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How Companies Identify Talent with Sandy Liao of HomeLight & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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HomeLight Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.

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 Sandy Liao.

Sandy Liao is the Head of HR & Talent for HomeLight. Prior to joining HomeLight, Sandy oversaw all talent acquisition at a food tech company and also worked at Google on the global people operations team. Sandy holds a B.S. in Economics and Communications from U.C. Davis and she is an SHRM certified professional with an Executive Leadership Certification from U.C. Berkeley.

Thank you for doing this! 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. Identify candidates’ professional and personal interests. In many cases, we often spend more time with our team members than we do with our family. We need to understand the work preferences of our candidates to make sure they can transition into a team that they’d spend many hours with. On the day-to-day operations of their role, do they enjoy being heads-down in their work, or do they want an interactive environment or team? You have to really help people set boundaries and create an environment that fits both of their professional and personal interests, or it’s not going to be a great fit.

2. Ask candidates about the challenges they’ve overcome in the past. Their answers show how far they’ll go to our company if a similar challenge comes up. In a startup environment, we are constantly changing and we value people who are going to adapt and work with us to find the right solutions.

3. Align with their 12–18 month professional goal timeline. We don’t ask you for your 5-year plan. At a startup, anything can change at a moment’s notice. I want to align with a candidate’s professional goals so that we can help them accomplish something attainable in the next year. I want to hire people who are excited about the development opportunities at our company.

4. Understand their management-style preferences. There are some people who enjoy daily interactions with their managers, and there are others who prefer to set goals and update their managers at the end of the month or quarter. When we understand their working style from the get-go, we can create a much better employee experience.

5. Understand your candidate’s most important need in terms of what they’re looking for in their next opportunity. It’s really about how we can sell our company to the candidate. If we are aligned, if they are looking for career growth, and impact, this is the best opportunity for them. It becomes more of, “How can we invite them to join our team?” If someone’s expectations are off for what this role can be for them or if a quality that we value isn’t a priority for their job search, then this position might not be as fulfilling.

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. Authenticity. We need to stay authentic to our values and brand and that translates to how we all communicate internally. We encourage our team members to be who and what they are.

2. Impact. That means the work that you do will influence the direction of the business. Whether you’re new to the company or have been here for years, you have full transparency and you can voice your opinions to senior-level team members.

3. Human connection. There are a ton of companies and people who favor technology to eliminate human interaction. For us, while technology drives our business, we put people first because we know that human connection is essential to any real estate transaction. Buying and selling a home is a personal and sensitive conversation that people can’t just press a button to complete. Home sellers and buyers want someone to walk them through the process, step-by-step. So, we attract people who have a strong passion for empathy and human interaction in real estate.

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 hope to create more opportunities for younger generations to experience the real world. Internships give younger people the chance to work in different industries, but what’s even more important is for them to learn how to be financially independent. Millions of Americans struggle with student loans, so there really should be programs that promote financial literacy. In addition, there should also be classes that teach students how to apply for jobs and explain what the process is really like. Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, we’re likely to see a lot of lay-offs across all industries. People are panicking because they either don’t have savings or they can’t find their next opportunity. I really believe that everyone needs the basic foundation of how to be financially secure and know what to do in situations that force them to start looking for jobs.

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

“Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

I really identify with this quote because of the parallels with how I started my career…

I switched from a large company to a small start-up, because I discovered that I thrive in an environment where I can see my impact and where I can directly see positive results from my contribution. But, the trade-off here is realizing that because we’re now a smaller start-up, there’s a lot more work to be done. Work hours will be longer, challenges doubled, and more difficult to solve. I also think of this quote when hiring, because we end up hiring people who are motivated by their passion — they want to be scrappy and can wear multiple hats when we’re short-handed.

We are very 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?

Michelle Obama. I love her and admire how she seems to have it all together. I listened to her book and was amazed at how much she has accomplished in her life and how hard she has worked to achieve that. Sure, she married Barack Obama, but she is a powerful, successful, and educated woman in her own right. I’d like to pick her brain and ask a million questions about her life and career.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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