Successful talent acquisition strategies cannot be reduced to a single trick, but the Zoom talent team's recent success was heavily defined by one specific commitment.
In our first edition of the Beamie awards in November 2020, Zoom won the Talent Trailblazer of the Year award, highlighting the company’s impressive growth and its willingness to implement real change in order to achieve exceptional results.
In response to the sudden need to double hiring capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom completely revamped its talent function, and implemented new programs and technologies to support its explosive growth. As a result, the team tripled in size, reduced ramp-up time by 76%, and time to fill by 32%, pushing way ahead of its plan to double the size of the global sales team.
But the team did not achieve these spectacular results by simply doubling down on existing strategies. In our Spark Live 2020 session with Phil Haynes, Head of Global Talent Acquisition at Zoom, we learned how shifting one single strategic element of the recruiting process can cascade down into an entirely new talent strategy.
Zoom’s superfast TA growth strategy isn’t all about moving fast
Just-in-time recruiting has become too noisy. As Phil Haynes says in his interview, “reducing that noise-to-signal ratio and getting to the high-value talent that we all need for our organisations, requires taking a longer term approach than just-in-time.”
When you are faced with unexpected market changes and need to quickly respond to a huge increase in business like Zoom had to, you cannot afford to keep blasting into that noisy marketplace with the same messages, and the same approach. It is useless to hand recruiters and sourcers one requisition after another, and simply expect them to suddenly be twice or three times as successful using the same tactics. Zoom’s talent team understood that, so it invested in moving to a truly proactive recruiting strategy.
“Reducing that noise-to-signal ratio, and getting to the high-value talent that we all need for our organisations, requires taking a longer term approach than just-in-time. You have to think 6 months out, 9 months out.” Phil Haynes, Global Head of TA at Zoom.
The trap that many TA organizations fall into is to expect sourcers to build proactive talent pipelines, but also to jump on new requisitions and provide recruiters with new, urgent leads whenever they are needed. This behavior entirely defeats the purpose of a proactive recruiting strategy. A proactive sourcing team helps recruiters attract and engage the right talent more efficiently by nurturing it over the long term. In a truly proactive organization, recruiters can fish for likely candidates in a pool that sourcers have been nurturing for a while. That way, candidates are more likely to say yes to any outreach from recruiters, and more likely to be great fits when they are interviewed.
When sourcing first separated from recruiting under the umbrella of talent acquisition, it enabled talent teams to think differently about getting candidates through the door. Sourcing teams started employing marketing and engagement techniques that changed the game for recruiting organizations and built the industry’s first candidate pipelines. Today, this specialization between sourcing and recruiting activities is commonplace. However, by taking that extra step of truly separating sourcing from urgent requisitions, Zoom has isolated the one tactic most likely to set up a talent team for unmitigated success, no matter what unexpected challenges it has to face.
Zoom’s strategic decision to separate the sourcing engine from the just-in-time paradigm cascaded into a slew of other process changes which enabled it to realise the benefits we mentioned above, from reduced time-to-fill to improved ramp-up times for talent acquisition teams.
Why Zoom’s TA team adopted a CRM-first approach
For recruiters to truly adopt this change, however, and stop using the sourcing team as a just-in-time band-aid, they need to be able to actually find those warm candidates themselves, and quickly. That is where Zoom’s talent CRM-first approach comes in.
Zoom’s vision for the talent team is to create a frictionless talent acquisition engagement and activation structure; a structure where, among other things, recruiters can go and find the right leads for their open roles quickly, and be assured that these leads have been nurtured and qualified appropriately.
The issue is, recruiters are not always set up to adopt this new behavior. Traditionally, they are trained and onboarded on the ATS, so they spend most of their time there, and consider the CRM as secondary in their arsenal. It is important to remember that the ATS is primarily designed to manage what happens after a candidate has applied, meaning that recruiters are set up to spend most of their time on a tool that is only really useful after the candidate has come through the door and applied.
Recruiters who are trained primarily on ATSs are used to getting talent as they need it from LinkedIn, from some months-old event registration spreadsheet, or—you guessed it—from sourcers who have to stop their long-term investments in order to jump on just-in-time requests. They are simply not used to thinking of the CRM as a source of value for their workflow, and so they keep sinking man-hours into the endless void that is cold outreach.
So how do you ensure better adoption of the talent CRM by your recruiters? Zoom identified the following factors:
Make the talent CRM the central hub for all recruiting activities
Data needs to circulate bi-directionally into a single source of truth, be it from the ATS, the recruitment marketing tools, the internal hiring systems, the referrals programs, or any other technology that might collect and store the data of potential candidates. Without this initial condition, it is very hard to encourage recruiters to adopt the CRM as their main base of operations.
Equip your team with strong search capabilities
Most CRMs are great at collecting candidate data, with all sorts of parsing or important functionalities. The main hurdle for recruiters, however, is not putting candidates in, but taking them out.
Your CRM needs powerful tagging, filtering, and search capabilities so that recruiters have no trouble surfacing great leads for their requisitions. The right tool will make it easy for your team to quickly find out who has recently changed jobs, who have engaged with the company’s content the most, or who is tagged with the right skills. Think powerful Boolean search, saved searches and filters, bulk action, and rich and up-to-date candidate profiles.
Invest in reaching the “tipping point”
When you first implement your CRM, it will likely be of far less value to recruiters than their current established methods of finding talent, no matter how well-trained they are in it. The reason for that is simple: you need to reach a critical mass of candidates that have been nurtured long enough to be actually more valuable than ones obtained through cold outreach.
In the early days of your CRM, invest in importing and enriching your candidate database. Incentivize your teams to create campaigns, track engagement, and test multiple approaches. Give the tool the potential to deliver its full value, and make sure to communicate to your recruiters how important it is to keep working towards that tipping point.
If recruiters are blocked on even one step of their workflow with the CRM, and it takes them too long to identify warm candidates or to move them through the funnel, then adoption will plummet no matter how much work you put in implementation, communication, and training. That is why the conditions above are so important.
Integrations and recruiter adoption: the backbone of successful talent operations
The CRM-first approach adopted by Zoom would not have been successful without thoughtful planning behind the technology stack. To make your CRM the central talent data platform of the recruiting workflow, you have to think carefully about how data will move and be updated between platforms. In other words, the integrations offered by your chosen tool will be critical.
Ideally, you would map out the hub and spokes of your talent tech stack before soliciting vendors, so that the technology decisions are driven primarily by your goals and vision. Your central hubs need to offer robust integration and data management capabilities in order to enable the kind of information sharing discussed above.
By having solid integrations in place, you ensure that recruiters have no need to hop between tools and leave the CRM unnecessarily. As a consequence, they fully adopt the tool and learn to take advantage of the carefully curated talent pools built by sourcers. Their outreach is much more likely to be successful, top candidates apply to roles faster, and the whole team sees increased results after that initial period of investment. We come full circle.
No single secret can ensure that your talent team beats the competition at every turn, and consistently attracts the best candidates out there. However, Zoom’s approach comes close. By completely sundering their sourcing team from this idea of jumping on just-in-time requisitions, they have completely turned their recruiting workflows on their head and enabled their teams to be far more successful.
It’s tempting to think that periods of great market change are a bad time to take risks, but sometimes, you can’t afford to simply hunker down and wait out the storm. For talent teams, 2020 was a year of accelerated change, and we believe that those who faced those changes with bold new strategies will emerge as tomorrow’s market leaders.