How Companies Identify Talent with Hilliary Turnipseed & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Hill Street Strategies Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Women need to support, encourage and fight for one another; regardless of race, class, sexuality and ability.

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 Hilliary Turnipseed.

Hilliary Turnipseed is the Founder and President of Hill Street Strategies, a full-service consultancy that provides comprehensive talent acquisition, talent management, and workplace culture solutions. Companies Hilliary has worked with include: Discovery Communications, Black Girls CODE, POLITICO and Blackboard. While Hilliary’s primary expertise is in recruitment, she also focuses on implementing diversity and inclusion strategies along with employee engagement and wellness program initiatives. Hilliary also serves as a Director for Women Who Code and leads talent and employer branding initiatives for the digital content media company, Women 2.0.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I was first introduced to the recruiting industry right after I graduated college when I served as an office manager for a retained executive search firm. Like most new grads, I didn’t know what I wanted in a long-term career, so I decided to take a year post-undergrad to explore the working world before committing to any graduate studies and…graduate loans. Within a few short months at the firm, I moved into an entry-level recruiter position and realized quickly that this was a career path worth exploring. I’m a people person with a passion for research and problem-solving, so talent acquisition was a natural fit.

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?

Years ago, I interviewed a candidate who made it all the way to the references/offer stage, only to find out that the candidate completely falsified their background.

On paper, the candidate checked all the boxes with no obvious red flags. However, I had reservations about officially moving forward (call it a “spidey-sense”) and decided to do some additional research into the companies on their resume. It turned out those companies didn’t actually exist. The candidate created a phony resume, plagiarized their portfolio, and even had their friends and family pretend to be professional references!

At times, being a recruiter is akin to an amateur detective because we try everything we can to de-risk the hiring process, including listening to our intuition. Most established companies can uncover situations like this during a formal background check process. However, early-stage startups or small to medium-size businesses may not invest in such costly services right away.

So, the biggest lesson here is to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, 99% of the time you’re probably right. Additionally, rushing to fill roles can lead to instances of unconscious biases. That sense of urgency can result in overlooking potential red flags. My advice is that it is better to leave a role unfilled and wait for the right candidate because the impact of making a bad hiring decision can be costly.

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?

1. Focus on “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves” when crafting a job description and determining what your company needs. Women statistically tend to apply to roles where they meet close to 90–100% of the requirements, whereas men respond to positions where they meet around 20% of the listed qualifications. Also, have an open mind to candidates with nontraditional backgrounds as well.

2. Take a step back and assess who you currently have on your team and their backgrounds and think about identifying candidates that will add different perspectives. For example, the team that built the initial iOS YouTube app didn’t take into consideration left-handed users, so when left-handed users uploaded their videos, the videos were upside-down. This could have been avoided had there been a left-handed user on the team. By incorporating these micro-levels of diversity within an organization, you can breed innovation at all levels.

3. If implemented correctly, assessments and/or case studies can offer valuable insights into a candidate’s capabilities — especially when considering non-traditional backgrounds. It helps level the playing field. Hiring managers can use these projects as opportunities to gauge the resourcefulness of a candidate, in addition to their technical and/or creative capabilities.

4. Diversify your interview panel to include members outside of the immediate hiring team. Cross-functional team interviewing can provide insights into how the candidate will add value to not only the immediate team but across the organization as a whole.

5. Ask questions that can probe on a candidate’s level of self-awareness. Interviewing shouldn’t be limited to professional experience and the standard “strengths” and “weaknesses” questions. One of my favorite interview questions to ask is: “If you came with a warning label, what would it say?”

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?

1. Recruiting and marketing go hand-in-hand. The marketing techniques a company uses to acquire customers can also be used to acquire talent. Use marketing as a tool to inform candidates of your company’s operating philosophies, values, and overall culture to get them excited about the company and not just the role itself.

2. Be an engaged and transparent employer. Respond to Glassdoor reviews (positive and negative), or even start a company blog where every employee can contribute. When candidates can hear directly from employees and also see how employers respond to feedback, it gives “passive” candidates more upfront information about a company without them having to engage with HR and/or Recruiting to start.

3. Strategically leverage your existing employees for referrals, especially for tough-to-fill positions. Go beyond the standard employee referral bonus. This can not only help reduce hiring costs, but also expose your company to a built-in talent pipeline of pre-vetted candidates. At one point in my career, roughly 80% of my new hires were from internal referrals.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Women need to support, encourage and fight for one another; regardless of race, class, sexuality, and ability. We are conditioned to compare and compete with one another in all facets.

Unconscious biases and microaggressions amongst women, in my opinion, actually contribute to gender pay inequities. The HR field is predominantly led by women, where they have influence over hiring decisions, compensation rates, and promotions. I have witnessed numerous incidents where HR managers and recruiters assume that female candidates are either more junior or less competent than male candidates (especially in tech) and, as a result, intentionally offer lower salaries.

I would love to see women come more from a place of support and collaboration, not competition.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

I live by two: “Lead with Generosity” and “Learn to Manage Your Mind and Your Time.”

They serve as reminders that I’m fortunate enough to be in a profession where I can make a positive impact on both individuals and organizations. However, it’s just as important for me to practice healthy boundaries between work and life — as burnout is a real thing, and life is too short to not live it to the fullest!

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?

Vernā Myers — hands down! She currently serves as the VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix. I have followed her diversity, equity and inclusion insights for quite some time, and her influence really helped shape the trajectory of my career. I’m a big fan.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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