Gray Scalable Spotlight: Erin Jensen


A little more information about Erin, who joined us this year as Head of Business Development & Executive Search...


How she got into tech:

Erin holds a BA in English and Computer Applications from the University of Notre Dame. She remains adept with the you’re/your and they’re/their/there distinctions, and also became well versed in COBOL, AOL dial-up technologies and Friendster. She later continued her education at Harvard Business School, where she earned her MBA in 2007.

Erin’s earliest work experience (harking back to high school) spanned manning a flower shop and setting up floral arrangements for weddings, to giving birthday party pony rides and riding other people’s horses in horse shows. She moved into technology when she started her career in Sales & Consulting at FactSet Research Systems in NYC, and from there joined Google, where she led an AdWords sales team in the company’s Retail vertical, and then moved over to YouTube where she was the chief of staff for YouTube’s head of Sales and Marketing. It was there in 2009 where Erin met Charlie Gray when he ran People Operations for the advertising business. They worked together to create and scale up YouTube’s video and display sales team.


Erin’s role at Gray Scalable:

Eight years later, Erin joined the Charlie’s team at Gray Scalable. She manages two critical roles, leading our growing executive search practice, while also taking on the job of managing our development of new business.  

Before joining us, Erin had become a valued part of our partner network while at Riviera Partners. As Charlie said: “We’d been recommending our clients to Erin for exec search for a couple of years, because we knew she would be a great referral. But recently it became clear it would be better if she just joined our team instead!”


Best neighborhood find:

Erin’s favorite find since her start at Gray Scalable, has been her new favorite coffee shop, The Smile in Noho. “It’s the perfect place to meet candidates and clients, whether you want to simply grab a coffee or a longer breakfast / lunch bite!” She also enjoys frequenting an old standby, the Crosby Street Hotel, for their afternoon tea.


Erin’s favorite part of working at Gray Scalable:

“The team!! I joined GS because it offers a holistic way to fully serve our clients (from embedded recruiting to HR consulting, and now executive search) - it means so much to be able to be that true partner through different stages of a company’s growth, addressing people and growth needs for start-ups as well as mature companies.  But more importantly I also joined because the team here is fantastic - all of them at the top of their craft.  I learn new things every day.”


Who she’s crushing on as a potential client:

When asked who she’d love to work with next, Erin says she has a soft spot for Glossier, the digitally native beauty brand here in NYC. She loves what they’ve built in just a few short years, and continues to be blown away by their loyal customer base and fantastic products. “It’s clear they found product-market fit early on, which is so much easier said than done. I truly admire them.”


What she’s up to now:

Erin resides in Greenwich, CT with her husband and two sons. When she’s not navigating Metro North trains, subways, or flights to the west coast, Erin loves playing tennis, accompanying her sons on the occasional class field trip, or squeezing in a Greenwich Crossfit WOD at the beginning of the day. We also learned she has a passion for music and karaoke, and when asked what her go-to karaoke song was, to our surprise Erin shared a setlist on her phone and decided on “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle.

Great Engineering + Fantastic Team = Awesome Client: MM.LaFleur

MM.LaFleur is a fast-growing professional womenswear company based in New York City. They aim to be the go-to wardrobe solution for women of purpose by taking the work out of dressing for work. Through their thoughtfully-designed products and highly personalized service model, they celebrate and champion the modern professional woman.

They’ve got great opportunities: a growing multitude of super-loyal customers, a popular website, multiple physical showrooms, a small army of dedicated stylists, their own warehouse and supply chain -- all the elements needed to craft a unique and sticky cross-channel customer experience. They pioneered the Bento try-before-you-buy experience and they’re hungry for what’s next.

Gray Scalable is currently working with MM to hire a few mid-level, full-stack engineers for their growing team. They use a bunch of different tools to get the job done: LAMP Stack, Javascript, CSS, Ruby and Python. We are looking for engineers who have worked with some or all of these. Also, e-commerce experience is a nice-to-have (but it is definitely not required.)

As an employer, MM. LaFleur is dedicated to building and maintaining an inclusive and progressive workplace. When asked what keeps them happy, team members have consistently stated that the people and leadership (starting at the top with Sarah) are primary reasons. To be more specific, employees feel that they are supported by strong, thoughtful leaders, have learning and development opportunities and are generally surrounded by talented, interesting and, yes, fun co-workers.

Of course, they’ve got interesting technical challenges, too: analytics-driven personal styling and marketing, real-world inventory tracking, personalized algorithmic merchandising, supply chain visibility, speed, scale, data pipeline -- all the things you’d expect of a growing, vertically-integrated clothing brand. Plus, they treat their stylists as external users, building fast and fun tools to empower them whether they’re on the phone or in the showroom with a customer.

Oh, and they just moved into a beautiful new office:

mmnewoffice .jpg


If this sounds a team you’d like to join, apply here!

written by Ben Schumer, Technical Recruiting Consultant

First Principle of Compensation

At Gray Scalable, we help a lot of companies set up a rational compensation structure and set their pay to market. It’s a foundational product to us, because this can then help companies with so many other things - like career development, hiring the best talent, etc.   

But one of the biggest benefits is communications - that is, it enables the company to talk to its employees confidently and knowledgeably about their pay. As a great HBS study demonstrated, the communication about pay can matter more than the actual pay itself.  

Our first principle about compensation is that while you should never be totally transparent with your employees about everyone’s pay, you should act as if you are (except in the simplest of workplace populations or union environments, where it may actually be possible or necessary to have very strict and uniform comp structure). Every compensation decision you make, from new hire offers to annual increases to bonus payments - should be a decision you could reasonably defend if suddenly the curtain were pulled back and the whole team knew about that decision.  

This enables you to be proactive about comp decisions and conversations, and it challenges you to ensure you’re treating everyone fairly. It’s also a good defense against all the potential pitfalls of NOT having a defensible process - like employees asking each other about pay and drawing their own conclusions, or having to respond regularly to counter-offers.

This is a key ingredient of organizational health, and it requires a rational compensation structure as a starting point.  


written by Charlie Gray, President of Gray Scalable

Gray Scalable Spotlight: John Ball


A little more information about John, a Technical Recruiter and Gray Scalable Rock Star...

How he got into HR:                                                                                                                   John holds a BA in Business Administration and is currently finishing his Masters in HR & Organizational Management from Manhattanville College. John’s first job was as a college admissions counselor for Manhattanville, and then he transitioned into a technical recruiter in 1998 as “the internet boom” was in high gear. He started in client development and technical placements on the agency side, before going on to build Engineering and Product teams for  Patch and Aol, Everyday Health, Jibe and Vimeo.

John’s role at Gray Scalable:                                                                                                        John joined the team in January of 2016 and has since hired dozens of engineers, product managers and other tech staff for our client companies. He spends most of his time onsite with hiring managers, working to scale their technical and product teams. John specializes in sourcing and hiring engineering and product talent, and implementing recruiting process for top tech start-ups.

His favorite projects:                                                                                                                  “One of my favorite all time projects was working with Patch/Aol. We had a major recruitment scaling initiative to hire 1,500 people in about six months. I was one of the first technical recruiters so I got a chance to help build a great technical team for them. I got to work with some really outstanding people and learned a tremendous amount about internal recruitment and scaling initiatives overall.   

A recent project I enjoyed was with Spreemo. It gave me the opportunity to work with Andreas Turanski, the CTO of Spreemo Health, for a second time. I had previously worked with him when he was the CTO of Jibe. We were able to build an outstanding engineering team consisting of onsite and remote engineers. Spreemo Health has helped tens of thousands of injured employees at Fortune 500 companies recover better, faster, and more affordably, so it felt good that my recruitment had an impact on helping people get healthier faster.

Olo, the white-labeling ordering platform, was also a great client. Every person I contacted would ask, “what’s Olo?” but then discover this great product with a fantastic engineering team, and a culture that is so sticky that there’s almost no attrition.

It’s also great starting up new gigs! We just started with Aaptiv this week, and are really excited about it.”

When asked what he enjoys most about working at Gray Scalable, John said, “I like working at different client sites and meeting other interesting people in technology. It’s great to have hands-on, current knowledge of the tech job ecosystem in NYC: who’s growing, what’s new, what tech people are using, etc. My teammates at Gray Scalable are also amazing and it’s great to be able to share ideas and learn from one another constantly.”

Some fun facts that John freely shares with anyone who asks:                                                  John has four of the cutest bunnies as pets. He loves to dance salsa and his go-to karaoke song is James Taylor’s Country Road.

7 Steps to Improve the Top of your Resume


Are “Professional Objectives” and LinkedIn summaries still a thing these days? Do people read them or just pass over them to read the work history or connections? As recruiters, we generally appreciate them, because when well written, they help us get a clear idea of who the candidate is, and what he/she is looking for. But, "well written" is the key here - check out our advice:


  1. Know your audience. Who are you hoping reads this and what do you want them to learn? What do you want them to immediately know about you?

  2. Outline your content (before you even start writing)... What are the most important experience and skills you want to share? Keep in mind that the first two sentences are the most important because that’s what everyone sees. On LinkedIn, they’ll have to click to read more based on what your first two sentences say.

  3. Grammar and professionalism matter. Decide to write in either first or third person, don’t switch back and forth. First-person allows you to start a connection with the reader and it allows them to get to know you.

  4. Add multimedia elements (i.e hyperlinks). This allows you to share the maximum amount of material and information about yourself, your skills and your experience.

  5. Be authentic. Especially if you’re talking about specifically why you do what you do.

  6. Demonstrate your skills and specialities--you can do this by sharing your experiences and giving specific examples of how X led you to Y.

  7. End with a call to action. For example, on LinkedIn you may want to encourage the reader to connect with you or to send a message, if they share a common interest or can offer you something of value to your career.   


Looking for some help in your job search? Join our community to stay in the know about different jobs and opportunities in your field or check out our open jobs page!

Linking Talent Acquisition to Talent Management

Including guest post from Cheryl Roubian, Director of Talent at Greenhouse.

 At Greenhouse, Cheryl leads a team focused on finding, elevating and extending the lifecycle of top talent for Greenhouse. Find Cheryl on Twitter and LinkedIn.


 This post originally appeared on the Greenhouse blog on August 9, 2017, under the "Company Culture" category.

Top 3 Ways to Improve the Intersection between Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

Sometimes things just work better together: milk and cookies, Sonny and Cher, Bert and Ernie, sharks and dinosaurs (ok, maybe they don’t but they should). To this illustrious list, I will add Talent Acquisition and Talent Management.

In January of 2017, we brought Talent Acquisition and Talent Management under one roof. While the two teams have always worked well together, it’s been really cool to see the ways that bringing them together has created deeper and more effective collaborations.

The best part is... you don’t actually have to combine the teams to reap the benefits we’ve experienced. Here are three ways you can leverage the expertise of each team to build a stronger organization:

1. Include your business partners (BPs) in the kick-off process for new roles

Context: At Greenhouse, our recruiters do a lot of discovery when they kick off a new role. That discovery turns into our interview plans, which are an incredibly rich resource and answer questions like:

  • What’s the business need for this hire at this time?

  • What are the high-level objectives and 90-day goals for this person?

  • What are the qualities, technical capabilities, and interpersonal skills we’ll need this person to have?

While our recruiters have always built interview kits and our Human Resources Business Partners (BPs) have always had access to them, it didn’t occur to us to intertwine their workflows until we combined the two teams and I started reviewing the interview plans.

What we used to do: Our approval process for opening a role included putting a second set of eyes on the interview plan before we officially open the role - for us it was historically someone at the director-level or above.

What we do now: That second set of eyes now belongs to the business partner (BP) who supports the team opening the role.

The benefit: This creates an opportunity for the business partner and recruiter to share important context on the role and overall profile of the team. Sharing knowledge in this way is a good check-and-balance that we’re building strong teams with balanced skill-sets. That makes for more effective teams and a more effective Greenhouse.

TACTICAL TIP: If you’re using Greenhouse as your recruiting tool, you can create a notification that alerts the BPs of internal applications. This gives the business partner a heads up on potential internal moves – information that might otherwise take a couple days or weeks to filter over to your Talent Management team.


2. Notify BP’s about new hires as soon as an offer is accepted

Context: When a new hire joins Greenhouse, they get access to Greenhouse Onboarding (our product) and go through our company-level Onboarding Program. Behind the scenes, the new hire’s manager is also working with her business partner to run through her own onboarding checklist and make sure the new hire gets onboarded to both the team and manager but also Greenhouse overall.

What we used to do: BPs heard about new hires as part of onboarding setup, typically about halfway between offer acceptance and start date.

What we do now: BPs are automatically notified as soon as an offer is accepted.

The benefit: This gives the BP a leg up on supporting managers as they prepare to onboard their new person. Data shows that good onboarding leads to better outcomes. When our managers are prepared to onboard new hires, it means new hires ramp faster, are more effective sooner, and stay longer. Everybody wins.

TACTICAL TIP: If you’re using Greenhouse Recruiting and Greenhouse Onboarding, there are actually two ways you can do this:

  1. In Greenhouse Recruiting, you can notify your business partners when you mark a candidate as “hired”, or

  2. In Greenhouse Onboarding, you can set up your tasks to notify the business partner when a new hire has been added to the system (i.e., when a new hire is pushed over from an accepted offer in Greenhouse Recruiting).


3. Capacity-planning and Org changes

Context: BPs are usually the first people to know about organizational changes - from promotions to departures and everything in between. While it might not always be appropriate to share this information with your entire recruiting team, it’s vital information for effective planning on your talent acquisition team.  

What we used to do: At Greenhouse, this communication loop has always been pretty close, but we use to shared this kind of information in a more ad-hoc manner, which meant there was occasionally a lag in sharing key moves.

What we do now: Our BPs and the head of Talent Acquisition now have regular touch-points throughout the week to share information around promotions, transfers, departures and other organizational changes.

The benefit: If your organization is growing, business needs change FAST. Knowing when and how org changes are happening allows us to better plan and adjust our recruiting capacity to business demand. This means we can open roles more quickly, which means hiring managers get help faster, and Greenhouse can meet its business objectives sooner.

TACTICAL TIP: Depending on the rate of change in your org and/or how fast you’re growing, consider having these touch-points at least once a week.   


Summing it up

In this post, I’ve shared some of the ways we’ve found our talent teams work more effectively when they’re intertwined. Six months in, we’re still uncovering really interesting ways that Talent Acquisition and Talent Management work better when they work together. I hope you’ve found this post helpful and would love to hear how Talent Acquisition and Talent Management work together in your org!

Gray Scalable Spotlight: Bec Bliss

A little more information about Bec, a Technical Recruiting Consultant and Tech Hunter-Gatherer...

How she got into HR:                                                                                                                   Bec studied anthropology at the University of Melbourne in Australia and has spent her career building engineering, product and sales teams for startups in New York. She started as a contingency recruiter before joining XO Group Inc., where she built out the engineering team and implemented recruiting process and operations.

Bec’s role at Gray Scalable:                                                                                                           Bec joined the Gray Scalable Team in August of 2015 (Happy Two-Year!). She specializes in sourcing and hiring engineers and implementing recruiting process for top tech firms in the New York City. Bec also manages Gray Scalable’s internal sourcing team.

“My job is to be a bit of a chameleon, adding support or process tailored to each client's specific recruiting challenge. I've had some clients that have excellent processes in place and a wonderful employment brand, and other clients that have no recruiting support or are new to the scene. Sometimes that's doing classic engineering recruiting and others it's designing process, doing interview training, setting up an ATS, or building an employment brand. In truth, it's why I love the job so much: each client has a new problem to tackle.”

Her favorite projects:                                                                                                                    “All of them. I know, I know, but really! Each one of my clients has been an amazing partner, making me feel like a true member of their team. It's been incredible to see the results and metrics improve at each client and that's the result of a healthy partnership between Gray Scalable and the client. However, working for BarkBox did have some really snuggly perks! If I ever had a stressful day there was always a puppy around happy to have a cuddle.”

Bec’s favorite part of working at Gray Scalable:                                                                             “I love that we're a close-knit team - despite the fact that we're usually only in the same office once weekly. I feel as much support and fellowship from this team as I have in places where I worked alongside my teammates every day.”

What she’s up to now:                                                                                                                   Bec currently resides in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, dog and a small urban farm in the backyard. She loves to travel and never leaves home without her passport and a deck of cards.

Keeping Up with Gray Scalable

What’s new at Gray Scalable?

Erin Jensen joined the team last month!    

Erin started her career in sales and marketing, spent a couple of years at Google and Youtube, and has worked independently as an e-commerce, marketing and merchandising consultant. Most recently she spent a few years building an east coast executive search practice specializing in senior technologists.  

Does that mean that Gray Scalable is now doing Executive Search?

Yes! Although we have done several targeted executive searches for People VPs, CTOs and CROs for some of our long term clients, we will now be managing searches for new clients, with Erin leading the way. She will also be responsible for developing new business for all of our recruiting services, including embedded search and consulting.   

We also recently welcomed Emily Werthamer to the team. Emily will also be managing executive searches independently. In addition to several years working in third-party executive search, Emily managed the exec recruiting function at both Patch and Aol.  

In other exciting news, Darla Hornbjork, our veteran tech recruiter and sourcing team manager, has had a baby, dropped a hyphen, and packed up and moved to LA!

Wait... Does that mean that Gray Scalable is now open for business in Southern California?

Yes it does! We are excited to meet new clients and start building new relationships in California, and Darla will be back from her maternity leave in early October.

There are lots of other exciting team members, including our newest recruiter Ben Schumer, our newest sourcer Angelica Martinez and our versatile new social media boss Irene Courey.    

We’re looking forward to continued growth over the next year as we bring on some really interesting new clients, expand our geographic range and offer new services. Thanks for following us!


Gray Scalable Spotlight: Rose Alvarez


A little more information about Rose, our Sourcing and Operations Consultant and favorite Wearer of Many Hats

How she got into HR:                                                                                                                 Rose joined Gray Scalable in February 2015, as the fourth team member. Her first job was as a pre-school teacher near her hometown, Berkeley Heights:

“I love kids and the job was fun but I felt like something was missing. I wanted to be in the hustle and bustle of NYC. After getting a taste of administration at a fast-paced startup, I knew I wanted to learn more about HR. A family friend introduced me to Charlie, and after speaking with him about what he was building and what I could learn, I knew it was the best opportunity for me and I've never looked back!”

Rose’s role at Gray Scalable:                                                                                                           As an early Gray Scalable employee wearing the above-mentioned many hats, Rose was instrumental in helping set up and establish our core business operations. She continues to help us all stay organized and takes great care of us. As we've grown, she has specialized as a Sourcing and Operations Consultant, spending her time searching for the perfect candidates for our clients.

Here’s what Rose has to say about her ever-evolving roles here: “What surprised me the most about working at Gray Scalable was how collaborative, transparent and helpful everyone has been here. I think these are the qualities that have helped me develop and continue to grow.

My proudest moment was my first tech hire. It was a difficult position to fill and took a lot of work but it was SO worth it and made me want to go out and get more!!”

Her favorite projects:                                                                                                                  “I've really enjoyed collaborating with Bec Bliss and helping out at Buzzfeed. We have been helping them out for over a year and they are great to work with. I've taken on tech coordinating there as well, making sure our candidates who come in have a great experience from the moment they enter the building till the moment they leave!

I've also enjoyed implementing, along with Charlie, Cocktail Roulette at Gray Scalable. Every couple months we gather clients, colleagues and candidates at random to enjoy a night of cocktails and conversation!” 

Some fun facts about Rose:                                                                                                             Rose was once on a Rachel Ray Makeover Show, rocking an Oscar look a la Kate Winslet. Rose is a lover of all things Hamilton and could never turn down a glass of rosé (frozen or chilled).

Gray Scalable’s 2nd Annual Start-Up Recruiter Survey


Last year, we launched our start-up recruiter survey, geared at learning how recruiters meet the hiring demands of growing companies.  This year, we once again asked questions about the makeup of the recruiting team as well as how the hiring process was structured.  We also added a new section on HR practices - asking about surveys, performance, HR tools, and compensation.  

Recruiters from over 40 start-ups participated in the survey. These companies ranged in size from under 50 to over 500 employees and came from cities across the US (though the majority - about 75% - are based in New York).

We turned the results into a guide to help start-ups build out their people practices.  Here’s what we learned:


Building a Recruiting Team

Hiring the first recruiter - how much experience do start-up recruiters typically have? As with last year’s findings, recruiters at start-ups are generally not new to the field; 65% had more than six years of recruiting experience, and 27% had 10 or more.  Only 10% had fewer than 2 years of recruiting experience.  Making sure you hire a recruiter with a solid amount of experience is a sound idea -  it’s not an easy job!

When start-ups add the second recruiter.  Most start-ups add a second or third recruiter after 50 employees, and all companies over 200 employees had at least 2-3 recruiters. Those with more than 500 employees had at least 4-5 (with 60% reporting 6 or more recruiters).

When to add recruiting coordinator support.  At under 50 employees, most recruiters reported doing all the scheduling themselves. From 51-100 employees, some teams had recruiting coordinators but many were still getting help from an administrative employee in the company (but not a designated recruiting coordinator), which suggests that companies may need this role sooner than they think.  At the 100 employee mark, half reported having a designated recruiting coordinator and after 150 employees, it was unusual for a company to not have this support role.  At the 300 employee mark, there were at least 2-3 coordinators, if not 4 or more.  This suggests that if you’re growing quickly, you may want to open that recruiting coordinator job before you get to 100 employees (and if you’re growing very quickly, even sooner!).


Recruiting Team Expectations

How many roles should a recruiter handle at one time?  From the graph below, the majority of recruiters reported being responsible for 6-10 roles or 11-20 at any given time.  Having more than 20 open jobs at one time was unusual (less than 10% of recruiters).  


This information can also help guide the ‘when to add a second recruiter’ question from above  - if you’re a growing company that anticipates that there will be 20+ roles open at your company at any given time, it may be the right time to add a second recruiter.

In addition, the types of roles being recruited for matter as well.  Those reporting that they were primarily responsible for engineering and product roles reported being responsible for fewer requisitions than those recruiting for other roles. Nearly 70% of tech recruiters were responsible for 10 or fewer roles, and 25% reported working on fewer than 5 at any given time.  Interestingly, 100% of the tech recruiters responsible for more than 10 roles at at time reported having recruiting coordinator support, suggesting that you can offset a slightly higher workload if there is a support role in place.

How long does it take to fill a role?  Recruiters in our survey reported taking mostly between 1-2 months to fill a role.  This fits with what we’ve seen at our clients and other places we’ve worked, where the average time to fill is usually somewhere around 50 days (from the time a job opens until the offer is accepted).

How many hires are made per month? Recruiters generally reported making 5 or fewer hires per month (80%).  As with the number of open roles, the type of job matters as well - 80% of tech recruiters reported 3 or fewer hires per month, while 90% of those recruiting for non-tech roles made 4 or more.


Hiring Process

How many interviews before a candidate gets an offer? Thankfully, 97% of recruiters responded that fewer than 10 people interview a candidate before they get to offer stage (that includes the recruiter interview).  That said, it looks like there tends to be ‘interviewer creep’ as a company grows; the larger the company, the more likely recruiters were to report a higher number of interviews before getting to an offer.


While we understand that there may be situations where it makes sense to have more people weigh in on a candidate, putting a ceiling on the number of interviews a candidate has to go through will keep your process efficient and ensure your candidate has a positive experience.

Is structured interviewing a standard practice? ‘Structured interviewing’ refers to whether a company uses consistent questions and topics across interviews (compared to letting an interviewer ‘wing it’ or ask questions like what type of tree they are).  In our survey, 83% of start-up recruiters reported that they used structured interviews. This is even higher than last year, where 71% of recruiters reported the same. Overall, structured interviewing helps find the best fits for your open jobs and reduces bias in your hiring process.

What about skills tests? Having a candidate complete a skills test during the interview process (before or during in-person interviews) has also become a common practice among start-ups - only 12% of recruiters reported not using any sort of skills test during the interview process. However, the majority of skills tests are engineering based, with very few companies reporting that it is a practice across all job functions -  

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.33.29 PM.png

Do interviewers score candidates?  Interview scoring is also regularly used at start-ups.  Only 12% of recruiters responded that there is no formal interview scoring (these were not the same 12% from skills-test group).  The majority (59%) reported that they use a simple 2-point scale (a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’), while 30% reported using either a 4-point or 5-point scale.  

What applicant tracking system do start-ups use?  As with last year’s results, Greenhouse takes the cake as the ATS most used by the recruiters in our survey.


What are the most common sources of hire for start-ups? When it comes to where recruiters get their hires, the most common sources are employee referrals, direct reach outs, and inbound applicants.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.36.40 PM.png

Employee referrals were the most popular source of hire last year as well. If you would like some tips on referral programs, we’ve got you covered - check out our post from earlier this year.

What are the go-to sourcing platforms for recruiting candidates? LinkedIn was far and away the most common recruitment tool, with 85% of recruiters putting it in their top 3.  Below is a graph showing the platforms that were used by at least 10% of recruiters -


Building diversity into your recruiting practice. With the emphasis on the importance of employee diversity in the news this year (in addition to being important in general), we were hoping to see an increase in the number of start-ups reporting that they built diversity practices into their hiring process.  However, this graph remains relatively unchanged from last year -


If you’re interested in some steps you can take, here’s a pretty comprehensive guide to get you started, provided by the VC firm Homebrew.


Building out your HR Practice

When do I move from a PEO to HRIS?  In our survey, the switch to standalone HRIS solutions picks up around 100 employees, and no companies reported using a PEO after about 200 employees.  The HRIS’ systems used by start-ups varied widely, but the most common ones in the survey were Namely, ADP, BambooHR and Workday (the latter was only reported for companies over 500 employees).

Conducting employee surveys.  Employee engagement surveys were relatively popular among start-ups - 78% of recruiters reported that their companies used them.  The usage of them did not depend on company size, which suggests that engagement surveys are a decision made by leadership to learn about their organization rather than a function of growth. The most popular tools among our respondents were SurveyMonkey, CultureAmp, and Google Forms.

Do start-ups use market compensation data? Most start-ups in our survey reported using external market data to benchmark their salaries - 68% reported using a compensation consultant and/or market survey data, and only 15% reported that they did not use any at all.  The remainder were unsure whether external market data or consultants had been used.

How often is employee performance reviewed? Start-ups in our survey reported that employee performance was formally evaluated most commonly on an annual or bi-annual basis.  Only 12% of companies reported not having any formal performance review.

What about performance scores? The debate of “should we have performance ratings?” continues. Half of respondents reported that they used performance scores (with five- and four- point scales as the most popular), while the other half reported that they did not use scoring at all.


Thank you to all the recruiters who took our survey this year!

If you have questions or suggestions, email Sam Feldman -


written by Sam Feldman, People Analytics Manager


Follow uS to be the first to know about next years' survey!



Why You Should Be Hiring for "Culture Add," Not Culture Fit

This post, by Kathleen de Lara, originally appeared on the Entelo Blog. Kathleen is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Entelo, in this blog post she shares the dos and don'ts of hiring a growing team based on company culture:

Beware of hiring people cut from the same cloth as your team – it could work against what you’re striving to build.

To start, let’s define company culture – an organization’s “genetic code”, an understanding of the overall vision, mission, and values demonstrated by employees’ actions and attitudes. Finding people who embody your company’s standards and principles can be a challenge, but lock in a few, key individuals, and it may seem like you have the blueprint to building a model team. That’s exactly the problem.

Organizations are often prone to finding and hiring people they like – employees who work hard, collaborate well with others, contribute to the company, and ultimately, jibe with the culture in place.

While this can almost guarantee you’re hiring someone who will do and fare well with the team, consider who you’re missing out on by dismissing people who aren’t exactly “perfect,” or fit the mold of who you already have on your team. Hiring for culture fit is frequently misunderstood as hiring people with similar attitudes, traits, beliefs, and experiences as those on the team. That can mean identifying candidates who graduated from top universities, previously worked at a highly regarded orgs, or who are experts and purple squirrels of their domain.

As Jon Bischke explains on HR Happy Hour, for some companies, culture fit becomes a matter of bucketing candidates under these checkboxes: Does this person look like us? Talk like us? Walk like us? Thinking of culture fit this way encourages bias, exclusiveness, and the likeliness for companies to multiply the status quo.

Instead, hire people who are a “culture add” – that means people who not only support the team’s values and professional ethics, but also bring an aspect of diversity to the team. Alternative viewpoints, unconventional experiences, rare, specialized skill sets. Hiring people who add to your culture also champions a more inclusive means for evaluating candidates, rather than focusing on what a candidate doesn’t have. Instead, think: What can this person could bring to the table?

When employees experience the benefits of a diverse team, they’re more naturally inclined to seek diverse candidates to support a continually developing team. More, newer ideas are discussed, different communication styles thrive, and candidates from diverse backgrounds become engaged with what your company has to offer.

Gray Scalable's Greatest Reposts of Q2!



Check out these five steps to give effective, positive feedback to improve the performance of your team:

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 1.50.15 PM.png

It is possible for companies to experience incredible growth while still maintaining open and inclusive work environments. Betterment is a great example of this--watch how they have managed to do it here:



“I'm going to upset you by telling you about how sometimes being nice can have unintended and ironic consequences for the workplace.” It’s important to give honest feedback, even when that feedback isn’t nice:


Employees at every level need training, and here’s why: Need help getting started? That’s where we come in!



Join our team!

We're looking for a Business Recruiter with fearless sourcing chops, operational excellence, awesome management skills, high integrity and a great sense of humor, is that you? Apply now!

Gray Scalable Spotlight: Michael Aiyar

A little more information about Michael, our Sourcing Consultant and Candidate Wrangler...

How he got into HR:

“My first job was an internship at a small tech recruiting company in California when I was in high school. I didn't realize it at the time, but it planted a seed that stayed with me throughout college and eventually led to my first job at Microsoft in campus recruiting. Working in tech ended up being a great experience for me, and I even wrote a blog post about it. After being at a large organization for a bit, I decided it was time to try something new, and moved to NYC to join Gray Scalable. It's been awesome learning about the startup world and seeing how smaller organizations build and scale.” Read more about why Michael works in tech in his Inclusion Matters blog post:


Michael’s role at Gray Scalable:

As a Sourcing Consultant, Michael specializes in researching startups and the talent market and connecting candidates with roles for our clients. He also works on implementing our CMS/ATS system and is always exploring new sourcing tools and methods.

Michael’s proudest moment at Gray Scalable was making his first successful candidate-client connection at Wellpass! When he started with Wellpass, it was very early stage, so when he reached out, that was the first time the engineer had heard about the company. “It was incredibly satisfying to be able to connect her with a new opportunity that she might not have found on her own - especially one with a mission that she believed in and a product she was excited to help build.”


His favorite projects:

“I've been lucky enough to be at a large client (Buzzfeed) and a tiny one (Wellpass) and I've liked each for different reasons. It's fun to recruit for something that people have already heard of and know about (like Buzzfeed), but it can also be fun to educate people about something new and innovative (Wellpass). I've also really enjoyed getting to work on streamlining our workflows and integrations with our ATS/CRM.”


Some fun facts about Michael:

Although a terrible singer in real life, Michael once ended up singing karaoke with Mary Lambert (collaborator and friend of Macklemore). He was also, randomly, featured on an interview about Zagreb on Croatian television

Backdoor References: Resist the Temptation!


The first thing I do when I’m reviewing a potential candidate for a job I’m recruiting for is check who I might have in common with that person on LinkedIn. It’s a really valuable exercise - especially if I see the candidate is connected to the hiring manager for the open role, for example. I might even reach out to that hiring manager to get an opinion prior to putting that person into the interview process.

But that’s where we can get into some murky waters. About half the time, I’ll get a response along the lines of…

 I don’t really know the person, but my friend worked with her - let me ask!                                            or                                                                                                                                                      I know his boss at his previous company - I bet she’ll give me the inside scoop.

We’d never reach out to a candidate’s direct boss before getting their permission to do a formal reference check - and hiring managers wouldn’t either. So, why has become an almost-standard practice for folks who are not recruiters to do what’s commonly known as backdoor references - sometimes even before a candidate walks in the door?

It’s not that anyone is trying to do harm - it’s a sincerely well-intentioned move: to try to up the quality of candidates walking in the door, and to save interviewers’ time. That said - I do think it’s important to resist the temptation. Here’s why:

Candidates have an expectation of confidentiality                                                                Anyone who applies or is a sourced prospect has an expectation that their candidacy will be held in strict confidence. Even if you are asking someone who worked with the candidate at a past-not-current job, and even if that person is someone you trust implicitly - you’re still breaking that trust. It’s not a great place to start the relationship. Remember that there’s a decent chance the backdoor reference will (confidentially!) let the candidate know you reached out for that reference. Remember, too, that if the shoe were on the other foot, you’d want to be able to control who became aware that you were thinking about making a change.

You’re poisoning/sweetening the well                                                                                              If you’ve structured your interviews well (The Right Process + The Right Platform = The Best Hires), it’s important to trust in your evaluation process versus trying to circumvent it. Give the candidate the opportunity to prove him/herself, versus relying on an informal opinion that may or may not represent the candidate’s abilities.

You’ll have the chance to talk to those backdoor references                                                            I know, I just said you couldn’t :). But there’s a way to get the information you want from the people you want to talk to, without breaking confidence with the candidate. Allow your candidate to go through the full process. If things go well enough for you to get to the reference checking phase (we always recommend checking references), partner with your recruiter to see who the candidate serves up. If s/he doesn’t offer up the person you’re connected with - simply ask the candidate his/her thoughts about you reaching out to that person for an opinion. You’ll learn a lot simply by asking: either the candidate will say, “Sure! I didn’t even think of that!” or will give you a reason why that person might not be the best reference. You’ll also cultivate the candidate’s trust by asking permission versus just reaching out.

In lieu of a backdoor reference, I’m suggesting a robust and well-timed reference checking process that takes place after a well-constructed interview process - that ideally includes those backdoor references done with the candidate’s permission. It’s hard to resist the temptation, but hopefully, knowing you can still learn what you want to learn can help you wait just a little bit.


written by Deb Feldman, Principal Consultant and Co-founder




Agile Recruiting


After years of working with great engineering teams, some of their Agile practices have rubbed off on me and I’ve applied them to how I recruit, organize my work and manage my teams. I’ve also learned a lot from Jim Benson about the sanity-keeping powers of a good Kanban board.

Below are several key Agile practices/philosophies that I’ve adapted to fit my needs as a Recruiter and Manager. While they are relatively simple concepts to understand and appreciate, they can be difficult to implement.

Follow the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

How does this apply to recruiting?

Simple, repeatable processes that result in the RIGHT hires. The process we typically follow for Engineering recruiting is as follows:

  • Recruiter Phone Screen

  • Technical Phone or Video Interview w/ Engineer (w/ some time allotted for behavioral/competency assessment)

    • A second Phone/Video Interview will happen if the candidate is non-local or if first interviewer is truly on the fence

  • Onsite Interview: 4 interviews (all in one visit) that each focus on a different topic. Typically, the breakdown is coding, algorithm (or a second coding question), design and behavioral.

    • Important note: all interviewers should have enough time scheduled so they can answer questions and sell the candidate.

  • Interview Team Hiring Decision

While my current focus is mostly on engineering, I’ve recruited for just about every role under the sun and I can tell you from experience that a process of this length and form can work for any role. For non-engineering roles, the technical phone interview should be an interview focused on assessing the skills needed to do the job. Early in the process, you shouldn’t over-index on assessing “culture fit.” Make sure the person can do the job and THEN figure out if they would excel in your particular work environment.

For this system to work well, the interviewing team must be well-trained and aligned, they must be asking the right questions and, last but not least, the recruiter must be well-calibrated (via constantly working with the hiring team to refine targets and filters.)

Final note: Depending on the role, a take home case study/test may be useful at some point in the process.

Kanban (Visualize Your Workflow)

A Kanban board is a work and workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. Typically, the workflow stages of a Kanban board are drawn on a whiteboard and work items are written on post-it notes and then moved through the stages. Trello is essentially the digital version of Kanban.

In its simplest form, a Kanban board looks something like this:


How does this apply to recruiting?

  • Candidate Tracking

  • Coordination Tracking/Prioritization

  • Work Prioritization

I’ve used both whiteboards and Trello to track candidates moving through the process and both have proven effective for keeping “live” candidate activity visible to the necessary stakeholders. Some people preferred having a giant whiteboard to check whenever they walk by and others preferred pulling up a Trello board to review. Perhaps the biggest benefit of visualizing your candidates in process is being able to spot pipeline problems before they become crises.

The coordinators I’ve worked with have found using a Trello board to visualize/track their work to be incredibly helpful. Beyond giving Recruiters an easy line of sight into where candidates are in the coordination process, Trello has proven most valuable as a way to objectively prioritize coordination work across a team. For example, if a coordinator is supporting multiple recruiters, having a system that allows each recruiter to label their requests with different priority levels allows the coordinator to manage their workload by always focusing on the most urgent tasks first instead of processing requests chronologically.

Finally, I always keep a personal Trello board(s) going to track and prioritize my work and team projects.

Limit WIP (Works In Progress)

A WIP limit can help you focus on correct decisions, completion, and quality. Limiting the amount of WIP improves throughput and reduces the amount of work "nearly done" by forcing you to focus on a smaller set of tasks. A Kanban board is the best way to visualize and prioritize WIP.

How does this apply to recruiting?

  • Applying a strong filter at the top of the funnel: focus on quality, not quantity. (This is one of the places where a well-calibrated recruiter comes in most handy.)

  • Keeping each of my team members focused on a manageable, well-defined set of roles.

IMHO, the “it’s a numbers game” mentality often attached to recruiting success is due to the fact the many recruiters and hiring managers aren’t well calibrated.  In my experience, it’s possible to meet your hiring goals without making your recruiting or interviewing teams spin their wheels on an excessive amount of unqualified candidates.

Keeping recruiters focused on a manageable, well-defined set of roles (ideally within one department/business area) means they become domain experts and strategic partners.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

Kaizen is a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. Nothing too mind-blowing but, like the other practices listed here, it’s easier said than done.

How does this apply to recruiting?

  • The aforementioned well-calibrated recruiter who, again, must constantly work with the  hiring team to refine targets and filters.

  • Iterating on all of your processes as needed. Always look for ways to improve efficiency, effectiveness and the candidate experience.

The degree of hiring success you will have is largely dependent on how well you can adapt and improve in these two areas, and being successful in both requires a hiring team and recruiting team that are aligned.

I’ve been most successful when the hiring manager is ready and willing to partner with me on both strategy and execution. Of course, I had stay on top of trends and data in order to bring solutions, new ideas and feedback to the table. That’s the only way to maintain a strong recruiting partnership that allows for continuous improvement to occur.


written by Ben Schumer, Tech Recruiting Consultant



Avoid the "Uber Moment:" Prioritize your culture from the start


Eric Holder’s report on Uber was released last week after months of investigation into Uber’s workplace practices. There’s been both praise and criticism for the 13-page report, which is high-level in its recommendations, and lightweight in assigning responsibility for the scandal.

In many ways it’s surprising that a company of Uber’s size lacked basic HR policies, but Uber is also a true startup - just three years ago the company was only 550 employees, much smaller than the 12,000 employees it has today. It’s challenging to have an effective HR function with that kind of growth, and only a matter of time before a company like Uber drew criticism for bad workplace practices. In a larger sense, the tech industry has some progressive perks and benefits, but has also been under fire in the past few years for its machismo culture and exclusion of diverse groups.

Uber’s scandal and the subsequent Holder report are good reminders of the best practices all tech startups should ascribe to, regardless of size or stage. Here are three takeaways from the Holder report:


Culture starts with the C-suite

Travis Kalanick, like many startup founders, surrounded himself with like-minded executives over the years. This is not unusual or even discouraged for small startups, as the first employees a founder hires usually come from their immediate network.

Executives set the tone and expectations of the company’s culture and Kalanick’s “A-team,” an internal name for the slew of early employees Kalanick relied on, established what became Uber’s current culture, with its now-apparent downsides. It’s generally understood that diverse viewpoints bring better workplace practices, and it’s well established that diversity brings new perspective and better financial outcomes to a company. More broadly, if those at the top model good behavior, others will follow.

Does this mean that startups shouldn’t hire like-minded people from their networks? Certainly not. At the smallest stages, hiring from a founder’s network is often necessary to hire anyone at all. Hiring is challenging enough for tech companies with brand names, and near impossible for the seed-stage startup with a handful of employees.

That said, keeping an eye on the c-suite’s make-up just makes sense as a company grows. Leaders need to hire people that challenge them, not just people who follow them or think alike. Hiring outsiders not only helps avoid problems like Uber’s, but is often necessary to tackle new markets and verticals effectively. Many of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies brought in outside executives to see their company through critical periods and became more successful for it.


Design culture, don’t just let it happen

Of course, founders are not the only people that influence company culture. Company values, team building activities, perks and benefits can have significant impact on diversity measures. Policies (or lack thereof), as well as the perks that a company chooses to highlight sends subtle signals to the team about what the company deems important.

Uber’s values such as being obsessed with the customer, making bold bets, toe-stepping and principled confrontation clearly outline a culture favoring employees unilaterally focused on hitting business goals, even if it means hurting others along the way. Uber’s values are an extreme example, but the point is important - if cultural values and other perks and benefits aren’t written without a diverse group or diversity in mind, they’ll be reflective of the wants and needs of the people who wrote them.

Another focus of the report was on some of Uber’s perks and team building activities. Holder suggested moving up catered dinner to an earlier time, limiting alcohol at team building events, and accommodating employees who need flexible work arrangements. Again, what works at a small startup won’t always work as a company scales. Dinner at 8:30pm and frequent happy hours may make sense for an early-stage startup where employees work 60 hours a week, but becomes a barrier to retaining diverse employees as a company of thousands.

The point is to think critically about designing company culture and continue to revisit and iterate on the culture as the company grows.


No company is a meritocracy

The meritocracy myth is rampant in tech, and it’s not hard to understand why. Shouldn’t we eschew workplace politics and simply let the best rise the to top? It’s a noble idea, but one that systematically oppresses women and minorities. Paradoxically, research shows that people who think they’re unbiased when evaluating hiring, promotions, and performance are biased like the rest of us, but fail to acknowledge and adjust for their biases.

Uber, along with many other startups, expected that an exclusive focus on meritocracy would bring them a workforce and leadership team made up of the best employees, regardless of gender or ethnicity. The reality is that pure “meritocracy”, in the absence of any other important considerations of diversity, leads to a workforce representative of our implicit biases.

Holder’s recommendations for establishing sponsorship programs, revamping performance review processes and establishing mandatory trainings for managers are measures to understand and account for implicit bias. Understanding that no company is as simple as a pure meritocracy is the first step and establishing processes and trainings to acknowledge and counteract bias is important to ensure women and minorities participate in the growth of an inclusive, strategically nimble and culturally strong company.  


written by Emily Kraft, Tech Recruiting Consultant


Establishing an effective HR function is key to building a successful company. Need help? Gray Scalable offers trainings, workshops and strategic consulting to help you build and scale your company culture.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Parental Leave Policy


Parental leave has been top of mind for us lately at Gray Scalable (shoutout to our three newest & most adorable additions to the Gray Scalable family - Elle, August & just this week - Isabel!).

Clients ask us all the time for guidance on creating and improving their parental leave policies. With the U.S. being one of only TWO countries in the world that does not legally require paid leave for new mothers (the other? Papua New Guinea), we have a lot of work to do to. Some cities and states are starting to catch up and require partial or fully paid leave (note: many of these are funded by employee payroll deductions).

You might be thinking of revamping your parental leave policy, or maybe you have your first-ever pregnant employee. What now? Here are the questions we take our clients through when considering how to structure their programs:

How many weeks of paid leave is standard?

The average: We reviewed over 250 companies on the site, and among tech and media companies, the most common amount of time to offer for paid leave was 12 weeks. And among the better known companies we looked at, we found that they are either drawing the line at 3 months (12 weeks) or 4 months (16 weeks).

These numbers did not seem to be based on whether the company was public or private, the percentage of female employees at the company, or the amount of funding they have received (if they are a start-up). So, If you want to remain competitive in the market, we’d recommend starting here!

We’ve created some interactive graphs for you below to show these points.  Click on the gray boxes to see the different graphs -

(Keep in mind your legal obligation: if your company has 50+ employees, eligible employees receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave, including their regular benefits. Check out the Family and Medical Leave Act for eligibility information. Note: your city/state may have additional requirements and short-term disability can cover part of a biological mother’s salary for 6-8 weeks.)

Above average: Those extra weeks may just pay their weight in retention gold. When Google increased its paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers quit fell by 50%. It’s no surprise - the more time and freedom parents have to bond with their baby without the pressure of returning to work, the more ready and refreshed they are when it’s time to jump back in.

Above & beyond: Plenty of companies out there, like Spotify, Etsy, American Express, Twitter, and Adobe offer 5-6 months, and Netflix famously takes it a step further to offer a full year of paid leave to all new parents.

There’s no one right answer - it’s all about what your company is looking to get out your parental leave policy.

Maternity leave? Parental Leave? What’s the right terminology?

Traditionally, companies use Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave when they offer different leave plans for mothers and fathers. Keep in mind that families come in all shapes and sizes! For this reason, many companies now refer to their separate plans as Primary Caregiver Leave and Secondary Caregiver Leave, allowing employees to choose how these roles apply.

Others, who provide the same plan to all parents, use terms like Parental Leave or Family Leave.

Who’s eligible?

You’ve got some choices to make here, knowing that babies arrive in all sorts of ways. A growing number of companies are offering the same leave policies to new parents, regardless of whether the employee delivered the baby or the baby arrived through surrogacy or adoption. Companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Etsy offer the same plans to all new parents, no matter how their new family member arrived.

 In some cases, like at Google and Adobe, employers have three types of leave plans: for biological mothers, primary caregivers, and secondary caregivers.

What else is there to consider?

Whether you’re looking to have the most stellar family benefits out there, or are looking for ways to boost your current leave plan, there are a lot of benefits to consider beyond how many weeks of paid leave you provide:

  • Paid leave before birth: Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon offer additional paid time off for expecting mothers to rest and prepare for their new family member.

  • Transition back time - Recognizing how challenging the abrupt return can be, some employers, like Netflix, Spotify, and Greenhouse, allow flexible schedules for employees during their first several weeks back at work.

  • Staggered leave - Companies like Greenhouse and Netflix allow employees the flexibility to break up their parental leave into weekly or monthly increments (we recommend steering clear of daily increments).

  • Stipends: Companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo offer stipends, ranging from $500 - $4,000, to help with expenses for each newborn.

  • Childcare - Offering free memberships to childcare services like Urbansitter is a simple way to support parents.

  • Internal support networks - An amazing and important consideration that costs nothing - creating an internal network for new parents to share tips, ask for advice, and just swap stories - many companies, like Greenhouse, Etsy and Twitter, have found creative ways to do this.

So how do you craft the right leave program for your organization? There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer, and there are a lot of considerations (including what you can afford - both the cost of your program and the more intangible cost of how it affects your company culture, inclusion, and retention).

Parental leave is just one part of the portfolio of benefits your offer your employees. We recommend starting by talking to your employees and getting a pulse on which benefits they value most.


written by Megan Hughes, HR consultant
& Sam Feldman, People Analytics Manager



Like what you read? Join one of our communities to enjoy more great content from @GrayScalable!

The Right Process + The Right Platform = The Best Hires

Including Guest Post from Daniel Chait, CEO & co-founder of Greenhouse

Daniel has been a technology entrepreneur in New York City for nearly 20 years. He is a frequent speaker on the topics of recruiting and entrepreneurship.

 At Gray Scalable, we offer our clients interview training--customized to their culture, management principles and brand. But every training includes structured interviewing as the most fundamental element of the process. We have always appreciated how well our training and the Greenhouse platform complement one another. Greenhouse gets it right.   

 Thanks for sharing Daniel!


This post originally appeared on the Greenhouse blog on May 25, 2017, under the "Interview Planning" category. Reblog:

The Most Common Interviewing Mistake—And How to Fix it

I know that there’s often a gap between hiring best practices and hiring in the real world. In fact, in a previous post, I shared some of my real-life stories of hiring gone wrong. In case you missed it, I told a story from earlier in my career of when two senior engineers interviewed the same candidate and come away with radically opposed viewpoints.

As I began to dig into how this was possible, I came to a major realization: I had no idea what was actually happening in the interviews.

So I’d like to pose the question to you: Do you know what’s happening in interviews at your company? If your answer is yes, I’d follow that up with another question: How do you know that for sure? And if your answer is no, be sure to keep reading.

I’d like to share why it’s crucial for you to know what’s happening in interviews at your company and how you can get a handle on it if you don’t.

Crossed signals

In the case of the conflicting engineers I mentioned earlier, I learned that one person had his own pet brain-teaser he liked to use as a litmus test for all candidates. If he didn’t like the way they answered that question, he wouldn’t want to hire them. In effect, his method for evaluating candidates’ suitability was disconnected from the team’s goals and radically different from the criteria other interviewers were using (and in all honesty, probably not the best indicator of someone’s success on the job).

Learning this fact led to a significant realization: This was not a one-off problem. We’d always be talking past each other when we got to the round-up stage as long as we had an unstructured interview process.

A simple solution—and what it taught us

As soon as I came face-to-face with this lack of consistency in our interviews, I went and bought a bunch of digital recorders (this was in the pre-iPhone days) and asked our interviewers to record their interviews (with the candidate’s approval, of course).

And once we began to do this, the results were truly illuminating.

If you send your interviewers in without any sort of training or preparation, you’re bound to hear some surprising things—both good and bad. In our case, we were surprised by how creative our team could be. When candidates asked them about the company mission or values, some interviewers articulated this in ways that we had never anticipated.

On the other hand, we were shocked by how poorly some interviewers handled questions. When asked about the types of projects they were currently on, one interviewer said, “Eh, I’m not on a very interesting project right now.” They made no attempt to qualify this statement by saying that some past projects had been enjoyable or trying to learn more about which types of projects the candidate was hoping to get involved in. Hearing my own staff give these types of responses to candidates we desperately wanted to impress felt like a punch in the gut. But they helped us understand that we needed to provide much more in terms of training and coaching for interviewers.

A real-life example: DataRobot

DataRobot, headquartered in Boston, MA, is a machine learning platform built by data scientists, so they know a lot about using data and structured processes to run things efficiently. We looked at how Liuba Yurgenson and her People Operations teams approach Structured Hiring.

Hiring managers prepare questions and create categories with skills that successful candidates need to possess to fulfill a specific role. This can include soft skills and smart creative qualities, for example. These are then separated into different interview stages. The team helps to assign specific interviewers who know how to assess certain skills for each stage.

Squad leads (or team leads) are the people who reach out to People Ops about creating a new role and it’s Liuba’s job to approve the position with company executives. After the position is approved, the corresponding squad lead or hiring manager gets to work. There are two different meetings that happen during this process. The first meeting is one where the hiring manager works with their team to create the position, write the job description, and finalize the interview flow—noting which skills they need to cover. The other meeting is for the hiring manager to walk the People Ops team through these completed documents. Once the role is live on the site, they send an update email to the whole company alerting everyone of new roles.

DataRobot trains all interviewers with peer-to-peer training. Everyone must observe two to four actual interviews, after which they’re paired with an experienced interviewer for another two interviews. Finally, they lead their own interview with an experienced observer. This is an important time because it’s the point for a candidate to see if the company is a place they want to be, and it’s important that everyone who’s interviewing is on the same page and trained consistently.

DataRobot also tracks feedback from interviews through Greenhouse and looks into the details of these interviews such as how many interviews employees have conducted over time and feedback they've collected from candidates on the process. If Liuba and her team start to see a trend, they can go back and give specific and actionable feedback to that interviewer to improve the process.

A few final thoughts

Providing a framework for interviews and interviewers is a critical step in the Structured Hiring process and one of the cornerstones of the Greenhouse product. It’s also a work in progress for us. We’re always making adjustments to our interview planning, kits, and training. But none of this would have been possible without the insight I gained into the wild variance of the interview process. And I’d encourage you to do some research to see what’s happening in the interviews at your company—you’re bound to discover something interesting!

Gray Scalable Spotlight: Aja Deodato


A little more information about Aja, our Principal Human Solutions Consultant and People Team Builder

How she got into HR:

“I owe my HR career largely to a Craigslist posting and a really bad phone interview! I was studying abroad in Madrid and needed to land a summer internship. I applied to everything HR related (I was majoring in IO Psych and knew that's what I wanted to do) and within a day had a phone screen scheduled with Razorfish. I had no idea what the company did and could barely hear the questions but somehow landed the job (mostly because the head of recruiting and I had gone to the same college). I started that summer and ended up staying for almost five years. It may be the most influential phone call of my life and I only heard half of it!”

Aja’s role at Gray Scalable:  

Aja specializes in building HR functions for our clients, which includes everything from strategy, program and policy development, and hands-on execution to building out people teams for our clients. As manager of our HR services team, Aja is responsible for continually developing and improving our client HR offerings . Personally, her focus is creating and delivering customized training programs, including: management training, interview skills, coaching and building high-performance teams.

Aja is both People Artist and People Scientist. Her organizational intuition is always reliably perceptive, yet she knows better than to act from gut instinct; she understands how to quantify and structure people challenges and how to develop solutions to fit the facts. She’s also the definition of “cool, calm, collected”, with an understated style of handling the biggest curveballs, always responding with a thoughtful, engaging ease. She’s a sought-after coach and mentor, both at our clients and internally at Gray Scalable.

Her favorite projects:

“One of my first, Betterment, I developed a manager training series that we completed over about 6 months so I was really able to see the positive impact on the managers in the organization.

[Also] Bark & Co., I helped an HR-less org make some incredible progress, I helped to make a key talent hire, implemented a career development roadmap and trained their managers on what it means to be a successful manager at Bark (the puppies didn't hurt either).

At Intersection, I helped to build out their awesome People team, with a few integral hires, it was so nice to see the impact of those hires and help set them up to do some really amazing work.”

What else is new?

Aja had her second daughter a few months ago - we love seeing their adventures on Instagram. She and her family also just made the move to the NJ suburbs. Aja recently returned from maternity leave with lots of ideas for new workshops, new clients, and building up our HR services team.

Why being the Company's First Recruiter is the Hardest Job


We help a lot of start-ups find one of their most critical hires: their first Recruiter. Every growing team, by the time they reach 25+ people, realizes that finding the right talent in tech companies is surprisingly hard work, super time-consuming and pretty expensive--and that they need someone to manage their hiring full-time.

Half of our value in these searches is finding the right person and hiring them. But the other half is helping to set the stage for this hire, defining the boundaries and necessities of the job, and helping to set them up to succeed once they start. It’s tricky. Lots of “first-time recruiters” don’t even last a year in the job. Here are four reasons why it’s so risky, and some suggestions for how to avoid some common pitfalls:

1. Expectations are way off, and it will take you a year to correct some of them. Some hiring managers will think you can hire people in 3 weeks. Others think you’ll only need to offer 50-80% of the salary the market pays for certain types of hires. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get your managers to align their expectations with the challenging truths of the tech talent market. To avoid this, ask a lot of questions on the front end, and set expectations fairly when you start--also, as you get up to speed and measure progress, learn how to use and report historical data to predict results and establish the right resourcing needs over time.

2. You don’t have a coordinator. So you are only half Recruiter; you’re also half Coordinator. You’re also your own Sourcer--you have all 3 jobs and can’t do any of them as well as you’d like. You may not get another resource right away, but once you get fluent with your internal recruiting math and build your credibility, it’s pretty easy to demonstrate the ROI of these hires.  

3. “Who?”  Some companies get great candidates applying on their website, but the company that’s only 25 people hasn’t yet thought about their employment brand--much less taken steps to create it and make it known to the world, which takes time. That might be another of your jobs. What to do: This is well worth spending time on, even though your time is scarce. Seek out cross-functional partners (maybe in marketing) - a strong employment brand helps the company in many ways.

4. Even though you save a lot of money, you seem like you spend a lot of money.          “LinkedIn Recruiter costs what!?”                                                                                                     “I thought we wouldn’t have to pay those agencies anymore when we hired you.”                       “Let’s just track things with a Google Doc for now….”                                                                  You need to learn how (and when) to ask for the necessary resources, and create a budget, choosing priorities wisely so you can have quick quality results plus a solid plan for longer term hiring volume. Work with your hiring managers or executive team to establish the right success metrics for your job and build a plan to meet those targets.

Despite these first-year challenges, it’s an exciting and rewarding job building a company’s talent function. It feels great to look around and see the impact you’ve had at every company meeting; few employees can witness such a tangible impact from their work. And if you follow these steps, year two should be much better!  

written by Charlie Gray, President of Gray Scalable