a developer, what will that person work on, and how does that specifically help the company meet its objectives? What are the key skills we actually need in this role? Is a degree really necessary, or could we open up a new world of talent if we’re looking beyond that?
Next, we look internally to see if there’s someone already in the organization that this could be a stretch role for. Engagement survey and exit interview data show growth matters, so we want to ensure we’re not just keeping, but developing talent.
If we do look externally, we’re really mindful of the language used in postings. We’ve spent a lot of time ensuring we’re not using gendered language, and that we’re focusing on the opportunities our roles create. We also shortened the requirements included in our posts, as data reflects this is more likely to draw a diverse applicant pool.
When we source, we think beyond where we’ve always looked for this skill set. Are there associations we should target, or are there great candidates who’d happen to need to work remotely that we’d miss if we confined ourselves to one geography?
Lastly, we screen for core values. We want to find people who are going to be innovative, go above and beyond, and put the mission of the organization first. Creating specific interview questions around these behaviors help us determine that, and further, builds a better culture that is consistent throughout our company and all its activities.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
This is a great question and one we talk about a lot! Three big ones come to mind. First, we want to make sure we’re building a culture of brand advocates- this means not only are our “Snaggers” great representatives of our values, they get how important our mission is, and are able to demonstrate the culture we value at Snagajob when they’re talking to people. This could be online, this could be at events, it could be anywhere- leading with our culture and how we talk about ourselves has always been a differentiator for us.
Second, thought leadership is really important. People want to hear from the experts on what we do, so whether it’s our CEO giving an interview on how we’re thinking about the future of hourly work to an engineer speaking at a local meetup to a sales rep on a panel at a customer conference, potential talent can hear from the people doing it every day what works here is actually like. Lastly, we know the talent isn’t always going to come knocking on our door, so we make sure our outreach to potential candidates is personal, specific, and authentic. Changing jobs is an important transition for anyone, so it’s important that anyone we connect with feels valued, starting with that very first exchange.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I have so many thoughts on this, and my family and I talk often about ideas we have around this very concept. If I had to pick one thing, it would be figuring out a way to instill more empathy into everyone. It’s a core component of emotional intelligence, of course, which in my opinion is the most important skill a leader can have. Beyond that, though, I’d hope it could help everyone gain a little more perspective on where other people are coming from, particularly right now when things often feel more divided than together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” It was attributed to John Wesley when I learned it, and while I don’t think he actually said it, this is the approach I’ve tried to take to everything in my life. There’s always an opportunity to help someone, and to leave things better than you found them.
That is a beautiful quote! We are blessed to have 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?
I’m a big fan of Laszlo Bock and the people-focused foundation he helped Google build. I’d love to learn more about his approach, and if there were things that didn’t make it into Work Rules! that would be helpful to learn from. I also just really love that his daughter’s… honest, let’s say, review of his book made it onto the back cover!
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!