How to Build a Talent Community That Rivals the Bay Area

November 14, 2016
Guest Post
Friend of Drafted

Why doesn’t Boston collaborate like the Bay Area?

This can be a tough question to answer, or even ask: Talent leaders are acutely aware of the modern day Gold Rush luring top talent from east to west. Not to mention, most comparisons of Boston and the Bay Area equate Boston to a “kid brother” tech economy — which doesn’t sit well with our community of driven technologists. So, when heads of talent, Mike Hebert of edX, Eric Trickett of TripAdvisor, and Nell Thayer Heisner of Fuze broached the topic of collaborating and sharing information like the Bay Area in the Boston Talent community, it led to an open and insightful dialogue... after a bit of coaxing.

Hey, we’re still Bostonians at heart.

Forging useful friendships… in person.

Mike, Eric and Nell first met at a Greenhouse User Group and realized that they were all facing similar challenges, but at very different companies. They needed peers who they could use as sounding boards. Since their values, employee culture and business problems were abundantly different, they realized they had much more to gain than to lose by sharing their challenges.

So, the trio leaned on one another to ask questions and vet products: What ATS are you evaluating? How do you measure staffing agencies? Could you share your process for XYZ?

They also noticed that when they had questions for which none of them had answers, that they reached out to West Coast companies. These talent leaders were open, quick to respond, and not worried about competitive advantage. In fact, Nell, Eric, and Mike still lean on West Coast talent leaders to talk about forward-looking talent acquisition trends, and they decided it was time to start collaborating more at home.

Building the talent acquisition community we all need.

Back to Boston last Thursday: After the room got over the initial shock of sharing trade secrets, the conversation hit hyper-speed.Talent leaders, hiring managers, and meetup sponsors contributed to the conversation. Here were the highlights:

Potential meetup topic

What’s the big deal about sharing?

As Eric, Nell and Mike shared what information they pass back and forth, they laughed a little. A lot of the “secrets” of how other recruiter brands are hiring are already accessible online. Although you can’t know exactly what’s working for an employer based on where they post online (a great point made by Jay Neely of Boston Startups Guide), it is easy to spot the messaging they’re sharing, and where.

Consider sharing notes with other recruiters and talent leaders. They can already see what you’re working on if you’re doing it well.

What don’t you share?

Eric, Mike, and Nell admitted that there are some things that they don’t share, even though they err on the side of information sharing. Mike suggested timing was something he didn’t share. He wouldn’t want to share where his team is in the hiring process, or next steps with a candidate.

The group also agreed that they don’t share identifying information about active candidates.Members of the community suggested that interview questions and specific coding questions would be other areas that they would not actively share.

How do you get hiring managers and interviewers bought into the interview process?

We discussed how recruiters got a commitment from hiring managers and executives to support their hiring process. The crowd suggested a few great ideas:

  • Show the types of top candidates you want to bring to the table. Are they in line with what your hiring managers and executives want from this hire?
  • David Sagalov of Greenhouse Software shared that their team always sets up a kickoff meeting for every hire. That way, they get hiring managers and interviewers in the room and bought-in from the beginning.
  • Vinayak Ranade of Drafted suggested creating a wiki of the best interview questions from the hiring managers. This created a friendly competition between Engineering leaders during his days at Kayak, he admitted.
  • If all else fails, explain the cost of making a bad hire, and the cost of prolonging the open role. They wanted this team member in the building, now it’s time to get them!

Hiring for core values.

Meetup Group

Eric, Nell, and Mike shared that they have each started to move away from coding tests as the end-all-be-all of technical interviews and, instead, put more weight on values and core competencies than they did before. Eric explained when he reviews engineer performance annually at TripAdvisor, top performers always align with core values.

About 50% of the room raised their hands when asked “Do you recruit and hire on core values?”, which seems to be an emerging trend, and something that the staffing and recruiting agencies in attendance took note of. Look for more of this, especially as a potential meetup topic in 2017.

Meetup Boston Talent

Moving forward...

Thursday’s meetup was a turning point for the Boston Talent Acquisition Community: Members left with new contacts and recruiting ideas, and a desire to continue to grow our community here at home. (Many thanks to Boston-based ezCater and OpenView for the snacks and space).

So how do you create a Talent Community that rivals the Bay Area?

Start the conversation!

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