How Companies Identify Talent with Silvia Quintanilla of iTalent Digital & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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iTalent Digital Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world.

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 Silvia Quintanilla.

As vice-president of business development at iTalent Digital, Silvia Quintanilla is passionate about recruiting and business development. She has devoted the past seven years to find that perfect balance between art and science in attracting and retaining top talent. Before joining iTalent, she spent ten years as the founder and managing director of Industry Gems Sales Intelligence. In this role, she produced key account intelligence on Fortune 500 companies for some of America’s largest technology companies. In her personal life, she is kept quite busy with her toddler son, who keeps her grounded in what’s important (and sometimes not so grounded!).

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

My passion has always been helping people. I took the career path of sales and business development because it allowed me to funnel that passion into something concrete that was also personally fulfilling. Bringing a product or service to someone who will benefit from it is very rewarding to me. I also love people, and this career allows me to interact with all types of people. I enjoy building relationships. One of my favorite words is symbiotic. When I build relationships with people, I’m always looking for something symbiotic — for ways can we mutually help each other to be happier, better people.

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?

In terms of hiring, I had a candidate that I really liked. He had the skills to do the job and was professional and articulate. The hiring manager rejected him, and I was shocked. The manager said he did not communicate well. I believed in this candidate and disagreed with the assessment. About three weeks later, there was another role that he was a match for and I presented him. That manager loved him and hired him.

The lesson I learned was that if you truly believe in your candidate, keep in touch with them. Continue to work with them. Personalities and chemistry between people don’t always mesh. Some managers just inherently get along with a certain type of person. It’s important to keep in touch with candidates you believe in and you know they will do well if given the chance.

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.

1. Start assessing your potential hire before you speak with them. You as a hiring manager have ample time to assess a candidate even before the first conversation. How are they at getting back to you? How are their written communications with you — are they sloppy or meticulous and thoughtful? Do they follow through on their promises (sending you their résumé by EOD, etc.)? Bottom line: you can learn a lot about a candidate even before you talk to them live.

2. Peel the onion. Don’t be shy about asking some tough questions or digging into a certain area. For example, if they tell you they are a front-end developer, it’s important to get specifics. If the role is primarily for a Javascript developer, I ask them when the last time they coded in that language was. Is Javascript their strongest language? And similar questions. You can find out so much from just two or three additional questions that begin to “peel the onion.” It’s important because you learn things that may (or may not) make them a strong candidate. Sometimes, you may feel uncomfortable about asking some tough questions, such as why they have had three short-term roles in a row. But if you ask them with empathy and understanding, it works out well.

3. Listen. When I’m interviewing a candidate, I don’t multi-task. Often you will find me closing my eyes listening to every word and nuance a candidate is making. If I don’t, I could miss that one nugget of information that could make all the difference in the world in terms of their eligibility for the role. Part of listening is to not interrupt. When I’m interviewing candidates, I like to hear them out and not interrupt. It’s a technique I perfected while working in sales. Of course, there are times when a candidate does not stop talking, and that’s very valuable information, as well, since they will likely be doing the same thing on the job. So, it’s always advantageous to listen and not interrupt.

4. Ask what their goals are. Just because a candidate is applying for the project manager position doesn’t mean that’s their ideal job. I always like to start off by asking what their ideal role looks like. That way, you can avert potential problems down the road. If a candidate’s long-term goals are different from the role you have open, it’s sometimes best to wait for that right role for them.

5. Leverage technology. Let’s face it, a lot of recruiting processes are manual and time-consuming. Some of these processes can be more efficiently accomplished by technology, leaving the hiring manager with more time for value-added tasks. The intelligent recruiting platform we use at iTalent Digital uses machine learning and AI to instantly vet tens of thousands of applicants from a variety of sources to find the best candidates for a given open req so that I can spend less time evaluating unqualified applicants and instead devote that time to getting to know a handful of the top candidates.

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. I start by telling them about iTalent Digital and what we can offer them as an employer. Most people want to find purpose in their work, and they like knowing that their work at iTalent will make a difference in the world. We are a global consulting company innovating cutting-edge technology to solve pressing industry issues. One of the issues we invest a lot in solving is the gender gap in tech. iTalent Digital CEO & Founder Renée La Londe founded the nonprofit organization, GLAM (Girls Leadership Academy Meetup), in 2016 to teach girls aged 8–12 about technology, business and leadership, with the goal of getting more women into STEM fields and encouraging more women to start companies. Hundreds of girls have gone through this life-changing program, which expanded internationally last year. Employees at iTalent have the opportunity to be part of GLAM and other transformative work.

2. Offering white-glove service to our employees. Internally, our employees are known as iTalent Ambassadors. They are supremely important to us, and it shows. Our employee onboarding is one of the best out there. On day one, for example, they receive a welcome kit with iTalent-branded accessories, as well as a personal letter from our CEO thanking them and welcoming them to the company.

3. Since iTalent Digital is a woman- and minority-owned business and has a diverse workforce both in terms of gender (54% women) and race (59% minority), this is a big differentiator for us and we take pride in what that means. We strive to create an equal playing field for all.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

1. Make sure they know we care. It may seem simple and obvious, but I’ve found this trait quite rare. I recall having coffee and lunch at an eatery in downtown San Francisco. The server was extremely attentive throughout the experience, from the moment I sat down to the point when I left. You could tell he cared about my experience. That’s what we do at iTalent: from the simplest HR request to the big events in our employees’ lives, we are present 100% and respond.

2. Get back to them quickly on any questions or issues they are having. The resolution of an issue or question is important, of course. But it’s the journey to the resolution that can make or break the employee experience. For example, if you know something will take a week to ultimately resolve, tell them that. Then send the candidate regular updates throughout, so they aren’t kept guessing about the status.

3. Acknowledge and praise good performance. This can go a long way. And it costs nothing (in monetary terms). Praise from a colleague or superior makes an employee’s day! And it keeps them loyal to you.

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

Self-love. We (as women) tend to be very hard on ourselves. I’ve curbed my own self-talk enormously in the last few years. I would want to start a movement where we show ourselves more empathy and compassion for all that we do — and to brush it off and not belabor it when we make a mistake. We are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And that’s enough.

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

I have a quote in my bedroom. It reads, “Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world.” I try to remember that in my day-to-day interpersonal communications.

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?

I’m inspired by anyone taking up the challenge of what might seem insurmountable, like solving world hunger or ridding the world of malaria, for example; someone with an audacious goal! If she were still alive, I would love to have had lunch with Mother Teresa. I would also love to have lunch with Melinda Gates. I saw her speak last year at a nearby college and was riveted by her stories and personal experiences in trying to make the world a better place. She and her husband are truly changing the world for the better through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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